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Lord save me from oddball spellings: or a modicum of monikers

CURMUDGEON

A few decades or so ago we entered the age of the oddball spelling of names. So that now it is actually unusual to find that women’s names are spelled the way we would have found them traditionally. 

I guess “tradition” is the key word here. We must avoid tradition at all costs. No Mabels, Abigails or Ethels for us! Not unless we spell them Maybelle, Abbuhgale and Aathel. 

I personally think there is a little bit of malicious mischievousness in this. There is something kind of satisfying about giving your daughter a weird-spelled name and then tormenting people to the end of time who misspell them. This is a mother thing. No father would be guilty of such an infraction.  

“Honey? I think I want to name our little darling girl Catarrh.”

“But darling,” says the man, “Won’t it handicap our little girl if we name her after a word that means the excessive discharge or buildup of mucus in the nose or throat? If you like the sound of that name, couldn’t we pick Guitar? Like the musical instrument?”

The woman (with a dangerous gleam in her eye) says in a low growl, “No one would dare laugh at our child or even cough suspiciously in her presence. If they do . . .” One can well imagine the punishment that would follow. 

Mary!? What do you mean, Mary! You imbecile! It’s Maraye! Ann? You buffoon. My daughter’s name is spelled Anneigh and the second syllable is silent. Cretinous spawn of foolishness! May your tonsils rot in darkness!

I know that it’s always been kind of boring for me to tell people: Yeah, it’s Dave. Or David. I don’t really care which you use. Doesn’t matter. My name is so common that people accuse me of writing bad checks because I share the name with some guy who is actually 6 foot 6, as skinny as a curtain rod with a single eye in the center of his forehead. And several hundred other David Rosses.  So I get that parents want to give their kids a little distinctiveness. But as with all things, you can overdo it. Many parents in the name of being distinctive give their children a rough launch off the pier of life. 

Generally it’s women’s names that do this. But there are exceptions. There is the British actor Ralph Fiennes whose first name is pronounced “RAYF.” But there is that other (now dead) British actor Ralph Richardson, whose first name was pronounced Ralph.  Leave it to the Brits to confuse the hell out of things. No wonder 1776 happened. 

But what if parents someday decide to start calling their boys unusual first names and, to enliven the lives of birth notice and obituary writers everywhere, gave them peculiar spellings?

Instead of Sam, or even Samuel, we could toss aside the vowels and dub him: Smml. Try pronouncing that without a bowl of oat meal in your mouth. I hesitate to go on since this newspaper publishes name change notices and I may inadvertently be stepping on someone’s new moniker.

By all means, name your children whatever you want. Name yourself whatever you want. But just remember that people don’t mean any harm when they inevitably mess up the spelling or pronunciation of that name. You’ve been living with this name all your life. They just met you.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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