Many of the French brands in the cycle industry are pronounced wrongly in English speaking countries, simply because unless you’ve learned the rules of French pronunciation, the way you say these names will more than likely be wrong. It’s not surprising that, in Britain and America, you’ll hear different pronunciations of French brands like “Peugeot”, “Motobecane”, “Mavic” and “Vitus” within the same room. I thought I’d try and provide some clarity about how these different French marques are pronounced in their home country.
Peugeot is pronounced “per jzo” in the UK, but “poo jzo” in the United States. The English pronunciation is closer to the way the French say it, the only real difference being that the French “o” sounds more closed than the “oh” in English, and the stress of the word in French is on the second syllable.
Mavic is often wrongly pronounced “May Vick”, the problem being the incorrectly sounded “a”. Instead, Mavic should be pronounced “Ma Veek” ( ma as in man ) if you want to say it like it’s said in France.
Motobecane is often pronounced “Moto be cane“, “cane” with pronounced like the final syllable of “sugarcane”. However, this is not how it is pronounced in French. The name should be pronounced “Moto be can” as in tin “can”, for accurate articulation of the famous brand.
This is a trickier one, as the name of this vintage parts maker starts with an “H”, which is an unvoiced letter in French. Unlike in English, in which we’d naturally say “Huret“, with an obvious h sound, the French pronounce it quite differently: “Ur eh”. The French “r” is notoriously difficult sound to pronounce for English speakers, so it is a name you’ll be forgiven for not pronouncing perfectly!
It’s only natural that we say the name of this old saddle maker like the way we pronounce “ideal” in our own language. However, next time you mention this saddle brand in passing to your cycling friends, try pronouncing like this: “ee day al”. They may look at you with bewilderment, but this is how it’s said in French.
The St Etienne bike maker which has made some wonderful frames over the years, is often erroneously pronounced “Vi tus“, where “Vi” sounds like the first syllable of “vital“. This is a common error. Vitus is pronounced: “Vee tus”.
Gitane means “gipsy” in French, and this French brand exported large amounts of its bikes to the United States in the 1970’s. There, they are commonly pronounced “gu tan“, but this famous marque should be pronounced “jzee tah”. You’ll get a nod of approval from a Frenchman for doing so.