Last month we wrote that Ann Arbor’s unique pronunciation of Bach (e.g., the school) as “baw” seems to be slowly changing to the “bock” that other Americans use. Some west-siders are unhappy to see it go—rumor has always had it that it’s a remnant of the Swabian dialect once spoken in that part of town. But David Schall emailed with a competing theory: Bach was “de-Germanicized in the early 20th century due to the two world wars, and this mis-pronunciation [“baw”] has been perpetuated up to the present.”
We asked local writer Jennifer Eberbach if she could shed any light on the question. After polling family members, she emailed: “As far as we know, my great grandfather Oscar (born 18??) was the one who started saying Eber‘baw.’ And then my grandfather Robert (born 1915) continued using it … My dad said “baw” as a child and then changed it back to “bock” when he got older.
“I’m glad to hear it!” said Walter Metzger, when told that Ann Arborites seem to be slowly converting to “bock.”
Metzger, whose parents immigrated from Swabia in 1923 (and whose restaurant, Metzger’s, now on Zeeb Road, is being run by a third generation), grew up speaking German and sent two of his four kids to Bach school. His pronunciation is neither “baw” nor “bock” but something more like “bawgh” with the guttural gargle at the end that linguists call a “velar fricative.” But between “bock” and “baw,” he much prefers “bock.”