7 Most Frequently Mispronounced Author Names

Time to settle the debate and set the record straight! Here are some of the most frequently mispronounced author names of past and present.

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Just as the pronunciation of character names can be subject to heated debate in the literary world, so too do authors’ names. Many of which have engendered such a wide breadth of potential pronunciations that it’s hard to decipher who got it right (if anyone). To settle these pesky bookish debates once and for all (and empower you to confidently correct all your family and friends), here are seven popularly butchered author names of past and present and how to pronounce them perfectly.

Jodi Picoult (“PEA-COE”)

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IMAGE VIA RADICAL READS

I must admit, this first one threw me for a loop. I’ve long thought that her last name was pronounced Jodi (Pi-COLT). That is, until I saw the author introduce herself in a TikTok video and was absolutely stunned. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, as the author made a follow-up video addressing all the confusion — likening her last name to “Pico” de Gallo!

Gillian Flynn (with a hard G!)

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IMAGE VIA GLAMOUR

Ah, yes, another one of my favorite authors whose name I said wrong for years! It’s a hard G on “Gillian,” folks. There’s some conflicting information out there, so I had to do some digging on how the author herself has introduced herself. Take this promotional video for her 2009 novel Dark Places as evidence if you ever need to pull up some tangible proof to convince your friends.

Albert Camus (“Ahl-BEHR Kam-oo”)

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IMAGE VIA HENRI CATRIER-BRESSON / MAGNUM PHOTOS

I may be slacking on my French lessons on Duolingo, but I’ve got Camus’ name committed to memory. Often mispronounced as Albert with a hard “T” followed by something along the lines of “Kam-Muss,” tapping into your best French accent does wonders for correctly saying this existentialist philosopher’s name. If you’d like to listen to the French pronunciation, click here.

Diana Gabaldon (“GAB-uhl-dohn”)

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IMAGE VIA OUTLANDER WIKI

Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, had me quite stumped with her last name. I think I just pronounced it differently each time I said it out loud. Anyway, after doing a little research, I learned it to be Diana “GAB-uhl-dohn.” Note that the last syllable rhymes with ‘throne.’ I suppose what always tripped me up was figuring out which of the three syllables to emphasize.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (“Gur-Tuh”)

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IMAGE VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Okay, so I went down the rabbit hole on this one. There’s a lot of debate about how to pronounce Goethe correctly. On the one hand, there’s the correct German pronunciation, which you can hear explained in this short video. However, the German “oe” can be tricky for English speakers. Therefore, though “Gur-Tuh” is generally accepted, don’t put too much emphasis on the “r” sound. One trick is to approach the “oe” like you would the “ea” in “early.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (“RIL-KUH”)

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IMAGE VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Though I swear I’ve heard Rilke pronounced as “RIL-KEE” in movies, my English professor taught me to pronounce it as “RIL-KUH,” which is the correct pronunciation. As for his first name, it is less “RAY-ner” Maria Rilke and more “RYE-ner.” To hear an audio example of this per the German pronunciation, click here.

Chuck Palahniuk (“Paula-Nick”)

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IMAGE VIA CHUCK PALANIUK

Rounding out this list is Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. This one honestly caught me off guard because I had an English teacher who always pronounced it “Pa-LAW-nee-uk.” According to the author’s website, his surname, which is Ukrainian in origin, has a variety of spellings and pronunciations. However, in his case, it reads as a combination of his grandparents’ names: “Paula-Nick.”


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