Fuh? foe? FO? Fu-uuuuuhh? PhuUUH? What the P...? To afficionados of pho, Vietnam’s renowned soup dish, pronouncing “pho” is critical. LovingPho.com, a website devoted to all things pho, offers a whole section on how to say the word, including a quick audio pronunciation guide (basically it’s “fer”).
Having solved that problem, lets move onto the Nguyens. Somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of Vietnam’s population have the last name Nguyen, writes Atlas Obscura (by comparison, about 0.8 percent of Americans the most popular US last name -- Smith). But no-one really knows why -- “Nguyen doesn’t indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese … someone with the last name Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.” As for the pronunciation of Nguyen, like pho it’s contentious. “There isn’t really one correct way to say Nguyen,” explains Atlas Obscura. “Southern Vietnamese tend to clip some of their sounds, so Nguyen would be pronounced something like ‘Win’ or ‘Wen’. Northern Vietnamese would keep it, giving a pronunciation more like ‘N’Win’ or ‘Nuh’Win’, all done as best you can in one syllable.” Now you know.