How do you pronounce ZaSu?

Actress ZaSu Pitts (1894-1963)
ZaSu Pitts

Actress ZaSu Pitts had a career that spanned nearly five decades, but she may be best remembered these days for her curious first name.

How was it pronounced?

ZaSu is pronounced say-zoo.

This pronunciation may seem illogical given the placement of the consonants, and yet it’s what ZaSu herself said in her cookbook Candy Hits published in 1963 (the year she passed away).

And yet, here she is seemingly mispronouncing her own name — zay-zoo — on the TV program I’ve Got a Secret in 1952:

ZaSu’s parents, Rulandus and Nelly, had welcomed two children — Nellie and Rulandus, Jr. — before ZaSu was born in 1894. When their third child came along, Nelly coined the name “ZaSu” by using letters from the names of her two sisters, Eliza and Susan.

Many sources claim that ZaSu’s birth name was actually “Eliza Susan,” but all the records I’ve seen (going back to the 1900 U.S. Census) call her “Zasu” — or something pretty close. This makes me think that ZaSu wasn’t merely a nickname, but her actual legal name.

When she was a child, her peers (predictably) teased her about her unusual name, calling her things like “Zoo-Zoo,” “Zoo-Loo,” “Zay-Zoo,” “Jazz-Su,” “Hey You,” and “ZuZu Gingersnaps.”

Incidentally, ZaSu’s daughter (b. 1922) was legally named “ZaSu Ann,” but always called Ann.


  • Stumpf, Charles. ZaSu Pitts: The Life and Career. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010.
  • ZaSu Pitts – Wikipedia

P.S. ZaSu’s younger brother, Asa Jennings, was born in 1897 and likely named after young presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan.

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