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Names from the Horse’s Mouth

Don't you HATE stumbling over the pronunciation of authors' names? And then you finally see a pronunciation guide and you make an effort to commit the correct pronunciation to memory - only to see ANOTHER website later that shows a totally DIFFERENT "correct" pronunciation. Raise your hand if you've heard "Elie Wiesel" pronounced at least three different ways by fairly knowledgeable people. Wanna take a stab at Louis Sachar? And which of you brave hearts wants to try Justine Larbalestier?

If you've been in this boat with me, here's a life raft you'll like - a site with authors pronouncing their own names! Not only will you learn the correct pronunciation for tricky ones like Neil Gaiman (Gay-man or Guy-man?), you'll also learn some cool facts from the horses' mouths - like Walter Dean Anderson's adoption of the name Dean to honor the foster family he grew up in, and Maya Angelou's becoming Maya when her brother couldn't say Marguerite and thought ancient Mayan tribes were cool. Interesting Anderson facts: Laurie Halse Anderson's middle name rhymes with "waltz," and M.T. Anderson uses Tobin in "real life" but claims he liked the ability to disavow authorship of any book people happened not to like - besides which a book called Thirsty by a guy named M.T. (empty) was too much fun to walk away from. If you're a poetry fan, you'll learn that Naomi Shihab Nye's middle name is her maiden name, which means "shooting star" in Arabic, and Sherman Alexie will answer folks who think his name doesn't sound Native American.

So have fun. Names are important to "word people." It drives me crazy if I ask a student how to pronounce his name and he says, "Either way is fine." Either way is NOT fine. I pride myself on working hard to get it right, which can be challenging in a high tech town with people from all over the world - and I do love my Dahagham's and Dasarathy's and Adeshiyan's. I mangled Heidi Siegrest's once, but I apologized profusely, and i think she forgave me ("sea", not "sigh.")

If I can just learn Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, I'll be happy. Thank God for abbreviations.

Posted in April, 2010

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