Americans have been mispronouncing “Adidas” since at least 1986, when Run — D.M.C made the brand famous stateside with “My Adidas.” The hip hop group and most Americans say the brand name by emphasising the second syllable: ah-DEE-das.
Germans, Brits, and other Europeans emphasise the first syllable: AH-dee-das.
Since it’s a German brand, we assume they’re doing it properly, especially given the origin of the name.
Adidas doesn’t mean anything in German but comes from the company’s original founder, Adolf Dassler. His nickname was “Adi,” with the stress on the first syllable, director of language programs at the Goethe Institut Christoph Veldhues tells Business Insider in an email. That plus a shortened version of his last name, “Das,” gives us “Adidas.” The emphasis naturally stays on the first syllable.
As for why Americans screw it up, linguists aren’t sure.
David Fertig of the Society of German Linguistics pointed to the “lexical peculiarities” of English that make pronunciation unpredictable: “A lot of guesswork is involved when English speakers encounter new words first in writing and have to try to figure out how to pronounce them,” he writes in an email.
German and English actually have similar intonation, according to Christopher Stevens, an associate professor of Germanic languages at UCLA. “Both German and English usually put a primary stress on the first root syllable of native words,” he writes in an email.
Americans may, however, wrongly identify “Adidas” as of Romance origin, instead of Germanic, Stevens speculates. “Since Americans often stress Romance words differently, they put the stress on the second syllable,” Stevens writes.
Perhaps the British get it right thanks to increased exposure to continental Europe.
It should be noted that Adidas does not, as many people believe, stand for “all day I dream of sports.” That’s called a backronym — an acronym made to fit a word that already exists.
Don’t feel too bad though, Americans. Germans still can’t say the word “squirrel.”
Now check out more brand names that Americans get wrong: