'My friend has given her baby a unique name but I think she's just misspelt it.'

It’s not unusual to give kids unusual spellings of names. But what happens when someone gives their baby a name that you think they’ve actually spelt wrong – by mistake? Should you say something or not?

That’s the dilemma facing a woman on UK website Mumsnet.

“A colleague has recently announced the birth of ‘Pheobe’ on Facebook and has since referred to the baby as ‘Pheobe’ several times,” she writes. “Would I be awful to gently suggest the correct spelling or just hope it’s picked up on when they register the birth?”

Not surprisingly, opinions were divided.

“Say something,” one urged. “She’s either done it by accident or is committing her child to a lifetime of spelling her name out. Better she knows now how annoying that is for the child!”

Another shared her experience of having a spelling of a name that just looked wrong.

“My name is misspelled – Micheala instead of Michaela,” she explained. “I was forever correcting people on spelling AND pronunciation.”

A third woman had found herself in a similar situation, and had said something.

“I had a message a few years ago from a ‘mum at playgroup’ friend. She’d called her daughter Francis. I replied and said, ‘I thought you were having a girl?! Congrats.’ About two hours later I got a message announcing their daughter Frances’s birth. She’s thanked me since then.”

Reddit’s just discovered the worst of the bad baby names and we are cringing.

Video by MMC

But others felt she shouldn’t say anything.

“If it was someone really close to me, like a sibling or a lifelong friend, then I’d tell them. Just a colleague, though? Nah. Not worth the potential aggro.”

Others insisted there was “no such thing” as spelling a name wrong.

“There are no laws, are there? Plus, when you pronounce Phoebe you say ‘Feebee’. You don’t say ‘Foebe’, do you?”

But the original poster felt that wasn’t the case.


“‘Oe’ in the middle of a word makes an ‘ee’ sound, like amoeba, coeliac, onomatopoeia,” she pointed out. “‘Eo’ in the middle of a word is usually phonetic, like geode, deodorant. So the misspelling of Phoebe as Pheobe would read ‘Fee-obe’ instead of ‘Fee-bee’. I honestly think she’s just misspelled Phoebe.”

This isn’t the first time the spelling Pheobe has caused controversy among mothers online.

Lisa Kudrow from Friends is spelt 'Phoebe,' but does that make the spelling 'Pheobe' wrong. Image: NBC.

In 2015, a mum-to-be posed this question on BabyCenter Australia: “We love the name Pheobe/Phoebe, but which one is the correct spelling? I thought Pheobe is, because you say the ‘e’ first, rather than the ‘o’... help!?!”

People rushed to tell her that “Phoebe” was the correct spelling.

The fact is, not all spelling variations can be lumped in together. Some are the spelling used in different cultures – Sofia, etc. Others are an obvious attempt at being unique – Tay-Lah, etc. But others, unfortunately, are going to look to some people like the parents didn’t know how to spell the name and got it wrong. Whether this is the case or not, it could work against the child. That’s why it wouldn’t hurt to bring it up at the time of the name announcement – if you’re close enough to the person and can do it in a tactful way.

One woman on Mumsnet had the perfect approach.

“I would congratulate her and comment saying you love the unusual spelling of the name,” she suggested.

Oh, well done. Does it get any more tactful than that?

What would you do if a parent-to-be purposefully misspelt their baby's name? Tell us in a comment.

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