Tag Archives: Aminatta Forna

So it’s not just me then?

This can run and run. Barely a week after my moan about Mariella Frostrup’s mangling of Scandinavian names, I have already had at least two facebook discussions on related topics.

I have continued my attempts at phonetic writing, when I don’t know what the other party is capable of understanding. (Sorry. I don’t mean that you are idiots. Just that there is a need to adapt for those who are not language students.)

Aminatta Forna

Anyway, that’s not what I was going to blog about. I happened upon this piece by Aminatta Forna in the Guardian. I know exactly what she means, even if my name as many of you know is somewhat simpler (=common). I even know what Aminatta looks like. Not sure how to pronounce her name, but in my thoughts I go mostly Italian. Which is probably wrong.

Whenever I read anything American, be it fact or fiction, I’m always taken aback by the sheer number of ‘difficult’ names and have wondered how they cope. According to Aminatta they have a working system of asking people to spell their names out.

It’s an excellent solution, and necessary, but one I avoid as much as possible. Once someone gets started on a-m-i-n-a-t-t-a my mind goes blank, and I only catch half of it and not necessarily in the right order. I can spell things out to people, but have difficulty if on the receiving end. I don’t suppose I could ask you to spell using the Swedish alphabet?

Whatever. My surname causes panic in Sweden where people are quite capable of saying ‘miles’, but opt for something that would rhyme with ‘millis’ for my name. But that’s OK. They are foreign. So why can’t people in ‘British’ call centres get it right?

And Swedes know for a fact that Ian rhymes with Brian. It must. Just look at it!

Aminatta would like her New Year cards to bear her name, correctly spelled. We have just received yet another card to ‘Dave’. There is no such person here. Anyone less Dave-like than the Resident IT Consultant you’d have to search for millis for. Why assume that you can use pet names for people you don’t know well enough to know that it’s not what they are called?

I’m so fussy that I would struggle to call a man Dave unless that’s the first version I hear.

And I’m aware that my name sounds the same, whether or not you add an ‘e’ at the end. But in writing it doesn’t feel like me if the ‘e’ is present. People are always adding the unwanted ‘e’. My neighbour three doors down complains that people are always removing her ‘e’. Never happy, are we?

I’m always pleased when people remember. And I’m astounded when those I barely know (or who barely know me) actually do recall the with-or-without issue. Steve Cole is one such person. Many remember the issue, but not which way it goes.

If you meet someone, don’t you at least try and listen to see how they say their name? To the best of my knowledge it’s not Meg Rose-off. And Debi Gliori has a silent ‘g’. Before meeting Rick Riordan I went to his website. He has a place where you can hear him pronounce Riordan. It’s quite easy once you know it’s not said ‘the other way’.

I’d be grateful (yes, I would, actually) if people could write in and correct all my own mistakes. I’ll compile a list.


David and me

The young ones headed for Cathy Cassidy and the oldies went for David Rintoul. I had great plans and intended to do both, however technically difficult it’d turn out. And I’d have managed it, too, because I’m a great witch. (And not just in that way.)

David Rintoul

But, my photographer went a little missing to begin with, and plans changed. I’d have to skip Cathy. She seemed to think this was just as well, as I told her when she swished past on her way to the young ones.

Instead I took up position to do David’s photocall with my size-challenged camera. All by myself. I just didn’t imagine doing it quite as much by myself, seeing as when David turned round he found only me there. ‘Looks like it’s just you and me’ is what I managed to say, frantically wondering how to do this.

Eventually one more photographer, equipped with somewhat better stuff than I had, was found. But David was very polite and made sure I’d got what I needed. (What I need is the ability to take proper pictures. That ability vanishes in the presence of those lenses on steroids. Doctor?)

David’s fans had waited for up to an hour to secure good seats, and considering the place was heaving, that was wise. A J Cronin’s biographer Alan Davies was there to talk about the passion of his life, and he pleaded for the Scottish people to remember their great author and raise statues of Cronin, and to read his books. I like a bit of enthusiasm, and it’s a shame that the book wasn’t quite ready to be sold at the book festival.

David read to us from Doctor Finlay’s Casebook until sweat poured down his face. That’s what I call reading! We enjoyed it, and we had fun with his reminiscing over the filming of Doctor Finlay, especially the poisoning of the baby, when they tried too hard for authenticity.

Aminatta Forna

Kat Banyard

While we were busy with all this, the late photographer made up for his near miss by taking photos of just about everyone he found, including someone I don’t know who they are. We were rather hoping for Cathy to appear for her photocall, but she was too popular in her signing, so was another one who ran late. We kept hanging around for the delayed Cathy, but had to give up in the end.

Cathy Cassidy

We had lunch with the next-door neighbour from home. As you do. Very nice to catch up, although maybe a little weird. Had previously missed Alex Scarrow as he marched past, but came to the conclusion he could be found signing in the bookshop after his talk. Alex Scarrow

Met up with Linda Strachan in the bookshop. Again. Our chat kept getting interrupted by people buying her Hamish books, who on having it pointed out to them by staff that the author herself was standing over there, wanted them signed.

It’s nice. I’d like that to happen to me a lot more often than it does.

Having given up on Cathy’s official photo, we went home, forgetting all about Ian Rankin. Which. Is. Annoying. Especially since I’d noticed him just before, but with a mind like a sieve you have to accept that a few things escape when you’re not watching.

John Banville