How to Pronounce Dáin Ironfoot

How do you say my name?

How do you say my name?

How do you say the name of the most overpowered Dwarf hero in our game?  Does it sound like the verb for how you eat at a fine restaurant?  A giant German dog?  Or does it have two syllables and rhyme with what wrestlers do before a match?  A listener recently asked the Tolkien Professor to weigh in on the pronunciation of Dáin and I can’t resist passing along what I learned.  What do you guess is the right answer?

Dain Pronunciation Possibilities

Which of these three is the correct pronunciation for Dáin Ironfoot?

I was surprised to discover that the answer is actually not so clear cut.  For once, I’ll be mercifully brief and spare you all the details, but I suggest those who are interested to listen to the whole Bonus Pronunciation Guide episode from the Tolkien Professor to learn more about how to pronounce Dáin, Glóin, Smaug, Beorn, Roäc, and other names in Middle-earth.

In short, while our favorite philologist may have designed an intentional ambiguity in the pronunciation to allow for regional dialects, the rules outlined in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings do decisively rule out one of the three possibilities. The only certainly wrong answer is the one used by the Dwarves in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit film adaption.  Dáin is not “Dane” as this ignores both Tolkien’s direction on diphthongs and acute accents, both of which apply to Mr. Ironfoot.  Apologies to an HBO stand-up comedian, you do not share a first name with the King Under the Mountain.

Dain-Not-Dane-Cook

Dáin Ironfoot and Dane Cook do not have the same name.

The two possibilities for Dáin then are “Dine” and “Day-in” (with emphasis on the first syllable in the latter).  “Dine” comes from giving precedence to Tolkien’s diphthong rule whereas “Day-in” gives more respect to the acute accent.  So which one is most likely?  A comment from the Professor’s son Michael Tolkien on jokes he and his brothers used to write about the Dwarves’ names (calling two of them “Go-in” and “Blow-in”) suggests that in the case of Glóin and Óin, the accent rule prevailed in his father’s own pronunciations.  If that’s true, then in the case of our King, the best way to say it is probably “Day-in.  Mystery solved!

Now that you know, the next time you are playin’ with Dáin, you can impress (or annoy) your friends with your pronunciation prowess.  But do note that the accent is absent on the notorious Brand son of Bain.  So when you see Brand’s handsome mug making his multi-player comeback, remember that his dad is not a Batman villain (“Bane”) nor does his name have two syllables (“Bay-in”).  He is Brand son of “Bine” and it’s his time to shine!

I’m Brand son of Bain and my headband is fine.

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8 comments

  1. Tonskillitis · · Reply

    Apologies to Professor Tolkien for any undue rolling in his grave which may have been caused due to my monosyllabic pronunciation of his Dwarven monarch! Seriously, FFG need to put out a guide to pronunciation with the core set to cut down on any further profanity. Nice images as usual MOL, thanks for bringing some much needed quietude to the spirit of the great man.

    1. I agree that the game is ripe for a LOTR LCG Companion Guide. Include full page images the most popular artwork, some lore, maps including the scenarios (like Brian’s first Boromir’s Buffet) and a pronunciation guide for the trickier characters. It wouldn’t be that hard and I bet a lot of fans would love it!

  2. I can see why they would use “Dane” in the movies. It is easier to understand/hear than “Day in”.

    1. Agreed. They’ve been quite careful with most pronunciations and while fans that are really into the languages have stirred some controversy, it’s usually been about choices, not mistakes. You’re probably right on!

  3. So Grain is pronounced Grine
    Drain is Drine
    and Brain is Brine

    or is the latter only for when someone has Hydrocephalus 😛

    1. Either that or an obsession with creating your own languages and pronunciations! 😉

  4. I realize this was posted a while ago but I would like to put in the late argument that the “Dane” pronounciation is actually correct.
    In the article you reference the LotR Appendix entry about pronounciation (about dipthongs and the acute accent) but leave out a crucial passage that supports my pronounciation of Dáin:

    “That is, the sounds were approximately those represented by …i… in English ‘machine,’…”

    This is a couple of paragraphs above where he mentions the dipthongs and acute accents and is worth noting. I believe that the acute accent in Dáin, á, is pronounced ā, ‘ay.’ Also, based on the quote I referenced about the base sounds of the vowels, i is pronounced ē, ‘ee,’ as in ‘machine.’
    Therefore, when both of these sounds are combined in Dáin, it is not the dipthong ‘aye’ not the disyllabic ‘ay-i,’ but rather ‘ay-ee.’ Now, I’m absolutely no language scholar and cannot not tell you what type of sound or combination that is (the terms and definitions I’ve used so far come directly from the Appendix entry), but the final sound includes both the sound of the acute accented a with the base, long sound of the i, creating the above sound, which can be blurred to sound like ‘Dane.’

    1. What a fantastic comment to append to the article, thanks! I’m no expert in linguistics either and based most of my article on the Tolkien Professor podcast from Corey Olson. That said, he confesses that his background is in literature and so we are all just putting our collective minds to work on the appendices. Your analysis seems sounds and certainly it is easiest to say “Dane”. The two syllables roll together well, don’t they? Thanks again for reading and the thoughtful reply!

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