Thursday, March 19, 2009


Just so you know, this is meant as a helpful tip and not as a backhanded airing of grievances. I have noticed that lots of people have a hard time pronouncing my youngest daughter's name. It's perfectly understandable in one sense, because it is unusual on our continent (I have heard it is still fairly common in Great Britain). However, I never really thought of it any other way than how we say it until I heard all the guesses over the past two and half years. While it could be that George and I are pronouncing it wrongly, from the first time we saw the name, we have both always said it the way we say it. So, say it as you please, but if you were confused or uncertain and wish for a guide, I am going to try to break the Edema (pronounced EE-duh-muh) preferred pronunciation down for you.  Caps used to show which syllable is accented, double vowels used to show a long vowel sound. 

As opposed to Edema, which has a long E sound, Elspeth has all short E sounds. I have seen it written out as EL-spehth or ELS-peth, but both of those are 1)slightly different from each other and 2)slightly different from how we say it. The accent is definitely on the first syllable. Whether or not the S is included in that first syllable is debatable, but I would say yes. So you've got the ELS, but then you have the tricky part. First of all, it's a P, not a B. That actually does sort of bug me, because Elsbeth is a name, just not my child's name. But I mean, it's not a big deal. Amabel gets called Annabel regularly. The main problem that people seem to be having, besides the P and B mixup, is that they want to really hear that second E. So they literally say els-PETH or ELS-pEth. But, that second E is hardly heard at all. It could almost be ELS-pth or ELS-puth. It's really more or less how you say the "beth" in Elizabeth. While Beth is a name, and the E is definitely heard, one does not often say ElizabEth, but more Elizabth or Elizabuth. If my training in linguistics were better (as opposed to one entry level course), I could pick a better symbol for that E sound that is almost absent. But I think you get the idea. Again, this is help for no one in particular, just anyone who is uncomfortable with my child's Scottish name, as I have noticed that that name is usually mispronounced. Carry on then.


Olive said...
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Olive said...

I think I'm more confused now. Not that I've ever met you (or most likely will) so certainly won't have a need to say Elspeth's name, I assumed I knew how to say it before this.

Are you saying it has a long E at the beginning and in the middle? Or a short e in both? Or one of each?

I assumed it had (has) a short "e" in both. I assumed it was pronounced elle(as in McPhereson)s-peth (like Beth, but with a solid p sound instead). Are you saying it's pronounced EEls(as in shrieking eels [name that movie :D])-peth (again like Beth but not)?

Also, since I'm asking, how is Amabel's name pronounced? If people are often calling her Annabel (sounds like Hannah?) then I assume her name is pronounced AM-a-bel as is (I AM going to the store with AMabel)?. I had always thought is was pronounced like ama-bel (as in "on" but with an "m" instead), but if that were the case, I would guess people would mistakeningly call her Anabel, so I must've been wrong all along.

And, finally, I feel like an idiot, but I have to ask. In your last name the "a" at the end sounds like a "u"? I assumed that it was pronounced like ed(as in the man's name)-a (short "a", sounds like "uh")-ma (like first part of mother).

I feel like my brain just exploded trying to figure this all out. I'm so sorry for the crazy comment!

Abby said...

oh gosh! yeah, i was trying to think about the long and short vowel problem. And I didn't take care of it.

Edema- my college girls used to say "eat a muffin" it sounds like "eat a mu (short u)"

Elspeth- all short vowels

Amabel- rhymes with Anna Belle. Just say it faster and with an M instead of an N.

I think I'll try to work with the original post to make it clearer. Thanks for letting me know it's not :)

Abby said...

oh, and i am pretty sure, now that i am teaching latin, that we are pronouncing amabel's name wrong. a says o and sometimes uh, according to sing song latin, but evidently, never a. oh well!

Olive said...

LOL! In my head, Amabel was the "uh" sound like I said before. I thought it was (is) SO pretty! And to find out I was reading it wrong all this time! I like both ways of saying it, it's such a pretty name either way, but I'm annoyed at myself I had it wrong in my head this whole time!

Anonymous said...

I have to think about how I pronounce your last name. I was a nurse, so your last name was uh-DEEM-uh. Glad to hear the roots of your names. Joanie

Abby said...

oh yeah, we get uh-DEEM-uh all the time! that, or E-duh-muh (short E). we answer to it all :)

jennifer h said...

I hadn't thought of it until I saw Amabel's name spelled here, but if I didn't know you say aaa-ma-bell, I would have read it with a long a, like in Amy because it only has one m.

That being said, I try to say names the way parents want them to be said.

From the mother of
Evangeline (pronounced Evangeleen, not line or lynn)and Charis (prounounced Karess, not Charisse as in chair) :)

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