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Old 04-25-2017, 09:12 AM   #1
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@?&®% Mispronunciations!

For a long time, I've rather wished that I'd started a list of egregious mispronunciations in audiobooks, but the thought was never sufficient motivation. My current listen, which I'll get to, has pushed me over the edge.

I identify three categories of mispronunciation:
  • The first are common and not-so-common ordinary English words. They should be part of the stock in trade of the professional narrator, but it's a common falling. What makes it worse is that these books have producers; most errors should be caught in the production process. Or maybe they are, which is a scary thought given how many get through. This is by far the worst offense and flatly unforgivable, IMO.
  • Second are the more esoteric proper nouns. I understand that the narrator might not know how to say these off the cuff, but as professionals, they should find out! I've been listening to books on colonial America lately and a local river comes up fairly frequently. If a narrator sees "Piscataqua" and has never heard it spoken, that should be a flag. Instead they just go with it, stressing the first and third syllables. (It should be the second and fourth.) This also is unforgivable.
  • Third is the toughest. It's when a seemingly innocuous proper noun has an unusual pronunciation. Nadia May's mispronunciation of Lady Mary Coke comes to mind. This one is understandable, but it still grates.

It must be obvious how much this irritates me. One mispronunciation takes me right out of a book. Several have the power to send me into a simmering rage. I listen to a lot of non-fiction and I think that's part of the issue for me. For one thing, I think the incidence of mispronunciations is far higher, given specialized vocabularies and proper nouns. Unfortunately, with a novel I'd just abandon it, but with non-fiction if the book itself is worthwhile, I'll generally grit my teeth and keep on.

Off the top of my head, I'll name Xe Sands, Johnny Heller and Cassandra Campbell among others as prime offenders. I'll never willingly listen to a book by them again. And the current narrator who has set off this diatribe is Malcolm Hillgartner. I'm listening to a book about the culture of the Depression ( Dancing in the Dark by Morris Dickstein). It's 24 hours long; I wonder how many times, in the course of a book about the Depression, I'll be forced to hear "afFLUence" and "afFLUent"?
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Old 04-25-2017, 10:01 AM   #2
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Nadia May's mispronunciation of Lady Mary Coke comes to mind. This one is understandable, but it still grates.
I'm intrigued. How should one pronounce it, other than the obvious?
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Old 04-25-2017, 10:31 AM   #3
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One I've encountered a few times would be a fourth class: A word that has multiple definitions each with different pronunciations and the narrator uses the wrong pronunciation.
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Old 04-25-2017, 11:03 AM   #4
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I'm intrigued. How should one pronounce it, other than the obvious?
It's "Cook." Unless you think that's the obvious pronunciation and not like the drink! (May went with the drink.)
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Old 04-25-2017, 11:04 AM   #5
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One I've encountered a few times would be a fourth class: A word that has multiple definitions each with different pronunciations and the narrator uses the wrong pronunciation.
Ouch! One I've not encountered and now I'll be on tenterhooks!
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Old 04-25-2017, 12:23 PM   #6
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Aren't there sites on the internet where you can look up (listen up?) pronunciations? Or do the narrators have specialized reference materials?
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Old 04-25-2017, 01:25 PM   #7
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I am mellowing, I think; I'm finding that I'm less bothered by mispronunciations all the time.

For one thing, I have a much larger vocabulary of written words than spoken words, so for any less common words, I assume the narrator is correct and my mental pronunciation is incorrect. For another, I listen to a lot of British narrators, and with them I assume anything that sounds odd to my ear is simply a British thing.

One book I listened to recently, The Second Line of Defense, about women during WWI, had a lot of early missteps. The narrator would say "confounded," when clearly the context indicated the word intended was "co-founded," and make other mistakes like this, using a word that was just a letter or two off. Either the text had spellcheck-ish typos, or the narrator wasn't paying attention to sense, or both. Happily, since it was a fairly long book, the narration finally settled down. (Or else I became engrossed enough that I stopped noticing!)
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Old 04-25-2017, 02:05 PM   #8
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One book I listened to recently, The Second Line of Defense, about women during WWI, had a lot of early missteps. The narrator would say "confounded," when clearly the context indicated the word intended was "co-founded," and make other mistakes like this, using a word that was just a letter or two off. Either the text had spellcheck-ish typos, or the narrator wasn't paying attention to sense, or both. Happily, since it was a fairly long book, the narration finally settled down. (Or else I became engrossed enough that I stopped noticing!)
That's just appalling. I appreciate the heads up as does my blood pressure; the narrator is now on my never-listen list.

Frankly, I think the industry is getting away with a level of shoddy production that wouldn't be tolerated in a print book. It should be someone's job to listen to these things before they're foisted on innocent listeners.
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Old 04-25-2017, 03:05 PM   #9
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That's just appalling. I appreciate the heads up as does my blood pressure; the narrator is now on my never-listen list.

Frankly, I think the industry is getting away with a level of shoddy production that wouldn't be tolerated in a print book. It should be someone's job to listen to these things before they're foisted on innocent listeners.
But they may have been the author's/proofreader's mistakes, not the narrator's entirely. If the mistakes were in the text, does the narrator have the right to overrule the text and read what "should" be there?

This was a nonfiction book and did not require more than simply a straight reading--no dramatizing or vocal gymnastics. The narrator was adequate if not exciting, and I enjoyed the book.
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Old 04-25-2017, 05:43 PM   #10
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But they may have been the author's/proofreader's mistakes, not the narrator's entirely. If the mistakes were in the text, does the narrator have the right to overrule the text and read what "should" be there?
If the choice is between silently correcting an obvious error or willfully perpetrating an atrocity, I say to give the atrocity a miss.

It's a situation that probably occurs frequently, when the book and the audiobook are having a simultaneous release. I can't imagine that a professional narrator is supposed to say a misspelled word as written. Mistakes of that sort are harder and more expensive to correct, also.
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Old 04-25-2017, 06:47 PM   #11
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If the choice is between silently correcting an obvious error or willfully perpetrating an atrocity, I say to give the atrocity a miss.

It's a situation that probably occurs frequently, when the book and the audiobook are having a simultaneous release. I can't imagine that a professional narrator is supposed to say a misspelled word as written. Mistakes of that sort are harder and more expensive to correct, also.
But the mistakes I heard were legitimate words, just not the right words for the context. If they were in the text (and I don't know if they were, but they seemed like the kind of mistakes that are easy to miss in text), I don't think it's up to the narrator to correct them on her own, anymore than the narrator should correct a grammatical error. In a perfect world, I would want her to call attention to a mistake in what she's reading and have it corrected in all versions of the book.

Actually it's the person who does whatever you call the equivalent of proofreading for an audiobook who should have noticed the mistakes, checked the manuscript, and followed up.
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Old 04-26-2017, 12:08 PM   #12
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I admit that I tend to assume that most pronunciation differences are a matter of different dialects and the fact that there is no one true way of speaking English (IMO).
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Old 04-26-2017, 01:54 PM   #13
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Ouch! One I've not encountered and now I'll be on tenterhooks!
It's somewhat rare, but does occur. One set of words that comes to mind are those spelled "lead" or start with "lead...". They can be the name of the metal or, or as a verb, refer to acts based on using the metal as in "leading", the placing of lead bars between rows of metal type to increase the line spacing. They can also refer to the act of "leading" a horse to water.
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Old 04-26-2017, 02:49 PM   #14
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I admit that I tend to assume that most pronunciation differences are a matter of different dialects and the fact that there is no one true way of speaking English (IMO).
Perhaps there is no one true way, but there are scads of wrong ways!

Here's an example that I hear unfortunately frequently: the words mischievous and erudite. Some narrators throw in an extra "i", as in "mischievious" and "eriudite." Just wrong.

Last edited by issybird; 04-26-2017 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 04-26-2017, 04:56 PM   #15
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Perhaps there is no one true way, but there are scads of wrong ways!

Hers an example that I hear unfortunately frequently: the words mischievous and erudite. Some narrators throw in an extra "i", as in "mischievious" and "eriudite." Just wrong.
Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary says that the "mischievious" pronunciation and spelling "are of long standing: evidence for the spelling goes back to the 16th century. Our pronunciation files contain modern attestations ranging from dialect speakers to Herbert Hoover. But both the pronunciation and the spelling are still considered nonstandard."

I've learned to accept the mispronunciation, but I hold the line on the misspelling.
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