More On Pronunciation


Funny that you should mention Lloyd Alexander with regard to pronunciation, since my son’s name, Taran (who is, of course, named after the main character of the Prydain* series) has been cause for much discussion.  Setting aside the fact that many people we meet want to pronounce it “ta-ron” (accent on the second syllable – forgive me for not using IPA), there is the question of how the character’s name was intended to be pronounced.  When you read the books to me, you said something like “tear-in” , and hence, that is how I have always said it and how Rena and I pronounce our son’s name.**  But it was brought to my attention that a later printing of the books contains a glossary, which calls for the name to be pronounced something like “tah-ran” (with an accent on the first syllable).  And, indeed, if you put any stock in the much maligned (in my opinion wrongly) Disney film The Black Cauldron, that is how they pronounce the name.  Now, the glossary is not in the first edition, nor was it even in the paperbacks from the 80s that we read, so I have my doubts as to whether Alexander was involved in it, but it still may be the “correct” pronunciation.  But it’s far too late for me to change it now, especially since Taran would be very confused, so we’re going with your pronunciation.

As to your other points, “accio” is a real Latin word (as opposed to some of Rowling’s*** fake Latin words) and “should” be pronounced as it would be in Latin.  Trouble is, there’s Classical Latin which would render it “Ak-eo” and there’s Church Latin, which might say “Ach-eo.”  Plus, maybe the wizards’ version Latin has been corrupted over the years – who knows.  Oh well.  I should probably mention at this point that I am very much a language descriptivist and any time I use the words “right” or “wrong” with regard to how people actually speak, I do so with a healthy portion of my tongue in my cheek.

In any case, the “foreign” words that I remember you reading to us most vividly are the Yorkshire dialect words from The Secret Garden. I honestly still have no idea whether you knew what you were doing or not when you read them, but to me they sounded beautifully evocative, and I imagine your pronunciations even when reading something like Wuthering Heights.  But if you were just making it up, I would totally believe that (and not judge you for a second) because as I read to Elsa and Taran I find it sometimes impossible not to try out some accents and foreign words.  I’m especially susceptible to putting on a horrifically bad British accent when reading Roald Dahl, AA Milne, and others (especially when, as both those authors often do, they include verse which only rhymes correctly in Received Pronunciation).

Well, as you can tell, this is something of a favorite subject of mine, but I think this post is quickly becoming too self-involved even for a blog, so I’ll end this here. Now I want to go reread the Prydain series.

– Mark

*How do you pronounce Prydain? The vast majority of the times I’ve heard someone say it out loud they’ve said something that sounds like “per-dane”, as if it were spelled “Pyrdain,” but that might just be California mumbling.

**Interestingly (to me) I have no recollection of you pronouncing Fflewdder’s name with a “th” sound, and have always said it “flewder” to myself, but of course, you are right that a “dd” in Welsh is pronounced “th” – a fact that makes me wonder if it is influenced by the Old English letter “eth” which looks like a d with a line through it.

***Quick, how do you pronounce Rowling’s name? I think I remember that it’s supposed to rhyme with “bowling” but I’ve always made the first syllable rhyme with “how.”


1 Comment

Filed under Books, Children

One response to “More On Pronunciation

  1. Huh. I was about to say, I pronounce Prydain as Pre-dane, but as I said it aloud a couple times, I realized I really was saying it “Per-dain.” The east coast agrees with the west!

    For Rowling, I switch, depending on how British my Russian self is feeling. Rowling as “how” feels more foreign than the “bowling” Rowling, and so I say the latter in regular conversation.

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