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How to pronounce these Oscar nominees' names

  • Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Quvenzhane, age 9, was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. ...

    Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Quvenzhane, age 9, was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. And her name is pronounced Kwah-VEN-zhah-nay.

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By Rebecca Keegan
Los Angeles Times
Published:
  • Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Quvenzhane, age 9, was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. ...

    Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Quvenzhane, age 9, was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. And her name is pronounced Kwah-VEN-zhah-nay.

LOS ANGELES -- Do you not know your Haneke from a hole in the wall? Do you think "Beasts of the Southern Wild?" stars a cute kid named Gesundheit? Do you wonder why Steven Spielberg keeps thanking an Eastern European pastry?
Don't suffer in silence, cinema fan. Let us help you, with the official L.A. Times cocktail party pronunciation guide to the 85th Academy Awards.
Herewith, a primer for the names you're most likely to mangle between now and Feb. 24:
Quvenzhane Wallis (Kwah-VEN-zhah-nay): The 9-year-old, Louisiana-born star of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is the tiniest nominee in the lead actress category, but her moniker is big. Stumped? Just call her by her nickname, Nayzie.
Behn Zeitlin (Ben ZITE-lin): Nothing fancy here, folks. The H is silent in the New York-born "Beasts" director's first name, as in other famous Bens like Affleck, Franklin and Folds Five. And "Zeit" rhymes with "might."
Michael Haneke (Mik-ALE HAN-uh-ka): The Austrian writer-director of "Amour" is known for the dark subject matter of his films. But when it comes to his name, think festival of lights. "Haneke" sounds like "Hanukkah."
Janusz Kaminski (YAN-ush Ka-MIN-ski): Steven Spielberg's Polish cinematographer just received his sixth Oscar nomination with his work on "Lincoln," which makes it a fine time to finally start saying his name right. The "sz" in Janusz sounds like "shhhh."
John Gatins (GAYT-ins): He's nominated in the original screenplay category for "Flight," in which Denzel Washington plays an airline pilot with a substance abuse problem. And his last name sounds like "gate."
Christoph Waltz (Kris-TOFF Valtz): Nominated for supporting actor for his turn as a dentist-turned-bounty-hunter in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (the D is silent), Waltz is German-Austrian, which means the W in his last name sounds like a V. And "Christoph" is no typo: Leave off the "er."
Ang Lee: His given name is An, not Ang. But the Taiwan-born director of "Life of Pi" added the G to masculinize his name among English speakers. Hence the unconventional pronunciation: "Ang" rhymes with "Tang," not "Gong." Still confused? Be respectful and call him Mr. Lee.

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