Name Calling

Barbara Vey -- January 19th, 2010

Hello. joysann rambling on here again, this time with some thoughts on names. Every now and then I’ve read books in which the authors had found a way to give me the proper pronunciation of a character’s name. I can’t say how much I appreciate this. I wish more authors would find a way to do it if a frequent character in the book has an unusual name.

There I am, sailing along reading smoothly through an engrossing story, and suddenly – Errhk! – the brakes go on while I have to sit and think about how to say this guy’s (or gal’s) name, even if just in my own head. This disruption occurs over and over again as I progress through the book, eventually becoming a bit irritating.


Speaking of guy, that’s one of them. Does this character "Guy" pronounce his name to rhyme with "buy", or does it have a French influence so it would rhyme with "bee"?


What makes a name unusual? A question to ask would be something like "How often did this person, as a child, have to pronounce/spell his/her name for someone else to write?" As a mid-western American lots of names are foreign and exotic looking to me, and I would probably delight in them if I had a clue how to sound them out. Once I knew that pronunciation, I likely wouldn’t notice it again and the dang thing wouldn’t be so distracting.

I meant to compile a list of names I’ve seen in recent months that drove me batty, but I never got around to making note of them, and so, of course, can’t think of them here. One was particularly annoying, and I wish I could remember in what book. Maybe that shows how impressed I was.


Bottom Line:  I’d probably do a lot less name calling if I knew how to call that name.

9 thoughts on “Name Calling

  1. Sheila

    I can so relate to this! If I’m not sure how a character’s name is pronounced it bothers me throughout the book. I do see authors who are clever in letting you know!

  2. Gayle Carline

    Even tho I know it’s standard advice to give your character a name that’s easy to pronounce, I gave my heroine, Peri Minneopa, a last name no one can pronounce, which is one of the running gags in the book. She corrects people early (Minn-ee-OH-pa), but almost everyone mangles it. She is called Moneypenny, Minnypaw, and my favorite, Menopause. P.S. She’s the housecleaner-turned-detective in my debut mystery, Freezer Burn, published by Echelon Press.


    Oh about about a gazillion British names (especially places), including Maurice (which isn’t “More eas” but “Morris”) and my personal favorite Brit name–St. John, which isn’t “Saint John” but “Sin Gin” (I think).

  4. Depatures

    Awesome blog you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get advice from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Many thanks!

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