Porsche is a two-syllable word that is often made into one. I speak rudimentary German and had a German-Jewish Opa who sharpened my ear to the flow of the guttural language as an infant. The Oxford Dictionary pronunciation is ˈpôrSH(ə). But I have heard many a “Porsh” argument by people who know much more about cars than they know about languages.
American ignorance on this topic is understandable, even from people who own a Porsche or 911, and still say “Porsh.” It’s a perfectly understandable mistake. German is only the world’s 10th most spoken language. Many more people speak Hindi, Portuguese, and Russian.
Porsche was named after Ferdinand Porsche, an automotive engineer who founded the company, and later worked for Adolf Hitler as a Nazi party member. While the company has had its controversies, it’s managed to making an enduring, classic sports car, and strong brand that’s now part of the Volkswagen group. The 911 might be the most iconic sports car of all time, though somehow the name has been lost in translation.
Even Porsche itself understands that most of the world isn’t German literate and has made an explainer video of its own using a video translator and the definition, “Name of the world famous sports car company.” Porsche doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence in expressing its clear brand identity. It’s elusive pronunciation gives it panache, like only those in the know are privy to its German e.
Instead of being haughtily indignant over its nebulous name to English-speaking ears, the company’s explainer in the video takes a friendlier approach, "Have you ever wondered about the right way to pronounce Porsche? Or do you know someone who pronounces it in a wrong way? Be sure to let them know about this video." Porsche phonetics even make for good comedy. Conan O’Brien did a spoof on the topic a few years ago.
Porsche isn’t the only international brand that gets butchered as an American import — Givenchy, Hermès, and Fage yoghurt marketers take note.