Russian news articles about Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen, for example this recent one, always seem to transliterate his last name as Ферстаппен instead of (what I would expect) Верстаппен. What is the reason for this? Pronouncing his name in Dutch with an F would sound rather odd.

The same article transliterates the name of one of his opponents, Valtteri Bottas, as Валттери Боттас. Is this because that would cause the 'е' to be pronounced as (using IPA notation) ɪ (like e.g. in велик)? If so, wouldn't using an э, so Вэрстаппен, make more sense? Or am I overthinking the difference in pronunciation between Ф and В?

  • 3
    I know in German F1 broadcasts the name is pronounced with an 'F'-like sound as well. So shabunc may be spot on. Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 19:27
  • In Dutch it's often difficult to distinguish the pronunciation of F from V. Many native speakers don't (especially northerners). I suspect that the reason lies there more than in the difference in Russian between Ф and В.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 20:15
  • 1
    @0xC0000022L Czech commentators do so as well. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 16:52

2 Answers 2


Wikipedia indeed mentions that this corresponds to practical Dutch transliteration, as you can clearly see from the article linked. A Dutch "v" is usually transliterated as "в"; we say "ван Дамм" and "Велдховен", not "фан Дамм" and "Фелдховен".

However - and this fact may be quite annoying to the Dutch — quite often, if the name sounds German enough (and Verstappen does indeed sound that way), it's mistakenly transliterated that way. In fact, in past times, it used to sometimes happen even with English names (see the pic - yep, it's Бертран Рассел).

enter image description here

Once a mistake is made, it can linger for a long time, if not forever, because people sort of get used to it.

  • 2
    I'm confused: is the usual transliteration of “Russell” the one given in the answer, the one shown in the image or a third one?
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 15:59
  • I would add that the voicing of Dutch v (as well as of g and z) is rather light, and in some areas (mainly in the Netherlands, especially in the north) these voiced fricatives are in fact unvoiced (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_phonology#Obstruents). Someone's pronunciation of the name may have influenced the transliteration.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 20:07
  • @DaG the usual transliteration is "Бертран Рассел"
    – shabunc
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 20:08
  • Thanks, @shabunc! I didn't understand well what “it used to happen” referred to. I assume “transcriptions that don't correspond to pronunciation”, right?
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 20:12
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    @phoog my guess would be that it's another example of how one language (French in this case) affects transliteration from some other language.
    – shabunc
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 20:20

Because it makes a difference between W and V, W is usually transliterated as В or У (for example, Dr. Watson, in different translations, is доктор Ватсон or доктор Уотсон, but the first one is the more popular), and V transliterates as Ф. This may also depend of the original language — in this case, Dutch.

  • Welcome to Russian Language! I'm not so sure about your claim of V to Ф; I already mentioned Valtteri Bottas -> Валттери Боттас in the question.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 15:57

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