Seite Books.

I came across a reference to Seite Books and wanted to know how the name was pronounced, so I googled up this LA Times article from 2014 by Hector Tobar and was immediately hooked:

When Adam Bernales and Denice Diaz started Seite Books in a little storefront in East Los Angeles, a lot of people thought their taste in books was too highbrow. […]

But Bernales and Diaz, both then in their mid-20s, persisted. A few students from nearby Garfield High School and East Los Angeles Community College started wandering in. There was Fernando, a teenager who wanted to read nothing but Russian novels “because they’re the greatest,” and a young woman who loved Amiri Baraka and wanted to buy all the African American poets Seite Books had to offer.

Seite Books is the bookstore East Los Angeles didn’t know it needed: an oasis of literary culture in a book-starved corner of L.A. that’s never had a Dutton’s or a Borders or a Barnes & Noble. […]

For its small but loyal initial customer base, Seite Books filled out its collection of Russian literature, and of poets of color, with Bernales and Diaz going to estate and garage sales hunting for used books. For other customers they tracked down novels by sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin, and classic mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett. They built a sizable collection of Latin American literature too, a category that at Seite Books includes Jorge Luis Borges and Chicano journalist Oscar Zeta Acosta’s seminal novel “The Revolt of the Cockroach People.”

What a great-sounding place! Oh, and my original question was answered: “The name Seite is a product of their erudite aesthetic — it’s a German word for ‘page,’ or ‘side.’ (At first, the books occupied just one side of the storefront.)” So it’s theoretically /zaitə/, though I imagine many of their Spanish-speaking customers say /seite/ (which was my guess before I got to that last bit).


  1. And my instinct as an English-speaker would be /sit/… I think.

  2. I haven’t had dependable instincts as an English-speaker since I started studying linguistics almost half a century ago, alas.

  3. January First-of-May says

    I’d expect something along the lines of /sait/ (i.e. “site”, not sure how to spell it) first and /seite/ second, but I’m not much of an English speaker (my native language is Russian, as is the main language of the country and city I live in, so most of my opportunities to speak in English are in written form over the internet).

  4. I don’t think there is any “natural” English pronunciation. The spelling clearly betrays a foreign origin, because it has both “ei” and a “e” at the end, which does not correspond to any pronunciation pattern in English.

    @January-First-of-May: I saw you had appeared on Academia Stack Exchange the other day!

  5. January First-of-May says

    I saw you had appeared on Academia Stack Exchange the other day!

    A year ago, actually (most of my – tiny – activity there was in early January 2016).
    I did get a lot more active on other Stack Exchange sites in the next few months, until mostly abandoning the whole thing sometime around May (as far as I can recall, it happened because at one point the browser had apparently lost the cookie that made me logged-in every time I visited – which would remind me every time I happened to end up on SE from a Google result – and I didn’t really care enough to log back in).

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