What Did You Say?

I love to tat but I’m not very good at it. Tatting is a sort of lace making done by forming a lot of knots on a thread and pulling them into a ring. It can be done with needles or shuttles.

tatted gecko
Tatted Gecko by S. Wilson

I really suck at the needle tatting so I decided to look on YouTube for pointers. This weekend I was watching a video by TotusMel and heard her mispronounce a word associated with tatting. I winced at first, then was irritated when she continued to do it, and then wondered What the hell is my problem? Her instructions are great. So what if she didn’t know how to say a word?

The word was picot. Those are the little loops that make the toes on the gecko. It is pronounced ‘pee-coh’ instead of ‘pet-cot‘. It took me a bit to get past my irritation and realize her pronouncing the word wrong didn’t matter because I knew what she meant and she was giving me an excellent demonstration.

I suppressed my irritation, forgave her her ignorance, and watched. By the end of her tutorial I had learned so much I was able to correct a mistake I had been making for years. She has given me the means to needle tat. All the others I had watched did the step I missed off screen or glossed over it.

I scrolled down to subscribe to her tutorials and found dozens of comments. I wasn’t surprised to see many of them were correcting her on how to pronounce picot.

Now I felt holier than thou because I was able to put away that trolling temptation to inform her. All these other people couldn’t do that. They have told her again and again, for seven years, how to pronounce the word. I think poorly of them. Why are they in such a rush to judge and correct? Didn’t they even bother to look at all the other posts that have already done that?

But I don’t have any right to feel holier than thou either. My understanding comes from personal experience. That experience isn’t with speech but the written word. People often don’t know the correct pronunciation of words especially when they are in another language, like picot, which is French. Just let them read aloud long enough and it is clear how often it happens. No doubt, TotusMel only ever saw the word picot and never heard it.

That leads to this question: If a writer creates a name should they write it so everyone knows how to pronounce it? To do otherwise means the name will be mispronounced. How much does that matter?

Writing a name with extra letters or odd spellings makes it hard for the reader. They have to stop and figure out pronunciation or make up one. If your names are important to you, it may be wise to use simple ones that everyone will say correctly. If you are more like me, you feel the flavor of the name is more important.

enwwch fi â blas

The line above is Welsh for ‘name me with flavor’ according to Google Translate, and that is what I like to do. Use a name for the sound and the feel rather than the ease of the reader. If that means it is rarely said right, at least it is a conversation starter.

The name Quirni puzzles people. Readers who have the opportunity to ask how I pronounce it usually do so. It is Kwer-ni. I have heard Kwa-eye-nee, Kwa-ni and many others as readers sound it out. I tend to let them have a go at it before saying it aloud and then they squint ‘What?’ They repeat after me and still say ‘What?’ On more than one occasion, people have thought we said “horny” rather than “Quirni” but hey, that will help them remember it.

It is like hearing a name in a foreign language for the first time. Whatever language you speak, many foreign names don’t compute at first. They make the brain wonder how to connect the sounds because they don’t go together.

Pee-cot, pee-coh; Kwer-ni, Kwa-ni; we know what is meant and I think that is good enough. To say it right is great but if I’m going to get my tail in a knot every time I hear a word said wrong I’ll never be able to sit still long enough to finish a piece of tatting or writing.

Given that, I gave myself advice a long time ago. I managed to follow it this weekend. I didn’t tell TotusMel how to say picot or want to do so. I listened and enjoyed her work instead.

When I choose to spell a name odd or make something up that isn’t full of typical English sounds, I will expect some confusion. That’s fine. If I’m writing about a world millions of light years away, it should sound different even if it does have origins in Egypt.





2 thoughts on “What Did You Say?

  1. I wonder if it’s a difference of dialect. Where are you from? I’m from America and I am the next of several crocheter generations that has always pronounced it like “pie cot,” effectively pronouncing the final “t.” There are some differences in pronunciation depending on dialect. British English pronunciation for “zebra” and “leisure” are different from American English. I’m willing to accept I pronounce “picot” the wrong way, though, if American pronunciation requires your preferred way.


    1. I like your point that it could be dialect. In answer to your question, I’m from the northern US. I have no idea where the woman in the video is from although she does sound American too. That does not preclude the issue of dialect though. There are so many even within a state.

      Liked by 1 person

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