Why Do People Pronounce Charles “X-avier”?

People usually pronounce proper names differently than the origin-language pronunciation for a couple of reasons

  1. they don’t know the origin language, so they pronounce it based on the pronunciation rules from their own language, or
  2. the person with the name has decided on a preferred pronunciation and those who know that person use that pronunciation.

Xavier came from the Basque language. It was originally a place name that evolved into a family name. In Basque, the X sounds like /sh/. The V probably sounded more like a B.

It’s easy to see how this Basque pronunciation evolved into the Spanish version:  ‘Javier’.

But how did it come to be pronounced “X”-avier?

Maybe its part of an ‘anglocentric’ approach to non-English words (reason #1 above).  In English, if you see an X, you pronounce it, either as a /ks/ or a /z/ sound. English has few words that begin with x, so when confronted with this new pronunciation challenge, maybe they guessed what it might sound like. Regarding mispronounced names, I know from experience that after a while, you just stop correcting people about how to pronounce your name and go with whatever they say, especially if everyone is mispronouncing it the same way.

Or maybe it’s reason #2 and this idea is more fun! Maybe someone just thought it would sound cool, tried it, and it caught on with other people. Or maybe X-avier came along after the X-men comic books and movies were published, and it became a popular new, cool pronunciation of a name that was previously difficult to say ( Javier or Xavier). Difficult for non-Basque, non-Spanish speakers, that is….

Personally, I would like it very much if people thought about super heroes every time they said my name!

Note: We have a young friend, 12 yrs old, named Xavier. He’s from a Hispanic family. He calls himself “X”. My grandsons think his name is very cool.