How do you pronounce “epinephrine”?

Awhile back, I guess going on 2 years ago as I write this in July 2021, I received a voice message from Ben Greenfield’s executive assistant. Ben was putting the finishing touches on his mammoth book Boundless and they were in discussions about having it narrated in audio format. They had flirted with some of the narrators on places like ACX, Findaway, which are known for producing audiobooks, but were having a bit of sticker shock at the quotes they were receiving. The book is somewhere around 400,000 words, or roughly 40 hours of audio. At $450 per hour, that’s a hefty price tag.

So Penny, Ben’s EA suggested they give me a call. I was happy to do it, and we agreed on a price that was good for me, and well below the quotes they had received. And I actually listened to some of the auditions they received and remember being less than impressed with what they had to choose from.

So all was well in Mayberry, as they say.

I got to work on it, and quickly realized this was going to be a challenge. Not only would I need to keep my energy levels up for 40+ hours of audio reading material that is shall we say “not scintillating” at times, meaning academic. But there are scientific and medical terms left and right, oftentimes causing me to stop what I was doing, look up the word on Dr. Google and find a pronunciation of it.

Well, one of the words I encountered in the book was “epinephrine”; and it is used in various forms multiple times throughout the book. It can be epinephrinenorepinephrine, among other variations, but those are the two that come to mind.

I went through the routine. Found the word in a google search, usually leading to a medical dictionary that pronounces whatever words you’re looking for.

This was my system, so this is how I know how it went. The pronunciation I heard – and recorded in the audiobook – was ep-pin-uh-frin. I also remembered hearing one of Ben’s podcast guests use that word and pronouncing it as I just wrote phonetically.

Well, that turned out to be the wrong way to pronounce it.

The reviews on Audible overwhelmingly voiced their disapproval. Not just of my pronunciation of epinephrine, but my pacing was sluggish, boring, dull.

It was not well-received to say the least.

It turns out that Ben Greenfield pronounces the word “epp-in-eff-rin”. Because my pronunciation of it was different from Ben’s, I faced the wrath of his fanatical followers. And I’m a smart dude. I’ve been around the block a time or two. People who complained about my performance were simply disappointed that it wasn’t Ben recording it. Anyone given that job would have received similar feedback.

I’m not saying this to complain. Quite the opposite. I’m not a scientist, nor a doctor, nor am I Ben Greenfield. I’m a musician and a podcast host/producer and can honestly say while not perfect, I did my absolute best with the project.

But there’s a valuable lesson to be learned from this story.

The feedback was so strong that Ben had to ask me to repair the recording, i.e. record that word, splice it into the files and reupload them to Audible, Findaway, etc.

I said, forget about that. I’ll just redo the whole thing. We came to an agreement on terms that worked out very well for both of us, and that was that.

So the answer to the question, “How to you pronounce epinephrine?” is this: Whatever Ben Greenfield’s fans say it is.

If this was a book written by anyone else, no one would have cared. But because Ben has such a rabid, devoted and loyal following, they cared enough to voice their displeasure on the pronunciation of that word, my voice, my pacing, etc.

As I’ve said before, 1-star reviews are just as valuable as 5-star reviews. I think they’re infinitely more valuable as they’re simply more honest. Those 3-star reviews? Useless; the equivalent of a pat on the back and saying, “Thanks for showing up.”

I’ll take the highly critical 1-star review every day of the week and twice on Sunday.