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How to avoid mispronunciation of names

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I recently sent out an email to my mailing list on the topic of mispronunciation of names and I had so many responses that I thought I would write a blog post about it!

Have you been through a graduation ceremony? I’ve had three (for a BSc, an MA and a PhD)! The most memorable was my first graduation from Durham University where our Chancellor at the time was Sir Peter Ustinov – he gave a brilliant speech…

Things haven’t been quite the same for graduates over the last couple of years as ceremonies were postponed, or cancelled, or even moved online due to the pandemic.

Last year I was given the very unusual job of announcing the names of graduates for a virtual graduation ceremony. I had pages and pages of names to read out (some of which were very long and complicated). The students had been asked to provide a pronunciation guide for their name if they felt it was required. Many of them felt it wasn’t – though I would beg to differ.

I did my best but I’m fairly sure there were a few horribly mangled names among my recordings!

I asked my mailing list if they had experience of this and the replies were varied. Some people with simple surnames like ‘Smith’ had never had this problem, whereas others found it happened pretty much every day. My favourite story was from Ken Clayton, who had once been referred to (at a funeral in Berlin) as Len Deighton! I bet Ken wishes he had Len’s bank balance…

So my top tip for you today is, if you are using a voiceover artist always provide pronunciation guides for your name, your company name, your product name, or anything else that might prove tricky. Just a quick recording on your phone will suffice, or write it out phonetically. 

My maiden name was Aveling (pronounced Aye-vling) and I used to get that mashed up all the time!

Have you ever had your name mispronounced?