Igor: Dr. Frankenstein…
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: It’s “Fronkensteen.”
Igor: You’re putting me on.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No, it’s pronounced “Fronkensteen.”
Igor: Do you also say “Froaderick”?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No… ”Frederick.”
Igor: Well, why isn’t it “Froaderick Fronkensteen”?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: It isn’t; it’s “Frederick Fronkensteen.”
Igor: I see.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: You must be Igor.
Igor: No, it’s pronounced “eye-gor.”
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: But they told me it was “ee-gor.”
Igor: Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they?
– From the movie Young Frankenstein
Today, I hope you’ll indulge me while I use this forum to address one of my biggest pet peeves.
I am often accused of being a name snob and, in the court of public opinion, I plead guilty as charged. So much so, in fact, that I feel compelled to take a brief detour today from my primary role as a personal finance blogger to make a final stand on this topic.
You see, sometimes I feel like I’m the only one out there who is annoyed with the growing army of parents that decide to get “creative” and tinker with the classic spellings of traditional names that have been with us for generations.
I’m not talking about the whacked-out Hollywood crowd that prefers to throw all sense of tradition out the window by branding their kids with pathetically stupid names like Moon Unit,Pilot Inspektor, Moxie CrimeFighter, Jermajesty, or Audio Science.
Instead, I’m talking about very dubious spellings of traditional names; Wholesome, traditional, no-nonsense names like Emily and John, or Connie and Zachary.
You really don’t have to look too hard to find examples of what I am talking about.
Major League Baseball offers several players sporting first names with highly creative, if not questionable, spellings such as, Andruw “Andrew” Jones, Jhonny “Johnny” Peralta, and Chone “Shawn” Figgins.
In my neighborhood, a young girl was recently passing out fliers to advertise she was selling lemonade for charity at an eponymous stand named Karun’s.
I have also seen folks named Alexzander, Khani (Connie), Kamryn, Emmaleigh, and Madyson.
I was watching yet another episode of House Hunters the other day (here’s a fun party drinking game: next time HGTV runs a House Hunters marathon, take a shot every time host Suzanne Whang says her name – you’ll be toast in under an hour) and noticed the letters J-A-X-O-N proudly plastered on a kid’s bedroom wall. My first reaction was to ask the Honeybee, “What the heck is that?”
Then I realized it was the name “Jackson.”
I’m sure Jaxon’s mom and dad thought it was clever. But if it was so clever, then why didn’t the producers of Action Jackson, that awful late 80s cop movie starring Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, and Sharon Stone, decide to name their movie Axion Jaxon? I’ll tell you why: because Jaxon is cheesy.
Keep in mind that Action Jackson makes Tango and Cash look like The French Connection. I mean, come on folks. If Jaxon is too cheesy even for Hollywood, what makes any parent think it would be a good idea in the real world?
We all know Thriller wouldn’t have sold 5 trillion copies if it was put out by some guy named Michael Jaxon.
Want a few more examples? This thread on BabyFit.com was based on a request from a frantic parent looking for alternative ways to spell Noah. Helpful suggestions from the web community included such masterstrokes as Noa, Knoa, Knowa, nowa (I assume, in the tradition of e.e.cummings) and, my personal favorite, Knoha.
I think a lot of parents forget that names are powerful indicators of who we are. For this reason alone, don’t you think just a little more care should be taken when considering what name to put on one’s birth certificate?
Just what is it exactly, that drives some parents to saddle their children with pitifully misspelled names that must be carried at least until they reach the age of majority?
I am certain many of these parents feel that the unusual spellings automatically bestow upon their offspring a certain je ne sais quoi that makes their child stand out in the crowd. Unfortunately, this type of pretentious thinking is dubious at best and can easily lead to unforeseen problems such as record keeping troubles and general embarrassment for the child whenever their name is mispronounced in the classroom or in public.
Right or wrong, when encountering any child with a misspelled name, a logical first impression for me and many others I know is that the parents are probably uneducated.
How can you blame anyone for having that impression when confronted with somebody who spells their name “Zacharie” or “Kaetie?”
It is easy to imagine the decreased job opportunities awaiting these unfortunate kids later on in life as prospective employers, unable to get over the awkward spelling of a mangled first name, promptly toss an otherwise acceptable resume into the round file.
With that in mind, why would anyone want to make things even tougher for their own child by giving them a traditional name whose spelling is anything but conventional?
True, the benefit of having a uniquely spelled traditional name clearly comes into play when people create new web-based accounts. It also can’t hurt if you are interested in being easily discovered by people doing a web search. Otherwise, I fail to see the benefits of such a strategy.
Those who continue to hang on to the specious claim that odd spellings make them somehow more unique than the rest of us seem to ignore the fact that ultimately it is our personality, not the way our name is spelled, that truly makes us stand out in the crowd.
After all, when I address somebody I’ll say, for example, “Good afternoon, Noah.” I never ever say, “Good afternoon, Knoa, who spells his name K-N-O-A.”
And, yes, I realize parents aren’t always to blame; sometimes mangled first names are purely self-inflicted. A classic example of this is Audio Science’s mom, actress Shannyn Sossamon, who thought it would be cool to change the spelling of her first name when she was a teenager.
In the grand scheme of things, perhaps all of these poorly spelled names are just examples of a misguided fad that over the years has sadly reached epidemic proportions.
I suspect this desire to experiment with alternative spellings started innocently enough, perhaps fifty years ago or so, when many parents began to substitute the letter “y” with an “i” in names like Kelli, Sherri and Patti.
But with the onset of the twenty-first century, what was once an innocent trend has clearly become a crazed fad that has folks going to humorously inexplicable lengths in order to satisfy their insatiable urge to be “unique.”
A great example of this can be found in this LA Times article where the writer quotes an account manager identified as “Ssisi Sandoval.” Huh?
Upon first coming across this strange name, one word came immediately to mind: typo. For a brief second I figured this person might have been named after Saint Francis of Assisi and the Times dropped the “A.”
But after scratching my head a few seconds longer it finally came to me: Of course! I bet this person pronounces her name as “Sissy!”
I was so proud. I figured it out! Well, at least I was pretty sure I was correct.
Then again, I guess I really wouldn’t be surprised if Ssisi is a man and he told me his name is pronounced as “Bruce.”
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