A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: David Pike
Date: 2021 Jun 20, 13:26 -0700
Frank Reed you wrote: For example, David Pike noted a couple of days ago that BBC coverage pronounced Betelgeuse as if spelled "beetle juice," and indeed I contend that it was the (very British!) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio and television series that locked in that pronunciation, long common in the US and among navigators, from the late 1970s.
I think it’s always been common for members of the uniformed organisations, particularly trainees, to popularise unfamiliar new words in a kind of inverse snobbery. You only need to look at the popular names adopted by allied troops in WW1 for certain towns and villages in Flanders. Student RAF Navigators were certainly using “Beetle Juice” when I went through training in 1967 although that is nothing compared to the sniggers generated by our deliberate mispronunciation of the eighth planet from the Sun. Such practices might well go back to when the RAF started training Observers again around 1938. We were little more than boys after all. Altering letters in surnames, particularly double-barrelled or foreign sounding ones, to make them easier to say or more ribald was, and still is, another common practice.
Anyway, I think the main thing is to accept that in such a huge and diverse world, few pronunciations can claim to be definitive. There are many YouTube videos about how to pronounce Betelgeuse although I felt little confidence in the one where the speaker started off by saying the star was in the constellation of “Ore Reon”.
Nevertheless, I welcome what you are hoping to achieve. Hopefully, by combing the knowledge, greater or smaller, of the NavList Community, the NavList list of star pronunciations will become a research tool worth consulting. DaveP