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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

About mispronounced words

.Sometimes there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the way certain words are pronounced. Because of that, when listening to an audio book, it isn't unusual to hear cities, streets, places, descriptive words pronounced wrong. It happens in some really wonderful books. Because I listen to lots of audio books while driving between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I might be more aware of it. Books recorded by powerhouse publishers are no exception, by the way.

I'm currently listening to Loitering With Intent,  a good book by Stuart Woods featuring his attorney/sleuth Stone Barrington. Stone and his former buddy on the police department, Dino, are investigating in Key West, Florida.

Now, most of us have seen the word "conch" and if I'd never been to Key West, I wouldn't have realized it's pronounced wrong many times throughout this book. They want conch burgers, they talk about all things conch and the reader, who is a good reader, pronounces it just like it's spelled--con-sch. Therein lies the problem. When I was in Key West I did the same thing and was quickly corrected. The correct way to say it is "conk" like a blow to the head.

It's not a big thing unless you know how it should be pronounced. Then it is really annoying, kind of like fingernails on a blackboard. As I said, it happens to the best of them. Four of my books have audio editions also with fabulous narrators. However, there are a few mispronounciations in them, too. Mostly street names and a few Yiddish expressions the Silver Sisters' mother likes to use.

That raises the question, and I've thought about it before:  If there are words that are a little off the standard, should the author provide a short glossary clearly showing how to say the word when submitting the manuscript so the reader knows how to say it? In the case of a word like kugel, (which is a noodle pudding)  should it include a note about what it is?

I've decided to do just that if any more of my books are recorded. What do you think?


  1. I'm not sure you could with British audio editions. We have an annoying habit of pronouncing everything in our own peculiar way, effectively rendering it a sub-language, eg Leicester, Worcester, Beauliau, which for some unfathomable reason translates as bewley. Even we don't know how to pronounce our own language most of the time.

  2. For the audio version, a list of correct pronunciations would be a good thing. I had to correct someone who's recording my Biscuit McKee mysteries. She was saying KEEgan county instead of KAYgan county (it's spelled Keagan).

    As to the British audio editions -- I say if the character is an American, pronounce the words that way. If the protag is British, change accordingly.

    In the print versions, maybe it doesn't matter so much. If it's important for the reader to know "conk," one of the characters could always comment on it, perhaps correcting someone from out-of-state.

    And @Roger -- I love the British pronunciation of Magdalen College, which soulnds like "Maudlin." Go figure!