"Do you say Tez-lah instead of Tes-lah?"

That's the question journalist Lesley Stahl asked Tesla chief executive Elon Musk during a recent appearance on CBS news show 60 Minutes.

His answer was fascinating...and hilarious.

How about you just watch for yourself?

"I say Tez-lah," responded Musk, before second-guessing himself. "I think I probably say it with a slight Z sound, or...I never thought about it."

"I say Tez-lah," Musk then confirmed.

But wait. It gets better. 

"Do you want me to say Tez-lah?" Stahl asks Musk. "I can't. I can't," she says twice before allowing Musk a chance to respond. "I'm going to say Tess-lah," she then states, emphatically.

"Well, it's not two S's," says Musk. "So it's gotta be at least a short S."

There you have it. 

Or, do you?

Going back in time

Before we go further, a little background.

Contrary to popular belief, the company we know as Tesla was not originally founded by Elon Musk. It was founded as "Tesla Motors" in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, two engineers/entrepreneurs who wanted to build the first electric sports car. Eberhard and Tarpenning received funding from various sources, including Musk, who later became chief executive of the company.

It's well known that the inspiration for the company's name comes from Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, best known for his contributions to the modern use of electricity.

Therefore, the obvious question:

How do you pronounce Nikola Tesla's name?

Seems that's not so easy to answer, either.

Pronunciation website Forvo claims to have two native Serbians pronouncing the famous inventor's name, but each sounds a little different. 

Of course, the exact pronunciation of a name will also change over time, and definitely changes between languages. For example, my wife speaks three languages: English, Polish, and German, and she usually uses a slightly different pronunciation when introducing herself in each language. (This simply makes it easier for the person to pronounce and remember.)

All things considered, as CEO Musk is probably in the best position to decide on the company name's pronunciation.

So, Tez-lah it is. 

Or was it Tes-lah?

Published on: Dec 10, 2018
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