Say My Name: A pronunciation guide to 15 tongue-tripping names in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

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Art credit: Tentaclesandteeth Nothing quite sets the tone for an exciting, otherworldly adventure than a strange, exotic name. Fantasy and science fiction invites us to get lost in extraordinary worlds different from our own and meet mysterious characters with the gleam of destiny in their eye.While it's definitely possible to have an awesome character of myth and legend named "Bob," it takes a bit of magic away. Sometimes, we want our character names to be eldritch and unfamiliar. Often times, this means exhausting all combinations of consonants and being stingy with vowels. Wrapping our tongues around some of fantasy and science fiction's best characters can feel like spitting nails. Here's a handy pronunciation guide for 15 of the weirdest Sci-fi/ Fantasy names out there. 

  1. Neil Gaiman

    Photo credit: Graeme Robertson All right, so he isn't a character, but admit it-- he might as well be. Neil Gaiman is arguably one of the most recognized modern fantasy authors today, known for his seminal Sandman comics series, and his novels American Gods, Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book, to name a few. Yet it's still laughable how many people pronounce his name wrong. So once and for all, let's hear it from the man himself:"It's Gaym'n." (source) Internet legend has it that comic book store clerks of olde once felt extremely uncomfortable having to say "gay-man" in their stores and subtly adjusted it to "guy-man." Similarly, there is an anecdote floating around that when Gaiman's name was called at an awarding for his "positive portrayal of gay and lesbian characters" and the announcer pronounced his name correctly, the crowd exploded into thunderous applause. 

  2. Hermione Granger

    Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Series: JK Rowling's Harry Potter First Appearance: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Oh, remember how excited you got in middle school with every new Harry Potter Book?  Another tale of magic and fantastical adventures with your favorite trio of magic users, Harry, Ron, and Her... Herm... Hermy? Hermyown? Help us out here, JK Rowling! And help us out she did. Come the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, an entire generation of book readers got schooled on how to say her name. Never mind that the name "Hermione" was originally from Greek mythology, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen. We got our kicks with the help of equally confused Bulgarian beefcake, Victor Krum, who struggled to say her name."Her-my-oh-nee," she said slowly and clearly. "Herm-own-ninny." "Close enough," she said.     -- Hermione Granger and Viktor Krum A few years later, the Harry Potter films will take over the world and everyone, even those who have never read the books, will know how it's pronounced. Duh. Incidentally, it's Levi-o-sa.

  3. Raistlin Majere

    Art credit: Matt Stawicki Series: Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance First Appearance: Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight The granddaddy of morally grey, power hungry wizards. The OG antihero wildcard in a party of elven rangers, barbarian brawlers, noble knights, and devout clerics. You knew right off the bat that he was someone who'll keep things interesting, from the top of his white hair, down to his golden skin and hourglass-shaped pupils. But how on earth do you say his name? Is it "Rays-lin"? "Ras-lin"? What do I do with this T in the middle? Here's what creators Weiss and Hickman had to say--"Do it your own way. He's fictional. You're not going to hurt anybody's feelings." --from the Dragonlance: Annotated Chronicles

    Well that's... You can't... Get out of here with you logic, both of you! This is important stuff. Fans want to know!"Raistlin comes from "wasting man" and Caramon comes from "caring man." Their last name, Majere, is also the name of the Krynnish god Majere, who rules over knowledge."--Also from the Dragonlance: Annotated Chronicles Okay, rhymes with "waste." That's more definitive then.

  4. Jonathan Teatime

    Photo Credit: Sky One Series: Terry Pratchett's Discworld First Appearance: The Hogfather What a quaint, adorable name for such a chilling, cold-blooded, psychopath. Him with the golden curls, charming smile, and David Bowie mismatched eyes. Jonathan Teatime isn't just an exemplary alumni of Anhk-Morpork's esteemed College of Assassins, he stands out as the only assassin who almost successfully killed 

    Santa Claus

     The Hogfather. It really annoys him when people get his name wrong."Mister Teatime!""It's pronounced Teh-ah-ti-meh, sir," Teatime said, with just a hint of reproach.--The Hogfather

    It stands as a mark of Teatime's legacy that the Guild of Assassins introduced the Teatime Prize in his honor, awarded to any student assassin who devices the most creative hypothetical killing. 

  5. Jaime Lannister

    Photo credit: HBOSeries: George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire First Appearance: Game of Thrones

    Described as one of the most handsome men in Westeros, Jamie Lannister had to go ahead and fall in love with a woman who looks exactly like him. He's a conflicted, tragic figure all right, and it's easy to forget that the entire horrible War of the Five Kings that rages throughout the Seven Kingdoms and has claimed so many lives all began in part because of an illicit, taboo love affair. It's romantic if it wasn't so icky. To be honest, both Lannister twins have tricky names. Cersei can be pronounced as "Ser-see" or "Ser-say," but that's like arguing over "po-tay-tow" and "po-tah-tow." Jaime, however, pits two halves of the entire speaking world against each other.

    A long time ago, when it was socially acceptable to colonize lands, Spain and Portugal had tons of fun. These countries introduced their beautiful languages to nations across the globe, and their linguistic influence remains to this day.

    This is why, for many people, the name "Jaime" will always immediately be understood as "Hay-me." Dashing Hayme Lannister, making the ladies of Kingslanding swoon as he passes. Does he have a moustache? Because he should.

    In most of the English speaking world, however, Jaime is read as "Jay-mi," which is doubly funny because "Jay-mi" down here is a girl's name.

    Then came the Game of Thrones show, with George Martin as executive producer. Martin went out of his way to correct people's pronunciation of "Arya" (two syllables, not three), but seems satisfied with Jaime's name. So Jay-mi it is.

  6. Kvothe

    Art Credit: Fattylumpkin50 Series: Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles First Appearance: The Name of the Wind"My name is Kvothe.

    I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved womenand written songs that make the minstrels weep.

    You may have heard of me."

    What a shit talker, am I right? Most of the Kingkiller Chronicles are written from Kvothe's point of view, and he often comes off as charming, eloquent, and completely full of shit. He has some stories, for sure. Living off the streets as a young orphan, weaseling his way to get a scholarship in the magical university, becoming a rock star (I'm not kidding), fighting drug-addicted dragons, sleeping with fairies, becoming a ninja, so on and so forth. Just a day in the life of Kvothe.

    But for someone to become a folk hero of song, he ought to have a pronounceable name. Rothfuss says--"The initial “kv” sound in “Kvothe” doesn’t crop up in standard English that often. But it does appear in the Yiddish term “kvetch.”

    The “o” is the same as in “roll” or “hole.”

    The “e” is silent." (source) Elsewhere in the book, Kvothe himself says that his name is pronounced almost the same as "quothe," with the V in there, I guess. I've tried listening to the audio books just to get it right, but for the life of me I can't pronounce his name at all without choking on it. I end up just saying "quothe" and hope no one notices.

  7. Drizzt Do'Urden

    Art credit: Todd Lockwood Series: R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms. First Appearance: The Crystal Shard If there's any Fantasy character who has come to embody the Man vs. Self conflict so well, it's Drizzt Do'Urden. The dark elf who started off as a sidekick to barbarian Wulfgar but was far too interesting to stay out of the limelight. Though born a drow and expected to be a monster most dark, Drizzt has proven time and again to be a loyal and compassionate companion and worthy hero. Drizzt's creation as a character was largely accidental. Editors loved Salvatore's original manuscript but there was a problem with the rights of a particular character that couldn't be used. Salvatore had to tap dance on quicksand to come up with a replacement character."I have an elf. Yeah, a Dark Elf Ranger. That's cool. Nobody's done that."There was a long pause, and [the Editor] said "There's a reason why no one's done that."I said, "No, It will be all right. It's just a sidekick character."Another pause."What's his name?" And off the top of my head I said "Drizzt Do'Urden.""Can you spell that?"I said, "Not a chance." (source) So there's a reason for why Drizzt's name seems like the author just threw a bunch of sounds together. But how are we supposed to say it? Fortunately, the Forgotten Realms character pronunciation guide is regularly updated. As of 2010, here's how to say his name--"Pronounce every letter, emphasis on the i (as in fizzed): dr-I-z-t" and "doe-ER-den." (source)  

  8. Nynaeve al'Meara

    Art Credit: Melanie DelonSeries: Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time First Appearance: The Eye of the WorldFrom orphaned farm girl, to the Wisdom of Two Rivers, to Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah, and eventually the Queen of Malkier. The little tomboy has come a long way indeed.  Nynaeve is proud and sometimes haughty, but her pride is backed by her unparalleled power of channeling. Though she sometimes sees herself as a coward, she displays no fear before her enemies and proves to be a powerful companion.Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is chockfull of characters with names that can be a mouthful. I sometimes wonder if fantasy writers enjoy being asked how to pronounce their characters' names, or if they simply have the entire alphabet up on a corkboard wall to throw darts at. As it happens, Jordan seemed to have tired of explaining himself and how his characters' names should be said and rattled off as many pronunciations as he could.

    "Aes Sedai: "I said eye."

    Nynaeve: "Nine eve".

    Faile: "FAI-eel".

    Tear: not "tire"" (source)

  9. Daenerys Targaryen

    Photo Credit: HBO

    Series: George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire First Appearance: Game of Thrones My father is a big fan of the show Game of Thrones. Every Monday morning (Sunday night to y'all), he calls me to watch the show with him and gets impatient when I dilly-dally. The "dragon lady" is his favorite character. I asked him what her name is. "Queen." Nope. "Khaleesi." That's a title, not a name. "The natives call her Mysa." Let me talk to you about using the word "natives"... The point is, even the show tries pretty darn hard to avoid saying her name. Even the books give up halfway and refer to her as "Dany." The reason for this is simple-- it's a difficult sort of name. Is it "Dai-ne-ris"? "De-ne-ris?"Fortunately for us, there's HBO. Creating a TV show requires all production members and cast to be on the same page at all times. It comes to no surprise that they should have a handy HBO/ Game of Thrones Pronounciation Guide."Duh-Nair-iss Tar-GAIR-ee-in" (source)

    What is surprising (to me, at least) is that Jaime Lannister isn't even in that guide.

  10. Xaro Xohan Daxos

    Photo credit: HBOSeries: George Martin's A Song of Ice and FireFirst Appearance: A Clash of Kings You know who else isn't in the HBO Pronunciation guide? That's right, the only Black man in Essos, Xaro Xohan Daxos. For years, I have known him in my mind only as "Ducksauce," and I'm not alone. Apparently, this mistaken impression is shared by many A Song of Ice and Fire readers, it has since become a meme.

    Based only on scant times his name has come up on the TV show, it looks as though it's pronounced as "Zaro Zohan Dak-zos." Not that far from Ducksauce after all. Interestingly, if we draw parallels between Westeros reflecting real world Western cultures and Essos as Eastern cultures, maybe we should be using Asiatic linguistic influences when saying his name. In China, for example, X is usually pronounced as "sh" which should make him "Sharo Shohan Dashos."

  11. Cthulhu

    Art credit: TentaclesandteethSeries: HP Lovecraft's... many monsters. First Appearance: The Call of Cthulhu Quite Possibly the oldest eldritch creature and earliest published character in our list, Great Cthulhu lies dreaming in his house in R'lyeh. One day, he will wake from his deep slumber, and then it will be all over for us. Forget the giant squid. Forget megalodon, the dinosaur shark. Forget the Kaiju, the Kraken, or Godzilla. These are but specks in Dread Cthulhu's slumbering eye. Cthulhu is one of the oldest, ancient gods who are neither good nor evil. They just are, and they are powerful beyond our wildest ken. When Cthulhu rises from the seas, he will meet his brother, Hastur the Unspeakable, and they will do battle. And it will  be all over for us.In 1935, Lovecraft wrote a letter to a friend discussing the proper pronounciation of "Cthulhu.""The name of the hellish entity was invented by beings whose vocal organs were not like man's, hence it has no relation to the human speech equipment. The syllables were determined by a physiological equipment wholly unlike ours, hence could never be uttered perfectly by human throats. ... The actual sound-- as nearly as any human organs could imitate it or human letters record it-- may be taken as something like Khlûl'-hloo, with the first syllable pronounced gutturally and very thickly. The U is about like that in "full"; and the first slylable is not unlike "klul" in sound, hence the h representes the guttural thickness."  (source)

    There you go. It's just not possible to say his name correctly because we don't have the proper equipment. It's probably safer that way. We don't want to wake him up.

  12. Tylwyth Waff

    Art credit: Stephen Youll Series: Frank Herbert's Dune First Appearance: The Hunters of Dune The Mahai Waff is a slippery one. Though not physically imposing, Tylwyth Waff is not to be underestimated. He is cautious but is a savvy political player, as befitting the leader of the Bene Tlielax, a major power in the Imperium. We can't be sure just how old he is. Thanks to the Bene Tielax's genetic engineering and ghola replacements, Waff could well hold his position while guiding the Tleilaxu's secret agenda to gain control over the wider univese. On the one hand, Frank Herbert didn't seem at all interested in giving definitive pronunciations or his creations. On the other hand, some of his character names are derived from real languages. Tylwyth is a real Welsh word that means "family" or "tribe." This already serves as a placeholder for Tylwyth's interests. Similarly, the Welsh have the phrase "Tylwyth Teg" or "The Fair Folk" to describe otherworldly creatures. If we go by this, then Tylwyth's name ought to be pronounced the Welsh way: Tel-with Waf.

  13. Guenhwyvar

    Photo credit: Youtube Series: R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms First Appearance: The Crystal Shard If Drizzt Do'Urden were a Pokemon trainer as well as a drow, his trusty pokemon would be a 600-pound black panther named Guenhwyvar. And like all pokemon, this one would go around repeating her name, and we'd all be saved a lot of trouble. As it is, Guenhwyvar spends most her days in the astral plane and only appears by Drizzt's side when summoned from an onyx panther figurine. The books claim that Guenhwyvar is named after the high elven word for "shadow." The D&D Pronunciation Guide  has this to say--Guenhwyvar, Drizzt's panther, is an old spelling of "Guinevere", King Arthur's wife, and is pronounced the same way.  (source) Really? All this time, I was laboring under the assumption that the panther is caled "Gwen-weev-ar" as befitting an animal that follows "Drizzt." But no, it turns out the panther's name is named after a any old legendary English queen while its master is named after the sound a shaken soda bottle makes when it is opened. 

  14. Tvlakv

    Art credit: Micheal Whellan Series: Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive First Appearance: The Way of Kings With the exception of Szeth and Tvlakv, Sanderson's Stormlight Archives is pretty consistent in giving its character namess at least two vowels to work with. Which makes these two particularly frustrating. Exiled Szeth is fairly easy. You either choose the S or the Z and barrel through. But how on earth do we say the Thaylen slavemaster's name, Tvlakv? The Stormlight Archive wiki suggests a possible pronunciation: TevLAHkev. (source) Elsewhere in fan forums, people have chosen to ignore the final V and just say "Tiv-lak."

  15. Mxyzptlk

    Art credit: DC Comics Series: DC Comics First Appearance: Superman #30 There are no more vowels, guys. This just got real. Like a horrible-looking Loki, Mister Mxyzptlk is a tiny magical trickster from the Fifth Dimension who enjoys tormenting Superman. He's a prankster who can do absolutely anything because he's magic. And while he doesn't register on the same nefarious scale as other DC villains like Lex Luthor or the Joker, Mxyzptlk can conjure just as much chaos and destruction on the unsuspecting citizens of Metropolis. Unlike Luthor or the Joker whom Superman can simply punch through a wall, Mxyzptlk's physical form is probably back in the Fifth Dimension. The only way to stop him is to say his name backwards. Yeah. He's on that level of ass-hattery. The Superman Wiki notes this pronunciation:"Miks-yez-pittle-ik" (source) And to get rid of him? We only have a source-less line in Wikipedia to go on:"kel-tip-zix-um" (source) Did we miss any names out there? Let us know in the comments!