Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Pronounce the Name Isabeau... and How People Screw It Up

I have a love/hate relationship with my name.  It's unusual, distinctive, a bit sweet, all while still sounding like a good, classic name.  But very few people look at my name and know what to do with it.  So how do you say it?

Isabeau:  IS - uh - BO  (like bow as in a hair bow, or "bo" in word bone.)

Why do people screw it up?  For a long time, I just took it as a given; the curse of having a weird French name.  Then one day, the clouds parted, the sun shone down, and one word explained it all:

Beautiful:  BYOO- ti -full

Suddenly, the things I'd been hearing people say for years made a lot more sense.  That's why, at school, work, and a million doctor and dentist offices, I've been IS - uh - BYOO, or its cousin, IS - uh - BOO.

The problem here is the English language.  English has so many of these little idiosyncrasies that make life difficult.  Beau, the word used to refer to a boyfriend, is pronounced like my name.  But beautiful, a word far more common, is pronounced so that "beau"  rhymes with "pew".

Ultimately, I suppose I'll just have to keep correcting people.  I've got a lot of practice at it, and I never really held it against anyone, anyway.  At least now, though, I understand better where the rest of the world is coming from.


  1. I completely understand. My daughter’s 1st birthday will be in a few weeks. We named her Isabeau as well. Pronounciation: ee s ah b ow (like bow as in hair bow). I am finding that people who read as a hobby are more likely to pronounce her name properly or will at least ask for the proper pronunciation. Those we have met who do not read as a hobby assume her name is pronounced ee s ah booh (rhyming with whiney the pooh). My husband and I are constantly correcting people. It is the good and bad of having a unique name.

  2. Beau, you have my sympathy. You should know that before you were born, your father and I both tried very hard to talk your mother out of an unpronounceable and (to your Dad) unspellable name. But no, your mom had to go see a movie called Ladyhawke while pregnant with you and that was it. It's also a French version of Elizabeth, which is your Grandma Dora's baptismal name and your Great Grandmother Lanz's first name. You're just lucky that Ethel wasn't a family name!