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:


  1. Reply

    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!

    • Jeanne


      I respectfully disagree that “Dr. Seuss accepted this pronunciation of his middle name”. What he did do was give up after correcting people numerous times. Just because he stopped correcting people does not mean he accepted it, despite what the media and this post would like to have us believe. As someone who often has two of my names mispronounced I do not always correct people. This does not mean that I accept the mispronunciation. For him, the battle may have not been worth the energy. Much like when the bullied give up on standing up to the bullies. One can be beaten into submission. The anglicization of words and names is part of a historical practice that disregards people’s identities. Many people have changed their names to fit in or as a matter of survival. Continuing to pronounce Geisel’s name (Soose), with the knowledge of his and his friend’s attempts to correct people numerous times, dishonours his family identity. Since Seuss (Zoice) is not that difficult to pronounce, and attempts, like in this post, to skirt the underlying issues (English dominance, lack of respect for other languages and people’s identities, placing convenience before people), makes this a classic example of how cultural ignorance prevails. Theodor Geisel evidently used the name Seuss to honour his mother. It is not exactly a pseudonym and it is doubtful that he himself would mispronounce a name of a treasured family member. I’m quite happy to “sound like a fool” when I used the family pronunciation for Dr Seuss. For those who think I am making too big of a deal out of this … I rest my case.

  2. Reply

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

  3. –Frank.


    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.

  4. Pingback: Celebrate Reading | litcoachlady

  5. Sister Spooky


    @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!

  6. Mr. Geisel


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

  7. M Harrison


    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.

  8. Reply

    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.”

  9. sriecky


    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?”

  10. Ben


    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”.

  11. Zoose


    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.

    • Dave


      If you want to pronounce it as it was in Germany, it would be “Toll-keen.” I try not to make the common mistake of Anglicizing names. He was proud of his name and kept it in a time when English people of German descent were altering their names in an attempt at conformity. We English speakers have a long history of bastardizing foreign words and names.

    • Dave


      It is pronounced “Toll-keen.” It’s the pronunciation in Germany, and Tolkien was proud of his name. One can call one anything one likes, but there are pretty hard rules on name pronunciations. I don’t even go along with convention regarding names unless the author or artist has stated the contrary.

  12. Alan


    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.”

  13. (null)


    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).

  14. Reply

    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. :)

  15. Mitur bin Esdertey


    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.

  16. Reply

    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.

  17. Newark


    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?

  18. Reply

    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”).

  19. Newark


    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.

  20. Pingback: Cat in the Hat for President! | Oregon ArtsWatch

  21. Roddy Tillmann


    Phillip Nel,

    Interesting article and it covers some things I struggle with myself.

    I am an Australian with German descent and I tend to pronounce a lot of German words with English pronunciation. Sometimes people tend to give me funny looks when I use the original German pronunciation.

    My question is why is it only Germans that have to Anglicise the pronunciation of their words when speaking English? I also speak quite decent French and whenever I pronounce a French word with the proper French pronunciation nobody thinks I “sound like a fool” and I never have to explain myself. With French pronunciation I do not need to explain myself because most people understand that there are two ways to say it, i.e the original French way and the English way.

    Correct German pronunciation, on the other hand, attracts confusion and remarks of “huh?” , “what?”, “why do you say it like that?”, etc.

  22. Adele


    The big thing for me is, there’s a whole musical based on his books called “Seussical.” If we pronounced that “Zoice-ical”, we’d lose the pun!

  23. Laurie Gilkenson


    Here’s the thing- a relative of mine knew Theodore Geisel. He spent years trying to get people to pronounce his pseudonym correctly. There is even a sound bite that was played on NPR where Theodore Geisel states, in his own voice on the recording, how to pronounce his pseudonym. He says, “Soice – rhymes with voice”. Out of his own mouth!!

    • Reply

      Laurie: That’s a fascinating claim. Have you any sense of where one might find the NPR soundbite featuring Theodor Geisel pronouncing his pseudonym as “Soice”? I’ve heard a fair few recordings of Dr. Seuss, but none of him arguing for the “Soice” pronunciation. So, if we can find that soundbite, then I am wrong and I need to correct this post.

      • Dave


        As I am having difficulty finding said sound bite, I hark back to the poem a friend wrote about the name:
        “You’re wrong as the deuce/And you shouldn’t rejoice/
        If you’re calling him Seuss/He pronounces it Soice” (or Zoice).

        Nonetheless, Ted most likely didn’t correct people from saying “Soos” or “Zeus” because it was easier for English speakers to say, since we like to speak phonetically, and he left it alone.

        I, however, pronounce it as he did. I rightly don’t mind having people think me a fool for going against the grain. I’d still love to hear the clip one day if anyone finds it.

      • Dave


        As a friend of Ted’s wrote:
        I’d tend to use the pronunciation that he used. It would be nice, however, to hear that sound bite of him saying his name correctly if it’s at all extant.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.