Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bookish Pet Peeves: Names!

I’ve found recently that there are a lot of things that really bother me in YA books these days.  They aren’t enough to make me hate a book or stop reading one but they really do stick in my head.  Bookish Pet Peeves is something I’m going to be doing randomly here on the blog from here on out just to put these things out there.  I know Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner has done a Top Ten Tuesday topic on this in the past and that’s where I got my inspiration.
One of the things that bothers me most in books these days are the unpronounceable names.  I love a unique name just as much as the next person but there’s a fine line between unique and just plain weird.
What ever happened to simple names like Katie or John?  I mean, seriously, every book these days has at least one character with some odd (most likely made up) name.  If I can’t pronounce a name it really bothers me.  I can’t tell you how much time I spend just thinking about how to pronounce names.  I know it’s not a huge deal but really, what’s the need for some random name such as Aave or Delalieu?  (See, I don’t even think I can spell them right!)
How do you guys feel about the odd names in YA books these days?  Do they bother you as much as they bother me?
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49 Comments

  1. Monika

    Yes!! I think this happens in SF/fantasy, too. It bothers me so much I have trouble wanting to read the book if I can’t even begin to pronounce the characters’ names.

  2. Monika

    Yes!! I think this happens in SF/fantasy, too. It bothers me so much I have trouble wanting to read the book if I can’t even begin to pronounce the characters’ names.

  3. Erika

    They don’t bother me at all, actually, if you are talking about my enjoyment of the story. I would rather have a name that’s hard to pronounce then one more book about Amy, Nick, or Elizabeth. Yet, there are so many good names out there that are easy to pronounce and yet not overused, I wonder why there needs to be made up names at all. I do stand by my opinion that Renesmee is THE worst name I have ever heard.

  4. Ali Ginger-Read

    Some I don’t mind so much. Hermione is a mouthful but at least a real name and worked for her somehow. Others are purely ridiculous. Renesmee?? Silly. I also hate it when the name matches some trait they have. Aria & America Singer…Oh my, they both sing. I would never have guessed. Groan.

  5. Cayce

    I hear you. One of the reasons I decided not to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone was that the main charaters are named Karou and Akiva. Kaoru and Akira are real, good names, while these two are just weird….well Akiva might be a name, but it’s still a weird one.

  6. BookBreather

    Names are a weird thing for me. My name was pretty much doomed from the start. First of all, my initials are GMC which tons of people tend to find fascinating. Second of all, my name is neither Gabrielle nor Gabriella. It is simply Gabriell which more often than not gets pronounced Gabriel by people who have never seen it before, like substitute teachers and stuff. Third of all, my last name is Calabrese and though it is pronounced pretty much exactly how it is spelled, I get tons of funky looks and people often stumble over it with something like “Calabreezy.” Fourth of all, though I brought this on myself, I spell my nickname “Gabbi” rather than the traditional “Gabby” or “Gabbie.” What really gets me is that I can be in a class for a whole year writing “Gabbi” on the top of my paper, and then the teacher still insists on spelling it “Gabby.” I used to have a friend who refused to spell it the proper way because she didn’t like it. She said it looks more like Gab-eye so she, to this day, spells it Gabbie.

    I have tons of “horror stories” about my name, so I don’t particularly like mispronouncing or misspelling names.

    If they are names I seriously have NO idea how to pronounce, then yeah it bothers me. Usually, I get over it pretty fast. Aave or Delalieu, for example. I can’t even begin to pronounce those. However, Tally and Katniss and Peeta are just kind of said how they are spelled so that wasn’t much of a set off.

    Admittedly, while reading The Hunger Games series, I frequently found myself wondering if I was pronouncing the names right. Then I decided I didn’t care and I’ll just pronounce them the way I want. Because I live with no rules! 😀 That said, it was kind of interesting to figure out I was right on all the pronunciation while watching the movie.

    I guess I like unique names that within the realms of realistic and aren’t difficult. Like Remy from Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby, Willem from Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, Lissa from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, Pippa from Lauren Oliver’s Requiem, Deznee from Jus Accardo’s Touch, and Calla from Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade series.

    So those aren’t necessarily “unpronounceable,” but they go beyond the way-too-common Sam or Adam.

  7. Beneath the Moon and Stars

    I love when a character has a unique name but when you can’t say it, that takes away from it! This is something that has seemed to get more popular lately! Unique but still able to pronounce names are awesome! I loved Pia from Origin and I also love Aiden from Half Blood. Awesome post Katie!

    Jasmine

  8. Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews

    The names you gave above don’t bother me, because they’re pronounceable. And at least Hermione, Clary, and Cassia are real names and not something completely made up. It’s the ones that aren’t even names that piss me off: like Ever from Evermore. What? Ever is not a freaking name!

  9. Lynn @ Books on the Bay

    I’m the same way – especially when it comes to fantasy books. I don’t mind unique or clever names, but I hate when they’ve so clearly made up something absolutely ridiculous. It especially bugs me when more than one of the characters, or virtually all of the characters have some long-form strange name.

  10. Michelle Louring

    Definitely depends on the genre!
    I forgive a lot in epic/high fantasy, since a weird world deserves weird names, but they should, of course, be possible to pronounce.
    To use an example, I remember thinking something along the lines of ‘Seriously…?’ when I read the last Twilight book. Renesmee? Not only would no one be able to say it right, the book also took place in the real, modern world where even Hollywood actors name their children more sensibly!

    I’m sure I am just as guilty as many other writers when it comes to using weird names, but I can definitely see where you’re coming from.
    But I really don’t mind fairly simple names like Peeta or Tally, or actual names like Hermione or Cassia.

  11. quinnsbooknook

    Yes, I agree completely! And when the names are hard to pronounce, it’s hard to remember thta character, too. Sometimes the names are just silly, even if they are pronouncable. I just read Touch, and the main character’s name was Deznee! I am not even kidding. I mean what kind of name is that!? It was hard to take the book seriously because of that ridiculous name. Of course there were other things I didn’t care for about the book too, but that silly name didn’t help.

  12. Aman

    Sometimes I love different name, it makes the character memorable for me, like Renier Laroche from Nightshade series. I hate that series but I love Ren, part of it was definitely his swoon-worthy personality but I would say mostly it was because he had a catchy yet different name.

    What I don’t like it when a normal, casual name is spelled weirdly, like katlyn or Emmalee. I have a hard time getting them right. Also, I don’t like when girls have guy name, like Alex from Half Blood. It sounds very weird when I say I want Alex and Aiden to be together.
    Great post!

    • Ezmirelda

      Really? There’s got to be over a hundred girls I know who go by Alex because they don’t like the full long spelling of their name such as “Alexandria” so I never thought anything of it being a boy’s name. Actually, now that I think of it Alex’s full name from Half-Blood is Alexandria lol. 🙂

  13. Carmen B.

    For me it depends. I actually like it when a name stands out a bit because it makes it easier for me to remember the character. There are soooo many Annas and Katie/Katys, Rachels, Sofies… I find it more annoying when a common name is spent in some weird way to make it more ‘original’.
    Made-up names are okay for me in fantasy – it’s a different world or time, so it makes sense that they’d have different names.
    Then again, I’m not from the US so many names that are common for US people are strange to me anyway. April? June? Summer? Sky? Tyler? Kyle? Mercy? No one would name their kid like that here. But there a lot of ‘American’ names that I like, so *shrug* I like that you guys are apparently a bit more experimental when it comes to that. I get lots of name ideas from books. And in the end… it’s just a name. What really matters is the character it refers to, right? 🙂

  14. Maji Bookshelf

    I have to agree.. some names are pretty unpronounceable but Katniss and some of the names on that photo are pronounceable, such as clary or Katsa.. but I totally get what you mean, I read the weirdest name but I just make up my own pronunciation for them until someone comes along and corrects me 😛

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  15. Renae M.

    So about two months ago, after reading The Opposite of Hallelujah, I was THIS CLOSE to writing a post so similar to this one. Because SERIOUSLY, it’s like authors (especially YA contemp authors) seem to think that the key to making a memorable character is to give her a crazy and never-before-seen name. Nope nope nope.

    HUGE pet peeve of mine as well.

  16. Caliowin

    I really despise weird names in books. If it’s pretty I don’t mind, but a lot of the time it just sounds stupid. I find I dislike a lot of the American names as they sound strange to English ears. We have very much traditional names here- like Hannah, Elizabeth, James, Jack, Matt, Kate, Sarah etc.

  17. bookblogbake

    I do get frustrated with really long/hard to pronounce names, especially names of places(I feel like this happens a lot in high fantasy), but most of the examples you gave don’t bother me. Hermione was a little weird at first, but it is a real name & now I feel everyone’s gotten so used to it that it’s more accepted now. The names in the Hunger Games are quite annoying at first, but I can deal with them because they all have a lot of meaning behind them. I especially like the Roman ones like Cato and Senecca. And I’ve actually always liked the name Cassia.
    Tally, though, has also bugged me, even though it’s simple and easy to pronounce. Was never a fan of that one.

  18. Chloe @ YA Booklover Blog

    So, most people find this really weird, but I’m a name fanatic. I love researching names, playing around with names, etc. For me, as long as it’s an actual name, such as Hermione or Cassia, I can deal. But Renesmee gets under my skin so much. I hate that name with a passion.

  19. J.J. Bonds

    I enjoy unique names that are easy to pronounce and spell! If it fails one of these two tests, it just becomes a distraction while I’m reading. Struggling with a character’s name is incredibly frustrating, although it does seem to be getting more common, no thanks to Hollywood. Apple, anyone?

  20. Kassidy Voinche

    Yeah I definitely agree! What is also annoying is that when you say the names out loud to people they’re all like “that’s not how you pronounce it!!”, and I’m like “Sorry, I’m not a pronunciation expert!”. A lot of times when I come into contact with weird names I just skip them when I’m reading and just know them by like their first letter haha, or come up with some weird pronunciation of them in my head that is not even close to the real thing.

  21. Meredith

    I’m actually alright with unusual names for characters, but what I really don’t like is when I feel like the character doesn’t fit his/her name. For example: a love interest named Ernie. Those sorts of names bother me more.

  22. Ezmirelda

    I honestly just need to be able to pronounce the name and I’d be good. I have one of the strangest names and live around a lot peeps who don’t have common names either so I guess it’s not as weird to me to it might be to others. I have a pet peeve for strange unpronounceable sci-fi names but then again I absolutely can’t stand books with only plain-jane names like Mary and John. I find that boring and extremely uncreative. The name is also a reflection of a character’s personality. I guess I need some sort of balance between normal and different.

    (O.K was I the only one who didn’t like the name Four’s real name om Divergent? It’s sort of growing on me now but it still sounds a bit strange…)

  23. Stellar

    That does bother me! I hate not being able to say the name. I can’t tell my friends about it or do a vlog review for fear I will say their name wrong and sound stupid. And Tookie? Okay, that just sounds like a candy bar!

  24. Gina @ My Precious

    Names are important to me. I don’t like the ones I can’t pronounce. I get so frustrated and usually make up my on name for the character. I also don’t like stupid names for example on of the last books I read had names like: Hands and Tick – sorry but NO!

  25. Kim (YA Asylum)

    This doesn’t really bother me, particularly if it’s a fantasy/sci-fi/futuristic story. But if it’s a contemporary or something that’s overall pretty normal, a weird name will just stop me. I don’t get why it’s there at all. I was reading a contemporary book where the MC’s name was Mamie — Mamie? I’ve never heard of that. It sounds like something you call your mom or grandma. But the name Katniss didn’t bother me until I found out she was named after a beat-like plant. Then I thought that was simply stupid.

  26. Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews

    Unique names don’t bother me too much in books because I get that maybe the author wants their characters to stand out and be ‘iconic’. If they’re not too long or hard to pronounce, it’s fine by me. I actually really wish authors would use names that we know but are not commonly used, some names are just so common we see them nearly everywhere.

  27. Mrs. ReaderPants

    They don’t bother me as long as I can pronounce them. I don’t like it when the names in one book are all similar–in Gier’s Ruby Red, many of the major characters have G-names. Gwyneth, Gideon, Gordon Gelderman, Glenda, Grace, Count St. Germain…even the author’s last name! What’s up with that?

  28. Citra

    I agree that some of them sounds weird. As a Harry Potter fan, I like the name Hermione, though even though I didn’t know how to pronounce it until I watched the movie.

  29. Isa

    It doesn’t bother me at all, if I can’t pronounce it then I just make up the pronunciation in my head. Unless all the characters in the book have difficult to remember names then I’m not really bothered. I also kind of enjoy it like in The Art of Fielding the characters’ last names are Schwartz, Skrimshander, Affenlight.

  30. Ashley

    I love unique names if they’re easy and quick to pronounce. But if I have to spend too much time thinking about how to say it then I rage quit and make up an incorrect pronunciation in my head.

  31. Fiktshun

    I don’t mind slightly unusual-sounding names in a book. It does help me to remember them. I forget character names really easy, usually the second I finish a book, but I remember names that aren’t quite so commonly used. So while I had no idea how to pronounce Kaidan from Sweet Evil, I remembered his name but totally forgot Anna’s name.

    What I don’t like – a HUGE peeve – is if there is no pronunciation key of some kind within the book and I find out after, one… or three… books that I’ve been pronouncing the name in my head wrong for the entire series. It’s way too big an assumption by the author that I should know how an unusual name is supposed to sound, that the “i” is really pronounced “ee” and not “eye.”

    And Renesmee (did I spell that right?) still makes me cringe.

    Great weekly post topic idea!

  32. Kristin Lenz

    I agree, and I’m sometimes put-off by fantasy novels for this reason. But there’s also a fine line in choosing a unique name that’s memorable and a simple name that might be easily confused with another.

  33. willasramblings

    Oh my gosh you’re so right! And then you fight with people about how to pronounce them, and you have to wait to ask the author, and it’s just a big mess. I think Jane is such an under-appreciated name! Also, odd spellings of simple names bug the heck out of me. It’s like, “Why can’t we just spell the name so everyone knows who the heck we’re talking about?!”

    Lovely post, big ‘sis Katie! <3

  34. booksntea

    “Unique” names are kind of hit and miss with me. I really appreciate Katniss and Primrose. But, Peeta makes me think of bread and a fast food joint called the Pita Pit, which makes really good sammiches.

    Renesmee makes me both laugh and cringe. And Aave and Delalieu make me cock an eyebrow. I don’t think I know how to pronounce those names. Throw in a couple apostrophes and you have names that belong in a high fantasy world: A’ave? D’elal’ieu?

    It just makes me think they’re trying too hard to be interesting. But, honestly, I’m so hung up on trying to figure out how to pronounce the damn names that I’m getting distracted from the story!

    Hermione, of all names, seems the least strange. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd. After hearing and reading the name so often for so long, it seems normal. Plus, Shakespeare had a character named Hermione in The Winter’s Tale. Ignore the fact that I didn’t know how to pronounce Hermione until the movies came out… “Her-Moin” “Hermmy-own” I was totally like Viktor Crum. “Her-mi-o-ninny”?

    – Jackie

  35. the scarecrow

    Hermione is probably the least strange of these names, but mostly because I grew up reading a LOT about Greek mythology so coming across a girl named after the eldest daughter of Menelaus and Helen (a great warrior with a cunning and beautiful woman, go figure) was small beans. That, or I’m just really forgiving because I’m a Potter nerd.

    Ahahahahahaha Peeta. I agree with Jackie, it just reminds me of pita bread. i can’t walk into the Pita Pit anymore without laughing (I’ve permanently switched over to Subway).

    Don’t get me started on Clary. Really, Clare, Clary? How original. And Renesmee, just… *facepalm*

  36. Rwatson

    I really like odd names in books. The same thing gets boring and something new is a very good thing. If I can’t say it I come up with something that I can remember. Also someone said that hollywood has better taste then they names in books I challenge you to look up a little girl by the name of Moxicrimefighter and yes it is a child’s name.

  37. Christina Kit.

    I’m with you! When the parents aren’t hippies or foreign or whatever, I don’t get why they wouldn’t name their kids normally. It doesn’t make sense, especially when in the story the parents aren’t the types of people to come up with these kinds of names.

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