You Say Tomato, We Say Tomato

When I first stumbled across this letter, I thought I’d found the pronunciation key to the name “Rosenbach.” Here at the Rosenbach Museum & Library we pronounce our founders’ surname “Rosenback,” rhyming it with smack. The lore around here states that Philip and Abraham pronounced it that way. Most everyone else, though, tends to rhyme it with smock. So Doctor Rosenbach’s letter seemed to clarify all of this — except maybe it doesn’t. Whether you pronounce the name to rhyme with smack or smock, it still sounds like it ends with a ‘k’ as Rosenbach advises. You could read “anglo-American fashion” to mean only that the ‘ch’ shouldn’t be pronounced as in German, somewhere between the English ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ sounds. But the tricky sound is the ‘a’ in the last syllable, and he doesn’t mention it. So does this letter help at all? I think so. If the name were spelled with a ‘k’ rather than an ‘h’ on the end, most of us would surely pronounce it to rhyme with smack or back. If you saw “Rosenbock,” then you’d rhyme it with smock, right? I think this was point the Doctor was trying to make, so we’re going to stick with “Rosenback” around here. You can even join us and be one of the cognoscenti. (Don’t worry, we won’t hassle you about the pronunciation of “vase.”) Either way, despite all of his other talents, it seems Dr. Rosenbach didn’t quite have the heart of a poet.