Sunday, July 6, 2014

Repost: Tazi's Corner #27 - On Taking Liberties With Spelling

Dear Readers,

As a cat I am known to have several pet peeves, usually revolving around the way you humans act; however, I have one peeve that this week rises above all other peeves. Today, I seek to address it, and so I ask: WHY do you keep altering the accepted spelling of your children’s names?

This year, the first baby born in my home state of Rhode Island was born to a high school student on her 18th birthday. She lives with her unemployed aunt who, in spite of her own financial troubles, has graciously welcomed the baby with open arms. The way I see it, this child is going to have an uphill battle in life as it is without having his name spelled "Izzak", a “creative” (according to the Providence Journal) way of spelling the biblical name “Isaac”. Parents! What are you thinking when you do something like this?

I realize that we live in a world where we want our children to feel unique and stand out from the crowd. Giving a child a unique name can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what that name is. I use as a real life example one of my Mommie’s former co-workers, a man who wanted his son to have a unique name that nobody else had. He named the child “Nazik", insisting he made the name up himself; the large Arabic community of Southern New England could have told him differently. “Nazik” is in fact a popular girl’s name in Turkey and Armenia; it means “pretty” (I have also been told "pretty flower", which just makes it worse, but is unconfirmed. I do not know what happened to that kid, but strains of Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue go through my head every time I think of him.

Creative spellings and creative names may make your child stand out in a crowd, but not necessarily in a good way. If people cannot pronounce your child’s name, they are less likely to be called upon – in school, at play, and in life in general. Rather than risk offending someone by mispronouncing a name, people will pass over them – be it for a play date or a job interview. Humans, like all animals, crave familiarity and comfort. You can still give your child a name that you think is unique (but is actually trendy), just don’t mess with the accepted spelling! As a Providence (RI) school teacher once commented, “I am left wondering if the parents are trying to be creative or if they are just illiterate”.

I believe this only works among adults...
Something we must remember is that language has rules set down in order to unify a people, not to divide them. When language becomes an impediment to understanding, rather than an aid, communication fails. When that fails, we might as well go our own way. Ghoti, anyone? (That's how I spell "fish"!).

Prior generations understood the importance of what was in a name, and the importance of communicating a name. Difficult to pronounce names (especially those of Jewish and Eastern European background) were "Americanized"; merchants changed the pronunciations and spellings of their last names to that which was familiar to their customers. This is a lesson we would do well to remember in our ever-globalizing world. As those who do not speak English as a native tongue work to learn the language, and seek to work more with Americans, confusing spellings will not give your child a leg up on the competition.

Just for fun - and to make my point interactive - to follow are a few of the more “creative” spellings and “unique” names I have gathered from family and friends who work with youth. How many can you immediately recognize? 

Mathew (Matthew traditionally has two “t”’s, but since this is the most innocuous, I list it here on principle, not out of disgust)

Jhaymes (James can be spelled with a “y”, but who puts an “h” in it?)

Aighmee (Not an acceptable spelling of “Amy” or “Aimee”, which means “friend” in French; be a friend to your child and correct this hideous spelling!)

Konner (Are you a Kardashian? Unlike the Icelandic alphabet, the Latin (aka Western) alphabet has the letter “C” in it; learn to use it!).

Jhéojhañâ (This unique name belongs to one of my readers. Can you pronounce it? Neither can anybody else; and it hindered her job search).  

Mikkaila (Michaela, the feminine of “Michael” has a few accepted spellings, but this is not one of them!).

Alexzandre (Alexander is a unique enough name as it is; there is no need to butcher the spelling to make him stand out on a crowd. Furthermore, the “x” already has a “z” sound, so there is no need for redundancy, and the transposed letters at the end will make people wonder if they have been affected with dyslexia!).

Sindy (Unless you are raising your daughter to work in a strip club, please use an accepted spelling of the name “Cindy” – unless you actually are Icelandic.).

Dafydd (Multiple Paw Slaps of Disgust to the idiot that thought up this spelling for “David”!).

Espn (I don’t care how much you love sports, don’t name your kid after the cable sports network ESPN! Just don’t!)

Jovanny (It took me a few minutes to figure out this illiterate spelling of “Giovanni”. Just call the kid “John”!).

And if you think that last one is bad, I have saved my favorite for last…

Le__a (It’s pronounced “LeDasha"; the dash is not silent).


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.


  1. As a bilingual Welsh speaker, can I say that "Dafydd" is the Welsh way of writing "David". (It actually predates it and "David" is the anglicised variation.) Aside from that, as a teacher I really agree with you that these "creative" names can be really irritating at times.