That may sound like a strange question but it is one I find myself asking more often than not. Particularly when it comes to my own name.
My name is something which defines me – I answer to it and it identifies me.
Does it really though???
Allow me to attempt to explain.
My first name will make one thing immediate obvious about me – I have some connection with a foreign country. (When I ask people to guess which foreign country they usually take me on a world tour. Japan and South Africa have both been mentioned.)
Getting people to spell it correctly is a hard job – especially if the poor English person has heard it first before seeing it written down. The pronunciation of it is even worse when you read it before you hear ir.
I have managed to find a way of making my name a bit easier for English-speakers. Just think of a rather famous ex-Leicester City Football player who advertises crisps.
On the other hand – I realise I have to be very careful when Dutch people find out what my name is. I can speak and understand Dutch to a reasonable level – however, when Dutch-speakers see my name written down I can expect high speed Dutch to assault my ears. (Try listening to warp-speed Glaswegian and you may get an idea of the speed at which some Dutch people speak.)
Of course – I have a reasonably useful nickname. Try saying “Inky” or “Ink” in my presence and you will find yourself being answered politely. I prefer answering to both of those because I know they are easy to remember.
There have been some really interesting names in the Dutch side of my family – there is a Dutch girl’s name which I am very glad my English Dad didn’t decide to park on my birth certificate – Joke (pronounced the same way as “Yoker” in Glasgow).
I must admit that my Mum’s first name was my all time favourite (even though she hated it). To most people she was called “Coby” (or my least favourite version of it – “Co”) but the name on all legal documents was “Jacoba” – the oldfashioned Dutch female version of “Jacob”.
My middle name could quite happily be spelled two ways – depending on which country I am standing in at the time. To an English-speaker “Caroline” (my actual middle name) and “Carolyn” (the middle name my Dad wanted me to have) are two completely different names??? If you asked my Dutch Grandmother how to spell the former she would quite correctly give you the latter spelling. Let’s just say that to me “Martin” and “Martyn” are completely separate names – the first will be pronounced “Martin” and the second will be pronounced with the second syllable to match the River Tyne. (You can blame one of my Dutch relatives who answers to the second spelling – with a little twist. His spelling is actually “Martijn” but the “IJ” is interchangeable with a “Y”.)
So – next time you see someone with an unusual name don’t jump to conclusions about them. I have grown into my name and I am proud that it marks me out as “strange” in one country – yet “perfectly run-of-the-mill” in another.
Oh – and – if you decide to tell me you think I have a nice name I have one favour to ask you if I may. Please try not to mangle it too much.