Parents: Before You Name Your Baby, Learn How to Spell.

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.” ;-)

If you liked this article, please be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed!

Comments

  1. 1

    Paul Switzer says

    You are NOT alone. Trust me. This has become a scourge on society. I know a woman named Crystyna for Gods sake. One of the worst injustices for these poor kids is that they will never be able to find license plates to hang on the back of their bikes. Oh, and no worries about veering off-topic. I’m a subscriber because your usually a fun read.

        • 10

          jo says

          thats just rude theres nothing retarded about it nor should you be thinking she wont be getting play dates due to name or name spelling.
          Fred could be a “retarded” name and being a person who judges a person ESPECIALLY a child based on their name is just rude, self centered, and in some form a biggit.

  2. 11

    says

    @ Paul: Whew. That is good to know! You’ve just given me a new idea for a niche business though – mini license plates for kids with stupid names! ;-)

    By the way, what do you mean by “usually?”

    @Jenny: You have my sympathy, girlfriend. Although I’ll be honest with you, that is one of those names that I really don’t know what the traditional spelling is. Is it Kalie?

    @Sandy: If you want to torment Adison’s, I mean Addisyn’s, parents, ask them why they didn’t spell her name Addysyn. I’ll bet they’ll wonder why they didn’t think of that in the first place and regret not being able to have a “do over.” Heck, on second thought, they probably will take a mulligan – I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that by this time next year Addisyn will be spelling her name Addysyn. Now that’s downright synful! (sorry)

  3. 13

    carlye says

    ok so i love the nickname jax… but if we just name our son jax, it wont sound good with his middle name (SCOTT) so i thought about changing the spelling to jaxson/jaxon… because we really like the way jackson scott sounds…to me it makes perfect sense to put the x in there, can you explain to me why this is a bad idea? i thinks jacks looks way worse than jax

    • 14

      says

      I’ve already explained in the article why spelling ‘Jackson’ with an ‘x’ doesn’t make sense, but it’s your kid. If my name was pronounced “Jackson” and I had a diploma or other official award to proudly display on my wall, I would much rather see my name spelled “Jackson Scott Jones” than “Jaxon Scott Jones.” Not only does the former version just look more distinguished, it doesn’t look like the issuing body made a typo.

      If my wife wanted to name our son Jackson (which is a very nice name) I’d force a compromise by spelling my son’s full name “Jackson” and spelling his nickname “Jax.”

  4. 16

    carlye says

    i do agree that Jackson sounds more distinguished… but im in love with the name Jax :) its going to be a hard decision what ever we decide because all of our family members love that we wanted to spell his name with an “X”, i know it doesnt really matter to you but my family is full of very proper, college educated people! :) i feel like our reasoning behind spelling his name with an “x” makes sense compared to people who want to spell their daughters name Kayleigh… but its just my opinion… :) oh and his last name is miller! Jackson Scott Miller/ Jaxon Scott Miller! we have a 16 month old named Chloe Paige Miller :) at least we spelled her name normal…

  5. 19

    aliya suraya says

    Hi can you let me know how these two name are being spelt. Or if there are other ways of spelling them.
    ALIYA——SURAYA.
    Looking foward.
    Thanks

    • 20

      says

      Well, I’m not familiar with those names, so I can’t really say. Um, unless “Aliya” is supposed to be pronounced “Alicia” – then I’d have to take issue.

    • 22

      Belinda L says

      I’ve seen both ‘Aleah’ and as made popular by the singer ‘Aaliyah.’ no idea on the second name…closest I know is Sarai (sah-rye-EE or suh-rye).

    • 23

      Taqah says

      Aliya and Suraya are in a different category because they are Arab names and therefore have a different alphabet. Since you have to transliterate the name you have to decide how you are going to do that.
      For example the A in Aliya is a long A in Arabic which is why sometimes its spelled Aa; but English doesn’t really recognize the Arabic style long A so it will be pronounced the same if you spell it Aaliya or Aliya…
      Keeping the Arabic spelling in mind, you can spell Aliya Aaliyah Aliyah Aaliya or even Aleeyah Aaleeya etc. The same goes for Suraya–there are a few spellings that could result from the transliteration–although I have usually seen it spelled Soraya, Arabic doesn’t really have an O so Suraya is probably a closer transliteration.

  6. 26

    Pandee1 says

    I grew up with an 11-letter last name. Every single business interaction requires me to spell my name. Sometimes I also need to spell my 3-letter first name because by the time I’m done with the last name, the sales person’s brain is fried from trying to type in the last name. Parents: If it’s in your power, please spare your children from this lifelong curse! Do you know how many ways there are to spell [kay-lee]? Probably 15. It detracts from the beauty of the name. How ’bout a unique spelling of a unique name? I knew a guy named “Chace.” Huh? Why?

    • 27

      says

      Well said, Pandee! I sympathize with people who have long last names; eleven letters is quite a few. You know who else I sympathize with, people who have last names that are missing a few key letters – like Jason Mraz. For God’s sake, buy a vowel, Jason! As another example, I have an old friend whose last name is Sbrollini. The poor guy has to spell his name every… single… time (at least twice) because 1) nobody can figure out how to spell it right even if it did have all the vowels, and 2) when he does spell his name, people can’t believe what they heard, so they ask him to spell it again. Ah, good times! LOL

  7. 28

    Ssisi Sandoval says

    Love your article and thought I should let you know my name is Lithuanian so the translation process is tricky. It is not necessarily misspelled. It’s just not a common American name like Mary or Paul. And I am a girl and I don’t pronounce my name as “Bruce”. ha!
    but good article

    • 29

      says

      Ha! Ssisi, is that really you? If it is really you, I’m glad you have a good sense of humor! LOL

      Thanks for uncovering the mystery behind your name. (I don’t think the Lithuanians were ever known for being good spellers anyway.) ;-)

  8. 30

    Diana says

    My last name is 9 letters long so my first name, Diana is 5 letters, and the most traditional spelling. I didn’t need any extra “n” or my favorites DiAnneah= why do that to anyone? It’s cruel and makes your parents look stupid. Many other things make me unique, my name shouldn’t have to be one of them.

  9. 31

    Tammy says

    I have a couple of friends that fell under this curse. Qiana (pronounced “key-ah-nah”) constantly got her name butchered as “kwee-anna” and “cue-ah-nah” and who knows what else. She was very patient about it, but I noticed that HER kids have nice normal names with traditional spelling.
    My friend Maija (pronounced “my-ah”) usually just wrote her name down phonetically so people could understand it. But she often got called “my-jah” and “may-ja”.
    My poor dad is named Jan (pronounced “Yawn”–it’s Dutch). He goes by “Mick”.

  10. 32

    says

    @Diana: I’m with you. And your statement regarding some parents giving their kids names with twisted spellings, “Why do that to anyone?” pretty much sums it all up.
    @Tammy: I admit it; if it is an adult, sometimes I’ll often purposely mispronounce their name if it has a goofy spelling. It’s an immature response, I know. But some names are spelled so absurdly it really seems to provoke me. ;-P

  11. 33

    JOA says

    The problem with most of these names is that they are not “real” names anyway. For example, some friends couldn’t decide on Jason or Casey so their son’s name is Casson. Really?! Nevermind the fact that now the child is named after an artillery wagon (which is spelled differently, but why not). So if you make up a completely new name, you can spell it however you darn well please.

    • 34

      says

      If it is a completely new name, I agree. But more often than not, that is not the case at all. All of the offending names I gave for examples in the article are NOT completely new names. Counting them off (in their traditional spellings):

      Andrew
      Johnny
      Shawn
      Alexander
      Connie
      Cameron
      Karen
      Emily
      Madison
      Jackson
      Noah
      Zachary
      Katie
      Shannon
      Kelly
      Patty
      Sherry
      Sissy

  12. 35

    Angie says

    My husband is a teacher, and this year he has a student named Exuse… like excuse without the ‘c’. Wanna guess how it’s pronounced? Zeus! I could see ‘Zeus’ if it were spelled ‘xeuse’ but the way it’s spelled makes no sense! My joke is that the parents mixed the first 2 letters around on the birth certificate.

  13. 37

    Viki Barie says

    Len, meet Smooch.

    —– (Excerpted)

    Headhunter Named Irvine Co. spokeswoman
    June 7th, 2010, 3:01 pm posted by Jeff Collins

    Smooch Reynolds wrote the book on how to get noticed by headhunters.

    That apparently gave her the inside track when it came to getting recruited for the biggest public relations job at Orange County’s biggest name in real estate: The Irvine Co.

    Starting June 30, Smooch Repovich-Reynolds, 52, will become the Irvine Co.’s new senior vice president of corporate communications, replacing Gary Delsohn, a former speech writer for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Her current position is president and CEO of The Repovich-Reynolds Group, a Pasadena-based executive search and management consultant firm specializing in the communications industry.

    Her Twitter handle is @smoochthis, and she writes a blog called “Smooch That!” No explanation was given how she acquired the name “Smooch,” or whether that’s even her real name. She’s listed as “Smooch Stephanie Reynolds” in the Los Angeles County Voter Registration rolls.

    • 38

      says

      Thanks for the heads-up (no pun intended) on Smooch the headhunter, Viki.

      Believe it or not, I really don’t have any qualms with ol’ Smooch because at least she had the good sense to spell her name correctly – as odd as it may be. :-)

  14. 39

    Pattie, RN says

    I understand that this thread is practically old enough to vote, but as an instructor married to a teacher, I have to agree. The very worst are “made-up” names, where random prefixes are combined with any one or two syllable sound, and end with a final vowel. The totally extraneous apostrophe added in just increase the fun. My favorite is when the PARENTS can’t remember from day to day how they are spelling the child’s name!!

    • 40

      says

      It might be getting a little long in the tooth, Pattie, but it’s one of my most popular posts that continues to draw in readers – and their comments! :-)

      Extraneous apostrophes? Oy! I sure hope that idea doesn’t take serious root.

      Thanks for the warning. ;-)

    • 42

      says

      Believe it or not, I just sprained my tongue (again) trying to pronounce Tehauwahnah.

      A couple questions:

      1. Is that a male or female name?
      2. The name looks (and sounds) like it’s American Indian in nature. Is it? If so, it may be spelled correctly!

  15. 44

    Kathryn Keziah says

    My last name (Keziah) has often been mispronounced and one that frequently needs to be spelled for almost everyone. But I wanted to comment on an unusual name that my niece used for her youngest daughter. Her name is Zarren Madyson. This choice of names drives my mother crazy.

  16. 45

    silvergirl says

    It seems like some of the names people have a problem with may be derived from different cultures. I think we should respect all names no matter how odd the may look or sound. The name may not mean anything to you, but it probably means a lot to the person who carries it. On another note, speaking as someone with a very common name (Jennifer), I chose to give my children somewhat more unusual names (Dawson and Logan). I always hated being one of several Jennifer’s among my classmates, and I am sure those with truly unusual names have the opposite problem. I think the key is to try and find a happy medium.

  17. 46

    says

    @Kathryn: Zarren Madyson is unique, to be sure. I can’t fault Zarren, as that seems to be an unconventional name. I have to give a demerit for “Madyson” though. I’d have spelled it Madison.
    @silvergirl: My beef is purely with unconventional spellings of conventional (read: for the most part, Christian) names. :-)

    • 47

      Will says

      I can understand your point here Len, however “Silvergirl’s” point is important, especially when one realizes that some … yes some… of these names are from different cultures/countries.

      Of the opening examples that you used…

      Did you know that Andruw Jones is from Curacao? I remember a long time ago in an interview he said that he was named after a great-uncle.

      Did you know that Jhonny Peralta is from the Dominican Republic and that “Jhonny” is a semi-common name in Spanish speaking countries? Google it…

      Again, I understand your point and fair enough that you were polite with… “creative, but questionable”… when you referred to them, but perhaps there are perfectly understandable explanations for some of these spelling variations.

  18. 49

    Charwash says

    Tehauwahnah. Looks like a disastrous attempt at naming a child after the Mexican city just south of San Diego, CA. (Although that city, Tijuana, has only 3 syllables, not the 4 most folks want to give it.)

  19. 50

    Carrie says

    I have a name that takes the cake. My neighbor was a nurse in an emergency room. A woman brought in her baby who had a fever. While wriiting down the usual information, my neighbor Julie (normal spelling) asked what was the baby’s name. “VaGEEna Johnson” replied the mother. “And how do you spell that?” asked Julie. “Well just like it should be” said the mother, “VAGINA”. Poor kid, poor poor kid….

  20. 52

    Lynn says

    As an editor, typos drive me mad! Anybody using a weird spelling to their name need not apply for a job with me! Parents, please don’t give your kid a “cutesy” name — they might be stuck with it for 80+ years!

  21. 53

    Ajtacka says

    I and my sisters have unusual names (not cultural, just unusual parents), but they’re all spelt the way they sound. I like my name now, but definitely went through a period when I hated it. But doesn’t everyone, at some time? Oh, and none of us have middle names. I think our dad ran out of names – each of our older half-siblings has about 7 middle names.

    But… my fiance is from a different country, and chances are we will spend time living with our future kids in both places. Which means that somewhere, our kids will have ‘strange’ names. There are a few names that mostly cross over, like Thomas / TomaÅ¡. Except that ‘Å¡’ is pronounced ‘sh’, so the actual sound changes, not just the spelling. And that’s after we solve the problem of what my (and any daughters’) last name will be – in my language his name is hard to pronounce but in his country having different last names is almost unheard of (and difficult bureaucratically). Not even thinking about the feminine suffix on the last name… Names are hard!

    • 54

      says

      You do have an interesting name. So how do you pronounce it? Is the “j” silent – like “Atacka?” Is the “t” silent – “Ajacka.”

      Or do you pronounce all of the letters? Which syllable gets the emphasis?

      • 55

        Ajtacka says

        That’s actually not my real name! :) It’s a mostly made-up Czech word that I translate as “geek-girl”. It should really be AjÅ¥ačka, and a phonetic spelling would be something like “Aytyachka”. Now that you mention it, it would be a cool name! (mostly joking)… For the record, my real name is Melda.

      • 56

        says

        I think I just sprained my tongue trying to say “Aytyachka” out loud.

        Then, to add insult to injury, my son thought I sneezed and he said “God bless you!” ;-)

        (I like Melda much better.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>