Audio book narrators, oh, puh-leeeze!


Actually, it’s only a tiny percentage of audio book readings that have something weird going on. I’ve heard zillions of paragraphs nobly read, and even written fan mail to my favorite narrator, George Guidall, whose performances are stellar.

What sounds right, is to emphasize the adjective that describes or qualifies a noun. But some unnecessary gaffes are made by otherwise competent readers who seem unfamiliar with certain expressions, or possibly who have never heard colloquial speech, and they place the emphasis strangely.

I’ve always heard….                      But a narrator says….

crying jag                                               crying jag
cow pie                                                   cow pie
gas jet                                                     gas jet
dollar store                                           dollar store
spool table                                            spool table
term paper                                            term paper
wall safe                                                 wall safe

In a George Pelecanos novel there is mention of a blunt constructed with a White Owl wrapper, but I believe the name of that cigar brand has always been said White Owl.

One audio book has a great many characters with Mexican accents which the narrator does admirably, except for consistently mispronouncing Bexar County, which Texans pronounce Bear, not Bex-ar. Somebody in the production camp was really asleep at the wheel with this one.

Do  I ever mispronounce words? Undoubtedly. But I’m just a regular person. These guys are professionals, they’re supposed to do it right. And if somebody was paying me to read out loud, I’d look it up.

Entire authors’ oeuvres are off-limits to me, because read by, I won’t name name the gal, but it rhymes with D. K. Pitt. She is so busy being cute and perky and whimsical, making people sound like sitcom or cartoon characters, she often misses the sense of what she’s reading. I can’t bear to hear this narrator’s exaggerated Story Lady delivery that even manages to ruin Larry McMurtry books.

What book this was in, who knows? “We’re not talking about a billion dollar molecule, we’re talking about a five billion dollar molecule.” Which makes no sense, and leads one to suspect that the narrator hasn’t heard much English spoken.

The reading that would make sense would be,
“We’re not talking about a billion dollar molecule, we’re talking about a five billion dollar molecule.” That actually means something. It’s not a mere piddling billion-dollar thing, it’s a MULTI-billion dollar thing.

There are novels I’d never devote the time to actually sitting down to read as text, but if I can’t get any of the books on my want list, and since listening allows multitasking, the standards for audio books are lower. One such lightweight book is Wanton’s Web, produced by North Star Audio, which is not a class act. Apparently the protagonist is a black woman, but for some unfathomable reason, it’s read by a white man. A whole lot of the story consists of the main character voicing “her” thoughts to herself. Between what is intended as actual spoken dialog, and the inner monolog, there is much confusion. Another character is named Xandra, and seems like it ought to be pronounced Zandra, but the narrator insists on Egzandra, and it sounds ugly.

The area of speech that really drives me nuts is the profanity. In real life, the competent swearer strews bad words about casually, and does not emphasize the word itself. A practiced cusser will say,

“I don’t give a rat’s ass. Leave the fuckin’ thing alone.”

But audio book readers, and much worse, actors in movies, often come down hard on the bad word –

“I don’t give a rat’s ass. Leave the fuckin‘ thing alone.”

– which sounds dweebish and just plain wrong.


Please treat yourself to “Splendid Audiobooks, and Why

and “The Podcast – Audiobook Connection


About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for
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2 Responses to Audio book narrators, oh, puh-leeeze!

  1. fan says:

    Oh yes! and I have heard some otherwise excellent narrators do the faulty emphasis thing. Thank you for mentioning this irritation.

  2. Pingback: The Podcast – Audiobook Conjunction | Flaming Paggot

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