Spelling of NoRouz vs. NowRuz, by Bruce Bahmani

March 9, 2006

At the NoRouz festival (http://www.norouzfestival.org) here in the Bay Area, we have chosen to use the spelling of NoRouz (rather than NowRuz) which we feel is a more correct phonetic way to spell the word in English (and French).

Dr. Yarshater of the Encyclopedia Iranica project has chosen the spelling as “NowRuz”. Unfortunately this spelling is not as successful in enabling the non-Iranian English speaker to pronounce the holiday correctly with any proven consistency. It breaks the common English pronunciation practice for a compound word such as this.

The claim that there should be one spelling across all Latin languages while an interesting concept, is of course neither practical nor sensible for English.

The claim that the White House or past Presidents have certified the NowRuz spelling has not been documented formally, and if the NoRouz spelling were posed alongside it, it is likely the NoRouz spelling would be the one correctly spoken. (See survey results below)

Our hambastegi goal should not be to sidle up to an unfortunately incorrect English spelling, but one of outreach and to provide an
open welcome and education to non-Iranian English speakers about our holiday. This begins with its correct pronunciation, and it is important to use the most correct English phonetic spelling to achieve this result. A spelling must be chosen that would be most likely to result in an English speaker correctly pronouncing the name of our most important holiday, without any help.

Based on our own survey of English speaking people who stated they did not know anything about our holiday, 98% of those asked to pronounce the word did it correctly when they were asked to read NoRouz, less than 4% pronounced it correctly when they were asked to read NowRuz. Therefore the spelling that resulted in the most correct pronunciation, is NoRouz. At a minimum UNESCO ought to be allowed to consider this as well in their final selection. At a minimum UNESCO ought to consider input from English linguists not just Persian. Because Persian linguists and historians already know how to pronounce it.

The proper phonetic pronunciation of NoRouz to achieve the result closest to the original Persian sound is two-fold;

No as in Go, So, No

Rouz as in Muse, Use, Choose