Spelling names - does it matter?


Darren Elliott ( @livesofteachers ) had this little outburst on Twitter this morning! And it made me think: how important is it to spell names right? It seems it's not very important if it's someone else's name but very important if it's yours!

My own name is a bit of a spelling nightmare. Johanna is not usually spelled with an h in English (the h is completely silent), so people often write Joanna or even Joanne, which is a more common name. To a lot of people I'm Jo, but I'm definitely not Joe (same pronunciation but that's a man's name). My Stirling is spelled with an i not an e (Stirling not Sterling, same pronunciation), so I always have to say 'like the Scottish city not the money'.

So people often spell my name wrong. Do I mind? Yes! Well, no! But yes! And no! Intellectually, of course not: my name isn't easy, people are busy, life is short, what does it matter? But my gut feeling is: 'that's not me!'

Perhaps the spelling of our name is part of our identity.

And of course sometimes it really does matter, because if someone types my misspelled name into Google they might find somebody far more interesting than me! Or emails offering me an all-expenses paid trip to the Seychelles may never get to me (not the spam kind- they always get through).

What about you? How important is it that people spell your name right?





29 comments:

  1. I have to say that when students try spelling my name and I get Tieson or Tison, it does irritate me just a little. For the general population though, if you can't spell Tyson, I think you're a moron. :)

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  2. I'm okay with Wendell, Wendel, Wendle, Wendall and Wen (the cop-out version).

    When they spell it Michael or Wallace (I've had both recently), that does give me pause.

    When I work with very young children who have been named after celebrities or the characters from popular fantasy films, I often make a mess of their names. In the moment, all I can do is hope they forgive me, which maybe makes me more tolerant of others.

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  3. I'm picky about the spelling of my name (as above) and about its pronunciation (the first syllable like the word cow).

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  4. Depends on who is doing the misspelling - the way mine's spelled is really quite unusual so I don't expect people to get it right.

    Also when it comes to communication due to my blog often people think my first name is actually Kalinago or even Kalina...

    But, say if it's someone who's known me personally for a while now and they're are connected to me socially - as well as via email and FB/other web2.0 and we've had loads of various correspondence over a period and then they still write something like Karin, (regularly rather than a one-off mistake)... I don't so much get annoyed as just think they're bit "thick."

    :-)

    Karenne

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  5. I have a problem with Dominique: I feel sexually threatened, although I do understand about de Villepin being a man.

    But looked at in the broader perspective names are pretty random spellingwise, not just Shakespeare and Mohammed. Visit any maternity ward in the land and you'll see/hear some oddities: Joodi etc. I suspect there are those that care about spelling and those that don't.

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    1. I have magazines sent to my home and they spell my name Dominic 😐 a guys name... lol
      ~Dominique J.

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    2. I have magazines sent to my home and they spell my name Dominic... a guys name lol 😧

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  6. It was me who started this ; D

    I don't mind students if students make a mistake, but I'm talking about people who have recieved communications in writing and then return incorrectly. Here's a controversy - does it indicate a wider lack of attention to detail? If you were selecting candidates for a job interview, wouldn't it be a red flag?

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  7. John, yes, actually I think mispronunciation is worse. I really dislike having the 'h' in my name sounded - it sounds really odd in English. But I don't blame people for not knowing whether to or not.

    Karenne, I must say I always hesitate when I write your name, double 'r' or double 'n'? But that's funny that people think your name is Kalinago - I hope they don't think mine is 'thespellingblog'! Yes, it definitely shows a poor visual memory when someone who you mainly communicate with in writing spells your name so visually differently.

    Dominic, I wonder why people choose funny spellings for their children's names? To be different from all the 'Judy's I guess. But do they think about the burden on the kids? Or maybe the kids like to be different too. (I like my 'h' - it makes the word a nicer shape).Do you spend a lot of time in maternity waards?

    Darren (yes, this is all your fault!) it certainly does depend who it is, you're right. Students - no problem, but I once had a boyfriend who after 3 years was still having problems (only now am I starting to think perhaps he was doing it to wind me up!!). I agree about the attention to detail thing, but I think it can also imply a bit of a lack of respect. In a job application, I'd definitely want to get it right. But of course genuine mistakes happen.

    My boss told me after about 2 years that I'd been spelling his name wrong ('Allan' not 'Allen') and I was so shocked that I actually questioned if he was sure! So I'm certainly not blameless in this myself.

    Thanks for all the comments, folks.

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  8. Thanks for your posting, I now know that I am not alone. Name: Dolores usually called Delores or even worse Deloris!

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  9. There are perhaps three kinds of name misspelling, I'd say. My name isn't spelled the way it sounds - one silent e too many, and one missing - so when people make the logical connection and spell it according to the "rules" I'm actually quite amused and enjoy it. It just shows me they're not as versed in English name culture as they could be. But if they get the name wrong because they're not listening properly and turn it into something else, it seems like they don't really care; not nice.

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  10. Dolores, I guess with your name it helps if you know the original meaning of the name, so perhaps easier for Latin-based language speakers.

    Yes, Anne, I agree. But what's the 3rd one?

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  11. My name is Maryalice and for most of my life (all 47 years!) people have either misspelled my name or called me Mary. One of my first memories of elementary school was getting a note sent home because I refused to answer the teacher. I patiently explained to my parents that the teacher was not talking to me, but some girl named Mary! I am finishing my degree to become an elementary school teacher and on the first day of classes last week, one professor had each student write their name on a manila folder and prop it on the desk. As she called role, she looked at each student and the folder. When she got to my name, she said Mary, to which I replied...Maryalice. She responded "Yea, whatever." Names and spelling of names are important. They mean something and not taking the time to spell them correctly or find out the correct pronunciation makes me think the other person just doesn't care. Thanks for the interesting post!

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  12. It amazes me how many people spell Michael as "Micheal" and it does irritate me.

    Johanna is my daughter's middle name, after my grandmother who was Dutch. We pronounce it the Dutch way.

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  13. Maryalice, a great example of how making the effort to get a name right shows respect ( and not caring shows disrespect).

    Michael, I must admit when writing or typing 'Michael' I always have to hestite to think which way round the 'a' and 'e' are. It's quite an unusual letter string. Do you know the origin of the name and its spelling?

    Johanna

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  14. Michael, like many traditional names, is of Hebrew origin (it's the name of one of the four great archangels in Jewish and Christian tradition), and means "Who is like God?" ("El" is one of the oldest names for God in Hebrew, so if you remember that, you remember how "Michael" is spelled.) It is the fourth most common man's name in the U.S.

    Note that Scottish and Irish men may legitimately spell their names "Micheal", pronounced [mʲiçɘlʲ]. In many languages, including Hebrew, the equivalent name is pronounced with three syllables, just like "Gabriel", "Raphael", and "Uriel", the other three great archangels. Michelangelo's name means "Michael the Angel", and this form is not uncommon in Italy.

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  15. it does irritate me when people spell the words wrong but not the name i don't care on how british spell my name anyways it always irritates me when they spell multi as muti and mansion as manchen and shoukd as shud grrrr why can't they care about spelling how am i supposed to read it right if the spelling is wrong!!!!!

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  16. Thanks for your comment Ralph. Ummm... do you feel the same about punctuation? ;-)

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  17. I come from Poland but I live in Scotland. My name is Agnieszka, which people do get right when they try...To make life easier for other people I ask everyone to call me Agnes; I realize that people start to panic when they see a combination of letters unknown to them. The problem is that instead of "Agnes" I sometimes become "Angus" (this is really annoying!). General ignorance of spelling and punctuation makes me really angry!

    Fantastic blog, I am getting addicted to it!

    Agnieszka

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  18. Hi Agnieszka,
    You wrote "I realize that people start to panic when they see a combination of letters unknown to them." I think this is a very important point. The fingers on the keyboard or our hands holding a pen just do not have the so-called 'muscle memory' to write that combination of letters. So we have to make a very conscious effort to learn it. And I suppose there is the question of motivation - if you think you only have to write a name once or twice are you going to make that effort? I often write to somebody called Andrzej - the first half of the name just apears on my screen without any effort but for the second half I slow right down and have to THINK. I'm not sure that 'drz' or a 'j' at the end will ever come naturally to me.

    I'm sure you don't look like someone called Angus!

    I'd like to say sorry you're getting addicted but of course I'm very pleased really!

    Johanna

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  19. I don't have so much trouble with my given name. Usually when it's wrong it's a legitimate typo thought it does irk me some when I receive correspondence littered with typos. Do people not care at all?

    My surname on the other hand poses no end of trouble. I get variations ranging from "Castle" to "Astley". For people who are working from a potentially unclear verbal source, I can understand confusion, but people who are staring at the correct spelling in the email they respond to, those irk me.

    I suppose it's the appearance of inattention that bothers me more than the errors themselves. Truth be told, I managed to misspell my own name on a submission to an essay contest once. Talk about embarrassing.

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  20. Everyone gets a pass the first time if they've only heard my name and not seen it written down. I get more irritated when I've just sent them an e-mail with my name spelled correctly and they send one back with the more common spelling. Tammy vs. Tami

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  21. I worke with a girl her name is Esraa there are some people who called her Saraa as it's easier , she dodn't mind at all but when it comes time to write she have to write it by hersalf .
    so what do you think about this Johanna ?

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  22. Thanks for your comment, Fatma. Is it the same Esraa who left the really useful comments on http://thespellingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/improving-spelling-never-too-late-jim.html ? I haven't heard the name Esraa before. Where is it from?
    Johanna

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  23. Thanks for your reply . No ahe isn't and we used that name in Egypt , but people who aren't native arabic they can't pronounce it so they choose the easiest way . So I think the major prpblem is the pronunciation .

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  24. there should be only one correct spelling per name but all your ancestors had dyslexia.

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  25. I only get irritated when I spell out my name very slowly letter by letter and then they change it to the way they feel it should be. I did not choose my name or the spelling. D E R R E L (Computer just underlined 2nd R indicating an error)

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  26. My name is Rebekah and it's constantly getting spelled incorrectly, not even my friends can get it right and I have no hope with my university lecturers being consistent either. They don't seem to care. You think they would since most of them are Welsh and have obscure names. Ah it's so deflating, I get so frustrated, it's not complicated . Even having to repeat myself several times for them to even type it correctly.

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