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Forum > General discussion > Anglicizing Celtic Names: Aye or Nay?
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"Anglicizing Celtic Names: Aye or Nay?", 19th Jun 2017, 9:28 PM #1
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I am in the process of writing the first ten chapters for an incoming fantasy series. Most of the humans will have Celtic names (Irish, Scottish, whatever). That's well and good for making the culture Celtic-like, but there's one problem. The names don't sound the way they're written, and that can confuse people unfamiliar to it.

Take for example the name Siobhán. The Irish form of Jehanne, the masculine form of Sean. Guess how it's pronounced.
Seo-ban? X
Seyo-bawn? X
Seo-b'han? X
Shi-vawn? ✓

It's really pronounced as Shi-Vawn. It's been anglicized as Chevonne, Shavonne, Shevaun, and Shevone. Would it be better to just use anglicized versions of Celtic names in a culture based off of the Celts, or would it be better to use the original versions?
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19th Jun 2017, 9:38 PM #2
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Personally, I prefer the original spellings. I don't know how much this has to do with me already being familiar with names like Siobhán though. The anglicised versions of that name don't really seem celtic to me, and actually look pretty modern. That being said, there's only one example here. It could well be that certain anglicisations would sound more suited than others. Oh, and it also depends on just how closely your fantasy culture is based on the Celts. If it's just a name thing and the rest is pretty unique, then by all means use the altered versions, that could also contribute to the uniqueness whilst keeping the sound. But if it is just sorta Celtic Britain with a ton of accuracy and research and some fantasy elements, then I'd say stick with the original spellings.
19th Jun 2017, 9:38 PM #3

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If your readers mispronounce your characters' names... oh well? Worst case scenario, you get lots of questions asking to clarify, or someone puts out a fan-dub with the wrong pronunciation. Neither of those seem like a big deal to me.

Additionally, if you want the culture to be instantly recognizable as Celtic-inspired, anglicizing the names is the easiest way to ruin that. If I see a character called Sinead O'Connor, I'll have a general idea of where the story takes place. If I see a character called Jeanette Connors, I will not.
19th Jun 2017, 9:50 PM #4
I can explain
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My suggestion is that, if you use Celtic spelling, either have a little dialog bit describing the pronunciation. If you can't excuse that in-story, put an author note at their first appearance and in the cast page telling the correct pronunciation. Don't use spellings that divorced from standard English without some sort of guide. I'm probably the only person who would even try to look up the actual pronunciation on my own accord.

As to whether to use Anglicized spellings or not, I would say that depends on your target audience. Are you aimed at children? Do you expect your readers to put any work into their reading? Would your audience be expected to know Celtic pronunciation - like, say, are they predominantly Celtic? All of those things can affect this decision.
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20th Jun 2017, 12:24 AM #5
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If we can consume stories about aliens with oddball names, I say leave the Gaelic spellings unaltered.

...I wonder how my Irish-Gaelic name, Caley Shannahan Collopy, would have been spelled in the old days?
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20th Jun 2017, 12:44 AM #6
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if you end up anglicizing the names, have the real spelling come up somewhere on the side.
20th Jun 2017, 12:51 AM #7
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Can you teach the pronunciation at some point? One character telling the other how to say it, or the alternative correct there spelling, anglicised to Celtic.
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20th Jun 2017, 1:05 AM #8
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My vote would be authentic spelling in the comic and a list on an extra page of all the pronunciations :)
20th Jun 2017, 1:32 AM #9
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Keep 'em as they are. Celtic names are super interesting and it's a shame they're not more often talked about. Wales always gets overlooked, despite having Celtic roots.

Sometimes I have a good laugh because people pronounce Jacques as "Jack-ques" or "JOOCK" like a jockstrap, despite it being a super common name.
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20th Jun 2017, 5:55 PM #10

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Siobhan is a name I've come across a decent amount (and in Wonder Team, that's the name of Amazona's love interest). Sure, it's my go-to for an example of how Celtic names are not spelled phonetically from the perspective of a Latin-influenced language, but it is a name that pops up a good amount and is never obscure to me. And people should just deal with it, like somewhere along the line people learned to deal with a similar thing with the name Sean.
Forum > General discussion > Anglicizing Celtic Names: Aye or Nay?
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