This post will be talking about HBO’s Game of Thrones, but I’m pretty sure this won’t be spoilery. Unless you want to try come up with your own way to pronounce the names in the books. There are so many names.
So. Many. Names.
I usually talk about the television show Game of Thrones, rather than the A Song of Ice and Fire series that it’s based on. I think I do that because I’d like to engage with the Unsullied show watchers who are experiencing the story as presented by HBO.
I try not to be a smug book reader, but it’s hard. Today, I will not hold back my smugness. But fear not. I’m not going to aim my smug focus on the innocent show watchers. I’ll be hitting on the book readers.
Specifically those who had read the books before the television series aired. And who had developed their own particular and peculiar way to pronounce the characters names. I can’t pretend to be the authority on how the names should be pronounced, so I’ll stick my neck out and say how I heard the names in my head when reading the books way back when. But I think I’m close to how they should be pronounced.
(I’m sorry, Dad. But I’m also totally going to throw you under the bus with this one.)
Arya. Arya, Arya, Arya.
Arya Stark. Arya. A-R-Y-A. It can’t be that hard to pronounce. I mean, it’s only four letters. Three, really, not counting the duplicate A. But that damn Y seems to throw people off.
I pronounce her name like it rhymes with “Aria.” For you uncultured savages, here’s how to pronounce that word:
I guess I’d write it phonetically as ARR-ee-uh. But I occasionally do occasionally pronounce it like “Arr-Ya” as in “Are Ya going to Scarborough Faire?” or some other punny way.
The show is kind of inconsistent. Ned Stark, if I recall correctly, pronounced her name like I do, but Catelyn Stark and Jaime Lannister both had really soft Rs when they’d say Arya’s name, so it sounded like “AH-ya” or maybe “AW-ya.”
But that’s all in the same ball-park. I’ve heard far weirder.
I have coworkers who pronounce it exactly like “area.” As in “What’s the Arya of that circle?”
One coworker insists on saying her name like “uh-RYE-uh.” What? Madness, I know.
My dad has them beat. He calls her “AY-ra.” I am not kidding.
I must be joking. There can’t be some other way to say “Bran.” It’s like bran-flakes or something. Bran, rhymes like man, tan, or can. Right?
Usually, but not always.
There’s a podcast I listen to where one of the long-time book readers clings to his pronunciation of “Brawn.” It seems like a more snootier way of saying it, but it’s probably as natural as pronouncing Sansa Stark as “SAHN-sa” instead of “SAN-sa.” I have no opinion on the correct way to pronounce her name. I’m not even sure how I do it, internally.
But back to Bran. I guess if you want to be all fancy-pants and resist saying it how hoi polloi do, there’s no harm in calling him “Brahn.”
Except now, it totally conflicts with this guy’s name.
Bronn is an outstanding character. Why poach in on his name?
Okay, no one pronounces her name that weirdly, but I think most book-readers originally pronounced it with a long initial A, Kate-Lynn instead of how the show does it, Kat-Lynn. I only bring this up because I’ve been told that since Lady Stark’s nickname is “Cat”, it should be obvious how her full name is pronounced.
My wife’s name is Lisa. That’s her actual name, not a nickname, but the name Lisa happens to also be short for Elizabeth. The name Elizabeth can be shortened in many other ways: Beth, Bess, Bessie, Betty, Bette, Bettie, Bettina, Liz, Liza, Eliza, etc.
So I’m not sold on the Cat obviousness argument.
Thank the Seven the show pronounces his name like “Peter.” I’ve heard all kinds of other variations: Pay-ter, Pie-ter, Pet-ter. I’m surprised that I don’t know anyone that calls him Pewter.
Thankfully, he has enough other identifiers that can be used. Baelish (which I’ve never heard anyone not pronounce as “Bay-lish”), Littlefinger, or Huggy Bear.
Do I have to explain that reference? Seriously? No one remembers Huggy Bear from the original Starsky & Hutch? Fine.
There appears to be a large consensus on how Tyrion is to be pronounced. Tear-ee-un (or maybe Tear-ree-un.)
Except with my book-reading boss, who got it into his head that the Giant of Casterly Rock should be pronounced Tyrone. (That would be TIE-rone.)
Or my dad who internalized it as TIE-ron. TIE-ron? In my dad’s defense, he sometimes gets Tyrion and Tywin confused when he’s reading. This keeps me on my toes when I’m talking about the show with my father.
To be fair, names are sometimes things that don’t neatly have one way to be pronounced. My last name (allegedly, based on my web page at least) is Sponaugle, and is pronounced differently by three generations of my family. I say it one way, my dad says it another way, and my paternal grandmother said it a third way. (I never realized until my wife pointed it out.)
The television show does the exact same thing with one of the great houses of Westeros.
The ruling family of Highgarden’s last name is a lovely thing, and has many permutations. I’ve heard the show refer to them as the TIE-rells, the Tuh-RELLS, or as Tywin once referred to them, the Tuh-rulls. (I think he usually says TIE-rell when referring to any specific family member, it’s kind of cool.)
Is There a Point to This?
Look, we’re now in 2015, and we’re finally using the same calendar as the next season of television show. I wanted to celebrate something that the show-watchers have that the book-readers didn’t necessarily have. The unity and fellowship of having (usually) a standard frame of reference for people’s names.
Book readers can be smug about a lot of things: they can claim the books are better, they can critique the adaptation, they can go on and on about backstories (and feast descriptions) but their personalized ways of saying the names is an element that really doesn’t hold that much weight. Pronouncing maesters as “MY-sters” or Daenerys as “Day-Uh-Near-Us” just makes them look odd, not just by show watchers but by other book-readers who are on board with the show’s way of saying names.
Because the plot and characters in the books might be canon, but how those names are said is not. (Unless you want to try and argue that the audio-books are the pronunciation examplars, but because I’m small-minded and have never listened to them, I soundly reject that notion. REJECTED!)
I was kind of taken by the idea that this particular element of book-knowledge not being that significant, and I wanted to start off my weekly 2015 Game of Thrones articles (I’m going to write one-a-week, until the show starts up again, just like I did last year) with that particular observation. Huzzah for the Unsullied Book Readers!
Okay, I really wanted to bust on my dad for saying “Ay-ra” and “Tie-ron.” I admit it.
And I posted this after the Christmas Holidays, because I’m a skunk and didn’t want him to withhold loot.
Hey, anyone care to admit to novel ways they were pronouncing names before learning how the show did it? I’d love to hear them. This is a safe place.
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved