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July 6th, 2007, 08:25 AM
Okay, in my novel, I've got a word I use as a title in a faction of evil characters. I know how the word's supposed to sound, but I can't spell it any that looks aesthetically pleasing AND suggests how to pronounce it. The word starts with a "z" sound and rhymes with the first syllable of the word "tiger."

So far:

I've tried Zyge and Xyg, but my test readers kept prouncing it as "Ziggie" or "Zig." Aaagh! Any ideas?

July 6th, 2007, 10:40 AM
Don't start it with a z? Generally the rule is to keep things simple, avoiding x-y-z in combination helps :), otherwise readers will pronounce it however makes sense to them. Is it vital to the telling of the story?

July 6th, 2007, 10:42 AM
Maybe "Zhyge"?

July 6th, 2007, 11:07 AM
You're doing fantasy, where you can make up anything you want out of thin air and you choose a name that you can't spell????? Why?

World Builder
July 6th, 2007, 11:15 AM
I assume you want the 'z' as in 'zoo,' the 'y' as in 'sky,' and the 'g' as in 'get.'

how about 'zieg'? Using a 'zh' or 'ge' combination both make me think of the 'zh' sound in 'azure' and 'beige.'


July 6th, 2007, 12:40 PM
You're basically asking how to spell a non English word in English. And the problem is that the English language does not have the sound-sequence /aIg/ as an independent syllable (or at least not a frequent one).

Tiger tends to be heard as Ti/ger. /aIk/, the hard version of that syllable isn't rare: Ike, Pike, strike... But if I'm trying to come up with words that end in /aIg/ I'm drawing a blank. If you do find one, it's likely a loan word. Words that end in "-ige" are usually pronounced differently: oblige... etc.

To avoid the "dj"-sound a few possibilities are open:

-igg (But people will most likely pronounce it /Ig/ not /aIg/ and they'll probably even shorten the /I/) [See: Tigger in Winnie the Pooh]
-igge (Same problem as above, but people will probably prounounce the "e" as well, resulting in /IgI/)
-igh (But the "gh" will - in analogy to "sigh" - probably be silent)
-ighe (Anyone's guess what they'd pronounce this; my intuition is /Ig/)

Using a "y" instead of an "i" won't make much difference, I'm afraid. It might help make the word look more unfamiliar to English eyes, and may add a level of uncertainty, though. (Of course, sometimes it makes a difference: Lion vs. Lyon [animal vs. French city]. There are also deliberate strange spellings about: say, "tyger" for "tiger", but they're pronounced the same.)

The reason you're having trouble with spelling /zaIg/ in a way that makes readers automatically pronounce the name right is that the /aIg/ part has no costum spelling associated with it, and that most of the possible spellings do.

You could offset this with a "spelling"-combination that English doesn't have:

Zaiig; Zaaig, Zaihg, Zaíg, Záig...

But all you can do is hope.

The alternative is to let the reader pronounce the name however they want. The name-spelling gets even more complex, anyway, once you're translated into other languages.

And your English-attuned ears probably missed a subtlety in the sound pattern, anway, when your character told you his name. ;)

July 6th, 2007, 04:53 PM
Psygdt? :D

July 6th, 2007, 08:23 PM

I'd go with this one.

Though many people will pronounce it without the 'geh' at the end.

July 8th, 2007, 07:32 AM
I would suggest 'Xyga'.

James Carmack
July 9th, 2007, 10:26 PM
Move "Zig". For great justice! ^o^

Zero Wing references aside, I think Zyge or Zyghe would be good. If the reader happens to be Italically inclined, the latter will be read as "zaig" and the former as "zaij", but that's only for the Italically inclined.

Of course, it brings us to kater's point. Is it really necessary that the reader pronounces it right? I think you're overthinking it.