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Marissa Lingen

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Tired December note [Dec. 10th, 2013|10:33 pm]
Marissa Lingen

Today I have a tired. Actually I have enough for two, if anybody wants to split off some of my tired and take it away for me and still leave me with a tired. It is December, it is so very much December, and I spent most of last week being sick, and despite having made epic strides in Christmas shopping online in the last two days, I am behind. I am so behind.

And my brain, dear sweet wacky brain, keeps making me behind-er.

Brain: “let’s not work on the new novel just now” does not map to “let’s work on a brand new short story instead!” That is not what that means, brain.


Anyway, someone on FB asked a question about how she should spell a character name, because she was afraid that readers would mispronounce it. And I went, “Ooh ooh! I know this one, pick me pick me!” The answer is: they will. I mean, ideally not all of them. Ideally not even most of them. But if you write a perfectly normal name like Zhang, there will be readers who are twelve years old or from the sticks or some other explanation and will pronounce it Zuh-hang. You cannot let yourself get upset by this. You do your best and move on, and when someone has questions for you about your character Zuh-hang, you tell yourself, “I am so lucky, people read and care about my characters.” (And maybe you politely correct them.) But honestly, people cannot pronounce the names of actual other human beings they have reason to interact with. Ask Mr. Hjalmarsson of the Chicago Blackhawks. So the ones in your head? They’re going to get mispronounced. It is so far down the list of things for you to worry about.

Someone on the internet is wrong. Someone reading your fiction is wrong. Channel your inner Norwegian farmer uncle, say, “Ayeh, that’ll happen,” and get back to milking the metaphorical cows. (Really, not everybody has an inner Norwegian farmer uncle? Hmm. I will have to think on this.)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: nancylebov
2013-12-11 03:53 am (UTC)
Some authors write about how to pronounce character names, more commonly in material before or after a novel, occasionally in the novel itself. I don't know how much it helps.
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[User Picture]From: brooksmoses
2013-12-11 04:15 am (UTC)
The "how to avoid having people mispronounce a name" question reminds me of a woman I met once, whose father had been a linguist and had a similar desire that nobody -- including speakers of Romance languages with non-English vowel habits -- should mispronounce his daughter's name.

She had he largely succeeded in that, but at the cost that she has a really hard time getting people to spell "Malissa" correctly.
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[User Picture]From: tewok
2013-12-11 04:50 am (UTC)
Your last paragraph is brilliant, and they're words to live by.

I have problems with people spelling my last name (Morrison) correctly. That just boggles my mind, but it's happened for so long that I've gotten to the point of just accepting it'll happen.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-11 01:22 pm (UTC)
Marissa Lingen is a pretty phonetic name. I can see how people have to ask whether it's a hard g or a softer g in the middle of Lingen, but they go so much further astray than that, it's not even funny.

("Like lingonberries" does not help people outside the Upper Midwest and Scandinavia mostly, more's the pity. So I have tried various modes of telling people how to say it when they can't hear me demonstrate. My latest is "unlike most women of my generation, I have no Jen in my name.")

Edited at 2013-12-11 01:22 pm (UTC)
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From: vcmw
2013-12-11 03:19 pm (UTC)
I can hear the "g" in your last name just fine in my head, but I have a regional accent based tendency to replace it with a glottal stop when I try to say it.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-11 04:15 pm (UTC)
Ah! That's the subtler wrong form, yes. Lin-jen: wrong. But Ling-en with the glottal stop instead of without, hitting the GUH hard: also slightly wrong.
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[User Picture]From: laurel
2013-12-11 05:58 am (UTC)
I had a bunch of Norwegian great aunt farmers. And some German great aunt farmers too. Not that they "farmed aunts" because . . . creepy. But my Mom's parents were each one of quite a few siblings, mostly girls, most of whom never married, possibly because they were too busy farming.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-11 01:23 pm (UTC)
Were they notably laconic? Because that's the thing about Norwegian farmer great-uncles.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2013-12-11 07:28 am (UTC)
I wisely titled my first fantasy series "The Books of Outremer", on the grounds that the majority of readers would mispronounce it and I could therefore cease from worrying about this issue ever again. Just to prove my point, my editor mispronounced it from the start, on the grounds that everyone else would so he might as well get me used to it.

Tho' actually it goes back even earlier than that: my first editor wanted me to publish as C R Brenchley, on the grounds that people might not know how to pronounce Chaz.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-11 01:24 pm (UTC)
I encountered the word "Outremer" before I learned any French, and then once I did, it took me an embarrassingly long time and a fortunate line break to go, "OHHHHHH."

I...really. Wow. Chaz is one of the more phonetic names I can think of. Was your editor afraid people would be referring to you like chaise?
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2013-12-11 04:52 pm (UTC)
I think Chaise, yes, or Shay (as tho' it were the French chez - actually, now I come to mention that, I did once have a woman ask me if it were pronounced that way; but that was thirty years ago). I always thought it a little silly; but I agreed anyway, only then he forgot to tell anyone else in the company, so the cover came through with "Chaz Brenchley" on it and they all decided not to change. So Chaz I am and have been; and if nobody ever asks for my books in shops, it is nothing to do with difficulties of pronunciation.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2013-12-11 02:02 pm (UTC)
Heh! Yes about names.

I have said in workshops when this comes up, if it bothers you, resist, resist the impulse to jazz up names by substituting 'y' for vowels. Karen can perfectly well become Kyryn if you like, but be prepared for readers to say Kigh-rhine, Kigh-reen, Keer-rhine, Keer-reen, etc.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-11 04:14 pm (UTC)
"One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done."--Marie Curie
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[User Picture]From: sprrwhwk
2013-12-12 03:55 am (UTC)
"The reward for good work is more work." --my grand-boss at work
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[User Picture]From: thanate
2013-12-11 04:33 pm (UTC)
Yes! and as a reader, there are all these authors who say the names of your favorite characters *wrong!*
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2013-12-11 10:38 pm (UTC)
May I borrow your inner Norwegian farmer uncle? I have very few uncles of any sort, and no farmers in the last couple of generations.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-12 02:02 am (UTC)
I have spares. Pick out one of the nice ones.
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[User Picture]From: skzbrust
2013-12-12 01:08 am (UTC)
A perfectly reasonable attitude. My own opinion is, if I'm going to make up funny names, I don't get to whine about how people pronounce them. I'm with Jo. People ask, and I answer, but I always add, "I don't care, however."

On reflection, this may be my own ideosy...ideosi...oddity. What matters most to me is how the name looks on the page. Changing a name from Kathy to Cathy, for example, changes the whole book.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-12 02:04 am (UTC)
I discovered accidentally by talking to Jo about the change she made to a surname that one of the most important things for me is vowel pattern. So if I wanted to change a character from Jim to Tim to Mitch, that would be a lot easier than changing him from Jim to Jonathan. (Unless Jim was really wrong in the first place, in which case Jonathan might be a relief.)
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-12-15 04:29 pm (UTC)
"Really, not everybody has an inner Norwegian farmer uncle?"

I can't help but think that this fact contributes to much of the turmoil in the world.
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