You are probably familiar with the furniture retail giant IKEA, even if you haven’t been pronouncing the company’s name “correctly.” Over the years, IKEA representatives have occasionally pointed out that people with different native languages pronounced their company’s name differently, but say that there is no “right” way to say it. Still, when the IKEA Singapore Instagram account posted about this subject back in October, shoppers were perplexed.
IKEA Singapore posted an infographic saying that its name is pronounced “EE-kay-UH,” not “AI-kay-UH” or “Ai-kee-UH” as most English-speakers tend to pronounce it. It was a part of a series of “fun fact” posts that store put up to celebrate a string of successes, but it took shoppers around the world by surprise. Customers were shocked and embarrassed to find out that they were “wrong,” although native Swedish speakers say that it isn’t quite that simple.
Followers could hardly believe what they were reading. “SETTING THE RECORD STR8,” one top comment read. Another person wrote: “My life has been a lie!” while a third person added: “I’ve been pronouncing it right, most of the time.”
Naturally, anyone who speaks Swedish likely had the pronunciation correct from the beginning. For the rest of us, IKEA has given us plenty of chances to learn to say its name. The company even explained the meaning of its name in a 2018 interview with Quartz when it was celebrating its 75th anniversary in business.
At the time, a spokesperson said that IKEA is an acronym. The first two letters stand for the founder’s initials, Ingvar Kamprad, the third stands for the name of his family farm, Elmtaryd, and the fourth stands for the village where he grew up, Agunnaryd, which is in Småland, Sweden. A native Swedish speaker would almost certainly pronounce this amalgam with the same inflection as Kamprad – “EE-kay-UH.”
“It’s only natural that people pronounce ‘IKEA’ and the Swedish names of its products with a local accent. That’s absolutely ok!” the spokesperson added. Still, customers are consistently dumbfounded when they realize they’ve been making a mistake without realizing it.
After nearly eight decades in business, IKEA has become a staple of many retail hubs and a go-to destination for cheap, easy-to-move furniture. The company is currently based in the Netherlands, with chains all over the world.