Here Is the CORRECT Way to Pronounce Dr. Seuss (and 17 Other Popular Author Names)
Most people mispronounce Dr. Seuss (hint: it doesn't rhyme with moose). Learn the correct way to say his name, plus these 17 other famous literary names.
We all accept a few universal truths about Dr. Seuss and his universe—Horton definitely heard that Who; the Grinch was more of a Lent type of guy; ham should NEVER be green—but there remains one Seussian sticking point that continues to baffle readers of all generations and shows no sign of peaceful resolution. And that is the pronunciation of the Doctor’s name.
If you are in the majority, you pronounce “Seuss” to rhyme with “Zeus.” (Maybe you even say “Zeus,” and consider that acceptable.) But according to humorist Alexander Liang, one of the Doctor’s college pals, the correct pronunciation was always “Soice,” rhyming with “voice.” Liang even wrote up a little rhyme to drive the point home: “You’re wrong as the deuce/ And you shouldn’t rejoice/ If you’re calling him Seuss./ He pronounces it Soice (or Zoice).”
Seuss himself eventually relented and adopted the rhymes-with-moose pronunciation, unable to control his own legend. But he was far from the first or last author to be chronically mis-addressed by the reading public, joining the long list of commonly mispronounced words. To set the record straight, here are 17 other popular authors whose names almost everyone says wrong without realizing.
Don’t say: Rolled Dahl, or Role Dahl
Correct pronunciation: ROO-all Dahl
Dahl’s unusual name gets a Norwegian pronunciation. The Willy Wonka author hails from a Norwegian family and was named after Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen.
J. K. Rowling
Don’t say: Row-ling, or Raw-ling
Correct pronunciation: like “rolling”
Jo admitted to The Guardian she answers to both pronunciations and that Rowling is a “fairly horrible” name anyway.
Don’t say: Gabble-don, or Guh-BALL-don
Correct pronunciation: GAB-uhl-dohn (last syllable rhymes with “stone”)
From the Outlander author’s website: “For reasons unknown, people from New York City… invariably pronounce it to rhyme with ‘mastodon.’ One of these days, I’m going to put the accent mark over the ‘don’ that the name probably had when it came from Spain back in, and see if that helps.”
Don’t say: Pa-LAW-nee-uk
Correct pronunciation: PAHL-a-nik
We know the first rule of Fight Club is “You do not talk about Fight Club,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about its author. Maybe pronouncing Palahniuk correctly should be added to the rules…
Don’t say: Satcher, or Suh-kar
Correct pronunciation: Sacker
The award-winning author of Holes and the Wayside School series knows readers have trouble with his name. That’s why he kindly clarified the pronunciation on his website: “like someone who tackles quarterbacks or someone who stuffs potatoes into sacks.”
Don’t say: NAH-ba-kof
Correct pronunciation: na-BOE-kof
Putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable is the main issue with this Russian-American author’s name. Though Nabokov could speak Russian, English, and French, that didn’t change the way he introduced himself.
Don’t say: Ann
Correct pronunciation: INE
To correctly say the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged author’s name, use the same sounds in the words “mine” and “shine.” It’s a lot easier than her birth name: Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum.
Don’t say: GOH-thee, or GO-thuh
Correct pronunciation: GUR-tuh
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a mouthful, so you can keep this German writer’s short and sweet by just saying his last name—as long as you say it the right way.
Don’t say: HOO-note Diaz
Correct pronunciation: JOO-no DEE-as
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, this Pulitzer Prize-winning author is now a creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We bet none of his students would dare get his name wrong. Check out 23 more contemporary writers you should have read by now.
Don’t say: REAR-din, or Ree-OHR-din
Correct pronunciation: RYE-ohr-din (like rye whiskey)
If you ever have trouble remembering the correct pronunciation, think about Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Percy finds out he’s the son of the Greek god Poseidon, and the “eye” sound in Poseidon is the same sound in the first syllable of Riordan.
Don’t say: Pea-COAT, Pea-CAULT
Correct pronunciation: pea-KO
Although it would be cool to have a last name like Peacoat, that is simply not how you pronounce Ms. Picoult’s name.
Don’t say: Al-bert Kam-muss
Correct pronunciation: ahl-BEHR kah-MOO
Blame the French language for the silent letters and tricky pronunciations that make this famous author’s name so confusing, but you probably recognize it from English or philosophy classes of years past. Don’t miss these 10 high school English books everyone should reread.
Don’t say: see-EZ-ka
Correct pronunciation: SHEH-ska
Sciezska is known for his children’s books, most notably the Time Warp Trio series, but even adults have trouble saying his name.
Jorge Luis Borges
Don’t say: bor-GESS
Correct pronunciation: BOR-hays
Born outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, Borges eventually became a founder of the postmodernist movement in literature. His full name is Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo.
Don’t say: Sha-BONE
Correct pronunciation: SHAY-bun
Yet another case where the wrong emphasis can totally change a person’s name. Chabon received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and has also won awards for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Telegraph Avenue, and Moonglow.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Don’t say: RILL-kee
Correct pronunciation: RILL-kuh
Rilke was born in Prague (now part of the Czech Republic) and made significant contributions to German literature over the course of his life.
Don’t say: Prool, or Prooks
Correct pronunciation: Proo
Proulx, born Edna Ann Proulx, won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her second novel, The Shipping News. She is also known for her novel, Brokeback Mountain, which was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. Want more ideas for your reading list?