A Rose by Any Other Name

My very first review in a major publication (AlphaOops, Publisher’s Weekly) had the wrong ISBN for the book. This caused more confusion than I thought it would, and I discussed complained whined about it to a mentor of mine. His response was: “Listen: it could be the worst review in the world. As long as they get the title of the book right, trust me, it doesn’t matter.”

In that regard, I am so glad that I’ve been blessed with titles like “Enchanted” and “Hero.” Even “AlphaOops” has been spelled right every single time.

Alethea MermaidWhich is a good thing, because my name has been butchered up and down the internet for years…and it’s only gotten worse.

My name is Alethea Kontis. Here’s how you pronounce it: http://www.teachingbooks.net/pronounce.cgi?aid=18395

I have a YouTube channel, on which I state my name at the beginning of every single video. It’s right at the top of my FAQs. More importantly: IT’S SPELLED JUST LIKE IT SOUNDS. Like most foreign names, you just pronounce every letter. Since its origin is Greek, there really is no “correct” way to spell it in English, since the original version uses a completely different alphabet.

My name is also on the cover of all my books. It’s the first thing I check, every time I get a proof.

And still, my name has been misspelled in well over 50% of the reviews for my books. It is often corrected by the author, once someone points to it, but that doesn’t fix the URL, which no one wants to change for fear of losing the links people have already posted in ignorance. So I am forced to share links on Facebook and Twitter that call me “Althea” and “Alathea” and “Athena” and everything else in between.

The worst by far, however, is the audiobook of AlphaOops: H is for Halloween that Scholastic did for their Book Club. Yup: “Ala-theya.” You’d think a professional operation like Scholastic would CHECK FIRST. My little sister demanded a recall. I had a vision of policemen prying CDs from the hands of sobbing six-year-olds and decided I could live with it.

Friends who have known me forever will suddenly stop pronouncing my name correctly for no apparent reason. There’s a line of politeness which I try not to cross too far when correcting them….and after a while I’ll give up on that too.

Yesterday, a bank manager returning my call addressed me by “Olivia.” Hadn’t heard that one in a while. Dude…you’re the BANK MANAGER. Look up my account first, maybe?

“Alethea” is a beautiful name. It means “truth.” It’s been used in many books over the years (and not always because I was the inspiration for it). Writers and artists love it.

They just can’t pronounce it.

Those of you writers in the lagoon today — how do you choose what names to give your characters? Do you perhaps consider how it might be mangled or made fun of in the schoolyard? (Kerri Mermaid mentioned some of these in a post last year, which might help.)

Have you ever found a character in literature that you loved…but realized you were pronouncing completely wrong? How do you feel about pronunciation glossaries in the backs of books?

But most importantly: How badly has YOUR name ever been mangled?

21 thoughts on “A Rose by Any Other Name

  1. The very reason I don’t use Jeannette in my author name is that it’s almost -always- misspelled. So I use J. instead. I don’t use my maiden name (Hodde) for the same reason.

    And yet on my very first short story publication? They misspelled Cheney. (Cheny). ::headdesk::

    Partially because I grew up with a hard-to-spell-correctly names, I aways double check others’ names before I write them. So you’ve always been “Alethea” to me ;o)

  2. We had Alethea chosen for a girl’s name (we ended up with a Micah ha ha) but we chose the pronunciation of A-la-thee-a and batted around just calling her Althea. A-lee-thea is beautiful but sounds too similar to Alicia (Al-leesh-ia) and that is how my sister’s name is butchered 😉

    Our last name (Copulos- Cope- you-luss) is constantly butchered. “Why hello, Mrs.Cipopuluss, how are you? Mrs. Cacopulos?” *face palm*

  3. My son’s a big fan of R A Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden books, and we’ve always pronounced the character’s name as driz-it. So I was surprised the first time I heard Salvatore say it – he pronounced it dritz. It’s his character and his choice, but the phonetic reader in me still cringes.

  4. A woman I worked with named her daughter Monique. At school, the teachers pronounced it “Monte Q.” I immediately thought of the “Count of Monte Cristo.” Maybe they were too well read.

  5. Great post, Princess. Maybe you should just have everyone call you “Princess” and then your problem will be solved?
    I am called “Phillip” A LOT.

    1. I have been known to answer to “Princess” when yelled across a room before recognizing my own name. I don’t find that odd at all.
      Love you, PHILLIP! 😉

  6. So, not nearly to the extent of yours, but my name being Mandi with the I at the end as opposed to, say, Mandy, who is my stepsister (no, really), gets misspelled *all the time* – mostly in professional correspondences with my name right freakin’ there in the email they’re responding to (at least twice) and they can’t bother to get it right. You want me to review your book? Get *my* name right first.

    Of course, my best friend growing up and I were involved with a set of brothers. I’m not upset I didn’t get saddled with the name. Maki shouldn’t be that hard, but it’s clearly a butchered spelling, because it’s not pronounced like the fish, it’s pronounced like Mack-ee. One day, a telemarketer called her and she was so happy for human contact (at the time, she was a stay at home mom with two kids under the age of 2) that she told the guy she’d talk to him if he could pronounce her name right. Took him more than 20 attempts. Seriously, dude? It’s four letters.

    1. Dude…you were the first person whose name I spelled wrong when signing a book, and I damn well knew better, and it still bugs me to this day. You really need to bring it back sometime so I can turn that into a dragonfly.

      1. ….you need to, uh, not be such a screw up. Or something. *Ahem* Cause I totally say your name right every time. *coughcough*

        I actually hadn’t noticed the day you signed it because I didn’t look at what you wrote. Had I been thinking of it, I’d’ve brought it when I saw you last June. Get thee back to Hypericon and remind me to bring it… We missed you last weekend!

  7. Uh-lee-thee-uh, I love this post! I could spend a week with a private session with miss Author Goddess just having her pronounce all her character names to me! But the fun thing about having hard to pronounce, exotic names in favorite books is that I give them nick names. I myself usually get Charlene 🙂

    1. Honestly, I think this is one of the best reasons EVER for audiobooks. Smart narrators (like mine) will check with the author before mauling names and…oh…GREEK WORDS. *facepalm*

  8. Sue. Sue? Are you deaf? Have I been called anything other than Susan for the last thirty years? I told someone once how relieved I was went people called me “Sue”, because I immediately knew they weren’t a friend. Same for “Pete” with Hubster. We gave our kids names that would be contra nickname. And Mark became “Markie” – it just fit! I still use it. On the other hand, everyone else thought he was Andrew.

    *smacks forehead, dies*

    1. The Fairy Godboyfriend — aka “Joe” — empathises with you completely. It’s amazing how much people want to go to the other end of the spectrum when something is *too* easy.

      And how they love making up nicknames. I feel the same way about people that spell “Lee” as “Le” or refer to me as “Thea”, like we’re BFFs. Huh?

  9. Pick almost any Scottish or Irish name. Siobhan, for instance, pronounced “Shee-vahn.” Sigh. It’s why I don’t use a lot of actual Gaelic in my books – nobody knows how to pronounce it (well, except for everybody who speaks Gaelic, plus a few random others).

  10. So if folks don’t know how to spell ‘Jacqui’ I’ll give a bit of slack should they spell it ‘Jackie’ however I can’t help but shudder when I see my name spelt ‘Jacky’–under no circumstances is that ever good.

    As for mispronunciation? I get jack-kwee (for those that have never seen the French language before). If it’s my full name, Jacqueline it’s butchered to Jack-kwee-line.

    Over the phone I pretty much get any name that sounds similar to mine like Cathy, Jessie, Nancy, Sandy, Patty etc.

    As for my last name. You would think that it being hyphenated that it’s pretty straightforward, eh? Ha. I get ‘sweeping’ , ‘stooping’, those that think it’s 3 syllables ‘Soo-ep-ing’

    The best is my nickname, Jacs. Someone asked if it’s pronounced ‘jaz’. Huh? What?

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