I can’t really tell you how to pronounce my name, because I don’t actually know. I don’t have a prescriptivist rule that would tell you the correct pronunciation. My name is a quite unique mix of botched Swahili, a German military title, and a British last name. I haven’t seen the book that would tell you how to pronounce something like that correctly. But I am a linguist, so what I can give you instead, is a descriptive account of how I have observed people pronounce my name in the past. And because I’m judgy, I can tell you precisely what I think about you depending on how you pronounce my name. I’ll break it up into first name and last name, since the two are not significantly correlated.
What I think about you depending on how you pronounce my first name
- [ki.ˈlu] I like you. That’s how I usually say my name. I like the sound. Kilu is derived from my father’s halfsister’s name Kilulu, which is Swahili for “little pearl”. Lulu means “pearl” (from Arabic) and the prefix ki- puts it into the noun class for small things. My parents decided to keep the name in the family, but shortened it to two syllables. The stress in Kilulu is on the penultimate syllable, as is always the case in Swahili. So [ki.ˈlu] keeps the stress on the second syllable of the original name; but it violates the rule of Swahili stress assignment.
- [ˈki.lu] You’re ok. Maybe your Swahili is better than mine, maybe you prefer dactylic over iambic rhythm. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, really.
- [ˈki.lo] You’re mildly illiterate.
- [ˈkai.lə] You have a vivid imagination.
What I think about you depending on how you pronounce my last name
CN: Colonial violence
- [vɔn pɹıns] Your native language is not German. You have only the vaguest idea what those vans and vons from German and Dutch really stand for. You recognize the Prince as probably English and decide to play it safe. Just kidding. This is how I say my last name when speaking English, so you’re fine.
- [fɔn pɹıns] Congratulations, you’re me when I speak German! The von is a German military title awarded to my great-grandfather Tom Prince for driving Wahehe Chief Mkwawa to suicide. Tom Prince was of British-German descent, so the last name Prince is in fact British. So, for what it’s worth, this option acknowledges the etymological origins of both parts of my last name. (Since I get asked about this: I grew up in rural Franconia, in Forsthub, which is close to Grub am Forst, which is close to Coburg. My native languages are Franconian and Standard German. And no, I’m not proud of my family’s history.)
- [fɔn pʁınts] You’re German and unashamed of it, good for you. The only catch is, you’re likely to misspell my name later as Prinz, so you might want to take a page from the champions who pronounce the Prince as in English (see previous option).
- [fɔn printsə] One of my favourite persons says it like this, so you’re fine.
- [fɔn pʁɛ̃s] You’re weird.
My preferred pronouns
I’m female. It’s not really that hard to comprehend once you put your mind to it. If you have ever addressed me or referred to me as male, I have already decided you’re a mindless pawn of the patriarchy.
So, if, in the language you’re using, there is a set of pronouns for a third person singular, and if there is a gender-based distinction within this set of pronouns, please choose the one that comes closest to encoding “female” when referring to me. Unless you either are me or are addressing me, in which case, please use the corresponding first-person and second-person pronouns. In animacy-based systems, I’ll go with “animate”, or “human”, if that’s an option.
Oh, but I really wanted to talk about my preferred pronouns, right? So, I think the inclusive/exclusive distinction for non-singular first person pronouns is extremely useful and every language should have it. I love the first person plural inclusive pronouns except on those days when I hate everyone.