As promised, here’s my newest (and belated) cartoon!
This has bothered me ever since first watching Game of Thrones (and then even more so when reading it). George R.R. Martin cannot spell.
I’m kidding, of course.
GRRM actually does a great job of making his character names (mostly) pronounceable by tweaking already familiar names, such as the ones above. There are even some names from mythology, though not common names themselves, would be recognizable, most notably Cersei (pronounced like Circe from the Odyssey) and Oberyn (very similar to Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream). This hypothetical spelling test could have gone on ad infinitum, not just because of the number of weirdly spelled names but because of the sheer number of characters in the books, a lot of whom did not even make it into the TV show.
Naming fantasy characters is hard. You don’t just want to name them things like “Mary” or “Tom” because they’re too familiar. But some authors go a little too far in trying to gussy up their fantasy names, thus making them unpronounceable. X’th’meg’d might look like an awesome name for a goblin warrior or an alien species, but your readers won’t know how to pronounce it, let alone spell it. If they’re anything like me, they’ll probably just start calling them “X” in your head.
Take a character from the Harry Potter series, for starters: Hermione. Yes, it’s a real name, both in mythology and in real life. [[It’s actually a much more common name in Britain than here in the States, where it’s almost unknown (as is Neville). Check the credits for any British movie or TV show if you don’t believe me. Not sure, but I think there’s even a Hermione in the crew of one of the Harry Potter movies…]] Anyway, J.K. Rowling said she receiving so many letters and questions about how to pronounce Hermione’s name that she actually put the pronunciation of it in Goblet of Fire. (For those without an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Potter, it’s in Chapter 23: The Yule Ball. She teaches Viktor Krum how to say it right. In Viktor’s defense, I also pronounced it Hermy-own until that point. Same with Hagrid (Hay-grid = wrong) and Dobby (Doh-bee = also wrong).
I’m not saying GRRM’s system is flawless. Because the names are often too similar to the real thing, people can often mishear them. This can lead to friends ignoring other friends’ incorrect pronunciation so they don’t make those friends feel stupid or ignorant, or they can point it out and be a a total spelling jerk. Sigh.
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Obligatory Copyright Notice: All characters and books belong to George R.R. Martin and his publisher. The artwork is mine. Please don’t steal it without citing it!