Ahem…that’s doo-MAH

April 29, 2011

One of the treacherous aspects of reader’s advisory is the risk of mispronouncing an author’s name in front of a devoted fan.  Customers may not quibble with you, but if they know better and care, you may lose some credibility as a go-to authority.   I have always considered pronouncing someone’s name correctly, or sincerely trying, to be an important sign of basic respect in interpersonal relations.  I still cringe knowing that I thought of Brian Jacques as Brian Zhahk (like Jacques Cousteau, of course) for years before a kindly children’s librarian (I forget who) at last set me straight. 

One fun site I found on the web that has sometimes been helpful is something called Inogolo.com, “the part-time project of Stuart Yoder who lives and works in the Austin, Texas area, and enjoys orthoepy as a hobby.”  Yoder’s site indicates he derives his information from a variety of standard resources as well as from viewing media or even asking the person directly if possible.  For me, this site has had a good track record for some of the gnarliest, garbliest surnames in contemporary fiction.   For instance, I checked YouTube videos for Inogolo’s phonetic spellings of Palahniuk and Lescroart and found that using them I would come pretty close to spot on.  In both cases, I checked video clips of the authors saying their own names. (By the way, Palahniuk’s clip is informative for other reasons). I don’t trust people making introductions at events or readings because authors are too polite to correct them.  If you don’t see the name that’s giving you trouble in Inogolo’s database, there’s a place to email the suggested addition for research.

Candidates for most butchered author names? I have my own list of favorites:

  • Carl Hiaasen 
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Ngaio Marsh
  • Brian Jacques
  • John Lescroart
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Vincent Bugliosi
  • Andre Dubus
  • Brock and Bodie Thoene

posted by Darren



4 Responses to “Ahem…that’s doo-MAH”

  1. M Says:

    So, give us a pronunciation guide!

  2. JR Says:

    I agree with M. There should be information on the correct pronunciation of these names.

  3. Darren Says:

    OK, I’ll give you Inogolo’s suggested phonetic spellings for these: Hiaasen (HY-uh-sun), Palahniuk (PALL-uh-nik), Lescroart (les-KWAH), Rowling (“rolling”), Bugliosi (bool-YO-see), Dubus (duh-BYOOS). Gnaio, Jacques and Thoene are, I believe, “NYE-oh,” “JAKES” and “TAY-nee” respectively but these aren’t in Inogolo, and Ngaio and now Jacques are deceased (RIP) . If anyone catches me in error, please enlighten us. Of course getting at author name pronunciation is another reason to consume audiobooks, the publishers of which I would really hope get their authors’ names right. Oh, another one that’s given me trouble is Jodi Picoult (Inogolo has “pee-KOE” and that’s a common pronunciation, but when Picoult says herself it sound more like “PEE-koe” to me, so the upshot is always double check). What surprises me is that authors don’t all have this information prominently on their own web sites, but they seem to be a gracious forgiving lot when it comes to saying their names. Any other pet peeve common errors?

  4. Jim McCluskey Says:

    Matt Groening—Simpsons creator–“Groening rhymes with complaining”.

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