July IWSG—A rather arcane worry


It’s time again for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles. It’s also my 12th anniversary with my belovèd All Things Must Pass, my next-favorite album.

I’m stripping all my Russian novels of their accent marks and will also be republishing You Cannot Kill a Swan without accents. It’ll be the book’s third edition; the second edition replaced the inaccurate title Tsarevich with the proper title, Tsesarevich.

After 19 years, it just starting feeling pretentious, unnecessary, and awkward, not to mention slowing down my typing speed. I also began to dislike my inconsistencies, since I didn’t use accents when I wasn’t 100% where the stress falls (e.g., Dinara, Arkadiya, Rostislav, Leontiy), nor for Ya, Yu, Ye, or Y (e.g., Tatyana, Yuriy, Yeltsina, Chernomyrdina). I think it started as a way to overcompensate for how badly I transliterated when I was just learning the Russian alphabet at 13, and then over the years, I just justified it as my personal style and a courtesy to folks who wouldn’t know how to pronounce those names and words.

I got used to seeing and writing certain names without vowels, like Konev(a), Malenkov(a), Lebedev(a), and Vsevolod, and it was kind of odd to begin writing them with accents. I’m more used to them without than with. Russian isn’t like Hungarian, French, or Spanish, where it’s normal to encounter accent marks on names (e.g., Ramón, Kálmán, Irène). Accents aren’t normally rendered outside of dictionaries and language textbooks.

Some folks might find it pretentious how I use a lot of British spellings when I live in the U.S. I’m fine with code-switching when I’m writing for an American audience, like writing pajamas instead of pyjamas, or color instead of colour. My brain can’t switch off spellings I’ve used for years, like learnt, aeroplane, spoilt, travelled, and cancelled, but at least that’s not as weird as rendering a name like Viktóriya, Maríya, Fédya, Pátya, and Dúsya.

Did you find it pretentious or helpful to encounter accent marks in my posts where I shared excerpts of my Russian novels? I’m really sorry if that nitpicky habit annoyed anyone!


11 thoughts on “July IWSG—A rather arcane worry

  1. I think it’s really up to you…the author. Personally, accent marks confuse me. But like Debbie said, I read foreign names how I think they sound and it’s probably way off. lol


  2. i think only those with Russian origins will notice the most. accents can be helpful, but when i read, i pronounce the name in my head as best i can and keep going. i may be wrong, but no one else knows, not even me! you do what’s best for you, and use your english-isms as you please! it’s part of who you are!


  3. I don’t take accent marks and British spelling too much into consideration when I’m reading. It might take getting used to, but after a few pages I gloss over those details since I’m immersed in the story.


  4. I would probably ignore the accent marks, if I don’t know how it would be said in the origin language. As for the British spellings, I use a fair amount of them in my writing–I blame it on reading a lot of English-written and English-set books and those spellings have somehow slipped into feeling “right.”


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