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Tongue Twisting Character Names

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Jessica, Queen's Square | November 1, 2017

Unsurprisingly, I love reading, but I hate guessing the pronunciation of certain character names. Some are straightforward, but others take a little (or a lot) of guess work to get right. 

Usually, I take a stab at it and start with my first thought on pronunciation, failing any instruction from the author. This is what did I did when I first came across Flavia de Luce (from the lovely mystery series by Alan Bradley). When I started reading I pronounced her name FLAH-vee-ah. I was happy with my choice until the author finally decided to have the character herself announce that her name was pronounced FLAY-vee-ah. However, this nugget of information didn’t appear until book 8! I’d been saying it my way for 7 books; I’m not changing it now!

On the other hand, some authors try to help you out from the beginning and immediately tell you the correct pronunciation. In the Robert Galbraith mysteries I was told the correct pronunciation of main character Cormoran Strike within the first few chapters. Despite being told, I couldn’t exactly remember the right way throughout the book. I certainly wasn’t going to keep flipping back and training myself to say it the proper way. I pretty much made up my own pronunciation. Maybe the new BBC show will make the real way of saying it stick? 

Other books and authors don’t even try to help you out. Fantasy books are the worst for this. Some character names look like a slew of letters jammed together and they either have too many vowels, or not enough vowels, to make any sense. Before the television show, how many Game of Thrones readers were pronouncing Daenerys Targaryen correctly? At least most of the Lord of the Rings characters have easy names. No struggles on Frodo, Sam, Merry or Pippin the first time I read those books! 

Even comic books and graphic novels don’t give you a break. I still remember reading about Superman’s magical enemy Mxyzptlk. I didn’t even try to guess how to say that. I simply glanced at it each time it came up and thought, “M. . .something, oh right that guy.”

The best part about reading a good book is the chance to discuss it. A great read can yield hours of discussion and debate on plot, themes and characters. Perhaps character names are another thing to debate over. Still, at the end of the day, does it really matter if I say “FLAH-vee-ah” and you say “FLAY-vee-ah” so long as we are both reading about her doing something amazing?

The Grave's a Fine and Private PlaceCuckoo's Calling book coverGame of Thrones book cover

Are there any character names that trip you up?  Share them in the comments below!