Pronunciation

From infancy onward we learn how to pronounce words by hearing others talk and from reading books. When it comes to literature, often we find words invented by the author or ones that weren’t but we don’t frequently hear. They are often the names of people, places and things, but not always. In all cases, we are prone to mispronouncing them, out loud or just in our heads.

Names and words can be spelled the same but pronounced differently depending upon where and from whom you hear them. For example, the name Guy in French is “GEE” (not “JEE”) as opposed to the English “GIE”. In Ireland, Saoirse is most commonly “SEER-shuh” but in certain regions “SAIR-shuh” is more popular. How you say Cairo depends on whether you’re referring to the city in Egypt (“KIE-roh”) or Illinois (“KAY-roh”).

Some names have been anglicized in how they sound if not their spelling. For instance, Brian and Dylan, which respectively originate in Irish and Welsh myth, were “BREE-in” and “DULL-in” but have since been anglicized as “BRIE-in” and “DILL-in”. Ethnic background however doesn’t always guarantee a specific pronunciation. It ultimately rests with personal preferences. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas used the anglicized version of his first name. Actress Saoirse Ronan prefers “SUR-shuh”.

Not every name or word is pronounced how it’s spelled either, which many Irish, and Old Irish, names demonstrate. To use one example, a letter combination (known as a diphthong) of MH or BH sounds like either a W or a V; the name Siobhan is “SHIH-vawn” and the festival Samhain (which helped create modern Halloween) is “SOW-in”. Some Welsh names beginning with an I pronounce it like a Y. The examples go on.

Yet sometimes, a mispronunciation has with time become the correct one. Jekyll in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde today is “JECK-uhl” but was originally “JEEK-uhl”. The T in Voldemort was meant to be silent, but it was pronounced in the Harry Potter films. The surname of Dr. Seuss was supposed to be “ZOICE,” but after people kept saying “SOOSE” he gave up trying to correct them.

Mispronouncing a word when reading is nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve all been there, including me. This quote/image has been shared frequently on social media:

mispronounce

For us writers, there are steps we can take to help readers pronounce words correctly. Here are some personal recommendations. First, make sure you know the proper (or your preferred) pronunciation, especially if you think people will likely mispronounce it. If you have several names and/or words you believe will be hard to pronounce (such as within fantasy or science-fiction), it might be a good idea to include a pronunciation guide. With works where there are fewer such words, an easier method could be incorporating the pronunciations into the text or dialogue (if you’re writing for the stage or screen, actors will be enabled to pronounce them for you – just make sure you let them know how you want them said). That way, incorrect pronunciations don’t become correct ones.

Pronunciation Sites
Irish Pronunciation Sites

Jan. ’17 edition of Pen in Hand

This month’s upcoming edition of the MWA‘s online literary magazine Pen in Hand will include two haiku poems I wrote.

It should be available in a few weeks. I’ll post a link to my Poetry page. I hope you’ll like my poems and the other works that will appear in the issue!

P.S. I’m also now on Twitter and Tumblr!

A Contract has been Signed!

Yes! I’m happy to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Mockingbird Lane Press to publish my fantasy novel.

I’m very grateful to all my family and friends for believing in me. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without your support.

Now it’s only a matter of time. Updates will be posted to this blog. Be sure to visit my Facebook page and YouTube channel if you haven’t yet!

Inscribed

An author’s inscription makes your copy of their work unique to you. If you’re a writer yourself, you remember the story behind the inscription, and the connection made with your fellow writer.

Here are seven inscribed books I own:

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A Thousand Acres was inscribed during a weekend event for prospective students specifically interested in creative writing at Washington College, where Jane Smiley was the guest speaker. The Good Thief was inscribed at the very last VOICES author reading I attended at St. Mary’s College. I also received from Hannah Tinti during the subsequent Q&A a pendant of St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things (which you can see in the slideshow’s fourth picture above), who features in the novel along with a “wishing stone” – a stone with a natural, unbroken ring of another color (another student before me received one).

Reboot! and Beyond Blue were both inscribed during different meetings of the Annapolis chapter of the MWA, where Phil Burgess and Austin S. Camacho were the respective guest speakers. The Last Government Girl was inscribed at the Baltimore Book Festival in September 2015. As I had won second place in the MWA Contest’s creative nonfiction category, Ellen Herbert won in the novel category. I purchased Up the Hill to Home at Barnes & Noble in Bowie. When I opened it, to my surprise it already bore Jennifer Bort Yacovissi‘s inscription! Sally Whitney‘s Surface and Shadow was inscribed during the book’s launch party at the Annapolis bookstore.

In addition to these books, I have an inscribed short story, Gasoline, written by Jennifer Cognard-Black under the pseudonym J. Annie MacLeod. It was given to me as a gift at the end of my first semester at St. Mary’s:

Finally, I have two promotional cards won in a drawing at another meeting of the Annapolis chapter of the MWA, where James L. Gossard talked about his graphic novel Mobtown. They bear his inscription along with those of his collaborators, Gabe Fremuth and Anthony Ness:

I remember inscribing the anthology which included my essay during the previously mentioned Baltimore Book Festival. Someday soon with future novels hopefully I will do for others as these authors did for me.