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I'm looking for a definitive answer on how to pronounce Fritz Leiber's last name. I guess audio of him or a close family member would be ideal, or maybe he addressed it somewhere in writing.

I and people I know have always pronounced it LEE-ber (IPA /'libər/), but tonight I heard a podcast episode use LIE-ber (/'laibər/). Pronouncekiwi gives

/i/ /ai/
Australian English 3 0
UK English 4 0
Indian English 1 0
US English 2 8
Welsh English 1 0

No consensus!

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  • 11
    It's pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove.
    – Lexible
    Nov 5 '21 at 3:49
  • 9
    @Lexible, it's pronounced 'Bouquet'
    – Separatrix
    Nov 5 '21 at 9:31
  • 2
    Thanks for asking this! Likewise a few weeks back on my D&D talk show, I was saying "LEE-ber", and a minute later our guest Mike Curtis (who found a previously unknown manuscript by F.L.) said "LYE-ber", which threw me off. So I was wondering exactly this! Wish I could bounty a question. Nov 5 '21 at 14:46
  • 5
    Setting aside possible variations in how any individual (e.g. Fritz Leiber) may pronounce their own name... "Leiber" is originally a German surname, and thus follows German phonetic rules; the diphthong spelled "ei" is pronounced as /aɪ/ (i.e. like "lie"; an example).
    – V2Blast
    Nov 5 '21 at 23:26
  • 2
    @V2Blast As has been pointed out several times on this page, the origin of a name and the current pronunciation are very different things. Absent other evidence, both standard German pronunciation and standard American English pronunciation would be reasonable guesses for a third-generation German-American.
    – IMSoP
    Nov 6 '21 at 16:19
100

In this videotaped interview the interviewer initially mispronounces Fritz Leiber's name as LEE-ber (rhyming with Bieber) but Leiber corrects him,

"My name is LYE-ber" [rhyming with cyber].

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  • 43
    Fritz Leiber is German. I before e is “—ee—.” E before i is “—eye—.” Nov 5 '21 at 3:17
  • 20
    @CGCampbell Actually the SF writer Fritz Leiber was not a German. He was an American, born in Chicago. He had a German grandfather. It is true that in German ei is always pronounced as in the English word height. So the German pronunciation of Leiber rhymes with the English word cyber. It's anybody's guess how an American Leiber would pronounce the name. E.g., Sissy Spacek does not pronounce her surname in the Czech fashion, nor Matt Nagy his in the Hungarian. It so happens that Fritz Leiber used the German pronunciation of his last name.
    – user14111
    Nov 5 '21 at 11:03
  • 4
    @CGCampbell In German language, it is a grammatical rule (and unlike English, German language tends to not view rules are meant to be broken). Nov 5 '21 at 11:26
  • 14
    @CGCampbell Strictly speaking, it’s a phonetic rule, not a grammatical rule. Grammar has nothing to do with pronunciation Nov 5 '21 at 11:30
  • 6
    @Silly but True, Re "German language tends to not view rules are meant to be broken", The point was that they're not from a German-speaking country, so anglicization is a very real possibility.
    – ikegami
    Nov 5 '21 at 15:26
6

Such a surname comes from German language where “ei” is being pronounced like the English “i” (as in “ride”). Therefore the right pronouncing would be LYE-ber (not actually LIE-ber, cause it has soft L)

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  • 4
    Ah, but many people with German names in English-speaking countries have adopted anglicized pronunciations (or at least given up correcting people. Do you have any evidence that Fritz Leiber pronounced his name this way?
    – DavidW
    Nov 6 '21 at 14:46
  • 6
    How it's pronounced in German is common knowledge. The question is about how the American writer Fritz Leiber pronounced his name.
    – user14111
    Nov 6 '21 at 19:34
  • 2
    @DavidW And it's not just English-speaking people who do this. For instance the French politician Nicolas Sarkozy does not pronounce his Hungarian surname as it woud be pronounced in Hungary. I'm not sure but I don't believe the German mathematician Dirichlet pronounced his name in exactly the French manner.
    – user14111
    Nov 6 '21 at 20:03
  • @user14111 Oh, absolutely. My Hungarian-first-language relatives refer to their friends (Nagy) as "nah-GEE" because they've been trained over decades that's how they have to pronounce it to be understood. And I've never met anyone in an English-speaking country who goes by, for example, "Veber." (German pronunciation of "w.")
    – DavidW
    Nov 6 '21 at 20:13
  • 3
    Re: "LYE-ber (not actually LIE-ber, cause it has soft L)": I'm not sure what distinction you have in mind here, but lie and lye are pronounced identically in English (at least in the major dialects).
    – ruakh
    Nov 7 '21 at 22:53
-1

It seems, in the US, names with ei coming from German are pronounced /aɪ/ (Lye ber) but names with ei coming from Yiddish are pronounced /i/ (Lee ber). According to user's answer, Fritz Leiber (of German ancestry) used the German-type pronunciation.

When I was young, the composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein had his name frequently pronounced both ways, depending on the background of the person pronouncing it. There was some comic with a routine about Albert Einstein pronouncing the name in the Yiddish way for effect.

1
  • As noted above, how it's pronounced in German is common knowledge. The question is about how the American writer Fritz Leiber pronounced his name
    – Valorum
    Nov 7 '21 at 15:03

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