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How Do You Pronounce "Sochi"?

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So-shee? Sah-chee? So-chee? Before Sochi was selected as the host of the 2014 winter Olympics, not many people had heard of it, so it didn't have a widely known English pronunciation. Luckily, the sounds in the Russian version have pretty straightforward counterparts in English. The word doesn't have any of the features that make Russian especially tricky for English speakers—it's not Nazyvayevsk, or Srednekolymsk, or Zheleznodorozhny. Still, there has been a little uncertainty about how we should say Sochi.

The 'ch' gives pause because while we generally pronounce it as in "cheer," we know that in foreign words it sometimes has a 'sh' pronunciation, as in "chalet" or "chic," or a back of the throat pronunciation, as in "Bach" or "chutzpah." Not to worry though. The Russian 'ch' (the Latin alphabet transcription of ч) is like the English 'ch.' (The confusion about which foreign 'ch' should be used also leads people to mispronounce "dacha" with the back of the throat sound instead of the English 'ch.')

The 's' is pretty much equivalent to English and the 'i' is basically the 'ee' sound of our spelling of foreign words like "sushi" and "spaghetti"; the 'o' sound, however, is where the equivalencies don't hold up so well, resulting in further confusion. The Russian 'o' is somewhere between the 'o' we use in "note" and the vowel we use in "caught." (If your dialect has the cot-caught merger, it's further yet from the Russian version.) When the 'o' is in an unstressed syllable, it sounds like 'ah.'

Here is the pronunciation of the stressed Russian 'o':

And here is a Russian speaker saying "Sochi."

The English version has to pull the 'o' one way (So-chee) or the other (Saw-chee or Sah-chee). For Russian words in English, we sometimes go one way (Olga) and sometimes the other (Vodka). So what to do for Sochi? It seems that the more we talk about it, the more So-chee gains momentum in the U.S. However Saw-chee may be picking up support in the UK. It wouldn't be the first time we parted ways on an 'o' sound in a borrowed word. Over there, the 'o' in cognac and yoghurt is also closer to 'aw.'

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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