NASHVILLE, Tenn. — He’s the talk of the NFL, so how about we make a pact to pronounce his name correctly?
Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy. It’s not like he just burst onto the football scene.
Yet many who are talking of him don’t have a handle on the last name, which is pronounced MAR-ee-OH-tah, not MARY-oh-tah.
I say it often and still slip at times.
What is it about the name that lends itself to such easy mispronunciation?
“For words and common names, there’s a rule of English spelling that says that when ‘ari’ is followed by a vowel, the ‘ari’ is pronounced as in ‘Mary,'” said Marian Macchi of the web site E-Speech. “Think about the names Marion and Marian, and words like ‘various,’ ‘hilarious,’ ‘gregarious.’ We wouldn’t pronounce ‘various’ as VAHR-i-us, for example.
“So when people see the name Mariota, consciously or unconsciously they apply the ‘Marion rule,’ giving the pronunciation MARY-ota.”
Here’s a snippet from Titans Radio with Mariota saying it himself.
Mariota discussed the pronunciation of his name with me and my fellow hosts on The Midday 180 in Nashville ahead of the draft and appreciated that we had it down.
That was in large part because of Mike Keith, the Titans director of broadcasting for the Titans and their radio play-by-play man.
“Because I heard both ‘MARY-OTA’ and ‘MAR-ee-OTA,’ I called Oregon’s sports information department in March and asked Dave Williford how Marcus preferred it,” Keith said. “Dave made it clear that it is ‘MAR-ee-OTA.’ My trick is that I just remember how Bill Maher says last name (MARR).
“I have practiced it and practiced it, but I occasionally say “MARY-ota”. Hopefully, I will improve.”