The Struggles of Having A Hard-to-Pronounce Name

Growing up, the only problem I ever had was people thinking I was a boy. (Ask me how many times I was placed on the boys soccer team. Ask me.) No one has ever slipped a silent “x” between “Ty” and “ler” or shortened my name to avoid an embarrassing spelling error on my coffee cup, though many have been quick to think that I have mispronounced Taylor or Tyla as Tyler, as if I haven’t been writing it on homework assignments for over a decade. However, after witnessing some of the struggles my friends have faced over the years (and watching celebrities try to pronounce Cara Delevingne’s last name), I’ve realized how blessed I am to have a fairly common, 5-letter moniker. I may end up on the wrong sports team occasionally, but at least I don’t have to deal with these problems:

Personalized souvenir? Forget about it.

Every overpriced souvenir shop has a rack of key chains bearing names like “Emma” and “Ryan” and never “Siobhan” or “Gregoire.” The problem with this is not so much the lack of obscure name tags, but the denial of the right to reject such an item. Did you actually want a 50 cent figurine of Michael Jackson’s head with your name inscribed across it? No, but they could at least give you the option.

Your coffee cup is always a mess.

When you have an unusual name, a simple coffee order suddenly becomes a frustrating guessing game for the confused barista. “Linnéa. Is that with two Ns? An accent? Is it like Liana? Like lint, with a T?” Before you know it, your Starbucks cup is covered in Sharpie hieroglyphics and your simple caffeine request has morphed into a back and forth exchange that has turned the rest of the coffee line against you. All because your parents thought “Emily” was too average.

You adopt a handful of nicknames to avoid confusion.

When your name takes longer than a split second to pronounce, it’s common to capitulate to the pressures of an impatient society by offering new alternatives. “My name is Paniteranium but you can call me Penny if you want” or “it’s Caprese, like Capri Sun, like the drink.” Occasionally, the other person will grant you a new title before you have a chance to provide one. “Andruth? How about Andruth the Sleuth? Or Handy Andy? Or Tom? Let’s go with Tom.”

Graduation ceremonies are always a disaster.

Nothing hurts more than watching your science teacher or principal hesitate when they reach your name on the graduation roll call. No matter how many hours said educator might have spent memorizing the pronunciations of 400 names, there will always be one poor soul that will spend the ten second walk across the stage wondering why they’re answering to “Witch” rather than “Wichitand.”

As they mumble your name into the microphone.

1 2Continue reading
  • Cailin Kelly

    As a victim of the dreaded silent “T” or the misheard “Was that Kayla/Taylor/Colin?”, I sympathize. Having adopted the nickname “Cal” for simplicity’s sake, I have made a promise to myself that any future children will have easy-to-spell, easy-to-understand names. It’s easy to learn to accept your unique name as an adult, but I would never want to put my kids through what I went through.

  • Mhairi Anderson

    I have the exact same problem! It’s a nightmare having to give someone your name over the phone.

  • Madelene Martins

    My name is not exactly hard to pronounce (at least not in Brazil, where I come from), but people seem to make extra effort NOT TO understand it. I’ve been called MadAlene more times than I can count. I mean, seriously, just READ IT, or HEAR ME.

  • Reena Leone

    My name is actually Amoreena, which is pronounced exactly like it is spelled: Amor-eena. I stopped using my full name in third grade in favor for just Reena because I couldn’t deal with it being butchered anymore.

    Also, as if strangers, classmates, teachers, etc. mispronouncing it weren’t bad enough, half my family pronounces it “Amo-reena” (which is correct: it’s an Elton John song so this shouldn’t be up for debate) and the other half pronounces it “Amor-reena” in Boston accents no less and they have insisted on it my entire life. That same side of the family also refuses to use my nickname.

    Yes, my name was completely butchered during high school graduation. To make matters worse, my middle name was there too: Jianna (pronounced Ji-AH-na). Honestly, I occasionally feel bad for people. My name is like a bad Scrabble hand: Nearly all vowels.

    And Starbucks? Forget about it. I only use Reena and I’ve gotten: Rita, Reeda, Vita, Frida, Renee, Reno, etc.

  • Imola Szilagyi

    my name is not hard to pronounce but it’s rare where i live (Romania) bonus the fact that there are a lot of Hungarians living there, myself included, Romanians always find it hard to pronounce my first name, even though you say it like you write it. my last name is out of the question because they don’t spell thing like Hungarians and don’t have a couple of sounds that we do, so yeah… i just got used to having to spell it every time they need to fill out a form or something…
    side note. I want to name my daughter Sophie but i’m afraid she’ll be picked at in school and will hate me forever because it’s obviously an English name…

  • Starleisha Michelle Gingrich

    I mean. Starleisha shouldn’t be that hard, right?


  • Freya Kauffman

    Awww hahaha I feel so much better after reading these! At coffee joints I give my abreviated name Rae..which is usually noted as “grey” on my coffee (wtf?? Grey is a beaitiful name..but Grey over Rae?? Come on meow!) I even use an alias on facebook due the ease of being found by sketchy people. At drs offices I just hand over my ID and insurance card..easier for everyone!

    Full birth name: Raelene Kauffman…just call me Rae 😉

  • Emily Fitch

    My first and middle name are extremely easy… Emily Elizabeth… Like the main character in Clifford the Big Red Dog… (main human anyway). But my last name, I’ve gotten: Fish, Finch, Mitch, Sitch (what?!), and Fuhhhh… It’s Fitch guys… I’ve just taken to saying, “Like Abercrombie &”. I don’t know why it’s so difficult…

  • Siobhan Guile-Boessow

    I feel like most of the names in this article (or commented below) I would be able to at least get close to pronouncing–and people who don’t are just stupid. I have met very few people that can pronounce my first name, let alone my middle (which is Etain and the easiest) or last (come on guys, Guile is a word!). I don’t expect anyone to know how to pronounce my name. I definitely don’t expect anyone to know how to spell it, and the only time I find a souvenir is when I’m in Ireland or Scotland (Gaelic name means I’ve got to go to the Gaelic countries).

    Oh, and my ordering name is Katie, because I’m not even going to try.

    Nonetheless I love my name, it’s gorgeous. I get compliments on a daily basis and people tend to remember who I am because of it.

Need more Giggles?
Like us on Facebook!

Want more Giggles?
Sign up for our newsletter!