Baby names and unusual spellingI understand the desire to give your baby a name that is as special as the child is. However when I see common names with unusual spellings (example: Matthyou instead...

Baby names and unusual spelling

I understand the desire to give your baby a name that is as special as the child is. However when I see common names with unusual spellings (example: Matthyou instead of Matthew), my first thought is "Gee, your folks should have asked somebody how to spell that." If the name is pronounced in the usual way, why make it difficult to spell?

Is is just me? How do others feel about this practice of alternate spelling of names?


Expert Answers
catd1115 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think that parents give their children unusual names to mark them as precious individuals. I think they do it as a way to be non-conformists. I think a child with an unusual name says more about the parents egos than what they think or feel for their child. If a name has a special background or meaning that is wonderful. But many are unusual just for the sake of unusual, like dying your hair green. It makes a statement and everyone will notice it, but it is probably not saying what you want it to and insures that many will judge you without a second look (or pronunciation as the case may be) As for traditional names with unusual spellings, I am cynical. I truly believe these people don't know how the name is spelled: sad. As for names with difficult or not obvious pronunciations: if that is your name or that is what you name your child, you have no right to get angry when the child's name is mispronounced. Of course you should correct the person (as anyone would do when their name is mispronounced or misspelled) but don't get angry if the pronunciation isn't obvious. No one is trying to insult you or your child, and you put the child in that situation. Perhaps you should have given this more thought before you gave your child something they would have for a lifetime.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to admit, some names are far worse than others.  (Have you seen the "Freakonomics" episode about the unique spellings of the name "Unique?")  Sadly, I realize I'm now going to be on the parenting end of this debate.  I have two daughters: Eliott (with only one "L") and Carter.  Normal enough, but both girls, nonetheless.  I wasn't necessarily going for any sort of "unique" spelling with my first.  I wanted to avoid the double L because I didn't want her name to be shortened to "Ellie" and I thought Eliot looked too boyish.

At this point, every doctor, despite the pink charts, has referred to both of my children as "he" and "him" and spelled the first name wrong multiple times.  At this point, I just don't fight it.  I think my attitude now is going to help shape my daughters' attitudes about it when they are old enough to care, and I just don't want them to be annoyed, or annoying, about their names.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm probably more biased than most people on this subject since I have what was once the most common of all men's names: John. At a recent teaching assignment, I was overwhelmed at the number of unpronounceable names of new students on the first day of school. One child actually refused to answer roll until I got the name correct, and I found myself apologizing often for stumbling over so many names. I actually was forced to make a list of about 30 of the toughest names--with phonetic spellings--so I would remember how to pronounce them. I showed them to some friends and we had a huge laugh over trying to decipher the multiple hyphens, apostrophes and combinations of other names utilized. Individualism is one thing, but names which even a linguist or English teacher can't decipher seem a bit much. BTW, one of my students' name was Jhon--apparently a variant on my own name.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are some real advantages to having a name that is somewhat unique, but I think some parents have gone way beyond what should be considered as an appropriate and loving gift to a newborn.

I had one male student whose given first name was "Catfish". His mother, in all seriousness, commented that she wanted to make sure her son always had something to talk about when he met someone new! Needless to say, the boy did indeed always have something to talk about - and to act out about - and to spend time thinking about appropriate behaviors as a result. I knew him in early elementary grades and haven't heard about him for some years, which makes me assume he and his family have moved away from this area... It's hard to miss news articles about a boy or man named Catfish.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's one thing to spell a name slightly different, but to really change it around just creates so many problems for the child as they get older.  My mother has a name that typically starts with a K but hers is spelled with a C.  Just this minor change can be a headache.  I can't tell you the number of times we've had to go back and correct medical forms or official information because someone assumed they knew how it was spelled.  While it can be nice for a child to have a unique name, it can also be a nightmare.  No one wants to be the fifteenth Jenny in the room, but no one wants to have such an off the wall name they are constantly teased about it either.

mlsiasebs eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's okay to a point but like you I agree that in some cases it's gone too far.  Our oldest child's name is spelled in a traditional manner but our youngest has an "old-fashioned" name with a small change but nothing too obscure so it's still recognizable and still pronounced the same way. I teach a lot of students and am still shocked by some of the names that come across my roster.  I don't think some parents consider what it will be like for their child to have that name as a grown-up as a professional. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There was a while there, around the time that my wife and I were having our first child, that I actually kept a list of horrible names that I saw in the paper.  It was pretty interesting.  

My feeling is that any spelling is fine so long as the pronunciation is obvious.  What gets me is the spellings that obscure the proper way to say the name.  I particularly hate when people name their kids in that way and then get offended when you mispronounce the name... 

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think people should be able to spell their children's names however they want, but everyone else is not obligated to cheer them on. You and I have no social obligation to keep ourselves from laughing at crazy spellings of the name Rawhn (Ron). 

Parents used to think about what a name would offer their children in terms of challenges and I hope that, even with crazy spellings, they still keep in mind what impact a person's name can have on their childhood. 

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ultimately, the parents have the right to name their whatever they wish.  With that being said, I really think some parents should consider how this will effect the life of their child.  I think a crazy name could keep people from getting a job or even an interview just because it looks uneducated and, regardless of the morality, make judgements about that person because of their name. 

adriana95 | Student

I agree in all fairness as sometimes it can waste precious time and there is no need as well as this it may lead to causing problems and people do in fact get offend but they should have thought about that before anyway if it is a name that has many different ways in writing it. It is obviously not going to come to someones mind that is spelt differently it still has the same meaning to the name...