Pronouncing book titles, authors, and characters

Pronouncing book titles, authors, and characters

The names of books and their authors are frequently used in any language. However, correctly pronouncing a book title or its author’s name (or the names of some of the characters) seems to be quite hard. Here are some interesting examples. In some cases, the problem is a general one, namely a lack of interest in pronunciation, whereas in other cases the incorrect pronunciation somehow managed to infiltrate people’s minds.

The Day After: One of my teachers used to pronounce the word ‘The’ as [sə] (the th sounding like the s in sing) instead of [ðə]. The first time he talked about the book, I honestly did not understand that it was an English title, even though I was familiar with the book at that time. I just sounded so wrong.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: I remember quite a number of occasions on which German native speakers would pronounce the name Huckleberry as Huck-lee-berry instead of [ˈhʌklbəri]. In the correct version, the ‘le’ is pronounced as ‘l’, similar to the word ‘chuckle’. Sadly, the origin of this incorrect pronunciation appears to be the German TV adaptation, see for example .

Stephen Hawking: Although the man is perhaps the most famous scientist alive, and has been on the Simpsons and on Star Trek, you can again and again see or hear the name ‘Hawkings’ instead (including news and television). My personal theory for this mistake is a mix-up of the names Dawkins and Hawking. After all, they are both scientists… Hard to believe, but there are at least eight (!) fan pages on Facebook under the name ‘Hawkings’, set up by people who according to their posts admire Stephen Hawking and his work, yet fail to get his name right.

Agatha Christie: In German-speaking countries, a surprisingly large number of people pronounce ‘Agatha’ in a German way, roughly as [agaːta]. The correct pronunciation can be heard here.


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