Something that drives British people absolutely bonkers is hearing an American "mispronounce" the name of Dutch post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh. Pangs of rage fill up the collective consciousness as the nation retorts in one voice: "it's VAN-GOFF, not VAN-GO!"
Similarly, in years past, my American wife has ridiculed me for much the same reason, which only prompts me to hit back with "the religion you speak of is BUD-IZM, not BOOD-IZM."
In truth, while there are exceptional individuals from both countries who employ the correct pronunciation, neither VAN-GOFF nor VAN-GO is considered correct in van Gogh's homeland of the Netherlands. For the sake of argument (or for the ending of one) the Dutch pronounce his name VAN-HOCKH, with a glottal gh-sound at the end of the word.
One of the main reasons this pronunciation has been lost on both the United States and much of Great Britain is that such a sound does not exist in the linguistic makeup of either country (with the exception of Scottish and Welsh dialects, as well as Scouse). It is akin to a French native pronouncing the word three as free: the th-sound not being part of the French language.
Moreover, the name of van Gogh emerged at a time long before the mass spread of television and the invention of the internet. In other words, references to his name would have been read, rather than heard, meaning that alternative pronunciations of his name were more likely to emerge.
One thing's for sure; van Gogh's works are exhibited in major museums across both Britain and the United States. So why not jump over the language barrier and just go and appreciate the man's work in the flesh?
Sometimes, it's better hearing me in a British accent. Click the red button below.
Laurence Brown is a British man writing his way through the truly bizarre world of America - a place he sometimes accidentally calls home and a place he still hasn't quite figured out after seven years. Thankfully, his journey is made 12% easier by the fact that his accent makes him sound much smarter than he is. For evidence of this, subscribe to his popular Lost in the Pond web series over on YouTube.