Date: February 28, 2016
Author: Tom Fee

West is best for Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen’s win at the ISPS Handa Perth International may not have delivered the home town fairy-tale, but it’s hard to find a better second choice for the WA golfing faithful.

Oosthuizen is a much-needed addition to an eclectic list of champions in its fourth year. 2012 and 2013 winners Bo Van Pelt and Jin Jeong have failed to impress since their Perth triumphs, and world number 57 Thorbjorn Olesen didn’t perform at his usual standard in his return to WA, missing the cut in defence of his title.

It’s a safe bet that Oosthuizen will be the real deal as a champion of the Perth International. He boasts major winning credentials while treating the galleries to one of the most beautiful swings in golf.

In return for being a fan favourite, the world number 21 gave Perth a glowing review in his winner’s speech, saying he will do everything he can to come back and defend.

So if Oosthuizen is indeed going to be the poster-boy for golf in Perth for the next 12 months — it might be a good idea to learn how to pronounce his name.

In the defence of everyone who doesn’t speak Afrikaans, it’s a tricky name to pin down. A New York Times blogger addressed the topic in 2012 but couldn’t find a definitive answer. The blog concludes that Louis has been caught using two different pronunciations; “Oo-est-hay-zen” and “West-hay-zen”.

And if Louis can’t get it right, how can we? On Wednesday in his pre-tournament press conference, one journalist decided to settle the matter. Louis delivered with “west-hay-zen”, and said it twice just to make sure.

Despite the media's efforts to spread the word, it never caught on. At the presentation ceremony his name still earned the most common of mispronunciations, “Oost-hoo-zen”, and on course one of Louis’ dedicated fans tried to convince me it was actually “east-hoo-zen.”

My contribution to correcting this started at home, when my partner managed to muster up a new pronunciation I’d never heard before, “Ohst-how-zen.”

And so began the only conversation we've had about golf where both parties were equally interested! I may have heard the pronunciation from Louis himself, but she has a linguistics degree and owns an equally unpronounceable Dutch surname. Normally she’s right about these things, so I was willing to hear her out.

She tells me that Oosthuizen is also the name of a village back in Holland, and a quick visit to youtube tells us that the town is home to the oldest organ in the world — but more importantly it confirmed that pronunciation is indeed “ohst-how-zen”.

So why the inconsistency between Holland and South Africa? In trying to get to the bottom of the matter, we ended up watching an online lesson on how to pronounce compass directions in Afrikaans. With a name like “west-hay-zen” it makes sense right? Well, not exactly.

Somewhat comically, Oosthuizen literally translates to east houses in Dutch — so maybe this fan who threw up “east-hay-zen” was on to something?

One of the many slight differences between Dutch and Afrikaans is in their pronunciations of east. In Dutch, it’s “ohst” — in Afrikaans they drop the t and stretch it out over two syllables, giving you “oo-es”.

Since the name is likely taken from the Dutch village, the t in Oosthuizen remains when said in Afrikaans. This gives us “oo-est-hay-zen”, which is one of the two pronunciations that we’ve heard from Louis in the past.

But where does “west-hay-zen” come from? Well, try and put yourself in the shoes of a confident Afrikaans speaker. If you speak clearly and annunciate every syllable, as you would to a non-Afrikaans speaker, it will likely come out as “oo-est-hay-zen”. In real life, no-one talks like that. Say “oo-est-hay-zen” out loud and at a fast enough pace it becomes almost indistinguishable from “west-hay-zen”. Pretty cool, right?

Unfortunately, the second syllable is less cool. Somehow, the South Africans see “hui” and come out with “hay” – and that’s simply because that is how they pronounce it. Take ui, the Afrikaans word for onion as an example, when said out loud it sounds like a mashup between ay and oy.

Fortunately English and Afrikaans speakers agree on the last syllable, zen. Which seems fitting really.

And after all of this, be sure you don’t forget that his first name is spelt Louis, but pronounced Louie!