By MIA FREEDMAN
Dear Parents, stop it. Enough with the tricky spellings. Stop confusing your baby’s birth certificate with a game of Scrabble. It’s not funny, it’s not clever and it’s not fair. And also? Your children will resent you as soon as they’re old enough to explain “No, it’s Ambah – A-M-B-A-H”.
How to tell if the name you’ve picked for your child is a burden? If you have to add the words “pronounced” or “spelled” after writing or saying it. Yes, I’m talking to you, parents of Mykal, Krystyn, Annii, Kaetlan, Emmalie, Emilee, Emmalee, Emileigh, Jennipher, Jessyka, Allisenne, Grayss, Breighanna, Eion, Sophya, Taelor, Jaxxson, Ellivia, Kloe, Aaden, Ayden, Aydan, Aadanne, Kyly, Rubii, Jaydin, Eathan, Destyneigh, Morgyn, Zakkary, Ayvah, Aeva, Avah, Aevaeh, Ayva and Aiva.
And yes, these are all actual names of actual people. Poor, poor people.
Can we also agree on this: no child’s name needs an apostrophe in it. Under the terrifying heading “Apostrophe Creativity”, one baby naming website urges parents to, “Revamp a classic name with a little punctuational flair!”. Let’s all take a moment to send our very best wishes to M’shell, L’oegan, Brook’Lynn, D’estiny, L’Wren, Cam’ron, Aa’Niyah, Sha’lee, Ky’Lee, Jo’Elle, Rach’Elle, O’Livia, Ma’Kayla, Ka’Ren, A’Driannah, Myr’Acle, A’Driannah and D’Shawn.
As Dadspin blogger Drew Magary argues, “The abuse of apostrophes in names has to end. A reasonable person should be able to know, by looking at a name, when one syllable ends and another begins. But no, these parents have to be like “I’ll name him Raw’Bert.” You stop that. Give me some credit for being able to read even if you can’t.”
This has been a tough column to research. Don’t ever Google “unique baby names” because your eyes will start bleeding when you learn about ‘alphabet soup’ names such as ABC and XYZ. There are names with Roman numerals like K-VIII-lin (Caitlin). There are names with dashes like Sta-c. And names where the dashes are pronounced ‘dash’ like L-Sha (La-dash-a). I also discovered some alarming ways to spell my own simple name including Meah, Meigha and Meayah.
But WHY? Fear of common appears to be the biggest motivator. “My parents did it to be ‘interesting’ apparently”, a woman named Krystyne told me. “No reasons of heritage or tribute. ‘Christine’ was too boring, according to them.” And this: “My parents named me E’Van. They realised the error of tricky names and called my younger brother Alan.”
Let’s be crystal (Krystyl?) clear: on the spectrum of bad things parents can do, tricky spelling is a mere trifle and must never be confused with ACTUAL harm. But where does this creeping trend come from?
Director of social research company IPSOS Mackay, Rebecca Huntley puts the tricky spelling down to “this general child obsession in our culture. Each child is unique but that doesn’t mean they need a crazy name. This is the Australian equivalent of ‘Apple’ and ‘Blue Ivy’, I suspect.” She also notes this grasping for ‘special’ is more common among lower socio-economic groups. “The middle classes do it but they tend to use last names as first names… Parker, Harrison etc.”
Blogger Drew Magary elaborates: “It’s not enough for your child to have a normal name and then try to stand out on their own merits down the road. No, no, no. Every parent now wants every child to be unique and special from the moment the doctor wipes the amniotic fluid off of it. There’s a bizarre assumption that if you can make your child’s name unique, the child will be unique.”
Unique, maybe. Plagued by hassles, certainly. And there are other consequences in this digital age. NOBODY CAN FIND THEM ON FACEBOOK.
A woman called Bluzette recently wrote about her name at CNN.com, explaining how much she hated it growing up and how she was forced to explain its unusual origins from age eight. As an adult, she’s made peace with it. Kind of. “At times for the sake of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation I use the name “Mary”, for instance, when I’m making a restaurant reservation. The thought of putting an employee through the pain of guessing how to spell and pronounce Bluzette just isn’t worth it.”
Multiply that by a few dozen times a week for life and you have a sense of the burden that baby Zaiden and his little mates Mychal and Tielar must bear.
People with unusual names suffer in similar ways. A woman called Open Weaver has this to say: “The thing people need to realize when naming their children is that unique can also be a burden when it subjects them to ridicule or makes getting through the average day difficult because of the number of times you have to explain or spell it. And parents cannot predict their children’s personalities or futures. So while “Open” might have been great if I’d grown up to be an artist, it’s not so great for a 37 year old attorney who sometimes would just like to be taken seriously when I introduce myself, rather than have to explain for the umpteenth time “My mother just liked the way it sounded.”
The moral of the story: don’t vomit the alphabet onto your baby’s birth certificate. You don’t have to use all the letters to make them unique.
Check out some of these ‘alternate’ spellings…….
And to find the origin and meaning of baby names, check out iVillage’s Baby Name Finder.
What’s your take on names with unusual spellings?