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I was under the impression (don't remember whether I read it or someone told me) that the high-class "lah-dee-dah" Jewish families always prefer "steen" because it sounds less Germanic or low-class.
From reading the various Brian-related books I get the feeling that his mother Queenie was the one most concerned with being elegant, and she might have been the one most adamant about the pronunciation of "EpSTEEN." By all appearances, Brian didn't seem to really care one way or another, but - as always - he wished to please his parents, and so, when asked directly, he would respond with the pronunciation his mother favored. Because Brian liked to appear as though elegance was his middle name, I imagine he had no compunctions about doing that.
You will notice that his boys and most of his friends say "stine." Even his manservant Lonnie Trimble did. Wouldn't you think that, if it were important to him, Brian would have politely requested at least some of them to say it in the manner that he preferred?
Actually, that is one of the main questions I would like to ask Nat Weiss, a man who knew him as well as probably anybody. Or Joe Flannery, for that matter. Did Brian have a real preference for the pronunciation of his name, or was it mostly because of his family's influence that we get this (false?) idea that Brian liked "steen" better?
To insert a personal observation, to me the "stine" sounds far better with HIS first name, while "steen" seems to go with his mother's (nick)name Queenie. Reason being - the long "I" sound in Brian, and the long "E" sound in Queenie. Say them out loud both ways yourself, and you might see what I mean. "QuEEnie EpSTEEN" sounds nicer than "QuEEnie EpSTINE," and "BrIan EpSTINE" is kinder to the ear than "BrIan EpSTEEN."
Apparently the family, when choosing names, didn't consider pleasant sounding vowel repetitions, because, once again, they named their second son with a long "I" sound: Clive.
BELOW: EARLY PHOTO
OF LEONARD BERNSTEIN
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Here's something interesting regarding the "stein" pronunciation:
Behind The Name
And here's a famous quote:
The late conductor, Leonard Bernstein, was often asked if his name was "steen" or "stine". His answer: Did you ever hear of a "Steenway" piano?~*~*~
"Stein" means "stone" in German. Einstein was, therefore, "one stone". In that vein, I've always wondered if the "Ep" part of Epstein had any meaning?
As for the Eastmans, it was common practice in the old, old days for immigrants to "Anglicize" their last names. Often this was arbitrarily done at Ellis Island by the immigration officials, with no choice given to the people affected by the change.
Additionally, way back when anti-semitism was common and considered normal (let's not even mention the prejudice against African-Americans during those years!), Jewish families Anglicized their names to keep the Jewishness from being too in-your-face around bigoted or persnickety goyim, and of course the main reason was to avoid becoming the targets they were in the old country ~ in an effort to be given another chance at making a living and such. Not out of shame, but just wanting to be treated like everyone else.
I've gotta tell you one ironic personal story about the common American name change habit. From 2000-2003 I worked for a large midwestern company (a food distributor servicing mainly convenience stores) named "S. Abraham & Sons, Inc." based here for over 75 years in the Grand Rapids area. The founders of this family-owned and operated company are not named Abraham. They purposely named the company to sound Jewish. It worked. The company is hugely successful. Funny thing, I was once having a casual conversation at one of the stores we serviced, and the clerk mentioned (I forget the exact context of the comment, but she wasn't being unkind or anything) something like, "well, of course, that's because they're Jewish!"
By the way ... the Abrahams' REAL family name is actually very Arabic - I can't remember what it is, but if anyone is curious I can ask my sister (she's in mid-management there - my little sis was my foreman!)
To get right down to the nitty-gritty of "preferred name pronunciation," I think I'll go with the attitude of Jay Nordlinger, Managing Editor of the National Review, when he writes:
One law I stick to is that everyone has the right to have his name — his personal name — pronounced however he wants. No ifs, ands, or buts. Midway through his career, Tony Dorsett switched his name from "DOR-sit" to "Dor-SETT." According to the newspapers, his mother wasn't too thrilled about this.To read Mr. Nordlinger's entire, occasionally amusing article, Click- "Gutter" Politics, Playing the Name Game
I once knew a guy who refused to pronounce Leonard Bernstein's name the way the conductor liked it: "Bernstine," to rhyme with "vine." (Lenny used to say, "You wouldn't say 'Gertrude Steen,' would you?") The guy I knew thought he was putting Bernstein down when he said "steen," or not letting the old performer get away with anything.
And do you know the cherished story about Ira Gershwin? A woman walks in to audition for him. She starts to sing, "You say eether and I say eether, / You say neether and I say neether . . . ," and Gershwin breaks in, "Thank you, Mrs. Leveen!" The woman, affronted, huffs, "It's Le-vine!"
My model in these matters is the late general, diplomat, and linguist Vernon Walters. He spoke nine languages, and was renowned for his mastery. He anglicized absolutely everything. When referring to the head German SOB in World War I, for instance, he'd say "William the Second." And if it was good enough for Walters . . .
p.s. Matisse, per Brian's Aunt Stella Canter (Harry's sister) -
"My father Isaac was born in Lithuania in a village called Hodan..."
The Brian Epstein Story by Debbie Geller, Page 1
She goes on to say that her mother (Isaac's wife) was from Manchester, but her mother's parents were probably from Poland (sounds like she didn't know for sure). Poland and Lithuania are very close, but I thought I'd clarify a bit.
I cannot readily find a reference as to Queenie's heritage, so, since Poland is not a concrete certainty, I prefer to stick with Lithuania.
Oy, Poland! I despair to think that my paternal grandfather's ancestors (my maiden name was "Ignasiak") may have had anything to do with (speculatory scenario) Brian's ancestors being driven out of Poland during a 19th-century pogram!
* the eppylover embarks on a search for a suitable cliff to jump off *