How to spell a name

I have a strong distaste for the deliberate misspelling of names in the name of uniqueness or expression. They just look ugly and cause problems later in life.

I certainly don’t think of myself as old-fashioned, but when I see names spelled incorrectly, I’m sure I come off that way.

This became especially noticeable to me when I moved to America. Evidently, there is a cultural trend here of giving your child a unique name for the sake of them having a name that no one else does but also it seems as something of a status symbol, that you were free or daring enough to spell it differently.

To me, alternative spellings not only look weird and ugly, but they just cause confusion in life.

And what is your name, ma’am?

Michaela. With an A, not an I, a K, not a CH, and a Y not an E.

It’s also just a progression of the bastardisation of language that people feel that they should just spell things how they sound or how they want in the name of expression. It’s the kind of attitude that is seeing through spelled as thru all too regularly and even in professional contexts.

Call me what you will, but to me, Rebekkah will always be Rebecca, Jacklynn will always be Jacqueline and Mikeal will always be Michael.

Further reading: Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life?

Author: Dave

Dave is many things. Most importantly, he’s a husband and a father to Ellie and Jack. Almost as important, he’s British (though he lives in Florida). Following on from there, he’s a WordPress developer and civil engineer, has an unhealthy love of hummus, is vegan, likes cider, wants to travel to Iceland and Japan, loves solving puzzles and is a realist.

4 thoughts on “How to spell a name”

  1. I’m afraid it won’t get any better, either. Add to your list of pet peeves about names this incessant tendency to give newborns nicknames instead of their –what should I call it? oh, yes– Name. Thus we have children named Billy who should have been named William…because That’s The Name,
    Don’t get me started on girls’ names..Katelyn, Kathleen, Katherine, Katharyn…Do they even know they’re all Catherine?
    Fine. I’ll be quiet. All is lost.

    1. Yes, these are both big annoyances of mine. While going through the process of choosing names for our children, a frequent utterance from my wife was “(Name) is a good name, and then we can call her (nickname)!”. Drove me mental! Thankfully, we settled on two names that don’t really have nickname equivalents and they just get called their actual names.

  2. This is awesome! Gotta love you Brits and your dogmatic respect for the English language. :P

    I say that because nitpicking the idiosyncrasies of American English is like, the most British thing a British dude could do haha… It’d be like if you saw an overweight New Yorker eating McDonalds while driving a Hummer with a custom American-themed paint job. There’s something almost soothing in seeing someone proudly act out a stereotype – as though the world is letting you know everything is as it should be.

    At first glance, I totally understand where you’re coming from. But at all the glances after that, I completely disagree with every word.

    What really got me was your second to last paragraph. I at least understand the name thing; no one is delighted when “Katelyn” explains the “correct” spelling of her name. It’s a pet peeve of mine as well – though I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the irony in the fact that I’m writing this comment under my pseudonym, which I devised by literally sitting down and working out how to spell my real surname as differently as possible without being phonetically different. But I digress.

    The most glaring issue with the sentiment you convey in that paragraph is that it entirely ignores the most fundamental and utilitarian attribute of language, which is its unwavering penchant for change. Must I remind you of the origins of your own language? There wasn’t a single Anglo-Saxon fellow who sat down one day and devised the English language, but rather it evolved from a combination of languages no one speaks any more, INTO a language no one speaks anymore, before evolving into contemporary English… Peruse the original text of Beowulf (http://www.heorot.dk/beowulf-rede-text.html) and tell me you aren’t thankful it was “bastardized” into the language we speak today. I for one have no interest in seeing what an Old English keyboard might look like.

    Your qualm here seems to be against fundamental human nature – namely, our unimpeachable desire for uniqueness and our unquenchable thirst for screwing with stuff just for the hell of it. Were it not for these two qualities, we’d probably still be living in caves grunting at each other. So I’m quite baffled by the contempt you feel toward the most natural of human tendencies, and rather amused that you feel language should cease it’s never ending journey of change just because you fancy the current state of the one with which we’ve been endowed.

    But going back to the name thing, while annoying, it’s not like it’s some contemporary trend popularized by us silly Americans. My middle name, Neil, a name consisting of four measly letters, has assumed the form of at least 15 different spellings based off it’s original form, Niall. Maybe I’m biased given that, well, it is my name; but I’d posit that the vast majority of English speaking people identify “Neil” as the correct (or at least most common) spelling of that name. Yet there was likely a time when it was viewed as the incorrect spelling, or that those who opted for “Neil” rather than “Niall” were thought to have come from uneducated or uncultured parents. I for one am quite happy that certain parents were “free and daring enough” to help Neil evolve into it’s current correct misspelling. :P

    My point is, I don’t think it’s anyone’s right to assert that another person’s name is “wrong”, regardless of how ridiculous or arbitrary we perceive it to be. Because for all we know, Rebekkah might do something spectacular some day and win the hearts and souls of all mankind. And maybe three or four decades later a girl named Rebecca will find herself the subject of ridicule among her peers for the unusual spelling of her name.

    1. James,

      Thanks for your incredibly articulate and considered response! To a certain extent, I agree with you; I know that I am a bit archaic and fail to acknowledge that language evolves. However, I feel like the natural progression of language over time has been as a result of local dialects modifying words to suit their regional accents and spellings. As we’ve moved on to a more connected world with generally standardised language, by way of dictionaries and the like, it seems to me that there’s less cause for these minor modifications in words.

      For example, the 15 varieties of Neil/Niall were historically because people didn’t tend, nor have a need, to write down their name; spellings were assumed based on the regional dialect and when writing became more prominent, you naturally had these variations because the name had become widespread without commonly being written and thus, two or more spellings were common (I myself have an uncle called Niall).

      Today though, it seems that the spelling variations are not for the sake of not knowing how a name should be spelt, but for the sake of “going against the grain” or “being unique”.

      To a certain extent, especially when it comes to language, I’m a “grumpy old man” that finds it hard to accept changes to what I’ve come to accept as hard and fast rules about words. I’ve seen quite a few TED talks about the evolution of language, particularly as it relates to children and the Internet and it irks me quite a lot. What I can agree with is creating new words for things didn’t previously exist. I find it harder to accept new spellings based on preference, laziness or oblivion.

      However, names aren’t words and probably fall into a category all of their own. It is a bit unfair of me to assert that something as personal as one’s own name is “wrong”; that won’t stop the practice from irritating me however. I must concede that I’m probably fighting a losing battle though.

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