Thursday, February 26, 2009

A rose by any other name

OK, enough with the pity party already. (How American was that eh?) I am moving on to other things. Numbers be damned.

I had an e-conversation with another US/UK blogger who "outed" herself to me. (I know quite a lot of y'all's names now - Mwah ha ha!). The conversation turned to names that aren't pronounced the same in the US and the UK. A real problem when you have a baby as an expat, and have to think about names.

When the Queenager was born, I quite liked the name we ended up with (which wasn't a pronunciation problem so I won't mention it. Apart from the fact that life and limb would be in peril, yet again.) Her middle name is Eleanor; at one point I had considered this for her first name until the Ball & Chain pronounced it. He said "Elenorrrrrr", rhyming with "snore" only much, much worse. In England, we tend to pronounce it with an "a" sound at the end. Phoenetically, I suppose it would be Elena, but that usually ends up being pronounced as "Elaina" in the States. Naturally, it was relegated to the middle name.

My second child's name is easy to pronounce, and my only beef there is that while it was very unusual in 1995, it has since rocketed to the top of the "popular boys' names poll for about the last 6 years. Grrr. When I was pregnant with him, I really liked the name Rory (and still do). The B&C nixed it because he said Americans had a hard time with all the R's, and indeed, if you hear them saying that name, it is rather a mouth full. I was put out, but moved on. I had the name Rory James all planned out, but it was not to be and anyway I like my son's name. 6 years later my godson came along, and, swear to god, his mother picked out the name Rory James with no input from me. I obviously have subliminal powers; pity it doesn't work vis a vis kids and homework.

But I digress.

When the 'bonus baby' came along I was out of names. (I'm sure that was a sub-conscious thing, never having expected another one.) He has two family names, one of them being Paul. I have always liked Paul, even tho' it's now quite old-fashioned. My brother, uncle and cousin are all called Paul, though none of them named after each other. Apart from the fact that we would have had Big Paul, Little Paul, cousin Paul, and now another Paul, have you heard the difference between how Americans and Brits promounce it? While I say it the right way, Americans say it as I would pronounce "pol". I know Americans would understand the name if I said it, but they would they be able to resist repeating it with a terrible English accent? In a bid to save myself years of that, not to mention saving the odd American from being slapped around the head, Paul was relegated to the middle name.

Other names that were considered and rejected were Paige - just imagine that in a Geordie accent; anything with an R in the middle - again, just begging to be imitated; anything with a T in the middle, as this is usually pronounced "d" by Americans, who would then feel obliged to imitate me when I actually pronounced it correctly.

The kids are desperate for a dog and I'm holding out, partly because we'd have to go through the whole naming business again.



  1. YES! Know exactly what you mean. We've lived here 10 years and everyone still pronounces my husband's name "Greg" when in fact his name is CRAIG. My name is also pronounce funny - like Paim.
    Rory's a great name and I thought of it too but it means "redhead" and both my kids are blondies.

  2. You could have always picked "Roger" - that would have worked fine as long as you never let him visit the UK ;)

  3. LOL...thats sooo right..the names so they shame my daughter is mortified her middle name is mary!! i thought honouring some great grandmothers was in fact grand...and her first name has ann in it for my and my mum..but that is just by luck as it was the names themseleves we liked first! is it in a name? I'm bringing my maiden name BACK into my name so it will be even longer, as l'm getting my french (dual) nationality legitimised soon. l may as well sound french too!

    nones ever happy witht heir names entirely are they... though I have never had any compaliants about mine!


  4. Our Paige

    With a geordie accent?
    Perhaps not

  5. I think it would go something like:

    "Wor Peeyaj"

    Ugh! Just brings out the complete snob in me.

  6. Very funny! An English friend in Chicago wanted to name her boy Harry but knew he would just be called 'Hairy' for the rest of her life and couldn't bare the shame. My name is constantly mispronounced. Nicola is not a common name over here - and most people call me Ni-COLA (as in the drink). I do tend to try to say it's Nicola as in Ricola, but then tend to get my name sung to me in a strange Austrian yodelling kind of way, which is not much better than Ni-COLA really.

  7. It is quite funny to hear the way different cultures pronounce the same name.
    Even different dialects in UK.
    Best to stick to something easy, I think.
    Also names come in & out of fashion, don't they? Mine is very old fashioned now but was a very common name when I was a child.
    Today, there are some very unusual names going around. Dejourney, (not sure how its spelt but that is how it is pronounced! Niamh pronounced Neeve! I could go on!

  8. Never thought of that problem. It's bad enough trying to find a name in England. I sympathise with the popular name poll thing - I liked daughter's name because it was unusual and in ten years of teaching I'd only taught one girl with that name, now it's one of the most common in the UK!!! And people still spell it incorrectly!!!

  9. My husband is from Canada & his name is Chad, never have we had so many people think his name was Jack than when we were in the States.

    After a year of living in London & then moving back to Canada, we named our daughter "Chancery Lane" We have given up on it being pronounced as the English do b/c we'd just sound pretentious if we kept correcting people... too many plums for most!

  10. Too funny - but so true!
    As I write, you have 34 followers.....but who's counting?

  11. That's annoying when someone nicks your baby name. My sister got Daniel before me. And then if you exclude all names that can't be pronounced without a struggle, all ex-girl/boyfriend names, anything that doesn't translate transatlantically, anything that can't be said if the poor child has a speech impediment, it's a wonder that babies get named at all.

  12. Try adding in another language with letters that don't exist in English and it adds a whole other level to the fun. My DH spent years in the US having his name mispronounced so we managed to find a Turkish name and an Irish name for both kids that are easily pronounced in both languages. All nice names but not my first choices.
    Niamh would have been my daughter's name but that's impossible to pronounce in Turkish.

  13. I don't get the initial thing either. Some friends of ours recently got a dog, and they've called it TJ. She said to me "the kids wanted to call it RJ, but I drew the line at that".

    Can you enlighten me? Why is RJ worse than TJ?

  14. OH I hear you so loudly & clearly! Being pregnant & arriving in the states we could not decide whether to call our baby Emma or Natalie. Alas we chose the later & she is now known as NaDalie...for god's sakes! If only we had known!

  15. On my very first visit to Canada I was introduced to a girl whose name seemed to be "Terror" and as I got to know her it seemed to fit. Then, one evening I spied her name in it's written form and enlightenment struck "OH your name's Tara!" as in (well, how I would say mascara)!

  16. I remember when Dallas used to be on telly and I could never figure out who Peeder was (it was Peter) and in Thirtysomething there was a Geary (Gary). God, I'm showing my age now....

  17. I have a Piper & a Paisley...both good Scottish names. With my kiwi accent, Piper sounds like Pie-Pa, but up here in MN she gets called Payper...which drives me mad.

    I make her watch as much Charlie & Lola as possible so that she doesn't sound like a's working at least for now.

    I had a lot of names vetoed because they were too British, and wouldn't work Gemma, Jemima, Harry(the hairy comment) etc.


The more the merrier....

Blog Archive