Klarkash-Ton Versus 'Clark Ashton' :A Minor Issue for Controversy

Rah Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer

In the first of the two memoirs that he penned of Clark Ashton Smith, "As I remember Klarkash-Ton" and "Memories of Klarkash-Ton" (Collected in The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith, Arkham House, 1979), George Haas indicated that "Klarkash-Ton" is pronounced simply as "Clark Ashton," that is, "klark-ASH-t'n." He probably intended well, but perhaps he understated the case. Smith's correspondent H.P Lovecraft was wont to use fanciful or humorous nicknames in his letters, such as Comte d'Erlette for August Derleth, the Satrap Pharnabazus for Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, Two-Gun Bob for Robert E. Howard, and even Éch-Pi-El for himself. The spellings of these whimsies sometimes varied, and so the pronunciations themselves were subject to some variance. His name for CAS, Klarkash-Ton, suggesting an exotic, possibly even alien language - and entity - would seem to be pointless were it to be given vocal utterance in mundane everyday tones. How else to instill the essence of mystery into sound other than by uttering the spoken syllables? Thus KLAR-kash-TON', ton rhyming with anon or salon. Rah Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer both recall that Clark, and his wife Carol as well, used this pronunciation, heavily accenting the last syllable, which seems to be the way most Klarkash-Tonphiles and other aficionados utter the term. The o in TON would thus have the sound of the o in such words as not, odd, tonic, or a string of proper names, such as John, Don, Tron, or even the sometimes Presidential Ron!

Being an unusually gentle and nondogmatic individual, CAS, when pressed, did not insist on just one pronunciation for any of the names that he invented for persons and places in his prose fictions. The French-sounding names that he used or created for his Averoigne (AV-er-won) stories do not generally give many problems in pronunciation, especially for those familiar with the French language, even if only minimally. However, the names in his series of tales on Hyperborea, Poseidonis, Zothique, Xiccarph, etc., do provide readers with an opportunity for a variety of pronunciations. Similarly, he did not suggest that a person using HPL's term for Smith pronounce it as KLAR-kash-TON', even though it was the way Smith himself pronounced it.

Elsewhere, Rah Hoffman has written (in Emperor of Dreams, Donald M. Grant, Publisher, 1978) of some of Smith's speech patterns, such as pronouncing imagery accented on the second syllable. In general, CAS states, his fictional names accented on the penult (last but one) or antepenult (second before last) syllable, as frequently evidenced in the scanning rhythm of his story titles. Atlantean he accented on the penult (not the antepenult!), AT-lan-TE'-An, as in latter demonstrated in Sidney-Fryer's Songs and Sonnets Atlantean (Arkham House, 1971), a title that scans beautifully in the best Smithian manner. Zothique is pronounced Zo-THEEK', as revealed by Smith in verse. Other names include Tsa-THOG-u-a, Po-SEID-o-nis, A-VOOS-l Wu-THOQQ-uan. The word eidolon - not a Smith creation - is of course properly accented on the long o of its middle syllable. A few of Smith's story titles as he pronounced them: "A VOY-age to Sfa-NOM-o-e"; "A Night in Malneant" -Mal-nay-ahnt, with a hint of stress on the last syllable; "The Dis-INT-er-ment of VE-nus" (certainly not "The DIS-in-TER-ment OF Ve-NUS!"). The scanning is usually the proper clue.

And now, if some one will please come forth to pronounce for us the names of the reviewer for Crypt of Cthulhu and for this magazine - Stefan Dziemianowicz - perhaps we can all rest more easily!

From: The Dark Eidolon 2, Necronomicom Press. (pg 25)

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