Friday 24 November 2017

Don Quixote tops list of mispronounced literary characters' names

People struggle to pronounce the name of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's fictional detective
People struggle to pronounce the name of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's fictional detective

Don Quixote, Daenerys Targaryen and Oedipus have topped a poll of literary names people struggle to say correctly.

The study follows Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's recent disclosure that Voldemort is actually pronounced 'Vol-De-Mor' with a silent T.

A survey of 2,000 people aged 18-65, conducted by digital audiobook retailer Audible, found that 39% have pronounced the names of literary characters incorrectly.

Considered to be one of literature's greatest ever works, Don Quixote proves to be a difficult name to get right as it was voted the number one most commonly mispronounced name by 44% of those surveyed.

It should be pronounced "Don-Key-Hoh-Tee", not "Don Quicks-Oat".

Daenerys Targaryen, one of the lead characters from hit book and TV series Game of Thrones, came second in the poll with 28% identifying it as the most commonly mispronounced name.

And Oedipus, from ancient Greek writer Sophocles, came in at number three with 23% choosing it as the most difficult name to say properly.

Also in the top ten are Hermione from the Harry Potter books, Beowulf, Smaug from The Hobbit, Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Piscine Patel from Life of Pi.

Meanwhile, fans of Agatha Christie will be dismayed to hear that people regularly struggle to crack the true pronunciation of one of her most famous characters - Hercule Poirot, as many admitted to not being certain of the correct pronunciation of the fictional name.

The research found that 35% of people think certain names are simply difficult to say, while 16% insist that hearing someone else using incorrect pronunciation are to blame for their errors.

Names with silent letters catch out over 29% whilst 25% revealed that mispronouncing a name left them feeling embarrassed.

Professor John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe professor emeritus of modern English literature at University College London. said: "Interpretations of names are influenced by different forms of language, accents and methods of writing, which in turn impacts the way they are pronounced.

"The research shows that some names are much harder than others to translate from the page to spoken word. Although there is ongoing debate about the correct pronunciation of names, many foreign names have been anglicised to fit our native tongue.

"Names such as Don Quixote should retain their original pronunciation as Don Kee-Hoh-Tee to avoid confusion."

Laurence Howell, director of Audible UK, said: "Book series such as Game of Thrones include some incredibly tricky names, which readers often get wrong for a number of reasons.

"Listening to the audiobook performed by a professional narrator gives you the advantage of hearing the names as the author intended."

The 2,000 respondents were asked which of the names they commonly mispronounced from a long list and their answers created the top 10.

Press Association

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