Ruminations of a Red Dirt Hussy

March 17, 2013

The name game and other ridiculosities

Filed under: General — Vadasmaker @ 8:17 pm

Language wears me out. Plumb out. Especially when people fiddle with it, and by “fiddle” I mean give their kids names a multi-lingual linguist couldn’t decipher. Recently a colleague and I went across campus to the building where History Day was being held. About a million middle-schoolers hyped up on Monster and Mountain Dew and harnessed to runaway hormones had created history-related exhibits which would be judged and for which awards would be given. Kara and I were to inscribe phonetically the names of the winners so no one who had to read them aloud would commit a minor or major faux-pax in pronunciation.

Well! Let me tell you what a disas-trophe that little endeavor was. I’ll preface it by saying Kara, with or without her PhD in English, is one of the smartest people I know. While I’m not nearly in her intellectual league, I’ve struggled through ¾ of a PhD and one, soon to be two, masters degrees. So, armed with this collective proof (and I use the term “proof” loosely) that we were up to the task, we sat down and began what we thought would be a round of shooting fish in a barrel.

The surnames were challenging enough because of their many national origins. We pretty quickly gave up on them, figuring those kids were used to having their last names mispronounced, and went on to the first names. How bad could it be?

Oh. People, it was worse than bad. Nevaeh (Heaven backwards, in case you missed it. Because the name “Heaven” wasn’t weird enough). Kahkee. MuKaela. Queennlyn. And not to be outdone, the boys. Delion. Cuyler. K’Leb (You’d think this one is a no-brainer, but by this time, we doubted our powers of translation and weren’t taking any chances). Rycien. Draek.

After a half hour, during which we had no doubt done more harm than good, we slunk back across campus, congratulating each other that our first names were Carol and Kara, and that we shared the easy-peasy last name Johnson. We might get lost in a database with millions of Johnsons. Authorities might mistake one of us for the deadbeat whose child support is ten years in arrears, or the genius with unpaid taxes, 27 moving violations, and a bench warrant. But the next time we win an award, we’ll know exactly who they’re talking to when they call our names. Although I did get a plaque once for Cheryl Johnston.



  1. …and what about people who give their kids names like Séamus?


    Comment by Kara Ryan — March 18, 2013 @ 7:36 am | Reply

  2. A thousand thank yous from La Donna who goes by La D and is pronounced “Lottie.” I got completely fed up with being the butt of Madonna JOKES (Ha-uhm) and being wild-thang, so I embraced Lottie. Now, I am called Claudia,Dottie, Rodney,
    Anytime I hear someone trying to come up with “different” name for their child, I say “try Mary or Bob. Nobody is called that anymore.”
    They look at me funny and say” How do you spell that?”
    When I was a kid, I joked that I would name my children “Spatula” and her brother, “Hurricane Window.” It seemed far-fetched then, but today there will probably be 3 in each kindergarten class.
    These days, I get mail for “La”. I think the machines gave up!


    Comment by ponytail girl — March 18, 2013 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

  3. Once, in the doctor’s office, they called for a Sara Pascall. It took me a while to realize they meant me, since none of that is my name.


    Comment by The Mess — March 25, 2013 @ 10:35 am | Reply

  4. With daughters aptly named Khadeja and Jezzika…. I consider myself part of the problem. Yay me! 🙂


    Comment by Ryno — May 16, 2013 @ 10:34 am | Reply

    • But beautiful names, and I don’t have to translate them into a phonetic spelling!


      Comment by vadasmaker — May 16, 2013 @ 11:25 am | Reply

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