Pronouncing Names and the Reasons Behind Them (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.

Here are a few specific names from may series that I get asked about alot

  • 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 is has to be pronounced DA-ma for reasons that become apparent in the Timeless.
  • Lefoux ~ Leh-FOO (I pronounce 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 a 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.)
  • Dubh ~ Duv
  • Featherstonehaugh ~ FES-ten-hew or 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.) 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)

Here are some tricks I use when choosing names:

  • Most 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’m thinking about ensuring not too many characters in the same book/series have names that start with the same first letter (Dimity, Agatha, Sophronia).
  • My heroines need names that are different from each other between series (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).

Anything else?

A Musical Guide to Tricky British Proper Names

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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