Oscars: How to Pronounce Saoirse Ronan and Other Nominees' Challenging Names

5:00 AM 2/20/2018

by Zoe Haylock

Learn how to say Luca Guadagnino, Daniel Kaluuya and Sufjan Stevens like a pro before this year's Academy Awards.

Saoirse Ronan, Luca Guadagnino, Daniel Kaluuya
Saoirse Ronan, Luca Guadagnino, Daniel Kaluuya
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Contigo/Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage

This year’s Oscar nominees have worked hard, paid their dues, and are now waiting to hear their name called to collect the golden statue.

But the moment might be marred if their names are mispronounced.

Some of this year's nominees, like Saoirse Ronan and Daniel Kaluuya, have already fallen victim to having their names mispronounced, while others, like Hoyte van Hoytema and Kazuhiro Tsuji are mistakes waiting to happen. 

With the 2018 Academy Award nominees boasting som particularly intricately spelled names, here’s how to avoid flubbing these acclaimed individuals' monikers.

  • Timothee Chalamet

    Pronounced: tim-OH-thee SHALL-ah-may

    Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

    Starting off easy, Chalamet’s French spelling is no more than a red herring. The 22-year-old Call Me By Your Name star, nominated for best actor at this year's Oscars, typically goes by the American pronunciation of “Timothy.” His last name, Chalamet, is pronounced phonetically, up to the “t,” which is silent. 

     

  • Luca Guadagnino

    Pronounced: LUKE-ah gwah-dah-NYEE-noh

    Getty Images

    Italian Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino has a fairly easy first name, but his last name certainly makes up for it. The second "g" in Guadagnino is silent and the first “n” has a “yee” sound at the end of it. Spanish speakers beware of adding a “y” sound to the last “n,” as in “el niño."

  • Guillermo del Toro

    Pronounced: ghee-YAIR-mo del TOR-o

    Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

    Full name Guillermo del Toro Gomez, the Shape of Water director typically goes by Guillermo del Toro. "Guillermo" is actually the Spanish version of the American name "William." "Del Toro" literally means “of the bull.” 

  • Alexandre Desplat

    Pronounced: AL-ig-ZAHN-druh dess-SPLAH

    Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

    Unlike Timothee Chalamet, Parisian Shape of Water composer Alexandre Desplat uses the French pronunciation for his name. It starts off like the English “Alexander,” but ends with a soft “druh” sound rather than “der.” His last name sounds just like it looks, except with a silent “t.”

  • Feras Fayyad

    Pronounced: FEE-rahss feye-YAHD

    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

    Sundance-winning documentarian Feras Fayyad has gone through too much in his life to have to endure having his name mispronounced. The best documentary helmer filmed his movie on the streets of Aleppo, in his home country of Syria.

  • Daniel Kaluuya

    Pronounced: dan-YULL kuh-LOO-yuh

    Jenny Anderson/WireImage

    Although the natural inclination may be to give Get Out star and best actor nominee Daniel Kaluuya’s last name the same pronunciation as the liqueur Kahlua, that's not quite right. It’s actually pronounced with the two "u"s making an “ooh” sound. 

  • Martin McDonagh

    Pronounced: MAHR-tin mick-DAWN-ah

    David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

    Born in London, raised in Ireland, Three Billboards writer-director Martin McDonagh has it fairly easy when it comes to Irish names. It’s no "Saoirse Ronan," but the “gh” at the end of "McDonagh" is enough to throw anyone for a loop. His last name is best said by ignoring the last two letters entirely.

  • Kumail Nanjiani

    Pronounced: KOO-mayl nahn-jee-AH-nee

    Getty Images

    Kumail Nanjiani himself advises fans to “sound it out,” since his entire name is pronounced exactly like it’s spelled. “Microsoft spell check, “ he joked on The Late Show With David Letterman, “thinks it should be camel.” But any pronunciation near “camel” is completely wrong. The Oscar-nominated Big Sick star and co-writer is used to people messing up his name, but that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

  • Benj Pasek

    Pronounced: BENJ PAH-sehk

    Justin Paul and Benj Pasek
    Justin Paul and Benj Pasek
    Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal

    Oscar-, Grammy- and Tony-winning songwriter Benj Pasek has already had to deal with a name flub once this awards season. The songwriter's first name is just the first four letters of "Benjamin." His songwriting partner, Justin Paul, lucked out with an easier-to-pronounce moniker, especially considering the amount of awards these two have begun to rack up. Pasek and Paul are nominated this year for best original song for "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman.

  • Saoirse Ronan

    Pronounced: sir-SHUH roh-NEHN

    Getty Images

    The Lady Bird star and best actress nominee has been explaining the pronunciation of her Irish name on television for the past few months. For those still daunted by the sheer number of vowels in her first name, forget what the word looks like entirely, and think, "Ser-sha, like inertia," as Ryan Gosling once put it. As for “Ronan,” it rhymes with late night host Conan O’Brien’s first name. 

  • Sufjan Stevens

    Pronounced: SOOF-yahn STEE-vuhns

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images

    Detroit-born singer and songwriter Sufjan Stevens got his first name from the leader of a spiritual sect his parents once belonged to. The name comes from the Persian “sufyan,” which makes pronunciation a little easier. Up for best original song for "Mystery of Love" from Call Me by Your Name, this is Stevens’ first Oscar nomination. 

  • Kazuhiro Tsuji

    Pronounced: KAH-zoo-hee-roh SOO-jee

    Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

    Gary Oldman talked Tsuji out of retirement so that he could make the prosthetics for his take on Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. It’s a good thing, too, because now Tsuji's nominated for his third Oscar. Oldman sometimes just calls the artist “Kazu.” 

     

     

  • Hoyte van Hoytema

    Pronounced: HOIT-uh vahn HOIT-uh-mah

    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    This Dutch-Swiss cinematographer's name is nothing to be afraid of – especially considering it repeats a majority of the syllables. Hoytema previously worked on Interstellar and Spectre before earning an Oscar nomination for his work on Dunkirk.