On Thursday’s (Dec. 15) “The Big Bang Theory,” Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) welcomed their bouncing baby girl into the world, with all their friends at the hospital, reminiscing about how far they’ve come since they met nine years ago.
It was a very sweet episode, but one moment may have left viewers scratching their heads. When Howard reveals they named the baby “Hallie,” Leonard (Johnny Galecki) replies, “Like Halley’s Comet!”
Except, wait — isn’t that name pronounced like it rhymes with the name “Bailey”?
Well, yes and no.
Merriam-Webster says that “Halley,” the last name of Edmond Halley, who determined the comet’s periodicity in 1705 and after whom the comet is named, is pronounced like it rhymes with “alley” or “valley.” And an informal survey conducted by Ian Ridpath for his 1985 book “A Comet Called Halley” had him reaching out to 36 different families with the last name Halley to see how they pronounced it — the results were that 5.5 percent pronounced it like “Hay-ley,” 5.5 percent pronounced it like “Haw-ley” and the remaining 89 percent pronounced it like “Hal-ley.”
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However, there are reports that the English astronomer spelled his name several different ways, so the exact pronunciation used by Edmond himself will never be known for certain.
It sounds as though “Hal-ley” is the common English pronunciation of the comet name, while “Hay-ley” is what Americans generally use, which was only perpetuated by the 1950s rock ‘n roll group Bill Haley and the Comets. In several of the group’s biographies, the band name is said to have come about because a friend pointed out Bill Haley’s name similarity to the common U.S. pronunciation of the comet’s name and suggested his group be called “the Comets.”
While the “Hay-ley” pronunciation obviously pre-dates the band, the band certainly helped perpetuate the American pronunciation.
The thing we’re most curious about regarding “The Big Bang Theory” is how Howard and Bernadette have chosen to spell their daughter’s name. Did they go full-out with naming her after the comet and spell it Halley? Or perhaps “Halle” like actress Halle Berry? Or “Hallie” like novelist Hallie Ephron?
Hopefully the show will reveal it to us.
“The Big Bang Theory” returns with new episodes in 2017.
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