You say Hez-BOH-lah, I say…

Over the last couple of weeks, I've heard people on NPR saying the name of that guerrilla group a lot of different ways. Is it HEZ -boh-lah or HIZ-boh-lah? Hez-boh-LAH or hez-BOH-lah? I asked NPR reference librarian and pronunciation maven Kee Malesky about it. Here's what she said:

There's no easy answer to this question. There isn't really one "correct" pronunciation because there are many regional variations in Arabic. Most NPR on-air staff don't speak Arabic and shouldn't pretend that they do. And it shouldn't sound as if they spliced in a native speaker. We are trying to find pronunciations that are easy for Americans to say and hear, while still being sensitive to personal or local preferences.

All transliterations of Arabic will be approximations, especially for vowel sounds. The NPR Foreign Desk prefers not to enforce one particular pronouncer for "Hezbollah" at this time. Our goal with pronouncers is clarity, and I don't think that the variations cause anyone to be confused about what the word is, so I hope listeners are not distracted.

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