The olde Bookwitche

What’s in a name? Does it matter if you spell someone’s name wrong, or the ‘other way’ if you can’t hear it as you say it?

When (parts of) Stockport station was re-built some years ago, it displayed a plaque saying the local MP had opened the new station. After a while they had to get a new plaque, as the MP really is Ann Coffey, and not Anne Coffey.

Every year the Resident IT Consultant receives Christmas cards from colleagues and associates (I don’t know why, since he generally doesn’t do cards). They are invariably for Dave. We have no Dave in this house. People have decided to give him the comfy version of what clearly must seem a boringly straight and old-fashioned name. But he will never have introduced himself as Dave. And I’m thinking you wouldn’t necessarily be quite as wrong if you David-ed a Dave on a card.

When in doubt, I skip the names on cards. We usually do a card for someone called Alistair. Or is he Alastair? Alasdair? I don’t know. So I play it safe and don’t get it wrong.

I have an uncle. His name is Lasse. Lasse is – usually – the familiar form of Lars. Hence he gets mail addressed to Lars. Except his name actually is Lasse.

It’s tricky.

One of the neighbours is an Anne. We had a discussion about this once, and she ‘always’ gets her name spelled as Ann. She says she doesn’t feel like an Ann.

But how I envy her. I don’t feel like a Bookwitche. The e might be silent, but it is there! I can see it. I can feel it. (Although it is preferable to Laura. Laura is a lovely name. But why people choose to address me as such is beyond even me.)

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8 responses to “The olde Bookwitche

  1. They should at least be thankful that their names fall somewhere in the region of Normalsville. I know a kid named Stylz. Less inventive parents would have spelt his name in the more generally accepted fashion, Styles. Even less inventive parents than that would have named him something like Brian and saved a lot of future angst. Ann(e) and Dav(e)(id) ain’t got nothin’ on poor old Stylz in the Christmas card department.

  2. Thank you for giving me Stylz! I was looking for an outlandish name wth awkward spelling, but came up with nothing. The thing about Stylz is whether you hear it or read it first. If I read it I’d give him a totally different pronunciation. (There is a Swede by the name of Stewe. I happened upon his name – again – yesterday, and wondered – again – how you are supposed to say it. I’m guessing the parents had seen Steve, and then went one better and got the w.)
    The thing with Dave is purely people being over-familiar and doing something that was never there in the first place.
    The Ann(e) situation is also fine, except on fb or in emails where anyone who writes a person’s name, can see how the other person wants their name spelled.
    My maiden surname could be spelled with either a C or a K at the beginning. C is more common, but anyone who couldn’t be bothered to check would invariably pick K. With an initial letter, you just never know where in the alphabetical list you’ll end up.

  3. This post very much strikes a chord with me. Speaking as an ex-teacher who was terrible with students’ names I mostly got away with not addressing them directly in class — I did feel bad about it but I always had a fear of misidentifying them in public. Though I was never so rude as one headteacher I had to whom most students were “Oy, you!”

    I’m Chris to friends and family, Christopher in any professional context; and I was Christopher Allan to my mother (usually when I was in trouble). But never Chrissie, as one colleague irritatingly called me in the belief this was acceptably casual. Use of one’s name is inevitably tied up with sense of self or status, and inappropriate misuse is almost magical in that it appears to give someone else power over you.

  4. I am very, very lax about how people spell or pronounce my name. I know it can be hard for people. I let my college professor put an accent over it to make it look more Gaelic to him, and I let my high school type it with an e on the end instead of an a for my entire four years there. I’ve even let a friend call me Kathy because he was foreign born and hard of hearing and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. There is no variant of Kathy in my name–I just let him choose for himself. It was a little unfortunate, because my roommate who was also his friend, was named Kathy. Luckily, she had recently taken to calling herself Kate.

  5. Oh Chrissie, we are on the same wavelength! You can only be casual in the right way (if you hope to get away with it), and shouldn’t make up your own endearments. Although, I quite liked being Bookwitchita at my favourite restaurant. That’s sort of sweet.
    Kathy, you surprise me. Is it the laid-back-ness of Californians?

  6. Bookwitchita, I surprise myself, as I am actually not all that laid back.

  7. Well, Laura, it’s all very well but surely it’s the intention that counts? One of my neighbours recently addressed a card ‘To Candy and Andrew’ … which was rather distressing for my husband who isn’t an Andrew. The question to my mind is: which Andrew? There are four Andrews on our street!

  8. They were merely trying to avoid saying Andy and Candy. I have several well meaning senders who reckon my son is my husband. And relatives (!) who spell son’s name the Scottish way.
    As for which Andrew; pick the one you like best.

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