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Reblogged:'Unique' Names Can Be Uniquely Frustrating

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Miss Manners takes up a question from a reader who was "huffily informed" how to pronounce a baby's name -- by a parent either too clueless to bother to learn how to spell it or too enamored of conflict to legally change it while the child is still very young.

The name is spelled like another name, but is supposed (by the parent) to be pronounced like the name of an ancient civilization for which the spelling is both commonly known -- and often used as a first name anyway.

Miss Manners -- who duly notes that there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to give unusual names -- rightly indicates that the huffy parent is guilty of courtesy lapses to two parties:
Image by Arina Krasnikova, via Pexels, license.
Your annoyance is nothing compared to what those children will have to go through. Having an unusual name means a lifetime of spelling and pronouncing it for other people.


[Miss Manners] requires an equal good-faith effort from the bestowers and holders of these names when patiently explaining those preferences to others -- and ignoring mistakes that are not likely to be repeated.
My wife and I both grew up with the opposite problem: Our names were en vogue when we were born, so we frequently got to be one of several people with our first names in school.

But we both knew people who had to go through a whole rigmarole regarding their names every single time they met other people. Their routine put our relatively minor annoyance in perspective.

My wife's wise solution to both problems is her "keychain rule:" A name should be common enough to find in a key chain display, and yet not so common as to be sold out.

Back in Boston, while waiting on a subway platform with my daughter in a stroller, an admiring stranger struck up a conversation. Upon my mentioning her name, she smiled and laughed: I can pronounce that one and spell it!

While I admit it will tempt me in such situations to note the inconvenience of the unfortunate child, something more constructive occurs to me: Upon hearing that a friend or friendly acquaintance might confer such a name, it might be a kindness to gently bring up the lifelong inconvenience the name will cause the future child. Depending on the reaction, mentioning the easily-remembered keychain rule might even be in order.

-- CAV

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