Stumped By A Name? Help Is On Hand

You know that names are important, right? (Or if you don’t, I recommend you take a minute to read my previous blog post.) To many people, though not everyone, having someone say their name correctly is a sign of respect. And when people don’t do that, it can feel disrespectful.

But what if you can’t work out someone’s name, in terms of what to say and how to say it? What if you see a name written down and think a) I’ve no idea whether all, or only some, of these letters are voiced and b) I’ve no idea how to pronounce the ones that are.

Help is on hand

I had just such a situation recently with someone called Thais – a name I had never come across before (though it may be hugely common elsewhere in the world than Yorkshire). So I went online to see if I could find some points of reference to help me out, which is when I came across the website NameShouts.

NameShouts is a search engine where you type in the name you’d like help with, it trawls its database of 360,000 names for the best match and, at the click of a button, you can hear it pronounced.

Better yet, you can put in surnames as well as forenames – though that will limit the search results.

Better, better yet, where the name exists in different languages, NameShouts offers a selection of pronunciations, all recorded by native speakers (it has 21 languages covered). You can even slow down the playback, so you can catch the nuances and inflections, with what they call Snail Mode.

The cherry on the cake

And best yet, the service is free (yes FREE!) if you’re doing fewer than 50 name searches per month – you just have to log in with a Gmail account or similar.

Which is useful because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend the first 25 searches putting in your own as well as your friends’ and family’s names just to hear them pronounced in a variety of ways. (That said, when I heard my surname said in Spanish, it sounded like Kathy Burke doing her Perry character from Harry Enfield and Friends, which was a little bizarre.)

What do you do when you’re not sure how to pronounce a name? And do you have any tips for remembering once you do know? If so, it’d be great if you’d share them with a comment below. Thank you.

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One response to “Stumped By A Name? Help Is On Hand”

  1. Jeff Clarke says:

    Some people have most unfortunate names – Cressida Dick and Ed Balls for example. These are easily altered but never were and must have, through life, generated much humour at their owners expense. Daftest name I heard of was a recent BBC Radio 4 personality called, Sher Height. (My spelling is phonetic as I never saw the name in print.) What she must have gone through at school I can only imagine but it sounds like her parents had a grudge even before the kid was born. I once dealt with a rep. whose name on his business card was Roraid. It turned out to be pronounced, Rory. I’m only glad my surname wasn’t McGillicuddy, Smallpiece or Shufflebottom. Had that been so I’d have changed it to something simple, like Clarke.

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