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POLL: Is it important that you can pronounce character names?

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There is so much I could write about in terms of names in books (and maybe that will be an upcoming Tuesday post) but for today, we have a poll inspired by author Christina Dodd who tweeted today:

“For you as a reader, is it important that you can pronounce character names?”

Yes is my reply. I will stop reading a book just because of the character’s name.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

67 Comments

  1. Anah Crow
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:20:26

    I don’t think I knew how to pronounce a lot of names “properly” for a lot of things I read when I was younger, but I just did my best, even as a little kid. I’m pretty easy going.

    For example (bonus points if you know where these are from):
    -F’nor, F’lar, Mnemeth, F’lessan, C’gan, D’ram, Petrion, Tagetarl, S’peran, Clioth…
    -Melniboné, Yrkoon, Dyvim Slorm, Theleb K’aarna, Xiombarg…

    I don’t need to be able to pronounce it correctly. I need to be able to make it make some sense in my head. There needs to be a logic to names that makes sense — internal consistency. I won’t stop reading just because I can’t pronounce it, because I can fake it pretty well. I love names that are drawn on a common language base for each unique culture.

    I will stop reading it if the name is too twee (especially this), doesn’t make any sense within the setting (you know, your ancient Germanic background with Princess Lauralee Rose as the main character), or if the names, in general, rely on too many nonsensical abuses of the alphabet. If you need more than one apostrophe, every vowel, each of the last three letters of the alphabet, along with three random consonants, to make up every name in your story? I will not read it. If your goblin king is named George and it is not because a copy of Curious George fell through a dimensional rift and has been used as part of a coming-of-age rite for the past eleven generations, I will also find something else to do with my time.

  2. misty
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:21:48

    I don’t think it’s such a big deal. If it’s some sort of weird made-up name I just pick a pronunciation and go with it. That said, I read a book about a character named Penelope as a child, and it took me years to realize that it doesn’t rhyme with antelope, so be careful. lol.

  3. Heather
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:26:02

    I voted no.

    It all started when I read Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain as a kid. I didn’t know then that it was based on old Welsh stories. I just knew that I couldn’t pronounce half the names, especially those lacking vowels. I just “renamed” the characters…”the g guy” etc.

    So now I don’t worry about being able to pronounce the names, as long as I can tell the characters apart. lol

  4. Carin
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:28:26

    Anah Crow:

    If your goblin king is named George and it is not because a copy of Curious George fell through a dimensional rift and has been used as part of a coming-of-age rite for the past eleven generations

    I want to read that!
    (And I recognize the Anne McCaffrey characters, but I’m fairly sure that F’lar’s dragon’s name is missing some consonants. Probably m or n. )

    In general, pronouncing names… if there’s any doubt to how it might be said, I appreciate when hints are dropped. And early on, please. And when names are very complicated and new to me (hello sci-fi, fantasy) please keep them easily distinguishable. I can’t think of examples, but when I really can’t pronounce a name, I tend to mentally snip to one syllable.

  5. Jennifer Roland
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:33:08

    @Anah Crow: I haven’t read any Pern books in such a long time! Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Lisa J
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:44:04

    This is a YES for me. It pulls me out of the story if I mentally pronounce the name differently every time I see it in the book. I find books with hard to pronounce names do not make it to my keeper shelf.

    I agree it would be best to put a hint for the proper pronunciation in the beginning of the book. It makes life so much easier and I can enjoy the story so much more.

  7. Kalen Hughes
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 13:55:37

    And I recognize the Anne McCaffrey characters, but I'm fairly sure that F'lar's dragon's name is missing some consonants. Probably m or n.

    N. It’s Mnementh. I’m such a geek . . . that was the name of my pet goldfish in college.

    I don’t need to be able to pronounce them, but I need some kind of logical “rule” that at least lets my brain make them into words (pretty much what Anah Crow said above). But I do really appreciate it when an author has a pronunciation guide if their names are really out there (not uncommon in SF/F books).

    It does bug me when I hear Gaelic/Welsh names butchered though (every time I hear someone say they have book coming out with “Sam-hain” I can feel snakes bursting out of my skull; even though I know that Samhain Publishing chose to mispronounce their business name *sigh*).

  8. vanessa jaye
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:00:16

    Naw. I just think up my own pronounciation, even if it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher is saying it in my head.

  9. Ros
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:00:43

    Totally. This is one of the main reasons why I can’t read SF/F (the others are the lack of pretty dresses and gardens, why yes, I am totally shallow).

    I recently read through an unpublished novel for a friend of mine with a major character whose name tripped me up every single time, as I had to think about the way I would say it. I just can’t let it go.

  10. maddie
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:04:47

    I voted yes and I have to agree with Lisa J .

    Not only does it pulls out of the story, but I spend the rest of the book trying to pronounce the name for the rest of the book, which leads into trying to find some word to rhyme the name with.

  11. Shiloh Walker
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:15:02

    Depends. I don’t mind short but complicated names, but if it’s a long name with like 10 syllables and apostrophes scattered here and there? I might pass but the story is really, really appealing.

  12. joanne
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:15:12

    I like to be able to connect right away with a character but if the story is working on every other level than I just give it my own pronunciation and continue on. I tend to have more trouble with stumbling over the names an author may give their world than I do with the name of characters.

    I prefer the names not bring an immediate ‘picture’ to mind…. I would have a hard time with a Tycoon’s Virgin Secretary Bride whose name was Lola. Ditto heros named Buddy. Or Bubba. Or….. hey, there’s a drinking game here!

    ETA:
    I still don’t think I’m pronouncing Nalini Singh correctly but since she and I won’t be having lunch anytime soon it’s okay, she’s still an auto-buy.

  13. Diane V
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:35:19

    If I can’t pronounce the name – I don’t buy the book.

    There are too many paranormal books that have this problem – I just can’t get into the story if I have no clue what the hell the character’s name is.

  14. dancechica
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:44:04

    This is a YES for me. It pulls me out of the story if I mentally pronounce the name differently every time I see it in the book.

    Ditto.

  15. DS
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:49:18

    There used to be the occasional sff story with names with apostrophes. McCaffrey used it as a convention in her Pern books as noted above. And of course there are the everyday Irish O’ names. But for some reason futuristic authors are apostrophe and consonant mad. Generally the more complicated a name is and the more apostrophes it has, the more likely I am to be annoyed by it.

    I also heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that one of the words most disliked by people regardless of meaning is the word “moist”, so an author should probably avoid any names that rhyme with moist.

  16. Cathy
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:52:44

    I voted yes, because sometimes names will just drive me nuts in a book. I don’t want to be distracted from the story wondering if that “h” is silent, or what the ‘ signifies. Oh, or how an “x” and a “b” sound next to each other.

    I’m not saying everyone should be named George and Mary (or Jane, Jayne, and Jaine), but I think a good author can have creative, yet familar names. Or, can find a skillful way to address pronunciation within the story.

    Not really the question, but I also hate it when two characters have very similar names – this seems to be more of an issue in fantasy novels. Sauron and Saruman in LotR was a huge problem for me, and I actually didn’t finish Fellowship the first time because I couldn’t figure out how the dude in the tower was also the one who lost the ring 3000 years ago, and why is Gandalf all friendly with him….

  17. Janice
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 15:14:15

    I would have answered ‘Sort of’ if I had that option. I had to say ‘No’.

    I do want to be able to pronounce a character’s name, but I’m not bonedead stupid, so if the author has an unusual name and finds some way to tell me how it’s pronounced, I’m perfectly fine with that. If, however, the author can’t work in a way to tell me that (for example) a character named ‘Chomondely Featherstonehaugh’ is pronounced ‘Chumley Fanshaw’, then she probably ought to name him something else.

    But if the book is otherwise holding my interest, I wouldn’t toss it just because I didn’t already know the correct pronunciation. I might ever go so far as to exercise my brain and look it up.

  18. Tiffany Clare
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 15:23:11

    I answered no. The only reason it doesn’t matter is I’ll read the names when the characters are introduced then I skim it the rest of the way through the book. If I can’t pronounce it, I usually make something up easy that I think might be close and insert it as I’m reading.

    My first book has some difficult names but I’ve kept them short so readers won’t glaze over them (I hope! LOL): Jinan, Laila, Maram, Amir, Aysun. The rest are fairly simple, mostly English, some Russian some French.

    Really long names sometimes drive me nuts.

  19. AmyW
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 15:43:33

    If it takes me longer than 5 seconds to figure out how to pronounce a character’s name, I usually make one up, too. It won’t stop me from reading a book (unless it’s absolutely ridiculous) but I like to read slowly and “say” each word in my head, so it throws me off when I can’t do that. I won’t mention how I said “Hermione” from Harry Potter to myself until my mom (laughing quite heartily) corrected me…

    Another pet peeve? Using common names with weird spelling to be different. I love Jennifer Fallon’s books but she does this all the time and it drives me crazy.

  20. GrowlyCub
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 15:45:29

    I voted ‘no’, but it would probably be ‘sometimes’. If I can make sense of it somehow, unusual names don’t bother me, but stuff a la Ward that’s just pretentious, irks me no end. Or when you get the impression the author was just falling over herself laughing because she thought she was so clever and funny…

  21. jmc
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 16:06:05

    Pronunciation doesn’t bother me, but spelling and internal consistency (as described by Anah Crow above) do matter. My complaint a couple of weeks ago about Jayne/Zha-ney was grounded in the pretentiousness of the accent use and its inconsistency with what little I knew of the character’s history.

  22. Lorraine
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 16:13:56

    It annoys me when I don’t have a clue how to pronounce a name, but I still keep reading. The worst is when I dither throughout the book and can’t come up with a pronunciation that satisfies me and keep going back and forth. *sigh*

  23. RStewie
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 16:29:36

    It annoys me, but it doesn’t pull me out of the story. It’s easier to identify with the characters, though, if you can say their names, and I’ll start to identify quicker with a name that I can pronounce.

    But I don’t like some names, that have connotations attached to them (for me): Jennifer…Julie. Moira. Candace, Darlene. I’m not sure why, but some common names I don’t like for a heroine.

  24. Lisa
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 16:30:45

    Chomondely Featherstonehaugh' is pronounced ‘Chumley Fanshaw'

    I’m so going to find a way to use this someday. I knew the “fanshaw” pronunciation but “chumley” is the icing on this cake!

  25. Estara
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 16:47:23

    I voted no. I grew up on fairy tales and then fantasy and science fiction. Loads of strange names there. And then I started reading in English which doesn’t have all that much to do with German pronunciation. Sometimes I simply read the fantasy names (as the Japanese do – you get a trouble written toloveru which is what they hear when they hear the word spoken) with my own country’s pronunciation (based on Latin). Not as much vowel shift for us (English having the Venerable Bede with a pronunciation that would be Biid in Germany).

    However, if the naming is totally inconsistent in relation to the world and culture created or – I don’t know – celebrity names changed and added as characters just by using different vowels that confuses and annoys me enough to not bother with that particular book any longer.

    Scalzi’s cat Fluffy and the chosen spelling of her name would be a deal breaker I think ^^.

  26. Janice
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 16:52:31

    Lisa: Jo Beverley has said that any British name you can’t understand is pronounced ‘Fanshaw’ :)

    I have heard that Chomondeley (Chumley) is sometimes ‘Chuffy’, but I have no source for that one!

    I now call that tall brown bottle of sauce in my kitchen ‘Fanshaw Sauce’ ;)

    Janice

  27. Maili
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 17:09:41

    @ Janice and @Lisa
    A gentle correction: it’s Cholmondeley (the missing ‘l’) and Featherstonhaugh (no ‘e’).

    There are many places and surnames that don’t pronounce the way they read. Best known:
    Dalziel (Dee-el), Leicester (Lester), Menzies (Ming-is), Culzean (Ca-lane), Salisbury (Saulsbrey), Gloucester (Gloster), Warwick (Worrik), Towcester (Toaster), Cheyne (Chain), Beauchamp (Beecham), Yeats (Yates), Brougham (Broom), Goodnestone (Guns-tun), Marlborough (Mawburrah or Mawbruhh), Coke (as a surname or place name: Cook) Edinburgh (Edinburrah or Edinbruhh, but some locals say it as Embruhh), Kew (kyoo), Glasgow (Glesga or outside, Glesgo), Wodehouse (Woodhouse), McLeod (MikCloud), Milngavie (mulguy), Worcester (Wooster), Berkeley (Barkley), Somerleyton (summerlaytun), and my favourite: Theobalds (Tibsbald).

    I got carried away, sorry. I was having so much fun doing this. Sorry.

    I voted ‘yes’. If it weren’t an issue, I’d have finished JR Ward’s ‘h’ series and my husband’s list of favourite fantasy novels by now. :D

    @Estara

    However, if the naming is totally inconsistent in relation to the world and culture created or – I don't know – celebrity names changed and added as characters just by using different vowels that confuses and annoys me enough to not bother with that particular book any longer.

    That’s true in my case.

  28. Janice
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 17:12:05

    Maila: The missing L is a typo, sorry. I have seen Featherstonehaugh with & without the E. Spelling variants are such a bitch, aren’t they?

  29. Dee Carney
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 17:33:34

    @Kalen Hughes:

    (every time I hear someone say they have book coming out with “Sam-hain” I can feel snakes bursting out of my skull; even though I know that Samhain Publishing chose to mispronounce their business name *sigh*).

    I thought I was the only one who feels that way. lol.

    I voted ‘no’, though.

  30. TerryS
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 18:16:17

    I voted no. Who cares what the “proper” pronunciation is? The story is much more important than names that I may or may not pronounce how the author intended. “The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency” is a perfect example. I couldn’t begin to correctly pronounce names, even some of the places, in the story, but I loved the story. More fun was then listening to the audio book later and hearing those unpronounceable names. I can tell you my pronunciation was nothing like the audio book pronunciation. I still loved the book and I still can’t pronounce the names :-0

  31. Carolyn
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 18:21:27

    I voted no. I just give my own pronounciation. Mnementh has always been ‘Memneth’ to me, lol.

    And not just a character’s name. There are words I’ve read; I know what they mean, but I’ve never heard them pronounced because they’re just not words you’d use in real life conversation these days. Of course I can’t think of an example! Tsk. But I do remember the egg on my face when I pronounced one of those words ‘my’ way, lol.

  32. Carin
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 18:35:32

    TerryS mentioned audio books – I became a lot more aware of pronounciation after I started listening to them! For YEARS I have been apparently mispronouncing “cravat” and a whole host of other historical English words. Names are the worst. Oh, and “clitoris” was a word I’d read a lot but NEVER heard. I had that one wrong, too! :)

  33. Ami
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 18:53:09

    I voted no. as long as it doesn’t get to the point where I go… who are you… who is the main character in this book, I just make up the pronunciation, or say the dude that did this. And when the author makes up easy nicknames to make it easy, I really appreciate it and makes reading easy(Like the Inda series by Sherwood Smith, all the special names annoyed me then because I couldn’t actually figure out the timeline posted on her website). I normally really just glaze over the names that need ‘ or long, if they’re not important or the main character the author can make sure i know what the purpose of the character.

  34. Tee
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 19:57:05

    @vanessa jaye:
    Loved your response. If the story is worthwhile enough to continue reading on, I’ll make my own pronunciation and be done with it.

  35. Lori T
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 20:35:06

    I voted yes. It drives me a bit mad if I cannot at least pretend that I know how to pronounce the characters name.

  36. kaigou
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 21:25:14

    I ended up choosing “yes” but I could just as easily choose “no”, because the question doesn’t seem to be asking (entirely) what I think you’re asking, which would actually be: “is it important that you be able to pronounce character names correctly” — where, I suppose, “correctly” means “as the author intended”.

    In which case, a big fat no. I really don’t care how the author wanted a name pronounced; I go by what gets sounded out in my head and as long as it makes logical sense to me, personally, then that’s all that matters… but that does matter, to me, that I can [come up with some kind of reasonable version to] pronounce character names, thus I answered ‘yes’.

    Except in cases where the name is a really bad pun, one you can only get if you say the name aloud and/or pronounce it just so. That — thank you Mr. P. Anthony — is a definite DNF-cause, for me.

  37. Wanderer
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 21:37:49

    I voted yhes although it’s more that the nhames not mhake my eyes rholl. I apprechiate unique nhames but dhon’t mhake them extra cheezy, you feel me?

  38. Janet W
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 21:51:23

    I voted yes but I probably should have said sometimes (how about that 3rd option?) … if the book is questionable (to me) to begin with and I can’t sync up with the characters, it’s probably a DNF.

  39. Ritu
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 23:19:01

    @joanne:

    Nalini rhymes with funnily and Singh with bing, other than the ‘gh’ sound at the end.

    Weird names pass by in a blur for me unless the character is important.

  40. Eva_baby
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 00:47:27

    I voted no. As long as in my head and I reasonably pronounce that is ok with me. I get more cheezed out by precious spellings that not being able to pronounce. I remember reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and pronouncing the character Loghaire’s (i probably spelled it wrong) name as ‘Lo-WHERE’ in my head. And about four books later reading somewhere that it was actually pronounced ‘Leery’. I still to this day like my in-my-head pronunciation better.

  41. Mera
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 04:31:34

    I voted no. When I first started J. R. Ward books the h’s drove me crazy, but after a few hundred pages I grew accustomed to them and now when I read, for example, “rage” without the h I think it’s the wrong spelling ;o)
    One of my favourite authors is Juliet Marillier – in her latest novel she has a character named Eile, which means “hurry” in German. I simply pronounced her English, Ay-lee, and so it was okay.

  42. Alisa
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 05:46:26

    I voted no. That should be qualified as long as the name makes *SENSE* or there’s a nickname that’s tolerable.

    example: fantasy novel with ungodly long string of syllables in five different names with the whole pedigree of father, grandfather, clan and tribe thrown into the name, if that makes sense to that world, no problem as long as there’s a familiar name or even a title rank of some sort used in place of name to offset the formal name that fills up two full lines of text.

    I know Rhys is Reese, but the first time I came across it I was probably 10 or 11, and still tend to read it Rice half the time even knowing better.

    If I can come up with a “pronunciation that works for me” or even if the author’s taken the original name and made it more understandable with a phonetic spelling (using a Irish myth example Kweelta for Caoilte or Sava for Sabd) I’m good. I love names though, and if I stumble on one that really really stumps me, can’t quite settle a make do pronunciation in my head, I’m likely to go googling to find out what the heck it is and what it means, then go back to the book.

    Spell overly creatively to the point I want to throttle someone for it ever getting to print (JR Ward) forget it. Going too far in “easy to read name” is more likely to set my teeth on edge. Still haven’t gotten past attempting to read a story that had Jayce as a Tuatha De Danaan that lived presumably exclusively in Tir Na Nog, even as a secondary character that was the DNF point for me. Overly creative, or not bothering to go past, “oh that’s a cool name let’s slap it on that character there rather than making sure character’s name makes sense” is what drives me batty.

  43. Mireya
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 06:15:47

    Being a native Spanish speaker I always pronounce the non-Spanish and non-English names in my head in Spanish and I don’t care if I am wrong tbh. The pronunciation of names in books has never been an issue for me.

  44. Hazel
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 06:32:18

    Oh, no. I love learning new names and am constantly finding out that names I had thought were the made up fantasy kind are actually either very common names that I’d never heard before, or old-fashioned names that had fallen out of use. I always try my best to learn how to pronounce new names, even with my limited phonology. I certainly wouldn’t want my reading material to be populated entirely with Johns and Marys.

  45. Darlynne
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 07:00:16

    A huge “yes” for me. If I can’t figure a name out and I really want to read the book, I’ll turn that name into an icon whenever I see it, sort of like the singer who used to be Prince; I recognize it, but don’t bother to pronounce it. If a name is really bad, loaded up with apostrophes that lead to strangulation by glottal stop, I won’t even try.

  46. Lita
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 07:24:51

    I voted yes – but the names have to be pretty awful for me to give up.

    As a teenager, I read loads of SF/F, and I didn’t have a problem with the odd apostrophe or two, after all – I was more than half in love with F’lar until I was 16 or so. But the book that killed me was C.J. Cherryh’s “Tree of Swords and Jewels”. I know that many, if not most, of the names in the book were authentically Welsh – but because I couldn’t pronounce them in my brain, I couldn’t follow the story.

    Today, the biggest offender is J.R. Ward – not because the names are inpronouncible, they are just too ludicrous!

    BTW – I would really LOVE to read a story about a Goblin King who was named George because a copy of Curious George fell through a dimensional rift.

  47. Jessica Kennedy
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 07:52:49

    Yes.

    Stumbling over the characters name is terrible and distracting from the book.

    I’m having that issue right now, actually, with Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books. The character’s name is Lissa. I said it as “Lisa” but I want to also say “Liza”. I have no idea which is correct and it bugs me. I’m on book 4 now so I’m pretty comfortable with Lisa but I still glare at it every so often.

    Also, there was a character, Dacian, in My Wicked Vampire by Nina Bangs. I could not say that name for the life of me. I simply called him “D”.

    So, yeah, it bugs me.

  48. Jody
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 07:55:46

    I would have voted ‘no’, but I’m in the middle of an old Woodiwiss in which everybody, from the heroine to the plantation, has a weird name. The heroine is Liein (Ly-in? Lee-in? Ly-ee-in? E-I-E-I-O?) and it’s distracting. Plus, she has amnesia so how does she know if anybody around her is pronouncing it right?

  49. Kalen Hughes
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 08:17:17

    @Maili
    My favorite is Saint/St. John = Sin-jin (lots of folks here in the States didn't get this joke in Four Weddings and a Funeral). I also like Saint/St. Ledger = Siling-jer (sometimes). One that a lot of Regency fans have a problem with is Grosvenor (as in Square) = Grove-ner.

    Of course here in the States I get to hear San Jose pronounced San Jo-sie (like the girl's name) on the news coming out of the MidWest whenever there's a story about Silicon Valley.


    @ Dee Carney

    (every time I hear someone say they have book coming out with “Sam-hain” I can feel snakes bursting out of my skull; even though I know that Samhain Publishing chose to mispronounce their business name *sigh*).

    I thought I was the only one who feels that way. lol.

    I even asked one of their editors if they'd chosen to mispronounce it, or if they'd just given in after the general populace had chosen an incorrect pronunciation and run with it. She looked at me like I was nuts and never answered the question (leading me to wonder if they even knew that it's pronounced Sow-in?).

    Also, there was a character, Dacian, in My Wicked Vampire by Nina Bangs. I could not say that name for the life of me. I simply called him “D”.

    Well, assuming his name simply means “one is who is from Dacia” (aka Romania) it would be Day-she-an.

  50. Chicklet
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 08:20:34

    I voted No because even if my internal monologue can’t pronounce the name, I can identify the character by the shape of the text, if nothing else. But because of my SFF reading as an adolescent, general curiosity, and current job (in which I am exposed to hundreds of people’s names throughout the day, many of them different than what I’ve seen before), I’m able to cobble together a decent pronunciation of almost any name. (I have to give customers’ names over the phone for my job, so I’m forced to sound out unfamiliar names all the time.)

    I remember the one that tripped me up for awhile was Gwenhwyfar in The Mists of Avalon. I pronounced it phonetically even though it was kind of awkward. To this day, I don’t know if that’s correct, or if it’s “Gwenevere.” But it doesn’t really matter — I was always able to tell who she was in the story. I just figured it was a Welsh spelling of the name. (Like how Ianto is apparently an old Welsh variant of Johnny, according to probably-inaccurate info I saw online. *g*)

    What does bug me is when a variant spelling is used for no reason other than the author’s apparent pretentiousness. Rhage, I’m lookin’ at you.

  51. Jennifer
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 09:03:20

    I voted no. I’m dyslexic and had speech problems as a child. If I stopped reading every time a word/name tripped me up, I’d never read.

  52. Kalen Hughes
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 09:13:46

    (Like how Ianto is apparently an old Welsh variant of Johnny, according to probably-inaccurate info I saw online. *g*)

    It’s the Welsh form of John (and is pronounced “yan-toe” as any fan of Torchwood could tell you; yes, my geek slip is showing again, LOL!).

  53. K
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 10:48:50

    Yes, very much so. Of course, all I require is that I be able to pronounce them (i.e., have them be intelligible), not necessarily pronounce them well

  54. Lurker
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 11:34:12

    I prefer to use the correct pronounciation so I would like to know that. But the information must be included from the start.

    In the Meredith Gentry-series there was a pronounciation table included in the end of the second or third book. I was happy with my own (completely wrong) pronounciation until then, it’s been bothering me ever since. I would have been a much happier reader not knowing at all…

    Another example is Forced mate by Rowena Cherry. I still don’t understand the correct pronounciation of the Dj, and it’s an issue in the book that keeps coming up. It’s probably because english is not my first language and not really the authors fault, but I still find it annoying.

  55. Kalen Hughes
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 12:20:29

    I was happy with my own (completely wrong) pronounciation until then, it's been bothering me ever since.

    I’ve had this happen too many times to count. I just ignore the guide if it ruins something for me (of course I’m really dyslexic, so often I get then names totally wrong anyway, LOL!).

  56. charlotte
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 12:27:48

    I like reading books where the character have unusual names – Melusine of Ulle, Slience St. Barbe, Graelam de Moreton etc. Of course I’m not from the West so too simple -to- use names irritate me (John, Mark, Ted yuck!) I feel that unusual names add to the mystery and suspense even if the names have nothing to do with the storyline LOL!

  57. charlotte
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 13:09:56

    Ooops! sorry! I voted yes. If I can pronouce the name easily or at least one of the characters names easily, it takes away some of my interest….not enough to make me stop completely though.

  58. Karla
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 13:46:26

    Yes, and that’s why I’ve never really gotten into fantasy. Oftentimes it seems the author just throws together some consonants and a few apostrophes and calls it good. Might as well be Basque for all I can decipher it (and I’ve seen Basque. All Ks and Xs.)

  59. MaryK
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 14:18:19

    I voted yes, but I don’t care if I can pronounce the name correctly because I don’t really pronounce any of the words in a book. I just kind of absorb them. Sometimes names do trip me up, though, if my brain doesn’t recognize them, and that’s where the “yes” comes in. If I have to backtrack to see who a character is because their name isn’t sticking, it’s a problem.

    @Lurker:

    Another example is Forced mate by Rowena Cherry. I still don't understand the correct pronounciation of the Dj, and it's an issue in the book that keeps coming up. It's probably because english is not my first language and not really the authors fault, but I still find it annoying.

    This is an example of names that are a problem for me. Not because I can’t pronounce them (I don’t care how they should be pronounced), but because they’re too similar. I never know who’s who or who said what. I have to keep stopping to think about the name which breaks the flow of the story.

  60. Pett
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 09:19:52

    Interesting, I`ll quote it on my site later.
    Pett

  61. Ros
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 09:42:38

    (Like how Ianto is apparently an old Welsh variant of Johnny, according to probably-inaccurate info I saw online. *g*)

    It's the Welsh form of John

    Sorry, my inner pedant really can’t live with this. Ianto isn’t ‘the Welsh form of John’. There are a LOT of Welsh names which are derived from the original Greek name of Ioannes. The most common are names like Ioan, Iwan, Evan, Ieuan and so on. None of them are Welsh forms of English names. They are Welsh names, derived from a Greek name, NOT via English. And Ianto is a diminutive version, so yes, I suppose it would be more like the equivalent of Johnny, but it’s so wrong to call it a ‘variant’. It has nothing to do with the English name at all.

  62. DeeCee
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 20:56:48

    It bothers me a great deal. Especially in the paranormal books when names are either phonically spelled (ex. Zsadist) or custom spelled (Thybarios).

    I especially stumbled over Moning’s highlander names like Cian, Daegus and Drustan until she printed the hooked on phonics version. :)

  63. Teresa C
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 21:13:10

    In the Meredith Gentry-series there was a pronounciation table included in the end of the second or third book.

    But, if you listen to the Merry books in audio, they change the pronunciation of the character’s names from one book to the next. Doyle becomes Dole, and I can’t tell you what they did to Andiais. See! I can’t remember how it is supposed to be spelled, because they changed things up.

    You try listening to a book, when you lose 5 seconds of listening time, everytime you try to remember who Dole is, and why is he in the scene? You end up rewinding a lot.

  64. S.
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 23:38:46

    I understand French and Russian aside from English and I have many Polish relatives, so frightening Polish names are easy for me … I just convert them mentally into Cyrillic, heh. One thing that stalls me for a bit is when I see names from a language that I know and I can’t understand intuitively how an English speaker would pronounce them. For instance, in The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu (good book, by the way!) there was a character called Edik. In Slavic language it would be pronounced correctly like “yeh-deek” but in American, it could be Ehddick, Eedick, I don’t know how to read it.

    It’s not what I would call a problem, though. On the other hand, I hate it when people transliterate things strangely. Like if they use the letter J, I sometimes can’t tell if it’s supposed to be pronounced like Y and is a more accurate transliteration for people who understand that there’s supposed to be a Y sound there, or if it’s supposed to be pronounced like ZH and they’re using the letter J for some reason. The letter should just be avoided.

  65. Cat
    Sep 21, 2009 @ 12:20:25

    I vote yes… it trips up the flow of my reading and aggravates the hell out of me.

  66. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 19:55:07

    Hello, everyone.

    As a reader and a writer, I view names (including pronunciation and spellings) as an important element of characterisation. A character named “Michael” conjures up different vibes than a character named “Mikhail” or “Mish’ail.”

    For that matter, a female named Michael or Michal conjures up different impressions than the standard male Michael or Mike.

    I think it’s very important that writers put some effort into providing characters with names that “fit” well. And no, I don’t want to spend half the book muddling through what I think the character’s name sounds like.

  67. Christine
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 13:25:01

    @Carin:
    You are correct. F’lar’s dragon’s name is spelled Mnementh. Loved that series! Still do. I wasn’t sure of the rest of the names, however, they did sound familiar! guess they just didn’t make as deep of an impression! lol

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