I was amused to find out that there are several threads in a number of online forums that asked for the correct pronunciation of Reims, a city in the Champagne Region in France. A lot of guesses and speculations were also posted but only a couple of respondents came close to the correct pronunciation.
Since I learned about St. John Baptist De La Salle in high school, I have been hearing that St. John Baptist De La Salle was born in Reims, France. All the teachers and Christian Brothers who mentioned the birthplace of the founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Fratres Scholarum Christianarum) a.k.a. La Salle Brothers pronounced the birthplace to sound like “reems.” Some even pronounce it as “reyms.”
In April of 2009, I had the opportunity to be with a pilgrimage group that visited the birthplace of St. John Baptist De La Salle and there I met Br. Christian Lemaire FSC, a French La Salle Brother. During his orientation about the city, he gave us a pocket map of the city and called it “reems.” However in his succeeding stories he called the city with something that sounded like “rans.” When he noticed our confusion, he quickly explained that the English pronunciation is “reems” but the locals would greatly appreciate it if they would hear us pronounce it as “rans.” Emphasis is given on letter R to pronounce it as if someone is trying to remove the phlegm from his throat, hence “rrrans.”
Since 2009, I was fortunate to have visited Reims three more times every month of April which usually falls on April 30, the birthday of St. John baptist De La Salle. During my visit in 2012, I travelled with a different group of people and the usual orientation was done by Br. Christian Lemaire FSC and I asked him another question. My question was why are there signs that are spelled as Reims and others that are spelled as Rheims? He explained to me that Rheims is an English spelling and so it is pronounced as “reems” while Reims is the French spelling which is pronounced as “rans.”
Reims is as interesting as guessing how to pronounce it correctly. Aside from being the birthplace of St. John Baptist De La Salle, it is also known as the “Coronation City” of France. It had its share of glory even before Paris became popular. Reims is famous for its cathedral where generations of French kings were crowned.