Jun302011

Pronouncing Names & the Meaning Behind Them, Plus How does Gail Choose Names? (Occasional FAQ)

A fun little conversation over on the Parasol Protectorate Facebook group sparked this blog.

So thank you, Gentle Facebooker, for the prod in the articulate direction.

Before we start!

Audiobook Narrators

Here’s something readers don’t know: authors are not often asked about pronunciation in their books. Usually the narrator is handed the manuscript and left to flounder.

My traditional publishers sometimes ask, the narrators sometimes ask (if we are allowed contact with each other), but not often. Sometimes no one knows to ask. Often I assume they everyone just knows (see Kirt in the San Andreas Books and the word “Marin” which I thought everyone just knows). Like my last name, Carriger, sometimes it just never occurs to me that there is more than one way to pronounce a thing. With narrators who are British, I generally let them have free rein.

Sometimes, honestly, I don’t care. I figure audio is partly a new art from, and therefore an adaptation or a reinterpretation. I’m not precious about my books. I don’t like to fuss.

Mispronunciations, therefore ARE NOT THE NARRATOR’S FAULT. 

Please don’t negatively review a narrator because they pronounce something wrong. It’s a horrible thing to do and shows mainly that you do not understand how the industry you’re consuming works.

My character names & how I pronounce them in my head

Here are a few specific names from my series that I get asked about a lot…

  • Tarabotti ~ TARA-bot-tea (As in Scarlet O’Hara’s home. It’s an homage to a historical figure of the same name, the fascinating early early feminist, Archangelica Tarabotti. If you look up her story, you’ll find cookies. Archangelica appears as an actual character in the Alessandro short story, or her namesake does.)
  • Maccon ~ Mack-CON (Not like Bacon, sadly. I chose it for the meaning.)
  • Akeldama ~ Ak-el-DA-ma (It’s mispronounced in the first audiobook because they didn’t consult with me until the second.) I don’t know how it would be pronounced in the original language but it has to be pronounced DA-ma for reasons that become apparent in the Timeless. This is the only name I have ever been fussy about.
  • Lefoux ~ Leh-FOO (I pronounce it that way in my head, but I think it may rightly be pronounced differently. We all know how faux-pas is pronounce. The name is an inside joke amongst my friends.)
  • Sidheag ~ SHEE-ak alternatively pronounced SIDH-hey, just to make matters confusing. (Again, chosen for its meaning, all the pack names are.) I have no idea how it’s really pronounced.
  • Dubh ~ Duv

Tumblr French Words Featherstonehough

  • Featherstonehaugh ~ fan-shaw (Chosen because I knew it was one of “those” British names and I just wanted to mess with people. Also, I’m a big fan of the movie adaptation of the EM Forster novel Maurice in which it’s pronounced fest-tin-hew.) There’s contention over this one and I think it is pronounced differently in different classes and parts of the UK. If anyone who HAS this name wants to tell me more, please do.
  • Sophronia ~ so-FROH-nee-uh (from the Greek, listen here)
  • Quesnel ~ Jah-NELL (You can listen here) again, French, so there are variations.

Here are some tricks I use when choosing names:

  • Many of the names have google-able meaning.
  • Sometimes they are foreshadows (Tunstell)
  • Occasionally they relate to a historical character or place (Tarabotti)
  • Often I just like the sound (Loontwill)
  • Once in a while the names was invented via a drunk friend (Hisselpenny).
  • I’ll looking at lists of old fashioned and Victorian names to make sure it is not modern.
  • I try to ensure not too many characters in the same book/series have names starting with the same first letter (Dimity, Agatha, Sophronia).
  • My heroines need names that are different from each other between series in all ways (Sophronia, Alexia, Rue).
  • Or I simply like the name for no good reason, as if that character told me what they wanted to be called (Alexia, Soap). This will occasionally bit me in the arse.

Anything else?

The Opinion of Others

Gail’s Name Fuck Ups

Soap.

I chose this name thoughtlessly and I was not aware of the modern history behind Black identity and cleanliness. If I had it to differently, I would not have chosen this name. Since learning of this mistake I’ve donated proceeds from The Finishing School series to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

I’ve no excuse, I’ve actively avoided modern American history my whole life, my interest in history tends to end when corsets do. His real name, Phineas B Crow is a reference to a friend named Phineas (by permission) and the Jim Crow laws, since I was hoping readers might look into understanding them more. Again, I apologize for clumsy handling, I will strive to do better.

Manifest Destiny.

I messed up again. I was genuinely thinking of Mandate from Heaven and chose the wrong flipping historical term. My brain is dumb. I wrote an apology short story for this one. Proceeds go to The Seventh Generation Fund which supports Two-Spirts and LBGTQI identified Native Peoples and The Marsha P Johnson Institute for Black Trans Awareness. But if you feel personally wronged please email me and I will send the story to you gratis.

Yeah, I suck. I will try to do better.

If You Like My Books, Try These Black Authors (Gail Carriger Recommends)

Quote of the Day:

“You know, sometimes I wonder if the reason the Rethwellan royal line has so much trouble is because of the wretched things they name their children.”

~ Mercedes Lackey (By the Sword

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Posted by Gail Carriger

 

No Responses

  1. fairyhedgehog said:

    Agree with MadScientist on the pronunciation of Featherstonehaugh as Fanshaw.

    It's the only name I'm pronouncing differently from your canon, although I had to look up Sidheag. Which of the two variants applies to the character in your (wonderful) books?

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