The Sword and Laser discussion

129 views
Audiobooks and Accurate Pronunciation

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Seth (new)

Seth (sethhwilson) | 3 comments In the latest podcast, Tom and Veronica came to the conclusion that audiobooks are generally accurate in their pronunciation of characters. As a legally blind reader who connsumes most of his fiction in audio form, I have to disagree. A couple examples:

The narrator of the audio collection of Conan short stories published by Tantor Audio, Todd McLaren I think his name was, pronounced Cimmerian with an emphasis on the third syllable, i. This sounds absolutely ridiculous. I've heard they fixed the problem in future collections.

The same narrator read the first two books in Richard Morgan's uber-violent Altered Carbon trilogy. The protagonist's name is Takeshi Kovacs, highlighting his Slavo-Japanese heritage. The first book explicitly draws attention to the fact that the "cs" is actually pronounced like a "ch", and McLaren reads it correctly. However, the final volume was narrated by William Dufris, who pronounced the name with the "cs" sound as written.

Finally, the narrator of Yasmine Galenorn's paranormal romance series Sisters of the Moon series actually gets the author's NAME wrong for the first few books.

This shouldn't deter you from listening to and enjoying audiobooks. These examples, and many others, suggest to me that audiobook publishers, editors, and narrators just don't do their research. If I were narrating an audiobook, I'd sure as heck want to sit down with the author for a chat about these things. I realize McLaren can't quite do this with Robert E. Howard, but even in that case a little linguistic forethought would've solved the problem.

So although I do love audiobooks, I really don't take the narrator's pronunciation as canon. When in doubt, I like to do my own research, if possible into the root languages that influenced the world, to deduce the proper pronunciation.


message 2: by Sandi (last edited Feb 23, 2012 06:30PM) (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments Seth wrote: "The narrator of the audio collection of Conan short stories published by Tantor Audio, Todd McLaren I think his name was, pronounced Cimmerian with an emphasis on the third syllable, i. This sounds absolutely ridiculous. I've heard they fixed the problem in future collections."

I'm listening to this narrator read Dies the Fire. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest and I swear he's pronounced a few things wrong. Well, not necessarily wrong, but they sound wrong for some reason.

The worst narrator I've heard is Cynthia Holloway reading Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series. She manages to butcher basic English words like "through-put" and "betrothed". There's a major character named Rafe whom she calls "Raff". There's a planet whose Spanish name I can't remember, but she doesn't even come close even though it's a pretty simple name. I did listen to 4 of the 5 books and she got worse with each one. I read #3 in text just to make sure I wasn't totally misunderstanding the names. Other than terrible pronunciation, she did keep the stories moving along and interesting.


message 3: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Seth wrote: "The narrator of the audio collection of Conan short stories published by Tantor Audio, Todd McLaren I think his name was, pronounced Cimmerian with an emphasis on the third syllable, i. This sounds absolutely ridiculous. I've heard they fixed the problem in future collections."

Not only that, he consistently pronounces "Celt" with a soft-c. You'd think a guy named McLaren would know better.


message 4: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments His pronunciation of Celtic is what's been bugging me in Dies the Fire! I forgot about that. He pronounces Celtic with a soft -c, but Celt with a hard -c.


message 5: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) Sandi wrote: "The worst narrator I've heard is Cynthia Holloway reading Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series."

So I'm not the only one who suffered through that reader. More than the pronunciations, was her tone, pacing and cadence. It was a constant pattern, up here, down there, and the character voices made everyone sound like junior high kids.

I eventually ended up giving up and going to print books.


message 6: by Kate (new)

Kate O'Hanlon (kateohanlon) | 778 comments Sean wrote: "Not only that, he consistently pronounces "Celt" with a soft-c. You'd think a guy named McLaren would know better. "

In fairness to him both the hard and soft versions of Celt and Celtic and recognised as correct.

Here's an extract on the subject from a periodical called the Celt in the 1850s


"Of all the nations that have hitherto lived on the face of the earth, the English have the worst mode of pronouncing learned languages. This is admitted by the whole human race [...] This poor meagre sordid language resembles nothing so much as the hissing of serpents or geese. [...] The distinction which English writers are too stupid to notice, but which the Irish Grammarians are perpetually talking of, the distinction between broad and narrow vowels—governs the English language. [...] If we follow the unwritten law of the English we shall pronounce (Celt) Selt but Cæsar would pronounce it, Kaylt. Thus the reader may take which pronunciation he pleases. He may follow the rule of the Latin or the rule of the English language, and in either case be right."


Arguments over whether English should follow the rules of English or try in vain to follow the rules of the languages it's borrowed its words from never get old.


message 7: by Gregory (new)

Gregory Lynn (gregory_lynn) Just to add another angle, accents and characterization and all that.

I read the Belgariad when I was much younger and enjoyed it immensely. It became one of my favorites and when I got on my audiobook kick (long commutes will to that to ya) I desperately wanted to find it.

And when I did...well...the guy make Silk sound like Count Chocula.


message 8: by Kate (new)

Kate O'Hanlon (kateohanlon) | 778 comments Rasputin wrote: "And when I did...well...the guy make Silk sound like Count Chocula. "

Dodgy accents are the bane of my audiobook listening.
The main reason I've decided so wait for The Coldest War to come out in print in the summer is that the German accents were distracting, especially since I'm pretty sure Tregillis was trying to draw out the moral equivalences between the British and the Germans and so othering the Germans that way seemed counter productive.


message 9: by Jill (new)

Jill I have been listening to the audiobook version of the Bryant and May books of late and whilst I like the narrator the way he pronounces certain words is driving me nuts... not names or tricky technobabble just simple words that I haven't heard anyone say differently before - of course as I type this I can't remember a single one of them!


message 10: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments I find myself bothered in audiobooks when there's a foreign name or word and I have no idea how to spell it, and I'm afraid to google it for fear of spoilers. In Night Circus it was Tsukiko and reveurs (sp?)


message 11: by itrooper (new)

itrooper | 20 comments I pretty much only do audiobooks and for me the biggest problem is not pronunciation but spelling. This is doubly the case if I have not read any of the books in a long series and only listened to them.

I cannot write online about books without constantly looking up character names and places. I end up looking like a royal doofus when I spell Drizzt as Dritz for example. The "Wheel of Time" has some whoppers, Nineeve is how I hear it, Nynaeve is how it is spelled.


back to top