Friday, April 16, 2010

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.

7 comments:

deonne kahler said...

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.

jessica handler said...

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?

Theresa Milstein said...

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

Erika D. said...

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!

Erika D. said...

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

Lisa Romeo said...

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!

Aut said...

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