American Pagaards say PAYguard. So should you.
Please don't say puhGUARD or PAGGerd.

But the answer isn't that simple.

Pagaard is a Danish name, and Danish, as I'm told by my Swedish friends, is less a language than a throat disease. My patriotism is deeply offended, of course, but it's hard to argue with them. In Denmark Pagaards don't say anything like PAYguard. But Danish being Danish, when my grandfather came through Ellis Island, he was told by the attendant yahoo that he had to pronounce his name that way in this country. Whether or not this was legitimate advice, we American Pagaards have continued to follow it ever since.

If you're bent upon using truly authentic Danish pronunciation, say PEHyohr, but swallow most of the yohr Cockney-style (linguists call this a "glottal stop"). You should end up with something vaguely like PAYoh. Say the oh very quickly, and close off your throat as you say it, with the slightest hint of a final R. OK, try it....

No, that isn't even close. But don't feel bad; hey, my attempts are even worse. Listen to the authentic pronunciation on Google Translate.

Oh, well.... Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave, the haven of the average, it's considered rude to affect anything but non-ethnic, comfortably Anglicized pronunciations of names--perhaps rightly so in light of the staggering variety of our linguistic origins. Hence, we American Pagaards, even those of us who speak Danish, are more or less satisfied with PAYguard.

Thanks for asking.

Why the weird spelling?

This is a complicated, possibly boring issue.

In 1978 my family legally corrected the spelling, which had been askew since my grandfather first immigrated from Denmark around the time of World War I. Danish features a character we don't have in English, an A with a small O over it, like this: Å or å (assuming your computer is up to reading such characters; if not, buy a Mac!), signifying the oh pronunciation mentioned above. My grandfather spelled his name Pagård. An alternative spelling used by Danes who are typing and don't have access to special characters is a double A, that is, aa, thus Pagaard. At Ellis Island the name was recorded as Pagard, which is obviously wrong on two counts, missing both the little O and the double A.

My American relatives perpetuated the error, and most of them still do. But when I was in college, my dad decided to fix it, bringing us into alignment with the vast majority of Pagaards, AKA Pagårds, most of whom live in Denmark. Since then the spelling of my name has legally been Pagaard. (Americans, of course, don't use the Å character, so that wasn't an option.)

How's this for weird?

OK, I admit it: I'm perversely vain enough to Google my name from time to time, wondering if anybody's saying anything interesting or useful about me and mine. (Tell me you've never tried.) I customarily enter Pagaard, as no one has known me by any other spelling since the seventies. One day I thought I'd give the old (new) Ellis Island spelling of my name a whirl.

Whoa! A Polish satanic black-metal band has chosen Pagard as its name. Why, who knows? There's no explanation on the site except that it sort of sounds like "pagan," which seems to be the band's theme, also the nomme d'étape of the founder. Maybe he found our name on the Web? Check it out. And here's another Ozzy-Does-Denmark Pagard site--with even bigger scary art. Here's founder "Pagan's" band profile: "Pagard to zespol wykonujacy progresywny elektroniczny eksperymentalny metal gotycki."

So should I embrace Mr Pagan as living embodiment of one of the quirkiest ironies I've ever encountered? See my "Who matters" page > "Origins" regarding my family's Evangelical missionary and ministerial heritage. Or should I sue him for copyright infringement? I've always felt a certain security in the fact that the number of Pagaards/Pagårds/Pagards is so relatively tiny, its currency even in Denmark limited to a century or so, that anyone with the name is likely to be some not-too-distant relative.

But a teenage Polish satanic band? Never expected that!