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bookworm92
09-03-2014, 09:28 PM
One advice of the SF genre is not to have unpronounceable names. But my story is set in an Indian fantasy setting, and I'm worried that people would have difficulty in pronouncing the names. (I'm speaking from experience, my name has been mispronounced so many times....)

It seems so stupid to worry about this, but I am worrying. Any advice?

And here are some of the names of my characters: Usha, Jaya, Vasanthi, Pia.

featherpen87
09-03-2014, 09:31 PM
I don't think the reader would have a problem with names like the ones you had as an example :)

Roxxsmom
09-03-2014, 09:55 PM
One advice of the SF genre is not to have unpronounceable names. But my story is set in an Indian fantasy setting, and I'm worried that people would have difficulty in pronouncing the names. (I'm speaking from experience, my name has been mispronounced so many times....)

It seems so stupid to worry about this, but I am worrying. Any advice?

And here are some of the names of my characters: Usha, Jaya, Vasanthi, Pia.

None of these names are unpronounceable to me.

I might pick names like the ones you have for my major characters, because yes, names that are really hard to pronounce can be off putting for some people. But there's also something to be said for not babying your reader. If they're reading a book set it India, or that has a number of characters from India, then they should be prepared for names that reflect the setting.

I've seen some authors include an appendix that helps with pronunciation of character or place names in some stories, but that might be a decision that you'd make with an editor (unless you're self publishing, in which case it would be your call).

DeleyanLee
09-03-2014, 10:16 PM
It doesn't matter what names you use, someone will not be able to pronounce it. Seriously. I remember attending SF cons and overhearing (and occasionally participating in) discussion/arguments on how to pronounce names of various characters, especially from McCaffrey's early Pern books. Five different pronunciations for the name Menolly, four for Mnementh (F'lar's bronze dragon) and when McCaffrey herself said that "Ruth" was pronounced "Ruff"--there's seriously no reason to worry about it. Fantasy readers who enjoy the story will adapt, because that's what we do so we can enjoy and we've been doing it for decades. People will complain, but they're always find something to complain about, so better something you're already prepared to deal with it, y'know?

And, FWIW, I didn't have any problems with the names you mentioned either.

Buffysquirrel
09-03-2014, 10:34 PM
Readers don't need to be able to pronounce names as they should be pronounced; they just need to have an idea in their heads of how a name could be pronounced. SFF names with ' in them often cause problems in this respect--is the ' indicating missing letters, as on Pern? Or is it pronounced, and, if so, how?

I wouldn't worry too much about names that look pronounceable.

rwm4768
09-03-2014, 11:29 PM
None of those names are a problem for me. As long as the reader can come up with a reasonable pronunciation without working too much, you should be fine.

Dmbeucler
09-03-2014, 11:52 PM
I think if they are real names you are fine. If they are made up names with a preponderance of consonants with vowels not in the proper sort of places, you might have a problem. Like '"Thrfghbilt" or "Blwchfardd."

But seriously, the only thing I would worry about is keeping the character names very different. People will butcher the pronunciation (or at least I would because I can never correctly pronounce words that I haven't heard), but as long as they are visually different you shouldn't have any issues about readability.

Dryad
09-03-2014, 11:53 PM
I agree with what the others have said.

When I was a child, my absolute favorite book became Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet. One day I lent this precious object to my older brother. Afterwards I was surprised to discover that we pronounced the hero's name, Alanna, differently. I gave the central 'a' an American short a sound, while he gave it a European 'a' sound. At first I was disturbed that he was saying her name wrong (mine obviously being right), but then I decided it was one more way she was my special character whom I connected with differently than he did. Even the simplest names can be mispronounced, but I don't think that harms the reader's enjoyment of the story.

One of my books has mostly Polynesian names. I created a rule for myself at the start. For major characters I aimed for one or two syllables, and for all characters I avoided strings of vowels in the names. I reached a point where finding names that fit my rules was difficult, but in the end I think I managed to find approachable names with a clear Polynesian background. I consider the names you listed to all be very approachable.

Jack Asher
09-04-2014, 12:00 AM
My only issue with the names is Vasanthi. The dual A around the s make a confusing mess, and my western brain skips over it and comes up with Vashanthi. It's a little difference, but it's one that my mind gloms onto. I know this is not uncommon, for people to become attached to a pronunciation that has no anchor on reality.

I'm not saying you should change it, I'm just telling you what my brain did with your names.

Buffysquirrel
09-04-2014, 12:36 AM
Afterwards I was surprised to discover that we pronounced the hero's name, Alanna, differently. I gave the central 'a' an American short a sound, while he gave it a European 'a' sound.

Double consonant, short vowel :).

Smiling Ted
09-04-2014, 03:21 AM
One of the most acclaimed SF novels of the '60s was set on a world that was meant to be a recreation of the Hindu canon. You're on solid ground.

robjvargas
09-04-2014, 04:20 AM
2001: A Space Odyssey

One of the major characters (http://2001.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Chandra), Doctor Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai. Dr Chandra to his American cohorts.

If you intend to use Indian culture and conventions, as with naming, then use it. You probably don't want to fill your entire cast with multisyllabic examples like Dr Chandra. But I don't see where it will be automatically rejected, either. Not as long as you're clear about the heritage from which these names sprang.

Dryad
09-04-2014, 04:28 AM
Double consonant, short vowel :).

We both used short vowels. I used [] and he used [ɑ].

benbenberi
09-04-2014, 05:58 AM
In my experience, the issue with Indian names, esp. south Indian, is not that they're unpronounceable per se, but that they are LONG. Some of the the people I work with have names where I have to stay alert not to add or delete or flip syllables (which mostly all have "a" as their vowel). Like Dr. Chandra above, a lot of them use shorter names in conversation.

LA*78
09-04-2014, 07:22 AM
As a reader, I'm really only put off by a name if I find myself spending more time thinking up ways to pronounce it than actually reading the story. If I can sound out a name somewhat phonetically (whether correct or not) my brain can be content and move on to enjoy the story. If I'm faced with something that looks like a cat crossed the keyboard hitting random letters, it becomes like a code that needs cracking and distracts entirely from the story.

A way to resolve any issues is to offer a quick pronunciation guide at the start of the novel :)

snafu1056
09-04-2014, 07:44 AM
You did the smart thing and kept the names short and simple. Keep it up.

Try not to get too caught up with what the names mean in their native language. I blame a lot of shitty names on writers falling in love with the meaning of the name and losing sight of how horrible the name sounds to the rest of us who dont know what it means. I dont care if Tczavtcsk'thft means "howling iron skull" in Aztec, its still a shitty name.

That being said, you should at least be aware of what the names mean so you dont embarass yourself, but dont choose names based on what they mean. Choose them based on how they sound and how easy they are to pronounce and remember. Thats my approach anyway.

4burner
09-04-2014, 07:56 AM
I think if they are real names you are fine. If they are made up names with a preponderance of consonants with vowels not in the proper sort of places, you might have a problem. Like '"Thrfghbilt" or "Blwchfardd."

But seriously, the only thing I would worry about is keeping the character names very different. People will butcher the pronunciation (or at least I would because I can never correctly pronounce words that I haven't heard), but as long as they are visually different you shouldn't have any issues about readability.


You did the smart thing and kept the names short and simple. Keep it up.

Try not to get too caught up with what the names mean in their native language. I blame a lot of shitty names on writers falling in love with the meaning of the name and losing sight of how horrible the name sounds to the rest of us who dont know what it means. I dont care if Tczavtcsk'thft means "howling iron skull" in Aztec, its still a shitty name.

That being said, you should at least be aware of what the names mean so you dont embarass yourself, but dont choose names based on what they mean. Choose them based on how they sound and how easy they are to pronounce and remember. Thats my approach anyway.

1. Thurfigibult
2. Bwelchfard
3. Ch'kavch'thuft

The brain is amazing. If those names bolded above were in a book I was reading, the numbered versions down here are what I'd read them as.

Liosse de Velishaf
09-04-2014, 08:05 AM
We both used short vowels. I used [] and he used [ɑ].


I always went with the second pronunciation. But that choice is going to be based on personal experience and expectations. I happen to know that the front version you went with is much less common in the worlds languages than the more back vowel, and so my default is to assume the back vowel.

It also happens to be an actual name, pronounced variously as "uh-lay-nuh" or "uh-lah-nuh" most commonly in my experience, although the first pronunciation just seems wacky to me, as I am used to that version being spelled "Alaina" or similar. It probably varies a bit depending on dialect, since vowels have no fixed pronunciation and are phonemically distinguished based entirely on their relations to each other.

What pronunciation Pierce intended, I don't know. I've never seen a source where she specifies.



I think the names the OP gave are fine, although I agree that the longer one might risk metathesis, the switching of consonants into arrangements more familiar to whatever language the reader speaks natively. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect some readers to end up reading it as "vashanti", for example.

Roxxsmom
09-04-2014, 08:13 AM
Double consonant, short vowel :).

But there are different ways to pronounce a short "a" also. Think of the name Anna.

I've heard it pronounced both "on uh" an "ann uh"

Dryad
09-04-2014, 08:56 AM
I always went with the second pronunciation. But that choice is going to be based on personal experience and expectations. I happen to know that the front version you went with is much less common in the worlds languages than the more back vowel, and so my default is to assume the back vowel.


I default that way now, as well, and it definitely has to do with exposure to other languages, but my original pronunciation with the central ash was prior to having ever heard a foreign language--I lived pretty deep within the Ozarks. Of course, I've never changed the way I read her name.

I could be misremembering, but I believe I stumbled upon something once that suggested Pierce pronounced the name my brother's way with a European a.

amergina
09-04-2014, 09:00 AM
I've been informed that I pronounce my pen name wrong. LOL.

Don't sweat it.

Buffysquirrel
09-04-2014, 03:18 PM
We both used short vowels. I used [] and he used [ɑ].

Oh, right. I confess I didn't quite understand what you meant by the European pronunciation :).

Liosse de Velishaf
09-04-2014, 03:38 PM
But there are different ways to pronounce a short "a" also. Think of the name Anna.

I've heard it pronounced both "on uh" an "ann uh"


Both "An-uh" and "Ah-nuh" are common pronunciations, with most Americans defaulting to the first, and many European languages using the second. Technically it might be allowable to pronounce it "Aw-nuh" in some dialects, but that's much less common.

Just in the interest of my curiousity, is your "on" supposed to be pronounced "ahn" or "awn"?

Reziac
09-04-2014, 07:03 PM
I think if they are real names you are fine. If they are made up names with a preponderance of consonants with vowels not in the proper sort of places, you might have a problem. Like '"Thrfghbilt" or "Blwchfardd."

Pronounced "Blukh-varth", right? :D

No problem with the OP's names, none at all.

Filigree
09-04-2014, 07:51 PM
I'm the wrong person to ask about long names. I like them. In deference to my best friend, who calls everything complicated 'Fred from the Planet Fred', I try to tone down my exuberance.

Still, one of the highlights of my early reading life was figuring out the Welsh component of Patricia McKillip's 'Riddlemaster' series. That made pronouncing some of her more esoteric names easier.

Dryad
09-05-2014, 12:13 AM
Oh, right. I confess I didn't quite understand what you meant by the European pronunciation :).

I'm glad I cleared it up. Americans sometimes refer to European pronunciation rather than saying Italian, Spanish, French, etc. pronunciation, generally in reference to vowels. I love IPA for it's clarity, but I don't like how it makes some people feel excluded because they're unfamiliar with the system.




Still, one of the highlights of my early reading life was figuring out the Welsh component of Patricia McKillip's 'Riddlemaster' series. That made pronouncing some of her more esoteric names easier.

I think this is a really good point. I know as a young reader I loved the wild names, but now they interfere with the story I'm reading as I pause to figure them out. There really are a number of factors going into how names are received.

Mr Flibble
09-05-2014, 01:51 AM
No matter how simple you think you have got your names, unless they are ones that people encounter irl, some people will stumble over them. I've lost count of the number of people who have asked me how to pronounce Rojan (Ro-jan.)

You can make things easier, especially if they have a long name, by shortening it -- this is something people do a lot anyway. In Lord of Light frex, Mahasamatman went by "Sam". People very rarely call me by my full name -- it's shortened (unless my Mum is angry with me :D) Or they could have a nick name. It's also a way of making things seem more natural because, as I say, people do it all the time IRL

But Usha, Pia etc -- people will pronounce them as they see fit, but they aren't hard.

PS: I recall Terry Brooks once at a con said something about Shannara. Apparently he pronounces is Shan-a-ra, rather than how everyone I ever hear saying it -- who say Shan-ar-ah. It doesn't appear to have hurt his sales at all ;)

Reziac
09-05-2014, 01:58 AM
PS: I recall Terry Brooks once at a con said something about Shannara. Apparently he pronounces is Shan-a-ra, rather than how everyone I ever hear saying it -- who say Shan-ar-ah. It doesn't appear to have hurt his sales at all ;)

And Katherine Kurtz says Deryni "duh-RIN-ee". How does everyone I've ever heard pronounce it? "DER-in-eye".

Nope, doesn't hurt sales much.

Mr Flibble
09-05-2014, 02:11 AM
Exactly

My Old Man is dyslexic and often has trouble with names. So he finds something that is an approximation and when he sees the name, that's what he says in his head. Caramon in Dragonlance is forever Cameron to him frex, and LOTR...it did make it quite hard to discuss it with him! It didn't stop him loving either book

And that is what a lot of people will do provided they are interested in the story

If they aren't, they'll use that as a nit pick

This goes for many,many things. I'll forgive/not notice a heck of a lot if you involve me in a great story. The second I start to lose interest, that nit pick comes out and combs through everything.

So, OP, I think all you have to do is write a spectacular story and you're set. Simples. :D

ETA: However, I would stop short of taking a non-real-world-name from a popular fantasy series, inserting a apostrophe...and then naming his daughter Lucy. (Saw this recently. Cue much eyerolling))Consistency of naming is my bug bear, not the pronunciation. But the OP seems to have that sorted.

Liosse de Velishaf
09-05-2014, 11:46 AM
No matter how simple you think you have got your names, unless they are ones that people encounter irl, some people will stumble over them. I've lost count of the number of people who have asked me how to pronounce Rojan (Ro-jan.)

You can make things easier, especially if they have a long name, by shortening it -- this is something people do a lot anyway. In Lord of Light frex, Mahasamatman went by "Sam". People very rarely call me by my full name -- it's shortened (unless my Mum is angry with me :D) Or they could have a nick name. It's also a way of making things seem more natural because, as I say, people do it all the time IRL

But Usha, Pia etc -- people will pronounce them as they see fit, but they aren't hard.

PS: I recall Terry Brooks once at a con said something about Shannara. Apparently he pronounces is Shan-a-ra, rather than how everyone I ever hear saying it -- who say Shan-ar-ah. It doesn't appear to have hurt his sales at all ;)


And Katherine Kurtz says Deryni "duh-RIN-ee". How does everyone I've ever heard pronounce it? "DER-in-eye".

Nope, doesn't hurt sales much.

Man, and here I was pronouncing those "DARE-ih-nee" and "shuh-NAR-uh".


And I've lot count of the times I've accidentally misread a name and so pronounced it wrong simply because I read it wrong. Since most readers don't read by the letter, but rather by the shape of the word, once you've misread something, you're likely to keep doing so, because you never pay enough attention to the actual letters after that to realize they aren't the ones you thought they were.

NRoach
09-05-2014, 12:24 PM
Pronounced "Blukh-varth", right? :D

No problem with the OP's names, none at all.

I'm terribly sorry, but I think you might be welsh.

Reziac
09-05-2014, 03:16 PM
I'm terribly sorry, but I think you might be welsh.

You'd be roughly 1/4 correct, on my dad's side. :D

Buffysquirrel
09-05-2014, 03:23 PM
I had that with something I was reading, unusual name, improbable name, very unusual name, Susan.

NRoach
09-05-2014, 03:50 PM
You'd be roughly 1/4 correct, on my dad's side. :D

Sadly, it is an inheritable affliction.
I just want you to know, we're here for you.
If you ever want to talk about your predilection for triple L's, we're here. Not to mention that there are now treatments available to help you with thinking that W is a vowel.

bookworm92
09-06-2014, 06:02 AM
Thanks guys for the help. I'll consider a pronunciation guide as suggested.


In my experience, the issue with Indian names, esp. south Indian, is not that they're unpronounceable per se, but that they are LONG. Some of the the people I work with have names where I have to stay alert not to add or delete or flip syllables (which mostly all have "a" as their vowel). Like Dr. Chandra above, a lot of them use shorter names in conversation.


2001: A Space Odyssey

One of the major characters (http://2001.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Chandra), Doctor Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai. Dr Chandra to his American cohorts.

If you intend to use Indian culture and conventions, as with naming, then use it. You probably don't want to fill your entire cast with multisyllabic examples like Dr Chandra. But I don't see where it will be automatically rejected, either. Not as long as you're clear about the heritage from which these names sprang.

I know several people who have long names. But for the main cast in my novel, Vasanthi is as long as it gets.


You did the smart thing and kept the names short and simple. Keep it up.

Try not to get too caught up with what the names mean in their native language. I blame a lot of shitty names on writers falling in love with the meaning of the name and losing sight of how horrible the name sounds to the rest of us who dont know what it means. I dont care if Tczavtcsk'thft means "howling iron skull" in Aztec, its still a shitty name.

That being said, you should at least be aware of what the names mean so you dont embarass yourself, but dont choose names based on what they mean. Choose them based on how they sound and how easy they are to pronounce and remember. Thats my approach anyway.

Thanks for the tip, I'll keep it in mind. I know what the names mean; in the culture I created for the novel places great emphasis on the mean of names, so I have chosen the names on what the mean, but I went for nice sounding names.

lilmerlin
09-06-2014, 12:51 PM
A friend told me she never worries about the names she reads. The first time one pops up her brain decides instinctively on how it's pronounced - for her - and how the author would want it pronounced is no concern of hers ;)

Buffysquirrel
09-06-2014, 01:44 PM
The first time one pops up her brain decides instinctively on how it's pronounced - for her - and how the author would want it pronounced is no concern of hers ;)

Absolutely! Right up until you're talking to another reader of the same book, anyway :D.

Debbie V
09-09-2014, 07:22 PM
I've always told my students that names rarely matter - the character does. We skip the hard to pronounce names by using the first letter only. If more than one name uses the same letter, we'll go to the first syllable. This is becoming more and more important as multicultural names are used in math word problems. Who had the lemons really doesn't matter.

To summarize, the reader has to be able to come up with something to call the character so they aren't stopped and thrown out of the story each time they encounter the name.

tlmorganfield
09-10-2014, 12:28 AM
I write Aztec fantasy and science fiction, and use mostly Nahuatl names, which can be very difficult to pronounce. I used to Anglicize some of the really long ones, fearing how readers would react, but seeing readers complain about even the simple ones, I don't bother anymore. As far as I know, no one has put down my books because of the names--at least no one has ever said they have--but I figure those who would put it down because of that probably aren't in my audience anyway, so no loss there. I work with a lot of historical/mythological figures, often with quite complicated names--like Cuauhtemoc, Ixtlilxochitl, or Quetzalcoatl--so I do feel an obligation to not simplify those, out of respect. But for characters I make up myself, I try to chose Nahuatl names that I consider easier to pronounce.

I don't really care how readers pronounce the names, so long as it works for them, but it is funny when they're talking to me about the stories in person and I have no idea what character they're talking about because they pronounce it so differently than I do.

Oh, and Snafu1056, Xicotepozcuaxicalli is a closer approximation of Howling Iron Skull. :D

snafu1056
09-10-2014, 07:48 AM
I write Aztec fantasy and science fiction, and use mostly Nahuatl names, which can be very difficult to pronounce. I used to Anglicize some of the really long ones, fearing how readers would react, but seeing readers complain about even the simple ones, I don't bother anymore. As far as I know, no one has put down my books because of the names--at least no one has ever said they have--but I figure those who would put it down because of that probably aren't in my audience anyway, so no loss there. I work with a lot of historical/mythological figures, often with quite complicated names--like Cuauhtemoc, Ixtlilxochitl, or Quetzalcoatl--so I do feel an obligation to not simplify those, out of respect. But for characters I make up myself, I try to chose Nahuatl names that I consider easier to pronounce.

I don't really care how readers pronounce the names, so long as it works for them, but it is funny when they're talking to me about the stories in person and I have no idea what character they're talking about because they pronounce it so differently than I do.

Oh, and Snafu1056, Xicotepozcuaxicalli is a closer approximation of Howling Iron Skull. :D

hehe I KNEW someone would pick that one up.

You have my sympathies. That's a tough language to wrestle with. Tibetan is another one. Some languages just twist western tongues in knots.