J to the L-J-O

a curious Metafilter reader asked:

how come you spell it Ljova rather than Lyova, which would make more sense to English-speakers?

Good question – there are several reasons:

1) I’m Russian-born, and all of my roots are from Eastern Europe. In that region, the letter “J” is used the same way as the “Y” in America. Hence, Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky is spelled Pjotr Iljics Chajkovskij; Leo Tolstoy is Lev Tolstoj, and so forth.

So my reasoning went like this —
If I spell as “Lyova”, then Americans will pronounce it as “LIE-ova” or “Lee-OVA”, whereas the Eastern Europeans would be puzzled..

But if I spelled it as “Ljova”, then Americans would be stunned, but at least the Eastern Europeans would have no problem whatsoever.

2) I’m a fan of Björk. Since she has no problem using a J (which everyone pronounces as a Y), why should I?

Years later, I played a concert in California with Jakub Omsky, and saw my name in the program as “Ljova, vjola” (as opposed to Ljova, viola).

While I *could’ve* chosen to be called Liova, that idea didn’t occur to me earlier. In retrospect, I’m grateful – “Liova/viola” sounds too much like a pre-fab major-label package, while Ljova is *cool*.

(I mean, can you imagine a pianist named Ian Pist? I’m sure he’d be a hit.) 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please solve * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.