The Coast News Group
Small Talk

Consider names carefully

Names. Shakespeare pondered them. Spoiled heiresses make the most of them. But surnames aren’t the problem. The real challenges are the given names — first names, rather than last.

I suppose they are our personal mark in a crowded world, but I can’t shake the feeling that the search for individuality through one’s first name has spun wildly out of control.

Every time I see a new class roster or edit a story on a high school sports team, I get more and more puzzled.

The minute that test stick turns blue, potential parents seem to lose all sense of logic.

I strongly suggest you take an extra moment to consider the following things before you name your offspring.

Firstly, if a rude nickname can be made from a name, some child will shout it loudly across the playground.

Remember that teachers, future bosses and co-workers will have to be able to pronounce that name without any help from a phonetic guide.

Consider whether your child will want to go through life bearing some pretentious version of a perfectly pleasant, common moniker.

Remember people really do need to know if your child is a girl or a boy without major research being done. Remember that while you are a teenager, and sometimes well beyond, what you want most in the world is to blend in, not stand out, and certainly not because your name is “spelled weird.”

If you still choose to go forward with something different, please coach you child from an early age to be gracious when it is misspelled or mispronounced. I know youngsters who get downright abusive if you garble their strange names. I tend to remind them that having a defensive attitude will not make anyone try harder to spell or say a name correctly.

If you name your child Courtney, it is going to sound just like the other 12 Kort-nees in her homeroom class. It won’t matter if you spell it Koortney, Quartknee, or, as I most recently saw it, Courtnae. And absolutely no one is ever going to spell it right. Ever. The same goes for Mikaela, Michaela, Mikhaila, Mekeyla, Makayla or Mekaila. And then there’s Alyc.

I’d like to blame it on population growth or possibly too much morphine during labor, but it seems there were renegades more than 60 years ago, going for that one-of-a-kind name. I had a high school, Gere, who was frequently pronounced “gurrr,” but was actually Jerry.

And there was my husband’s family. The woman didn’t even drink, but my mother-in-law — an otherwise lovely lady — took great pride in the fact that each of her four children had names that were “unlike all others.” She meant well, but my husband, Lon (short for Lonel which he loathes), is frequently called Ron, Don and Lom. His twin was Landa and was assigned to a girl’s gym class almost every year. (He didn’t actually mind that so much.)

If you consider nothing else, consider the odds that your child’s name will be misspelled in the newspaper.

There’s that front-page photo showing your pride-and-joy making that winning shot, and that clever name you constructed is spelled the old-fashioned way. If you have any plans of future fame for your kids, just name them Bob or Ann. Or is it Bawb, Bobb or Rob, Anne or Ayn?

Oh, never mind.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer longing for a few common spellings. Contact her at [email protected]