Throughout history, there have been several figures who have changed the way we view and think about the world. Scientists, politicians, entertainers, and thinkers.
But a lot of these people haven’t come from the English speaking world. Therefore the rules of grammar and pronunciation cannot be applied to all of them.
One such example is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Friedrich Nietzsche. This philosopher was from Prussian, which is now a part of Germany.
Nietzsche is pronounced Nee-Chuh. This pronunciation is recommended by both the Oxford American Dictionary and Wikipedia.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at who he was, where he came from, and why different languages have different rules.
Who was he?
Friedrich Nietzsche was the guy who coined the famous term “God is dead”. As you can probably guess, he was an Atheist who believed that religion was no longer needed.
He also believed in the importance of the individual. And he thought that every man fulfilling his own needs and purpose was more important than doing whatever was in the common interest. He was a strong advocate for the idea that we are in control of our lives, and it’s through ourselves, no society that people can achieve greatness.
Did he help Hitler?
Another important part of the teachings of Nietzsche is the idea of “Superman”. This is a human being who has realised his full potential and risen above his animalistic instincts.
However, such an idea managed to cause controversy. Some have accused Nietzsche of inspiring the works of Adolf Hitler. But these rumours are not entirely true.
Nietzsche and Hitler never actually met, it was through his sister’s warped ideology that his work was misinterpreted and adopted by Hitler.
So in a way, he is, but in another way, he isn’t responsible for what the Nazis did. But that’s a debate for another time.
Before we look at his surname, I think we should look at his first name.
If we were to read this word phonetically as it’s spelt, it would be “Fried Rich”. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t fry rich people for a tasty snack. His name is pronounced “Free-Drish”.
“Friedrich” started off in the German-speaking countries such as Prussia, but when it arrived in England, it was soon changed to Frederick. This name has been altered and shortened plenty of times. The most common one being Freddie or Freddy which is often shortened to Fred.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the land where his name came from. Prussia.
Germany has had a fascinating past and has been split up and glued back together a lot throughout the centuries.
Until the 1700s, there was no such place as “Germany”. It was merely a collection of land owned by the different tribes.
Just before the second world war started, Prussia was an independent country but one who heavily supported Germany. When the Nazis fell, Prussia was merged into mainland Germany and to this day, is still a German state.
There’s something interesting about most of the European languages. For the most part, the people share a similar culture, and apart from an umlaut here and a diacritic there, the letters are shared among the continent.
But this begs the question if our languages are so similar, why are they also so different?
There isn’t really one set in stone answer here. Most European languages originate from the same root language, known as Proto-Indo-European. But as the different people went to foreign lands, the languages evolved by themselves. The rules, of course, changed when countries got invaded or invaded others.
The name Nietzsche might come across as an exotic and strange name, but it’s from a name you might be slightly more familiar with.
In English, this name has become Nicolaus, often shortened to Nick or turned to Nicky when given to a female.
The most famous Nick is probably St.Nick, or as we like to call him “Santa”.
This name means “Victory of the people”. Which makes sense when you consider what Santa does. He delivers presents to everyone, which I would certainly say is a victory for the people of the whole world.
As we mentioned earlier, “Friedrich” is where the common name “Frederick” comes from. But what does this name mean?
“Frederick” and “Friedrich” mean “Peaceful Ruler”. And when you look at most of the King Frederick’s throughout history, this is actually a rather fitting name.
At first, I found this to be a bit of a surprise. But then I thought out what it sounds like.
“Fred” sounds an awful lot like “Freund”, the German for “Friend”.
Whereas “Rick” sounds like “Reich” which made me think of the “Third Reich” who were planning on becoming the new emperors.
So put the two together, you get an emperor who is also a friend.
Why this matters
Some of you might be wondering why it matters how you should be saying “Nietzsche”. And for the most part, it probably doesn’t. He won’t come up in day to day conversation.
But some you may be reading this as part of a school project where you will need to give a presentation.
However, even if his particular name doesn’t matter to you, there will likely be someone in your life with a foreign name. Knowing how to pronounce their name and not just assume it’s pronounced the way it’s spelt will show that you have an open mind and an understanding of the world.
When talking about Friedrich Nietzsche, you probably shouldn’t be calling him “Fried Rich Nightz scheh”.
His name is not English, it’s Prussian. And when saying a foreign word, you should always try to pronounce it using the rules of the language it comes from.
Although he has been falsely accused of inspiring Hitler, one accusation which is anything but false is that he was an incredible thinker with a fantastic mind.
His first name is where we get “Frederick” from, and means a peaceful ruler.
His surname comes from “Nikolaus” and means victory of the people.