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Pronunciation Guide

Alan C. Elms

In the Cordwainer Smith stories, Paul Linebarger drew directly from many languages for the names of characters, planets, etc. In certain instances the names are multi-lingual puns; in others, their origins remain obscure. Linebarger played with the changes in pronunciation of current-day names that might occur over thousands of years of future history: e. g., "Miami, Fla." becomes "Meeya Meefla." His intended pronunciations of many names in the CS universe can only be guessed at; he left few specific suggestions. But here are a few of the more significant names whose preferred pronunciations are known or can be reasonably inferred:

Linebarger: I list this one first, even though it doesn't appear in the Cordwainer Smith stories, because I've often heard it mispronounced and because anyone who talks much about the stories needs to know how to pronounce their author's real name correctly. It's three syllables, not four, and the "g" is hard, not soft. So it's LINE - bar - ger, and the name doesn't have anything to do with barges or with French sounds.

Cordwainer: This is pronounced just as it's spelled: CORD-wain-er. You may have been told (for instance on earlier editions of the Wikipedia website's "Cordwainer Smith" entry) that it's pronounced as if it were spelled "Cordiner." That is indeed how the word was sometimes pronounced and spelled in pre-twentieth-century Scotland. But Paul Linebarger was not Scots and he didn't pronounce it that way. Nobody alive really knows why he chose "Cordwainer" as a pseudonym, but his late brother told me it was partly because the rhythm of "Cordwainer" is the same as the rhythm of "Linebarger."

C'mell: Cordwainer Smith does tell us how to say his great cat-woman's name (in the prologue to the collection Space Lords): "pronounced as though it were k-mel." Generally, his characters whose names start with a C-apostrophe are cat-derived and thus their names are pronounced with a hard C.

Norstrilia: Readers often pronounce the name of this planet with a short "i" in the middle, but you should keep in mind that its settlers were Australians. Australians often jokingly (or sometimes seriously) pronounced the word "Australian" as "Strine," and Paul Linebarger pronounced "Norstrilia" (short for "Old North Australia") as Nor - STRILE - ya.

Sto Odin: If I remember my college Russian correctly, "Odin" (the number one, not the Norse god) is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. So the name of the Instrumentality's Lord Sto Odin is pronounced something like: Shtoh Ah-DEAN. (But my Russian accent is pretty bad.)


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