Theodor Geisel is known around the world by his pen name Dr. Seuss. The author and illustrator of more than 60 children’s books such as The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Horton Hears a Who!, Dr. Seuss’s books have sold over 600 million copies in more than 20 languages. If you are familiar with his work, you probably think. you know how to pronounce his name. Odds are that you have been saying it wrong.
Most people assume “Seuss” rhymes with “juice.” Geisel himself had a different notion. He pronounced it to rhyme with “voice.”
In the archived author biography section of Seussville.com website, we are told, “If you want to pronounce the name the way his family did, say Zoice, not Soose. Seuss is a Bavarian name and was his mother’s maiden name: Henrietta Seuss’s parents emigrated from Bavaria (part of modern-day Germany) in the nineteenth century. Seuss was also his middle name.”
Alexander Laing, one of his collaborators on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, wrote of it:
You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice (or Zoice)
Geisel’s mother, Henrietta Seuss, sounds as if she would be an interesting character for one of his books. Despite standing six feet tall (1.8 meters) and weighing nearly 200 pounds, (91 kg), she was an accomplished high diver. She was the one who encouraged young Theodor to pursue writing and poetry.
Geisel continued to use the German pronunciation of his pen name until grudgingly yielding to the fact that Americans naturally recognized the name as rhyming with “goose.” In light of that, he eventually embraced the pronunciation, equating his calling with that of the legendary writer of children’s stories, Mother Goose. He also added the “Doctor” because his father wanted him to be a physician.
In addition to the Dr. Seuss pen name, Geisel also wrote under the name Theo LeSieg, “LeSieg” is “Geisel” spelled backward. He also published Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!! under the name Rosetta Stone. The pen name in that case was in honor of his second wife, Audrey Stone Geisel.
What is, perhaps, even more extraordinary than the fact that the beloved author’s name is remembered differently than he intended is the fact that he was secretly scared of children. That fact is covered in greater detail here.
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