When I came to the States I quickly realised there were more than a few differences in the way a name could be pronounced when talking to an AT&T customer service rep. Although I'd given him my name at the start of the call, he kept calling me "Tiny". Toni. Tiny? Hmm. Interesting.
When I had my daughter and gave her the middle name of Eleanor, people kept spelling it Elena. Now, on the phone in particular, I have to say "Eleanorrrrr" to make sure there's no mistake. Needless to say, the naming discussions we had on the arrival of our two boys were long and anguished. Paul is a big name in my family, but was relegated to a middle name since Americans say "Pol" or "Pall" to my ears, and Americans wouldn't know what to make with my "Pawl" version. One of my favourite names, Rory, was firmly rejected by my husband, insisting that there were two many "Rs" and Americans would never get their mouths around it. (I now have a godson called Rory, so I'm good.)
The other funny thing about names on either side of the Pond, is well, the names themselves. I have never heard of so many inanimate object-names since moving here - Stone, Wood, Clay, Cole (okay, "coal"), to name but a few. And then there are the girls walking around with boys' names, (says she, with a boy's name—but it's Antonia really). Even in my own extended family we have a female Aiden, which is not as unusual as I first thought either. (And isn't there a female Kennedy family member called Rory?) Amongst my kids' friends, there are girls called Emmerson, McCadden, Callen, Barri, Tobi, Peyton and Sloane, all of whom I have sent boys-only party invitations to in past years!
And don't let me forget the men walking round with girlie names. Many of you will know that John Wayne was really called Marion Mitchell, but even today in the US we have men called Rosie, Lyn, Carroll, Val, Dana and more. A lot of times it's a derivation of a foreign (as in not British) name, and sometimes they just chop half a name off and put a "y" on the end, but it still sounds funny to these British ears.
Some years ago, while my wife and I were visiting Seattle, we were served by a waiter wearing a nametag that read: "Prosperity." Since my wife is British and I can't be bothered, we didn't ask if it was his name or a slogan for the restaurant. The couple sitting at the next table were Americans, however, and asked him straight away about the unusual moniker. He assured them, in good humour but with the practiced air of a man who has done this many times before, that it was, indeed, his name.
But that was Seattle, so you expect that sort of thing.
Another odd name, also from America, comes second, third or fourth-hand to me and may be apocryphal (I read it on the Internet, after all): Peninsula.
Really, what are these parents thinking? If you saddle children with names that require them to stop every time they say it in order to provide additional explanation, you have not made them "special," you have taken a significant portion of their life away from them.
My wife's name is Shonagh. It is pronounced SHO-na and spelled—by friends, family, acquaintances, government agencies and dodgy charities sending us junk mail—in any number of creative, though never correct, ways. Additionally, she is forever having to explain to people that it is SHO-na, not Shawna, not SHO-nog and certainly not SHO-na-ga. I get the feeling that the "specialness" of her name has long ago worn off.
Because there is a Celtic branch of our family, we have friends and relatives with such names as: Mhairi, which, unbelievably, is pronounced VAR-ee, Niamh, pronounced NEEVE and Siobhan pronounced shi-VON (though this last one will be familiar to any Ian Rankin fan).
At least these parents made a conscious choice when naming their children. Perhaps these were old family names they wanted to keep alive and, well, sucks being you but you get tagged with it. (Our own family names – Cecil, Percival, Melvin, Phoebe – have wisely been consigned to history.) That may or may not lend some mitigating circumstances to lumbering a child with such a weight. But for another class of name, there is no excuse.
Theresa Green is an example. Did her parents know what they were doing? Did they giggle when they came up with it? Or did they innocently bestow a family name only to discover, after the fact, what they had done and then kept quiet hoping no one else would notice? Now, I don't know any Theresa Greens, but I did know of a Richard Head.
Personally, I think he should have been able to sue his parents for naming with intent.
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