Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Say, is it "Sehderberg?"

Tricia and I went to a Seder dinner at BYU to observe the Jewish passover. Victor Ludlow, a Mormon religion professor who hosts these dinners with his wife (they've done it for 30 years), led us through the various parts of the symbolic meal, after which his wife led us in a Jewish song. It was apparent that they really enjoy this--they treat the 100 or so guests as family, and teased each other and told jokes in a natural way that can only come after years of hosting these events.

For instance, when his wife got the mic towards the end of the evening, she said she always gets asked three questions at these dinners. 1) Do you always come to the Seder dinners with him (yes), 2) Do you always eat the bitter herbs? (yes), and 3) WHY? (I don't know.) Then she proceeded to ham it up--and steal the show--while leading everyone in the Jewish folk classic "Who Knows?"

Anyway, my family has always pronounced our surname "SEE-duhr-burg," (though it is invariably mispronounced by others.) However, the original Swedish is pronounced "SYEH-durh-burry." I got to thinking that a "SEH-duhr-burg" (as in Seder ceremony) is actually closer to the Swedish than the vocalization our family has standardized on.

So, what would my great-great-grandpa Olaf Sederberg (the first Sederberg--he had his name changed from Olav Johanson when the patronymics were discontinued in Sweden in the 1800s) think if I broke with recent tradition and disposed of the Americanized pronunciation in an attempt to hearken back to my roots? People change the spelling and pronunciations of their given names all the time, but it seems like last names ("family" names) are more reverenced and not to be touched. Thoughts?

1 comment:

Maria said...

well, it might be kind of weird, especially if the rest of us didn't follow suit. If you're looking for a pronunciation that you don't have to correct people on, the Seder feast won't help you too much. Hmmm.