How to Mispronounce “Dr. Seuss.”

Dr. Seuss poses with The Cat in the Hat and other books, c. 1957Offering a great example of information without context, The Week‘s Amanda Green says we should not pronounce “Dr. Seuss” as “Doctor Soose” but as “Doctor Zoice.”  She’s wrong.

The professional pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel is Dr. Seuss, and all the English-speaking world pronounced it “Doctor Soose.”  If you pronounce it “Doctor Zoice,” you’ll sound like a fool.

It is true that the middle name of Theodor Geisel — “Seuss,” which was also his mother’s maiden name — was pronounced “Zoice” by the family, and by Theodor Geisel himself.  So, if you are pronouncing his full given name, saying “Zoice” instead of “Soose” would not be wrong.  You’d have to explain the pronunciation to your listener, but you would be pronouncing it as the family did.

However, if you’re referring to the author of books for children, you pronounce it “Doctor Soose.” For his pseudonym, Dr. Seuss accepted this pronunciation of his middle name.

Since you may have arrived at this page from anywhere (and may not be a regular reader of this blog), I should tell you that I’m the author of Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004) and The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats (2007).  I also wrote the bio. and timeline for Random House’s Seussville website.  The beginning of that bio. includes the pronunciation information (“Zoice”), which I learned from Judith and Neil Morgan’s excellent Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (1995).  If you read one secondary source about Seuss, their book is the one to read.

Related content on this blog:

20 Comments »

  1. rockinlibrarian Said,

    February 6, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

    Wow, and I struggled over how to pronounce “Geisel.” I made a video about the Geisel Awards last week and listened to announcements over and over again to get the pronunciation right, and when the time came I STILL SAID IT WRONG. I had no idea I might have been mispronouncing “Seuss,” also. Glad to know I’m okay anyway!

  2. Philip Nel Said,

    February 6, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    Rockinlibrarian: “Geisel” is “Guy-sill,” with the accent on the first syllable. It rhymes with “Hi, Phil.” :-)

  3. Patricia Said,

    February 6, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    My husband pronounces it as ‘Dr. Zeus’ which drives me insane.

  4. –Frank. Said,

    April 15, 2013 @ 5:55 am

    Philip Nel:

    Your pronounciation of the german word “Geisel” is nearly right, but not quite; it would require a second “s” (“Geissel” — the German translation of “scourge”, while “Geisel” means “hostage”, incidentally).
    “Geisel” is pronounced “Guy-zell”.

    Yes, it IS difficult.

    Contact me if you have more questions concerning the German language, I’m a native speaker.

  5. Celebrate Reading | litcoachlady Said,

    March 4, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

    […] could find penned by Theodore Seuss Geisel.  Some found fun facts about the man (including the REAL pronunciation of his name).  Some had extra DEAR time or Read to […]

  6. Sister Spooky Said,

    March 17, 2015 @ 2:52 am

    @Frank: As a Native German speaker, why would you add another “s” to his given name, Geisel? I believe the proper pronunciation is Guy-zell as you stated (as I do speak some German); but I wouldn’t alter his surname by adding another ‘s’ seeing as the man would have known how to spell his surname properly, as would his family – with one ‘s’. ;-)

    I am interested in hearing from you in regard to the spelling issue. Thanks in advance!

  7. Mr. Geisel Said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 9:07 am

    I live in Ohio. Guy-zell is how I say it (s as a z), as do my children.

  8. M Harrison Said,

    March 2, 2016 @ 12:31 pm

    By the way, this is a quote from Dr. Suess’s Web site.
    “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.” so perhaps the author of this web page is in fact wrong.

  9. Philip Nel Said,

    March 2, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

    M. Harrison: I am the author of both the quotation from the Seussville website, and the blog post above. Neither one contradicts the other. The family pronounced the name “Zoice.” When we refer to the children’s author, we pronounce it “Soose.”

  10. sriecky Said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 10:13 pm

    This entire comment section sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.

    Do we say it “Soose” or “Zeus:”
    Does it rhyme with “Deuce” and “Puce”?
    The family says it “Zoice” like “Voice,”
    So do we say it “Soose” or “Soice?”

  11. Ben Said,

    October 25, 2016 @ 11:39 pm

    I don’t think you get to decide what is the right or wrong way. All you can say is that the family pronounced it Soice, and that the general public pronounces it Seuss. All you can say is that if you say Soice then people don’t know what you mean.

    But you can’t say it’s a “mispronunciation”.

  12. Zoose Said,

    September 9, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

    The whole English-speaking world did not say “Soose”. Anybody I ever knew, including teachers, said “Zoose”. When it comes to English pronunciation, there is no Pronunciation Tzar. There are barely any usable guides. People do not pronounced the name Tolkien as the author did, either; he wrote he pronounced it with a ‘keen’ in it. On the other hand, that probably wasn’t the ancestral pronunciation. So is it Zoice, Soose, or Zoose? Yes.

  13. Alan Said,

    December 26, 2017 @ 3:15 pm

    When I was growing up everyone I knew pronounced it like the English pronunciation of the name of the Greek God, “Zeus” (rhymes with goose, with the first part of the name sounding like zoo.) Now pretty much everyone I know pronounces the first letter as a hard “S”, as in the name “Sue”, and they make fun of me for pronouncing it “wrong.”

  14. (null) Said,

    February 17, 2018 @ 2:30 am

    This argument isn’t very compelling. It would make sense if Seuss had deliberately chosen an altered pronunciation for his pen name. But to the best of my knowledge he didn’t. So he shruggingly accepted the widespread (mis)pronunciation? Fine. That doesn’t mean he embraced it or endorsed it as being “correct”. Lots of people do this. Some actors effectively accept an alternate pronunciation of their name as a kind of stage name (eg Emilio Estevez, Kim Basinger, Charlize Theron).

  15. Mariann Simms Said,

    March 3, 2018 @ 12:17 pm

    I wrote this a few years back the day after Dr. Seuss’ birthday – which I think aptly fits here…

    I just found out that yesterday was Dr. Seuss’ birthday…so here’s a poem for him (not the best but at least I tried):

    Theodor Geisel known as Dr. Seuss…
    Wrote things that he rhymed using only his voice.
    He would put a word here, he would put a word there…
    He’d even invent some right out of thin air.
    He also drew things like a turtle-y weasel…
    And a hat-toppered cat – all by Mr. Geisel.
    Or was it like “wise-al” – which we all mispronounce…
    Rolling off of our lips with a tongue-twisting bounce?
    There’s one thing for certain or so I deduce…
    It was much easier said just to rhyme it with “moose”.

    Yes, everyone mispronounced his name…or mostly everyone…my mother always would say it correctly. :)

  16. Mitur bin Esdertey Said,

    March 16, 2018 @ 5:20 pm

    And you’re wrong. Geisel himself said “Dr. Seuss” is pronounced “Soice” like “choice.” If you say “Soose” you sound like a fool. But thanks for the miscorrection.

  17. Philip Nel Said,

    March 16, 2018 @ 5:37 pm

    Mitur bin Esdertey: Here’s a tip. Consider reading the post above before posting yourself. The key to the pronunciation is in the context. As the post says,

    It is true that the middle name of Theodor Geisel — “Seuss,” which was also his mother’s maiden name — was pronounced “Zoice” by the family, and by Theodor Geisel himself. So, if you are pronouncing his full given name, saying “Zoice” instead of “Soose” would not be wrong.

    As it also says,

    if you’re referring to the author of books for children, you pronounce it “Doctor Soose.” For his pseudonym, Dr. Seuss accepted this pronunciation of his middle name.

  18. Newark Said,

    June 7, 2018 @ 11:37 am

    I have to ask, how do we know that Dr. Seuss accepted the “Soose” pronunciation of his middle name? Is there any proof/writing/interview/documentation that confirms his acceptance of this pronunciation?

  19. Philip Nel Said,

    June 7, 2018 @ 12:18 pm

    As the post above indicates, he accepted “Seuss” as “Soose” for his pseudonym (“Dr. Seuss”). He got his start in advertising. “Soose” was his brand name. Privately, he did of course know that the family pronunciation was not “Soose” — and so his middle name was correctly pronounced “Zoice.”

    He was interviewed quite a lot, and almost never mentions the “correct” pronunciation — off the top of my head, I cannot think of one time when he mentions it (although there surely must be at least a couple). Nor does he ever correct an interviewer (you never hear him say “It’s pronounced “Soose”).

  20. Newark Said,

    June 7, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

    Great, thank you.
    He could just be too polite to correct an interviewer, but even still I suppose by not correcting someone he in turn is “accepting” the pronunciation.

Leave a Comment