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How do you pronounce Zooey?

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 21, 2010

I just read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, and in discussing it, I got to wondering about the pronunciation of Zooey. I couldn’t find any record of Salinger discussing the pronunciation, so no one really knows how it’s supposed to sound. This Live Journal post has a few comments from people certain it rhymes with showy. It also has a few comments from people certain it rhymes with dewy. MetaFilter was also non-conclusive. Is it possible the internet doesn’t know?

Actress Zooey Deschanel is named after the book title, but pronounces her name Zoe. However, when asked about Salinger’s pronunciation, Deschanel said “I don’t really care what Salinger says about my name. It’s my name.” So let’s take her with a grain of salt.

For my money, I’m going with Zooey as in Zoo-y. If you want an analytical reason why, I’ll go with doubting the meticulous Salinger would have used the word “Phooey” in the book if the pronunciation was Zoe. If you find certain evidence otherwise, let me know.

Comments for this thread are open for a bit. I swear you guys, I’m going to be moderating, and if there’s any trouble, I’ll turn this comment section right around.

Update:
Via Jeremy Stahl in the comments, a disappointing end to the argument.

Reader comments

kimberlyMay 21, 2010 at 2:57PM

I’ve never heard anyone called Zoo-y, and I’ve known a handful of Zooey’s. I always considered it to be the wrong way to spell Zoe.

IsaacMay 21, 2010 at 2:59PM

I’ve always only known “Zo-E”s, but I cannot for the life of me remember how they spelled their names.

Coco seems to think it’s “Zo-E”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-HOOhrt2Ac

JenniMay 21, 2010 at 3:00PM

I’ve always said it as Zo-ey. (Zo rhyming with So, or Zooey rhyming with Joey). I also said Zoe the same way, but I’ve never been great at pronouncing things the proper way.

karaMay 21, 2010 at 3:01PM

i’m going to guess zoo-y (dewy) since the showy pronunciation is usually a girl’s name.

JebMay 21, 2010 at 3:02PM

I’ve never heard of anyone called “Franny” either, but I assume we can agree on how to pronounce that one. I’m in the “rhymes-with-Dewey” camp. Salinger surely was aware of the name Zöe, and why he would go to Zooey instead of just Zoey seems like he intends it to be “Zoo” Plus “Ee”.

Jeremy StahlMay 21, 2010 at 3:05PM

Slate answered this question definitively in February:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/browbeat/archive/tags/zooey/default.aspx

Tanner ChristensenMay 21, 2010 at 3:06PM

Is it just me, or does reading “Zooey” repeatedly make it seem extremely alien for a name?

Also: Zoe.

StaceMay 21, 2010 at 3:07PM

I’m going with Zoo-ey, and think of it a little bit like Susan and Suzanne. Okay, Suzanne is really just regular Susan with a conservatory and a bit of decking stuck on, but such home improvements make a difference. And if you believe otherwise, go right ahead, it is your right after all. Phooey to you.

ramananMay 21, 2010 at 3:07PM

I’m firmly in the Zooey rhyming with Joey camp as well. Zooey Deschanel is saying her name wrong. Pronoucing it Zoooo-eeeee is another possibility, but that’d be a strange name.

MattMay 21, 2010 at 3:07PM

I think since Zooey was male, I am more inclined toward a rhyme with Dewey.

TimMay 21, 2010 at 3:10PM

Assuming Harold Ober Associates (slate link above) are correct, I am upset.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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