The Unpronounceable

BEHOLD!!!
. . .


I had the idea for this topic after reading an article of what-nots somewheres. . . and realized, wow, this could definitely be an great writerly post featuring more of what I love to collect: NAMES!!

Have you ever read a novel or story of any kind with names so difficult to pronounce you tend to stumble over them every time?

Sure, it is incredibly helpful if the author provides a character glossary in the back of the book, which I absolutely love when reading novels set in other cultures: for instance, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, is set in medieval Transylvania.  In those cases, where the names are real, cultural names from real, cultural countries with stranger pronunciations than our usual "slang," *wink wink* it is usually necessary to have a glossary to ensure the reader reads correctly.

However, it is an entirely different matter, in my opinion, to have made-up names (whether inspired from other names or not) be tongue-twisters, so to speak.
If you read my most recent Name post, the Unknown Edition, I mention names with unknown meanings, and briefly asked if you've ever come up with your own unique originals for your characters.  I did not mention that in making up your originals, be conscious of how the fresh eyes of your reader will perceive them.  YOU know how to pronounce your characters' names, but will they?

One of the best examples of original names that are rather easy to pronounce (for the most part) hail from the amazing novels of one J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and all the other stories in the realm of Middle Earth.  Why do I mention these, you may ask? (You have to ask??)  While most of his characters' name are lengthy and with many syllables, they are usually pronounced exactly as they are spelled.  Note, I say "usually."  (This isn't the case in some, I'm sure.) The Hobbits have fun names, ya gotta admit.  :]  And the ELVES.  *swoons*

Need I name a few?
Lúthien (aka Tinúviel), Celeborn, Galadriel, Legolas, Elrond

Other unique names of Middle Earth:
Beregond, Beorn, Pippin, Aragorn, Faramir, Éowyn, Éomer, Frodo, Meneldil, Mariadoc (Merry)

Need I go on?  *grins broadly* 
So, how does one avoid the UNPRONOUNCEABLE?

I have ONE simple solution for you, my friends.  I call it The-Simple-Method-for-Choosing-the-Perfect-Easy-to-Say-Names-for-Your-Characters.

a)          If you have chosen names already, but are slightly unsure of them, or even not certain they are THE names you want to use. . . I would suggest letting a friend/sibling/bestie/parent/whoever read a chapter of your WIP and see what they think.  Do not be afraid to do this!  Criticism in writing can be a great thing, and who knows?  You may be thinking your story is missing something, or you are stuck in a scene or two.  Having a fresh set of eyes read it may be the best thing you ever do.  Don't ask them beforehand about the names and such.  Let them read without distraction, and once finished, then ask your questions: "What did you think of the names?  How was the storyline? La dee da. . .?" and so on.

b)          If you have yet to find a name(s) and wish it/them to be perfect and/or rather uncommon, I would suggest finding a one-word meaning or description that fits the character and searching for names with said meanings.  This is super easy if you go to BehindtheName.com.  (Go to the search bar, click the gear icon next to it, select "search meanings," and you're good to go!)  For instance, if your character favors a flower or has the heart of a lion, search for those meanings!  You may find names such as Hana and Millaray, or Leo and Asad.

c)          Keep it simple.  If a name does seem rather difficult, tweak it a bit! There's nothing wrong with that, and you may find the result to be a beautiful, new, original.  :]

See?
That wasn't so difficult, was it? 
What think ye?
Do you agree with the difficulty in reading hard-to-say names in books?  What's the most difficult name you've ever heard of?  

P.S.  What did you think of the cover photo?? *bursts out laughing*  I was looking for the right expression in designing the blog banner, and somehow that statue popped up. . . 

4 comments

  1. Okay, that statue pic was perfect, just saying.

    I dearly love all of those names from Tolkein...they are true works of art.

    As for using the unpronouncable names....I'M SO GUILTY!!! For my most recent WIPs (From the Cave and The White Rose) I'm creating an Elvish/Celtic/Germanic style of world, so of course, I'm using Elvish/Celtic/Germanic names.

    My one protagonist name is a doozy....

    Caoimhe.

    That name really grabbed me as it being HER name, especially when I saw the meaning. As for the pronuciation...holy cow, I had no idea for the LONGEST time. I was putting like three syllables and...yeah, it was a mess.

    I've since learned that the correct Celtic pronounciation of "Caoimhe" is Kee-va.

    Now to me, that name totally doesn't match that pronounciation. Then again, I'm not fluent in ancient Celtic, so what do I know?

    I've since compromised and pronounce it Kay-ma.

    Awesome post, Sarah!!! I dearly loved it :)

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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  2. So am I! Especially when it comes to wanting awesome, "legendary" names for a dragon or something... Those tend to be a mouthful, but it just seems so right, ya know?? ;D

    I think that's an amazing storyworld! And such a beautiful name! In your case, I think a glossary in the front (or back) of your book is necessary. But like I mentioned, in using actual languages/cultures/historical things in stories, names like those are completely normal. Nothing wrong with that! And I love your pronunciation best. :] Thumbs up, girl!

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  3. Oh my word, that statue image is HILARIOUS and so accurate to that moment when reading a book and a gibberish name assaults your eyes. XDDD

    Okay but...I AM SO GUILTY OF THIS. Or I was. Still am sometimes? Maybe. I'M TRYING TO DO BETTER. But yes, oh gracious. It's bad. I'll literally go back and read my really old works and even *I* don't know how to pronounce the characters' names. THAT'S HOW BAD IT IS. It's just shameful. XD

    As I've gotten older I definitely try to do better. I still love big, beautiful fantasy names buuuut it's definitely important to make sure they don't look like a keyboard smash. XD I adore Tolkien's names. He was just the master at everything!

    Anyways, this post was fabulous and a great reminder to us writers to control our urge to create those unpronounceable names. ;D

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  4. I thought so to! Haha XD

    I am not trying to guilt anyone, I hope y'all know that! I am so guilty of the name-thing as well, I just thought it may be worth sharing to fellow writers to be aware of things like this. *^ - ^* I LOVE your names!! Your characters are so perfect. But I certainly understand. I've revisited some of my older writings and nearly GAG...

    Thank you, dear Lauri! You are far too kind! :D

    ReplyDelete

To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules,
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
-Anonymous-