ARTS / Cries & whispers

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The Independent Culture
THE NOMINEES for this year's Booker Prize were announced on Monday, and it took a brave broadcaster to say their names loud and clear. So that the rest of us who might want to discuss the Booker do not have to spend the next six weeks mumbling about 'the author of Reef' and 'that woman who had to publish her own book', here is a special Booker edition of Hughes's guide to pronunciation of tricky names in the arts.

Starting at the deep end, Romesh Gunesekera, he of Reef, should be pronounced ROME-esh GUHN-ess-ECK-ur-rah. While there's a broad, if approximate, consensus about Gunesekera, most people I've come across, including his publicists and the person who answers his telephone, have been making the Rom in Romesh rhyme with Tom. It doesn't: it rhymes with tome.

Abdulrazak Gurnah (Paradise) looks more daunting than it is. 'People sound unsure when they ring up about him,' said a spokesman at his publisher, Hamish Hamilton. 'But his name hasn't been badly mispronounced yet.' It's AB-duhl-RAH-zack GUR-na (not Ab-DULL, or Gur-NAH).

Jill Paton Walsh is the one whose Knowledge of Angels was turned down by 14 publishers. Maybe they couldn't cope with her name. It should be Jill PAY-t'n WOLSH (not Worlsh). She is often pronounced Patten as in Chris or John, and/or given a hyphen between the barrels of her surname.

George Mackay Brown (Beside the Ocean of Time) is difficult in two respects. Like Paton Walsh, Mackay Brown has two surnames but no hyphen. And it's MUH-KYE, not MACK-KAY as commonly mistaken.

Thank goodness for James Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late) and Alan Hollinghurst, favourite with The Folding Star. But their pronuncibility may not do them any good. Recent Booker winners have included Kazuo Ishiguro, Ben Okri, Keri Hulme and Salman Rushdie. And despite being in the news more than any author in the world, Rushdie is still pronounced variably -

SAL-muhn or Sal-MARN, RUSH-di (as in crush) or ROOSH-di (as in bush). My money's on a Gunesekera-Gurnah tie.

AND STILL the clerihews pour in. Some with complaints attached: why did I approve of Louis Hellman's Mondrian (28 Aug), with its four lines of three syllables, when clerihews are supposed not to scan? It's a fair point, but outweighed, I felt, by considerations of wit and economy. At the risk of provoking the purists again, this week's pounds 5 winner, from David Stocker of Lancaster, is:

Damien Hirst

The worst?

My choice:


That's nine syllables. Any shorter, and we'll have invented a new form - the clerihaiku.