How do you say that?

I am currently reading the teen science fiction book Epic by Conor Kostick and it is filled with Scandinavian names. The characters have names like Injeborg, Svein, and Hleid. I am uncertain how to say these names which would not stop me from using the book for a book discussion but does present a hurdle.

I wondered how other book club leaders handle names they cannot pronounce confidently at book discussions. I love finding the book on tape to help me out or a native speaker if the issue is one of foreign language familiarity (though in some fantasies perhaps only the author really knows the pronunciation). I also worry about book discussion participants feeling comfortable when they are uncertain of pronunciation. For that reason, sometimes I have played a snippet of a dramatic scene from the audiobook at the beginning of a book discussion.

Anyone else run into this concern?



About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

6 Comments on "How do you say that?"

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  1.' Ann says:

    I also look online for audio of book reviews and author interviews – NPR is a great source for this. At the beginning of each discussion I give a synopsis of the selected title and if there were names difficult to pronounce, I take care in reading the synopsis and pronouncing the names. I also sometimes make a comment on how I had no idea on how to pronounce the name until I actually heard it in an author interview.

  2.' Sara Kipp says:

    In our book group, we usually have a good laugh at how each one of us seems to speak the names differently. By the end, we are saying, “tomato – tomaato – whatever” and then moving into the meaty portion of the conversation. Sometimes we even resort to “the older sister” or “the crazy cousin”…

    It doesn’t seem to me that pronunciation should impact the discussion. I do like the audiocast at the beginning though – interesting fix.

  3. Sara Kipp is good, in that you use the difficulty as a point of discussion. We always need these.
    In another career, I was a College teacher, and long ago, was told by another grad student “You wait till THEY say it- GAWain, eg, then you say the opposite- gaWAIN.”
    I don’t know how to say LARA, for instance,, the heroine of THE GOLDEN COMPASS, and I’ve seen the movie, but I forget. That has NEVER NEVER NEVER stopped me from recommending it, and book 2 (THE SUBTLE KNIFE) to anyone who will permit me . Book 3 is a different thing….
    Anyway, something all can unthreateningly discuss, so good….

  4. oops.
    LYra, I’m told. (just gave 2 volumes to a patron, who was happy to pronounce Lyra PROPERLY…)

  5. Bill says:

    I am one of a small but devoted group of Anthony Powell devotees. His 12-novel sequence, Dance to the Music of Time, remains one of my favorite reading experiences. I was thrilled recently to learn that the BBC Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of Dance, never released in the U.S, is now available here on DVD. I’ve been slowing working my way through the 8-hour production(incredibly abbreviated for anyone who has read the novels), and I was shocked to discover that I had been mispronouncing a seemingly simply name. One of the minor characters is a middle-brow novelist named St. John Clark (based on John Galsworthy). Through 3 readings of the novels, I had been unthinkingly pronouncing the name Saint John. Imagine my surprise to learn that it’s “Sinjin” Clark. Who knew? I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised since Americans have been mispronouncing Powell’s name for years. It isn’t Powell rhymes with vowell as we might suppose; it’s Powell rhymes with Lowell, as in Robert Lowell.

  6. Bill shoud know that David Frost, explaining “Chumley” (Cholmondely)admitted that “if we had Niagra Falls we’d call it “Niffles.”

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