After decades in this country, Egyptians living in America have become accustomed to pronouncing many words and names within the Coptic Church in a manner that is foreign to most English speakers. Previously I provided a list of 8 Words in English We Copts Mispronounce. Here are 10 more:
I know that pronunciation may vary, such as when one decides to pronounce a word to more closely align with the Greek or Coptic equivalent. What follows relies on English pronunciation according to English dictionaries.
- Copts pronounce it: hoh-sun-uh, hoh-zun–uh
- Background: This is a transliteration of the Hebrew term (hôsî-âh-nā) meaning “Oh, save now!” or “Please save!” or “Save, we pray!” This cry is said to derive from Psalm 118:25-26, which was associated with the Jews’ messianic expectations. It was recited daily for six days during the Feast of Tabernacles, and seven times on the seventh day as branches were waived. This feast is still celebrated by Jews today, with palm branches and reciting Psalm 118; it is known as the Feast of Sukkot.
- Copts pronounce it: chal–se-don , kal-ke-don
- Background: For a council that was so pivotal in the separation of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, you’d think we Copts would know how to pronounce this word better! For a great read on the Council of Chalcedon from a Coptic Scholar’s perspective, I highly recommend Fr. Shenouda Maher Ishak’s “Christology and the Council of Chalcedon.”
- Copts pronounce it: mer-see (“mer” pronounced like the “mer” in merit)
- Background: I have to admit: this is one of my biggest pet peeves. I remember being a very young boy, serving as a chanter, and I had a solo chant where I had to end by saying, “Lord have mercy.” Another boy caught on to how I decided to pronounce “mercy” the way the rest of the adults were pronouncing it, differently than I normally would; he made fun of me and I never did the same thing again 🙂 Until this day, this is probably the MOST often mispronounced word in Coptic liturgical services, especially because it is repeated so often. On a more spiritual note: Once, a non-Orthodox pastor remarked on how the Copts respond to prayers with Lord have mercy, as opposed to non-Orthodox who often reply with Amen; he felt this was a beautiful reflection of one’s posture in worship, asking for God’s mercy for the prayer to be heard and fulfilled, rather than simply assenting to the same.
- Copts pronounce it: an-nan-ni-uh s, a-niyan-us
- Background: Arguably, the two most well known figures in Church history named Ananias are as follows. One is mentioned in Acts 5:1-5, known for dropping dead after lying to the apostles and ultimately to God; interestingly, the word Ananias is defined in the dictionary to refer to someone who is a chronic liar. Additionally, there is another Ananias to whom Saul, the persecutor of Christians (later known as St. Paul), was told to meet with in order to be baptized (Acts 9). There is another whose name is spelled similarly: Anianus, who the Copts are (or should be) quite familiar with is the cobbler who St. Mark went to when he visited Alexandria, Egypt; while mending St. Mark’s sandal, Anianus injured himself and cried out “Oh the one God,” which prompted St. Mark to heal him and eventually he and his household became the first Christian converts in all of Egypt. He is regarded as the second archbishop and Pope of Alexandria, after the Coptic Church’s founding bishop, St. Mark the Evangelist.
- Copts pronounce it: varies: kri-sis-tom, kro-so-zom, …
- Background: St. John Chrysostom was the archbishop of Constantinople, and was given the epithet “Chrysostom” (which means golden-mouthed) because of how beautiful and spiritually moving his sermons were. Congregants usually interrupted his sermons with applause. In one sermon, when he was telling the congregation about the punishment awaiting sinners, he noticed how silent everyone was: “Are you listening to this in silence? I am much happier at your silence than at applause; for applause and praise make me more famous, but this silence makes you more virtuous.” He was baptized at the age of 20, then lived life under the guidance of a Syrian monk for four years, then in solitude for two years, after which he was ordained a reader, then a deacon, then a priest. As a priest he was designated with the duty of preaching, and later become the archbishop of Constantinople. Interestingly, many, including myself, refer to His Holiness the late Pope Shenouda III as the “second Chrysostom” because his sermons engendered sentiments and also frequent applause in a manner reminiscent of what was spoken of regarding St. John.
- Copts pronounce it: as-sah-nah-si-ohs, ah-thah-nah-si-ohs
- Background: All Christians have this Egyptian man to thank for believing that Christ is not less than the Father; that He is not one of God the Father’s creation, but is eternal just as the Father is, “begotten before all ages.” Catholics and Orthodox alike revere him, and the Catholic Church retains the body of this saint on display in one of its churches in Italy (see here). St. Athanasius is one of the most significant fathers in all of Christendom, and with great pride I note that he came out of the Church of Alexandria (the Coptic Church). He was a deacon when he attended the Council of Nicea where he championed the cause against Arius and guided the assembly of bishops to the creation of the Nicene Creed. As a deacon he also wrote what is arguably the most fundamental book to be read after Scripture, which is his writing known as “On the Incarnation,” which the prolific author C.S. Lewis commented as being an essential read for Christians. Later, St. Athanasius was chosen to serve as the 20th Pope of the Coptic Church. He was a close friend of the founder of monasticism, St. Anthony the Great, and also was familiar with St. Paul the hermit; St. Athanasius wrote a biography of St. Anthony’s life, which is another must-read (click here for a free version of it).
- Copts pronounce it: cat-eh-koo-men, among other pronunciations
- Background: This refers to a person who is receiving instruction in the principles of Christianity in order to be baptized and then participate in the rest of the Church’s sacramental life. The Greek origin of this word means “instruction by word of mouth.” In the early Church you will find that there was a very formal process of instruction before baptism, and many of the sermons we have from the early Church Fathers today consist of such instructions. Catechumens were only allowed to be present up through the Liturgy of the Word (during which time one would hear biblical readings and conclude with a sermon), before the recitation of the Christian Creed. A deacon would stand and announce for all Catechumens to leave, as they were not baptized and could not partake of the Eucharist (the body and blood of the Lord). The Eastern Orthodox Church still retains that announcement in their liturgy, where they say “catechumens depart,” but unless local custom dictates otherwise they are not actually expected to leave as was the case in the early Church. In the Coptic Church, the original remark is no longer found in most written liturgical books, however interestingly it is preserved in the ordination rite of the subdeacon, as it was their duty that the deacon’s pronouncement for catechumens to depart be heeded; in the ordination rite, the Archdeacon is supposed to instruct the subdeacon as follows: “It is necessary for you, therefore, to watch over the doors of the house of God…. When the deacon proclaims, ‘Let none of the catechumens stand here nor anyone who does not receive the holy mysteries,’ then you shall pay attention to watch with great care over the doors of the church.” Unfortunately, because the Coptic Church in practice has greatly diluted the ranks of the minor and major orders (chanter, reader, deacon, subdeacon, deacon, archdeacon), the normal practice whereby a subdeacon is considered an assistant to the priest and to the head deacon (i.e., archdeacon), this particular instruction by the archdeacon is rarely ever read.
- Copts pronounce it: koh-loh-shans, koh-loh-si
- Background: I can’t blame native Arabic speakers for having a difficult time pronouncing this epistle’s name, or many other epistles. This word refers to the epistle written by St. Paul to the Church at the city Colossae. This was one of a triad of cities there were close to each other: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. Due to an earthquake in the region shortly after St. Paul wrote his letter to them, the city was ruined and is not currently inhabited. Nonetheless, the epistle is very beautiful, teaching that Christ is fully God, he is “the image of the invisible God” (1:15) and our purpose is grow in Christ’s image and be perfect like Him (1:18). For more on this epistle, see the Sunday School Lessons page where I provide various PowerPoint lessons I’ve previously given, including one on this epistle.
9. AQUILA & PRISCILLA
- Copts pronounce it: ah-kil-ah & pris-kil-ah
- Background: Think of great married couple in the Church today who both serve diligently. Well, the prototype of this in the beginning of Christendom were Aquila and Priscilla. They lived, worked, and traveled with the apostle Paul, who described them as his “fellow works in Christ Jesus” to whom he felt indebted (Rom. 16:3). They are also credited with instructing a well known evangelist of the first century, Apollos, having “explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). They are known for hosting church gatherings in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19, at a time when there were no actual buildings built as churches). They are mentioned seven times in the Bible, spanning four different New Testament writings; aside from the placed where they were mentioned above, they are also mentioned in the following places: Acts 18:2-3, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:19, and 2 Timothy 4:19.
- Copts pronounce it: ah-seh-tiz-uh m
- Background: Although it is out of the Coptic Church that one finds the great Christian heroes of asceticism, St. Anthony the Great (“The Founder of Monasticism”), and St. Paul of Thebes (“The First Hermit”), today there is great difficulty among many Copts in pronouncing this word. It’s understandable, as this thing has five syllables, and three consonants sound nearly identical, and almost half of the letters are a “C” or an “S.” On a more serious note though,i f you are a Christian, you must read about these early church pioneers. Christianity today of the Protestant variety has mostly neglected the spiritual benefits of asceticism. To learn more about this subject, one must turn to its two great champions. For St. Anthony the Great, read the biography written by St. Athanasius. For St. Paul of Thebes, one must turn to his biography written by St. Jerome. Interesting info on St. Paul: in iconography, he is always depicted with a tunic made out of palm-fiber, which was eventually passed to Pope Athanasius and kept in his possession. Tradition tells us that Pope Athanasius used to put the palm fiber tunic on three times a year during the Divine Liturgy. One time, he wanted to let the people know about the holiness of the owner of that tunic. He put it over a dead man, and the dead man rose up instantly. The news purportedly spread like wildfire throughout Egypt.