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Friday Find: Guide to Pronouncing Writers’ Names

I loved this post by Fiction Writers Review Editor-in-Chief Anne Stameshkin, linking to a most useful resource: a guide to pronouncing writers’ names. No longer must you wonder how to say “Michael Chabon” or “J.M. Coetzee”–or be (even unwittingly) embarrassed by your mispronunciations.

I’ve blogged before about the misspellings my name seems to inspire in print/online, but you might be surprised by the mispronunciations. Usually, it’s just my surname that causes problems: “DRAY-fus” or “DREE-fus” instead of “DRY-fus.” More astonishing, to me at least, is that sometimes a not-so-mellifluous “Eh-REEK-ah” precedes some version of the last name. Um, no. (I’ll just add that when a “DRAY-FOOS” [variable syllabic stress] comes from the vocal chords of a French-speaker, it’s never held against that person! When appropriate–and when I was doing dissertation research in Paris it was quite often appropriate–I’ve relied on such pronunciation myself.)

But my focus on the pronunciation of my own name means that I sometimes stumble over others’. I remember the first time I mentioned the name of New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman in front of a writer who actually knows her. “It’s TREEZ-man,” he said, icily.

While we’re on the subject of names, you may enjoy this post from my other blog, on author Allegra Goodman’s English and Hebrew bylines (and my own–sort of).

Have a great weekend, everyone. See you back here on Monday.

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7 Responses »

  1. Thanks for this! I had some of them way wrong. I do know how to pronounce Nabokov, and cringe every time I hear someone say it incorrectly, which is almost all the time.

    I never correct them, though, because I don't want to become that-person-who-always-corrects-your-pronunciation. Plus, have you ever noticed – even if you correct someone, they continue to say it incorrectly anyway? It's like those mispronunciations become coded in our brains.

  2. Thanks for this! I would never call you ErREEKka, and someone did correct me once on Coetzee. I've been introduced as "Jessica Antlers" once – there, I've said it, now it's on the internet. I just laughed, what else to do with that?

  3. I'm often Mil – STINE instead of the correct Mil – STEEN. I've even gotten – Mil – STONE!

  4. Deonne, you're right–it's not nice to be "that person." And "Jessica Antlers" is a good one! Maybe if you need a pseudonym sometime!

  5. Theresa, I have a friend who has a very similar problem to yours–but reversed.

  6. Once, years ago, I mispronounced Nabokov, Proust and Ayn Rand – all in the same five minutes. Proving once again, I'm much better off staying on the page than actually speaking!

  7. That's a great link–really interesting. I've never been mispronounced (except outside of the States), but I can imagine the frustration!

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