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For some years I thought that, over in England, any woman with that name was always eye-REE-nee (like the second principle character of the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy), and never eye-REEN.

Now I'm watching this super-popular Sherlock series (my friends made me; it ain't my fault; I don't watch TV) ... you know the one I mean, with what's his name, and I'm beginning to have doubts.

I looked it up. Turns out, both versions are in use in Britain. Check this out: How to pronounce Irene Adler

Is Miss Adler eye-REEN or eye-REE-nee? Do please enlighten me.

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    Until this question, I actually had no idea that any English speaker pronounced it any way other than "eye-REEN". You learn something new every day! As as aside, I see that the original Doyle character of Irene Adler was born in New Jersey, so presumably she would have pronounced her own name "eye-REEN"...but then there is the question of whether Doyle knew or cared about that - he was always careless with details.
    – stangdon
    Dec 23, 2015 at 13:21

3 Answers 3

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Some names have the same spelling and yet are pronounced differently. Some names have the same pronunciation but the spellings may differ. Consider my name. "VARUN". Now this name can be pronounced in so many different ways (it is really annoying when you live in a country with so many dialects and accents). My name can be written as "VAROON" too. That's the thing with proper nouns. There is no hard and fast rule that specifies how you should pronounce proper nouns. Now as for the Irene in Sherlock Holmes, if you want to know the actual pronunciation intended in the book, you'll have to ask Arthur Conan Doyle himself, which is unlikely to happen given the fact that he passed away long ago. So its up to you. An American series on Sherlock will have different pronunciation when compared to a British version. Even two different Sherlock series made in England might have either of the pronunciations for Irene, as you mentioned. I found a question that might help. Do check it out.

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  • That's not entirely accurate. Your name should be pronounced vuh-ROON, and never VAY-run, by English speakers. Simply because the former has meaning, while the latter does not. ... Maybe, just maybe, there's a hint in the original story. It's been a long time since I read it last. It's time for me to refresh my memory.
    – Ricky
    Dec 23, 2015 at 7:09
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In the Jeremmy Brett version of the Scandal of Bohemia,(English), the king is pronouncing her name

"I-ri-na Ahdler". ( from 13:45~ ). So at least Brits in 90's pronounced ( or considered ) so.

Here we need to take into account the king itself is not English ( or British. ).

However, Watson is too, pronouncing her name ( from 2:03 ) "To Sherlock Holmes, a woman is always a nobleman. The beautiful "I-Rei-Na Ahdler"."

But Watson's pronunciation of her name changes, for example, from 14:14~

""I-Ri-Na, Adler, born, New Jersey"".

I don't know which ones, "Ireina" or "I"-"ri"-"na" and "Adler" or "Ahdler" is correct, but at least in the Brits' version of the story "back then", the sound is not at least "Eye Reen".

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  • Sounds more like "I-ri-na Ahgler"? But we must take into account the king himself is not English.
    – user17814
    Mar 17, 2019 at 23:02
  • The scriptwriter (or director) of this episode seems to have forgotten that she is American, and has the characters pronounce her name in a 'European' manner. An English Irene would have pronounced her name "Eye-ree-ne" (like other Greek-derived names such as Chloe, Zoe and Phoebe, where the final 'e' is always pronounced). Apr 28, 2021 at 12:51
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In the radio version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes(1940's) both Sherlock and Watson pronounce her name as Irenee, with the long EE sound.

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