What’s in a name?

27 01 2011



When I tell people my name outside Wales they usually respond with “WHAT?!” When I first left Wales as an innocent (“yeah right” some of you may exclaim) 18-year-old I went by the name Harry because the day I moved into our cramped student digs in East Anglia and introduced myself I was told “Well, you’ll have to change that because we can’t say it.” So Harry stuck and there was more than one occasion that I turned up for work through a bar staff temping agency that I was told “Oh, we were expecting a boy!”

These days I go by my full name and it gets butchered by people who haven’t heard my name before. When I moved to Ireland however the tables were turned and names like Aoife, Caoimhe and Caitríona had me flummoxed. I had to get people to say them for me and then I repeated them over in my head before I called any of these people.  So now I do have some sympathy for those poor people who see my name and call me Gdgasdtadiagdqwiwq. (They’re lucky they don’t have to call up and ask for my friend Llinos!)

Something interesting came up this week which led to me thinking – should a name be pronounced the correct way or the way the bearer of the name sees fit? A perfect example is Llywelyn: more often than not it’s pronounced Loo-El-un when the correct Welsh pronunciation is Llyw- el-in (Ll as in Llanelli). This week I heard of someone called Siân saying their name as Si-ann (si as in Simon). I was all ready for the “That’s not how you say it” rant, but then I thought, If she wants to say it that way then it’s her choice, isn’t it? I know more than one Irish person who grits their teeth when they hear the American singer Ciara say her name like it’s a large family car made by Ford, but should someone go up to her and say “Come on love, now that’s not how you say your name, so stop it!”

What do you think – would a rose pronounced any other way smell as sweet?

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