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Roald Dahl fans, we’ve been pronouncing his name wrong all this time

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Kayleigh Dray
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Roald Dahl is one of our absolute favourite authors; from The BFG, to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to Matilda, he brought us a plethora of bold and brilliant literary heroes during his lifetime – and villains, too.

However Dahl is just as famed for his whizzpopping way with words as he is his stories, endlessly creating new languages and names, bringing back outrageous sayings, and encouraging children to get creative with their vocabulary.

So it shouldn’t be all too surprising that his name isn’t pronounced in the way we always thought it was.



That’s right; we’ve all been happily professing our loved for ‘Rolled’ Dahl all of these years, and getting things completely wrong.

Because, as it turns out, it’s actually pronounced like this…

The footage, unearthed by Hello Giggles, is from an episode of Dahl’s 1961 dark sci fi TV show Way Out. And, in it, we see the author responding merrily to the announcer, who introduces him as “Roo-all” for all to hear.

And the reason for the unusual articulation is simple; it’s the traditional Norwegian pronunciation of the name.



That’s right; the correct pronunciation of Roald is actually “Roo-all” – and the ‘d’ at the end remains silent as the grave.

Or, in other words, when you say “Roald Dahl” correctly, it rhymes.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

Dahl, born to Norwegian parents, was named after Roald Amundsen – aka the iconic Norwegian polar explorer. And, while he was born in Wales, the celebrated author was raised in as Scandinavian way as possible by his mother and father.

As such, he was christened at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff in 1916 – and raised in a bi-lingual household, something which he fondly remembers in Boy: Tales of Childhood.

However, after the death of his father, Harald, and the departure of his nanny, Birgit Svenson, the family switched to speaking English at home



He was six years old at the time – yet he never forgot his Norwegian roots. In fact, he often called upon them for inspiration whilst he was writing, which is particularly evident in his book, The Witches, which weaves a tale of child-hating witches.

In the story, we are introduced to a little boy who goes to live with his Norwegian grandmother after his parents are killed in a car crash. However, as specified in their will, the grandma is forced to take the child to live in the UK – meaning that Dahl shares a very similar background to that of the unnamed protagonist.

Throw in all of the ancient Nordic legends (there’s talk of trolls, amongst other fabled creatures), and Dahl’s admiration for Scandinavian storytellers quickly becomes clear.

Roald Dahl, his wife Patricia Neal, and their children

Roald Dahl, his wife Patricia Neal, and their children

If you already knew how to pronounce Roald’s name correctly, then none of this will be news for you. However if you’re shocked that you never really knew your favourite author after all this time, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

And you’ve got to hand it to Dahl; there aren’t many authors who, after all this time, could continue to amaze and astound us as he does!

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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