When I first noticed the name of the up-and-coming British politician Chuka Umunna I fired off an email to him to ask him how he preferred his name to be pronounced. I got a brief acknowledgement promising a reply in a few days — but then nothing more.
Now, through the good graces of the BBC Pronunciation Unit (thanks, Martha Figueroa-Clark), I can reveal that he is ˈtʃʊkə ʊˈmʊnə . He has confirmed that this is the correct pronunciation of his name.
Chuka Umunna grew up in Streatham, south London, and is of mixed English, Nigerian and Irish descent. He is also well-connected, being the grandson of a High Court judge — Sir Helenus Milmo, who played a leading role in the Nuremberg trials — and the nephew of a leading libel lawyer, Patrick Milmo. He was elected as the MP for Streatham in the 2010 general election.
Martha tells me that the chap who handles Mr Umunna’s media enquiries says that a lot of people (unsurprisingly) do not know how to pronounce his name, and may attempt to give it a non-English-sounding pronunciation.
(I think the name Umunna is of Igbo origin. In that language it is presumably pronounced [umũna], with tones that I cannot guess at. If I am right, the first of the two letters n indicates the nasalization of the preceding vowel in Igbo, not gemination of a nasal consonant.)
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