It’s all about the poo

My maiden name is easy, short, and phonetically spelled. (Although in its native Welch, it sounds like someone trying to retch up a hairball.)

Now that I’ve taken Min’s last name, Kyi, I’m constantly asked about proper pronunciation.

So here’s the answer. We use an anglicized version and say “kie,” which rhymes with eye, sigh, or rye, depending on the day.

The correct way to say it in Burmese is more complicated. It’s half way between “chee” as in “cheese” and “gee” as in “gee whiz this seems strange.” You have to put your lips in the “chee” shape, but your tongue in the “gee” position.

Therein lies the problem. If you get it just slightly wrong and accidentally say “chee,” it means poo. Actually, when reporters on the news talk about Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi (no relation), they quite commonly call her Aung San Suu Poo. It’s a little unfortunate.

And that’s why we say “kye.”

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