31 March: today's birthdays

  • Herb Alpert - American musician
  • Alejandro Amenábar - Chilean-born Spanish film director
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - German composer
  • ​Sean Bennett - American cyclist
  • Robert Brasillach - French writer, journalist and film critic
  • Tullio De Mauro - Italian linguist
  • René Descartes - René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, scientist and writer, known as one of the founders of modern philosophy. He is also known by his Latinized name Renatus Cartesius. He is particularly famous for his philosophical statement, "I think, therefore I am" (Cogito, ergo sum, in Latin.
    The correct pronunciation of René Descartes in French can be phonetically transcribed as Ruh-neh Deh-cahrt. To pronounce his name correctly, the first mistake to avoid is to pronounce the "né" in René as "ney" and the "Des" in Descartes as "day". This is a typical error by English speakers. The "e" must not become an "a" sound, but it must be pronounced as a soft "e" as heard in the audio file.
    In the second half of Descartes, "cartes", the final "es" is silent, so all you hear is "cart", with a very open "a" sound and a gargled "r" (like the "r" in René as well). Because that kind of "r"  is so difficult for a non-native speaker to reproduce, to have a good enough pronunciation, it isn't an absolute necessity.
  • Sergej Pavlovič Djagilev (Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev) - Russian impresario
  • John Fowles - English novelist and essayist
  • Marianne Frostig - Austrian psychologist
  • Joseph Haydn - Austrian composer and pianist
  • Diederik Johannes Korteweg - Dutch mathematician
  • Georg Listing - German bassist
  • Andrew Marvell - English poet
  • Ewan McGregor - Scottish actor
  • Nagisa Oshima - Japanese film director and screenwriter. He directed Cruel Story of Youth
  • Octavio Paz - Mexican poet, writer and diplomat, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990
  • Muriel Pénicaud - French executive vice president of human resources at Danone and politician
  • Olli Rehn - Finnish politician
  • Carlo Rubbia - Italian physicist. He was awarded the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics 
  • Volker Schlöndorff - German film director
  • Christopher Walken - American actor
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