I am one of those parents.
Yeah, you know the ones, the kind who pick unusual names.
In the case of my older daughter, I happened to be in Ireland and hear a girl addressed by the name, and thought it was pretty. I knew then and there if I ever had a daughter, I would name her that. Little did I count on the traditional Irish spelling.
Still, it was the ‘correct’ spelling, and when she was born, it was the name and spelling she was given, with the promise that she could have it legally changed as an adult, if she so desired.
Through the years, however, she has found not only the name, but the unusual spelling, a great ice breaker, and has developed quite a sense of humor about it.
In her own words:
At this point, you could turn to them with a highly condescending look and say, “Well a Caoimhe is a bipedal humanoid creature, originally found in the Northwestern and Midwestern regions of the United States. There have now been sightings in the Northeastern states, remarkably close to St. John’s University. Duh.” Then quickly walk away before they can argue.
The truth is my name is crazy. The spelling makes no sense, and once I pronounce it for people they become even more confused. It’s something I’ve come to accept having grown up with the completely unreadable name of “Caoimhe,” which is pronounced Keeva. Because of this, I always look forward to the first day of class when I get to see the different ways the professors approach my name. Many take the safe route, calling for a “Ms. Stack” and not attempting my name until they’ve had a chance to phonetically write it down. Then there are the teachers who bravely attempt my name, only to fail. Again, I don’t blame them in the least, and I appreciate their effort, but the phonetics of the Irish language always end up defeating them.
This semester held a surprise though. My French Professor was going through attendance when he zeroed in on me and said, “You must be Keeva. I researched your name.” To say the least, I was shocked. I can honestly say that was the first time IN MY LIFE that a teacher has gotten my name right without mine or my parents’ help. I’ve spent 18 years waiting for this day. The clouds parted and the angels sang the Hallelujah Chorus to me briefly. I had to take a moment to bask in the glory of it.
My history professor’s take on my name was a different matter. No matter what he does, he can’t seem to get it down. After looking at the mess of letters on the roster, he called for Ms. Stack and asked me to pronounce my name for him. On the second day, as he was taking attendance, he called for “Chow Main Sak.” The class was quiet. I looked around the class, wondering if there was an exchange student whose name he had bungled. Oh wait, no, it turned out that I was Chow Main. I told him how to say my name again. The third day came, and this time he called for “Chee Mean Sak.” At this point, I just raised my hand figuring that I would resign myself to having a new name exclusively for History.
On the fourth day, he called for “Kee Main Stack.” I raised my hand, but then he gave me a flicker of hope when he said “Oh wait, that’s not it.” He then asked, “It’s Katie, isn’t it?” Now he’s written down the correct pronunciation of my name. He already warned me that he has bad eyesight so there’s no promise that my name will be read off correctly, but it’s the effort that counts.
Now as we’ve gotten a week into the semester, most of my professors don’t need to be reminded on how to say my name. I doubt they have memorized the spelling of it, though. So I should still be good to play a game of Hangman with them and win.