January 06, 2004

Say it with confidence

Ever get into an argument with someone over the correct pronunciation of J.K. Rowling's name? Then you're going to love this website. It doesn't list everybody whose name you might get confused about -- like, Jorge Luis Borges, say, or Jonathan Lethem (whose name I have apparently been mispronouncing all this time; it's got a long E in the first syllable, not a short E). But it's still pretty impressive in the mere fact of its existence, because this is really a colossally useful thing. There have been a surprising number of times when I've tried to look up the pronunciation of someone's name online and come up with nothing. There is also a list of pronunciations for business names.

Also note that Seamus Heaney pronounces his last name differently than I pronounce mine -- a fact which has frequently made me wonder if my family has just been getting it wrong all this time.

(Thanks to Tahnan for the links.)

Posted by Francis at 01:22 AM

Wow, we could have used these pronunciation sites at the old job. I'm saving these sites in case I go back there again.

Posted by: Ellen at January 6, 2004 03:48 AM

How do you pronounce Tahnan?

Posted by: Ugarte at January 6, 2004 10:37 AM

You have done an important service by providing this link. I, for one, have learned how to pronounce the name of the guy who played Agent Johnson in "Die Hard" (it's Robert Davi, in case it comes up during the course of general conversation). However, I still don't know how to pronounce the name of the President's national security advisor (well, actually I do, but I wouldn't have learned it here).

It is a helpful resource, though. It shows you how to pronounce the names of a lot of obscure people, making it an ideal reference if you're Dennis Miller.

Posted by: Matthew at January 6, 2004 01:24 PM

Tahnan is pronounced "Lance".

Posted by: Francis at January 6, 2004 02:03 PM

I'm glad to have Michael Chabon cleared up. But what about Choire Sicha?

Posted by: Daniel Radosh at January 8, 2004 03:41 PM

I think people ought to write in with requests. It could be a weekly radio show. The Pronunciation Hour.

Posted by: Francis at January 8, 2004 04:50 PM

The radio show is a good idea, but wouldn't you feel sorry for the Burelle's guy who has to type up the transcripts phonetically? However, I do think it would be a welcome change from Clear Channel's current all-Toby Keith format.

I can envision having a segment in the show called "Stump William Safire." Callers would win a cash prize if they could come up with a word that even Safire couldn't pronounce (e.g., "Qatar").

Posted by: Matthew at January 8, 2004 06:19 PM