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Depending on how the show creators originated the names and terms, a few were given a different pronunciation, rather than an American pronunciation: Aang (ɑːŋ), Sokka (Sōka), Iroh (ɪˈroʊ), Avatar (ɑvətɑr), and Agni kī Duel (अग्नि की डूएल). Shyamalan said the show creators were "pretty supportive" of the change[1], initiated after Shaun Toub asked during a rehearsal, "Why are we pronouncing Iroh like ‘Eye-roh'?"

  • Chinese pronunciation. Aang was pronounced IPA:/ɑːŋ/ as it was adopted from a common Chinese name Áng (昂). Chinese names with the acceptable pronunciation in the series were unchanged in the movie: Yue (月), Yin (阴) and Yang (杨). Other names that may be affected in the sequels include Long Feng (龍鳳 – Lóngfèng), Dai Li (代理 - Dàilǐ) and Bei Fang (北方 - Běifāng).
  • English pronunciation. Toph was also pronounced the same during the roundtable discussion with M. Night Shyamalan, likely because the creators intended her name to be a phonetic reference to English words "Tough" or "Tuff". Thus, the spellings of her name in the series, 拓芙 (Tuò Fú) and 托夫 (Tuo Fu), are just how to write "Toph" using Chinese characters (i.e. the opposite of "Romanization"). A possible English name that may be retained in the sequels is Ty Lee, a spelling variation to a girl's name, Tylie.
  • Japanese pronunciation. Sokka (創) was pronounced as Sōka. Other Water Tribesmen with Japanese names already used the acceptable pronunciation in the series: Pakku (パック), Hakoda (箱田), Bato (バトー) and Hahn (バトー). Likewise, other unchanged names include Kyoshi (虛子) in the movie, and Suki (好き), in the roundtable discussion.
  • Hindi pronunciation. Agni Kai was either reworked as a Hindi word, Agni kī Duel (अग्नि की डूएल - "Duel of Fire"), or pronounced the way it was meant to in Hindi, as a typical American speaker would pronounce "Agni-Ki" as "Agni-Kai" rather than "Agni-Kee". As for the term Avatar (अवतार), Shyamalan mentioned using the Hindi pronunciation in his interview with UGO back in March 2010[2] but in the final cut of the movie, it was pronounced either as IPA:/ævətɑr/ (the American pronunciation, as in the series) or IPA:/ɑvətɑr/ (the British pronunciation), depending on the speaker. Katara, Sokka and Iroh used the British. Kanna, Ozai, and the Dragon Spirit used the American.
  • Malay/Indonesian pronunciation. Bumi (meaning "Earth") already used the proper pronunciation in the animated series so it was pronounced the same in the March 2010 Interview. Interestingly, some fans still use the English phonetic spelling "Boomie" to refer to him.
  • Middle-eastern pronunciation. Iroh was pronounced Ee-roh instead of Eye-roh. Shyamalan may have changed this to appeal to "the world"[3] including the middle-eastern audience who generally dislike the ‘incorrect’ American pronunciation of Iran or Iraq. It may also serve to acknowledge the character being played by a middle-eastern man, as Shaun Toub is an Iranian-borne Persian Jew.
  • Spanish pronunciation. In Zuko's monologue to Aang, he pronounced his sister Azula as IPA:/ɑzulɑ/ like in the series, as derived from a Spanish word for blue.
  • Zhao's pronunciation. Zhao was pronounced IPA:/ʒaʊ/ as in the series, with the fricative consonant ʒ that is more commonly use with non-Asian languages and names, e.g. a French name Jacques IPA:/ʒɑk/. If so, Zhao may be an English phoentic spelling for another made-up name for the Fire Nation - any Asian names with the same Romanized spelling for "Zhao" may simply be a coincidence. Otherwise, the creators may have wanted to retain the American pronunciation for the Asian name 趙[nb 1]. For Mandarin Chinese, 趙 is spelled as "Zhao"[nb 2] but pronounced as tɕào. This may be confused with "Chao" (潮 - tʂáo) by an American speaker, since both affricate consonants and may sound similar to another affricate consonant as in "Chocolate". For Japanese, 趙 is also Romanized as "Zhao", is pronounced as tɕō, and is phonetically spelled as Chō.
Zhao threw Hahn overboard

Zhao threw Hahn overboard, never to be heard of again...

The name pronunciation issues may have been raised before in the animated series. In particular, in the Siege of the North episodes, the character Hahn used the Japanese pronunciation of Sokka (創 - Sōka) and Zhao (趙 - Chō), and then may had deliberately mispronounced Chō as Choi (ちょい meaning "Little" in Japanese). Sokka did not object to Hahn pronouncing his name as Sōka. However, when Hahn said "We'll take out this Admiral Chō in no time", Sokka yelled "It’s Admiral Zhao!!!" Later, Hahn showed up on Zhao’s ship wearing the Fire Nation uniform that Sokka had nitpicked earlier as outdated, yet Hahn still insisted as correct. He cried "Admiral Choi, prepare to meet your fate" and rushed to attack Zhao from behind with a spear; Zhao casually threw Hahn overboard with one hand and continued his interrupted conversation with Iroh. Hahn splashed into the icy waters, never to be heard of again...

Notes

  1. 趙 for Chinese traditional, 赵 for Chinese simplified
  2. 趙 is spelled "Zhao" for Hanyu Pinyin romanisation but "Chao" for Wade-Giles

References

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