Quick Question: Do You Know How to Pronounce Anemone?

Bob and I are having a discussion.

At the moment, we have solved it with this:

“I’m a ghostwriter. I go where my clients are.”

“And your current client is here?”

“Anemone? No, she’s in Chicago, which is why I must go there as soon as possible.”

“Who again?” he said.

“Anemone Patterson.” There was no recognition on his face, so I went on. “Anemone. Ah nem oh knee. Very famous woman.”

“Weird name.”

“It’s a very beautiful flower,” I said in her defense. “And also a predatory sea creature. She’s very aptly named.”

He let that one go. “So what are you doing back here?”

I thought it wasn’t necessary to put the pronunciation in there, but he had no idea how to say it. And it does matter that readers know how to pronounce it in their minds.

So do we need that in there?

110 thoughts on “Quick Question: Do You Know How to Pronounce Anemone?

  1. Well, not for me, but I’m keen on both flowers and sea creatures. I know what anemones the flowers look like and I’d be surprised if most people do. I’m probably not the right person to ask.

    But does it matter for the plot if a reader pronounces it wrong?

    1. Bwahahahahaha I was gonna drop a link too! If they ever watched Finding Nemo, they’ll know how to pronounce it! I mean, our brains will want to do “anemonemonemone” but we’ll know 🤣🤣😁

  2. I know how to pronounce it, but given how many problems there were with how to pronounce Hermione, it’s worth mentioning. I like the way you’ve done it.

    1. Emily has the perfect example of why you need it! I read the books before seeing the movies, and I know I’m not the only one who said “her-me-own” in their heads.

      Like others, I knew the correct way to pronunciate it. I’m also one of the people who’d deliberately screw it up. Like “Tar-zhay” for Target. “What’s her name? An enemy?” Or maybe rhyme it with alimony. Leave the guide in.

      1. In the deep south Hermione is pronounced Her-me-own, almost in French. (My mother’s piano teacher, among other people she knew growing up in Alabama, were that kind of Hermione.) Up north, I hear, it is Her-my-owe-knee, after the Latin??? but I have never personally known one.

    2. Good point about Hermione — but that is a pretty unusual name, as in, I have never actually met a Hermione, until Harry Potter, I can’t really recall having seen the name much in books or movies or anything. (To be honest, I still don’t really parse it well, even though I’ve now seen the HP movies…it always sounds so clunky to me.)

      Whereas “anemone”, whether the land flower, or the sea critter, is pretty commonly found and used, and while there may be the the odd person (read: Bob) who doesn’t know how to say it, I would say those really are in the minority.

      FWIW, I don’t think it’s necessary.

      1. Did you see Going South with Jack Nicholson and Mary Steenburgen? Veronica Cartwright played the female member of Moon’s gang, and her name was Hermione.

        There are a lot of quotable lines in that movie, including: “You were the best I ever had… except maybe for that circus feller” — Hermione to Moon when the gang visited him in jail.

        Anyway, that’s why I knew how to pronounce Hermione Granger’s name.

        1. She was amazing in that movie and I don’t think the scenes with Maurice Chevalier could have been easy.

  3. I do know how to pronounce it but I wish Katherine did what you did with all the names in The Goblin Emperor.

  4. I say leave it in. Personally I struggle when I don’t know how to pronounce characters’ names. I keep pronouncing them different ways in my head and it somehow makes me feel like I can’t get to know them properly until I know how to say their name…

    As for Anemone – I only know how to pronounce it thanks to Finding Nemo 🙂

  5. I remember being told (as a kid) not to be mean to other kids who pronounced words wrong (“jalopy” and “malevolent” were two big ones) because it showed they had learned those words from reading them in books, obviously A Very Good Thing. So yes! Dropping the pronunciation subtly into the text is kind and helpful and 7yo me thanks you (although wouldn’t be reading you yet)

    1. For years I said “in eh veet’ uhble” for inevitable. No one in my peer group ever used that word in conversation. I still have to think about it, sometimes. LOL

      1. My Mom used to tell a story on herself that she first saw “equivocal” in print and pronounced it in her head “ache-e-vo`-cal”. Then years later she found out it was pronounced “e-kwiv`-i-cal”. My keyboard doesn’t include grammatical markings so I’ve had to provide words commonly pronounced without difficulty. I think you’ll get my point. Mom always said she pronounced it as a French word instead of English. I just wish other authors provided a guide to pronouncing character’s names, even if in an addendum or appendix (especially where too many consonants are in use!)

  6. Yes, I knew how to pronounce Anemone, too, because I was very interested in Greek and Roman mythology when I was a kid.

    Maybe this group is the wrong one to poll on this particular topic because we are more widely read than the average bear.

  7. I know how to pronounce it. I don’t know how I know, but there it is. That being said, I mispronounced a name in Outlander in my head for years before knowing how to say it correctly and I struggle every time I read it now.

    1. What name, please? I ask because it may be one I need to have help to pronounce correctly, too.

  8. I know how to pronounce it as well, but you may want to include the pronunciation in the story; it’s a name that could be mispronounced so easily (which could lead to frustration for the character but laughter for the reader).

  9. I learned most of my words through reading, always good when people tell you the correct pronunciation the first time said person who called Greenwich, Green-wich for years

      1. And all those Irish names. I always wish novels with those would have some kind of pronunciation guide.

        1. Nora Roberts, in her vampire Irish trilogy has a pronunciation guide, and explanation of each character’s place in the novel, at the end of the book. I really appreciated that. The Goblin Emperor also has that at the end of the book. But there are so many odd names, I finally gave up on looking them up and just pronounced them “my way”. Who’s going to know?

        2. My cheat with Irish names is to try and guess the simplest it could possibly be in English – which usually involves not pronouncing most of the consonants. I’ve tried looking for online guides, but haven’t found a useful cheat sheet. My theory is they’re just extravagant with ink.

  10. As a child, I believed that cayoss and chaos [chowss] were two different word for the same thing. I can actually remember the moment when it clicked that there was no such word as cayoss…

    But anemone is a pretty common uncommon word, so I don’t think the guide is necessary. But if it flows, why not keep it?

    This is one advantage to listening to a lot of audiobooks—usually the reader has sussed out the names. Except when they don’t and it throws me right out of the story.

    In one of the Rivers of London books the otherwise perfect in every way Kobna Holdbrook-Smith pronounced Loudon county in Virginia as Luden instead of loud-n and it took me a minute to recover… I wanted to tweet him and volunteer to help with any American words he had questions about. Ben Aaronovitch often asked location-specific questions via tweet when he’s writing, so I feel there’s a precedent.

    1. Hey!! It’s “kay oss” here in America! Merriam Webster just showed it to me on my phone app.

      1. Not obviously because the word is originally French and in French the word is pronounced “kay”.

    2. I listened to a Courtney Milan audiobook where the narrator kept pronouncing the word “gaol” as “gow-ell.” And the word gaol was used a lot in that book.


      If this book is made into an audiobook, it would be as well to be prepared!

      1. Had to stop listening to a free “Tale of Two Cities” audiobook, because the narrator got the name “Defarge”, as in Madame Defarge, as Defrage, and kept it up for the whole book I assume. Also couldn’t pronounce “Jacques.”

  11. Well, I know how to pronounce it in French and that’s the way it’ll be in my head, just like any other word that has a French pronunciation 😀

    When my kids were little, their friends would sometimes be a bit puzzled when they heard them pronounce English words the French way because of me.

  12. I knew, but I’m a gardener. And live on a very large island. Lots of ocean around.

  13. Like LN, any name that resembles a name used in my native tongue, or which I don’t know how to pronounce, mentally gets pronounced the Dutch way – unless I’m sure about the different English pronounciation, and often even then when I’m not alert to it.
    Anemone would be AH-nuh-moan in my head (both the flower and the sea-creature are called Anemoon in Dutch, pronounced that way). The emphasis on the final -e feels very unnatural on my (mental) tongue; though I’m starting to realise it is apparently fairly common in such names in English.

    1. I think the stress is on the second syllable – a-NE-mo-nee. The last syllable is sounded because it’s from Greek.

  14. I knew the pronunciation, but I definitely vote to keep it in. It does matter, I think, how the name sounds in a reader’s mind. It’s almost 40 years since I read Blaylock’s fantasies ELFIN SHOP and THE DISAPPEARING DWARF. One of the character names is Thee-Off-A-Lee Escargot. At that time I knew “escargot,” but not “theophile,” and I read/heard the first name as thee-off-a-lee. I didn’t learn the true pronunciation until a couple years later, when I was on at least my third reread, and it was VERY disorienting. For a while, that name would pull me out of the story whenever it appeared, although I eventually got over it. I say keep the guide; it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to include in the conversation and I don’t think it slows things down. But honestly, don’t you think Thee-Off-A-Lee Escargot is a much better-sounding name than Thee-O-File Escargot?

    1. CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST DID THAT. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the character name is Theophile Escargot. “Thee-Off-A-Lee” is how I heard it in my head. ARrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

  15. This was a discussion on a FB page yesterday. I readily confessed to hors d’oeuvres- I also thought there were two different spellings until I was in college! Also awry. Audiobooks have saved me over the years especially with Outlander- I read the books as they came out then learned correct pronunciation from the fabulous Davina Porter.

    1. As did many of my students when I taught The Odyssey.

      Of course, they also pronounced the county in Southern Virginia as “Izzle o Wit”, even though it’s spelled “Isle of Wight”

    2. Well, I once had a friend who called her sister Penelopot, but you know how much sisters like to annoy each other.

  16. Whenever I write about Samhain (the holiday Halloween came from) in my nonfiction books, I add how to pronounce it (sow-win). I was once in an elevator at a convention with the publisher of the publishing company with the same name, which everyone pronounced sam-hane, and said (as politely as possible), “You know, that’s not how it is pronounced.” She just laughed and said, “Yes, we know. But we gave up years ago.”

    1. How in Sam Hill do you get sow-win from SamHain?

      I remember reading years long gone that many American expressions are actually deliberate mispronunciations of curses in order not to be actually cursing or invoking the devil.

      1. One of the great mysteries of the Celtic languages is the mh and bh v/w sounds. In some instances, they are pronounced like a w, others like a v. Deb’s pronunciation is not wrong, but I would pronounce it more more sah-veen with a kind of nasally sliding sound in the middle melting the h and v together because that’s how my Scottish Gaelic professor taught it to us, I’m sure his Irish students got a different pronunciation.

        We won’t go into silent Ts, grammar, or Welsh.

        1. Definitely don’t go into Welsh. As a non-Welsh speaker living in Wales… My son is learning Welsh at school, and I’m already lost (he’s 4 so it’s not like he’s doing anything advanced!)

          1. Welsh pronunciation seems more logical than Irish, though. Although it does vary from north to south, and thus is a bit unpredictable where I am, on the border of Mid Wales. There’s a nearby village I go to a lot called Rhydycroesau, and I’m always stumbling over whether to say ‘Rheed’ or ‘Rhood’ – probably neither is right. When I was growing up, my (English) parents said ‘Ruddy Crusoe’, straight-faced.

  17. I would have to hear or see the exact pronunciation of a word or name in order to say it myself. If not I use my own version when reading. Years ago Hermione Gingold, an actress, was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s then New York based Tonight Show. A strange name to me so I always remembered it. Now I more or less giggle when I hear mispronunciations in local newscasts of towns around Boston but I’m sure it is the same as anywhere else.

    1. Back in the 70s, I heard a small town radio announcer say “In-DEE-rah” for Indira Ghandi’s name.

        1. Same in German. How should it be pronounced?
          Well, i might better ask someone from India?

          1. On pronouncing names, I’m with LN: as a non-English speaker I will probably mangle a lot of names and might not even be aware of it.
            I find it fascinating to get a pronounciation guide though.
            (In German the name would be Ah-ne-mo-ne, again totally different to Dutch, our sister language)

  18. My biggest pronunciation gaffe was in college as a first-year student–autonomous, not auto-NO-mous, as I’d been hearing it in my head when I read it.

    Keep the pronunciation guide, I say. One reason I “can’t” read Russian novels is because I can’t pronounce the characters’ names and keep them straight. Also, too gloomy, long, and cold.

  19. I know the right way to pronounce “anemone”. But since your random sample of two people who work with words professionally produced 50% ignorance on that point, I’d say keep the guide in there.

  20. I know how to pronounce it. I have anemones in my garden and often see sea anemones at low tide here. But I think you should keep the pronunciation in the story. It tells you something about the characters and is helpful.

    My word I pronounced wrong in my head forever is macabre which I though rhymed with macrame.

  21. In fifth grade we used to play Spelling Baseball and I will never forget when Debbie Lieberman was given the word melancholy. After a second or 2 of confusion she asked to hear a definition and then said, “Oh, meh-LAN-Tcho-lee!” and proceeded to spell the word perfectly. I therefore think that in the interest of all of us who learn new vocabulary without ever hearing the words spoken, you should leave the pronunciation in there.

  22. Not sure why you would cut it. I know how to pronounce it but if it helps someone who doesn’t…
    I remember years ago as an early teenager walking around the fair with my aunt. She said she was going to nonchalantly do something and she pronounced it correctly. This caused a click in my brain as I always pronounced it non kal lunt lee.

  23. Sorry to hijack this discussion, but I need the collective wisdom of Argh people. A woman I did some non-profit work for contacted me with a gig helping an 80yo retired lawyer with his memoirs. Partly I’d do a massive re-org/edit/copyedit of what he already has and partly I’d be his writing coach for the rest, because he (apparently) tends to ramble and write in lawyerly fashion. He also just needs help breaking the project down due to short-term memory and concentration problems, though still very sharp and open to feedback.

    She said he’s willing to pay me well, and I should charge my full rate, but it’s been a while since I did something that wasn’t either big tech company or poor non-profit. (For context, I offered her a “non-profit” of $50/hour because I was really interested in the project, and she was very happy with that and my work. Also, I’m in SF Bay Area U.S.; he’s also in the U.S., possibly Northeast?) Thoughts on rates? Any help is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hmmm, I’m comparing it to rates for instructional designers. $50 is for a junior instructional designer, $75/hour is an intermediate and $100 is for a senior. Does that help?

  24. Good question. I tend to think it depends on whether or not the exact pronunciation is relevant to the story.

    For instance, I have a character called Camille in my series. Camille is not an unusual name, but in my books it belongs to a French woman so goes go by the French pronunciation. To me there was no need to explain how her name sounds, though, until another character kept mispronouncing it with the English version. Then I did point out the issue and clarify the French (and in this case correct) pronunciation, but it was more about revealing character re the person who kept mispronouncing the name.

    And by the by, I do know that some readers appreciated the clarification but they were also doing fine without it.

    In your exchange above, though, I’m not sure of your need to explain the name. Or if this fix is quite working for me because it doesn’t seem like the logical answer to Bob’s character asking “Who again?” because sounding out the name (which your character shouldn’t need to do since she’s presumably saying it correctly in the course of their conversation) doesn’t clarify who the woman is. Not trying to add more confusion to your debate, just popping in my objective read of the passage as it stands.

    If the pronunciation is important to you, though, it couldn’t hurt to work it in somehow. Although, aside from the Nora approach mentioned in another comment, with ebooks it’s also possible to put in X-ray features and such that can add those tidbits of info for readers who may want it without interrupting the reading flow for those who don’t want it. So that may be an alternative for you as well:)

    1. I had the same thought about sounding it out when already saying it correctly. Maybe a Finding Nemo reference could serve as pronunciation shorthand?

    2. I looked up the French pronunciation of Camille. I knew it (from my bad French-Canadian memory and two years of high school French) but I wanted to check.

      I’m more interested in the X-ray approach for ebooks. The only way I know is in html, using the title attribute so when you pass the mouse over the word, the contents of title pop up. Can you point me to another way?

      1. My experience with the X-ray and other e-features in ebooks is from the author side, not so much as a reader. And mainly for Kindle versions.

        My understanding is that it works when authors have turned it on when they published their ebooks. But doing so is optional (at least the last time I looked).

        There are actually a bunch of features authors can activate in their ebooks that can add to the reader experience. While some are Kindle aspects, some are ones authors can edit to add more specific info re anything from locations to characters and such because authors can choose what descriptions to include. (Although this can be tricky because sometimes info can be autogenerated and pull from the interweb if the feature was turned on but the author didn’t specifically edit the content in keeping with their book, so the resulting info can be less reliable re accuracy).

        So as a reader, you may find these features working in some books but not in others (and sometimes the words/passages that have the info look kinda like hyperlinks). And I believe you as a reader have to also have the feature on and be connected to wifi while reading to access the info.

        Hope that helps:)

        1. It definitely helps. I may have to download a Kindle book builder instead of using mobipocket creator in order to use the features.

    3. Okay, I kind of thought Bob’s character had perhaps already seen the name written somewhere, so went totally blank when the Jenny character referred to it.

  25. You could change her name and avoid the problem, eliminating words in advance.

    1. No.
      Names have power and that one stays.
      We have one character we’ve changed the name on four times, and her personality shifts with each change. Fortunately she’s a minor character.
      We have another one we had to change the name on and I still can’t get used to it. It just feels wrong. But it’s not my character and it’s minor, so I’m going along with it.

  26. I know I used to pronounce anemone wrong. I like what you did to explain it. Sounds fun and in character. Jenny I’m supposed to write a guest post about books I recommend with seasoned heroines. How old is the heroine in faking it.? I feel like she’s over 30 but I could be mistaken. I’m suffering mind blankness. Which books of yours have seasoned heroines?

    1. I think she’s in her thirties. She and her sister are close in age and her sister is the mother of a teenager. I think Nadine is 16, so the sister must be around 34. I think Tilda was a year or two younger.

      Pretty sure most of my heroines are past 30. Manhunting for sure. Anyone But You’s heroine was over forty. Shar in Dogs and Goddesses was over 40 I think. Nell in Fast Women had a college age son so she was late thirties, early forties. Andie in Maybe This Time was late thirties.

      My go-to age for heroines is 33.

      1. A friend spent some time figuring out Agnes and Shane. Maria was 19 so Agnes and Maria 38ish and Shane 33-34?

        I can pronounce anemone but I like nature documentaries. My family corrects me on jaguar but I can’t hear the difference, and I don’t care that much. I would have liked to know how to pronounce Hermoine.

          1. I don’t know if you will see this Gary, but I looked at the link. I pronounce it Jag wire. Although I really can’t tell the difference. My way was mentioned in the comments. I can’t appreciate the difference. Thank you so much for the link.

  27. I assume the characters are having a conversation face to face, so no need to put the pronunciation. She is telling several times “Anemone”. He is clearly hearing how the name sounds/is pronounced. It is simply a weird name to him.

    If left, the pronunciation may appear earlier (?!)

    “Who again?” he said.

    “ Ah nem oh knee Patterson.” There was no recognition on his face, so I went on. “Anemone. Very famous woman”

    1. To be fair, it’s one thing to expect to hear the word “anemone” if you’re talking about sea creatures, and quite another to hear that’s a name for a human you weren’t expecting to hear.

      I’d leave the guide in, for the Hermione reasons mentioned above, and also it makes sense circumstantially.

      1. I also agree. Something like:

        “And your current client is here?”

        “Anemone? No, she’s in Chicago, which is why I must go there as soon as possible.”

        “’An enemy’?” he said.

        “Ah nem oh knee. Anemone Patterson.” Very famous woman.”

        “Weird name.”

        And then about the flower and the sea critter.

  28. Not at all important to the topic but another example: When I was learning to read from my brothers’ comic books (circa 1956-7) I saw The Flash attacked by a giant MOSS-qui-too. When I asked older brother about it, he laughed and laughed.

  29. As parent helper one day in my daughter’s class, the kindergarten teacher read a book aloud that was titled Anemone. She pronounced it AN-eh-mone. The word anemone was repeated on most of the pages; of course, she mispronounced it each time. The teacher told the kids that she read the book to her class every year.

    Please keep the pronunciation of anemone in your book. Someone will appreciate it.

  30. When I was a child , the first time I saw Hors d’Oeuvres on a menu, I mispronounced it – whores – and an older relative made fun of me. I probably only know how to pronounce Jane Eyre because I read it in a class. I like the pronunciation conversation.

    1. I blanked once, when a customer was asking about cookbooks, and called it “horse doovers”. And then promptly died of embarrassment.

      1. Died of embarrassment, you say? You were hors de combat, so to speak?

        (We jokingly called them “horsed ovaries.”)

  31. I can pronounce Anemone, but as someone who once pronounced lingerie as Ling-ger-ee to gales of laughter, you might as well leave the explanation in. It’s funny, fast, and seems to be in character for both of them.

  32. Imagine finding out that aspartame really is ‘ASS per tame’ and not ‘as PAR ta me’. I was shocked – shocked, I tell you – to find there was gamboling in Rixka Zeno. (I don’t know where Rixka Zeno is. I thought they were in Casablanca.)

  33. I knew how to pronounce Hermione before HP but not anemone until today. There are a lot of gardeners here but perhaps that is not representative of the general reading population? I hate having to struggle with how something is pronounced while I’m immersed in a novel. It takes me out of the book. I say give the reader the help.

  34. I certainly appreciated the little bit of help with Welsh names back when I was first reading Susan Cooper’s The Grey King.

  35. I vote keep it. It’s helpful and it’s funny. And we like both of those 🙂

  36. I skipped everyone else’s responses. I did not know how to pronounce it and I appreciate having this little exchange in the story. Please keep it. I’m not a gardener nor did I realize it was a sea creature.

  37. I know how it’s supposed to be pronounced but it always comes out of my mouth wrong. a nen ome. I just can’t get my mouth to say it the right way. So I’m careful not to say it outloud among people who know it. Like my fellow Marine Biology majors way back in the day.

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