Sunday SummaryPeople should be called what they want to be called.

Sometimes there’s a disconnect between the name you’re given at birth and how you wish to be known later in life. Your wishes – whether you’re a child or an adult – should rule the day.  It’s a question of basic human dignity.

Maybe that’s a heavy thought, but it came from three semi-fluffy places:

  • In Rio 2, Blu – a rare blue macaw – meets his father-in-law, Eduardo. Eduardo doesn’t like Blu, and one of the ways he shows it is by calling him Stu, Sue, Lou – anything but his actual name.
  • Then there’s this video: DO BETTER: Pronounce my name right! Vlogger Ngozi wants people to pronounce her name right. en GAH zee.  She jokes that people stumble over it. “Nosy? Nazzy? I’m just gonna call you Cheryl.” A twist? Someone from West Africa tells her that she’s not saying Ngozi right, either. Ngozi isn’t phased by this – she replies, correctly I think, that she wants you to say her name the way she says her name – end of story.
  • Then a trailer for new ABC series Fresh Off the Boat caught my eye. It’s based on chef Eddie Huang’s coming-of-age memoir, about his Taiwanese family moving from Washington DC to Orlando in the 1990s. Eddie has a Taiwanese name. On his first day in his new school, his new teacher stumbles.  “Just call me Eddie,” he says, and the teacher sighs, “Oh, thank God.”

Credit goes to my uncle Steve for the statement People should be called what they want to be called.  He said exactly that back when I changed my name, and he was among the first to adopt it without hesitation.

If we care about people, and want to be polite and respectful of others, doing our very best to use their names as they prefer is a good start.

Have you ever had your name mangled?  How do you feel about it?

Now, on to the name news:

  • This Mommy Shorts post is brilliant for just the headline alone: Every Group of Sophias Needs an Esmeralda … Agreed!
  • My daughter is loving science-centric Amazon original series Annedroids, about the adventures of a young inventor named Anne and her friends. Lately, I’m really appreciating the simplicity of Anne.  At #519, Anne is terribly obscure in the US.  But I think she could be the new Jane – a classic with history galore, and a slim, trim name for a girl.
  • Speaking of Amazon, Amazon Studios is in the middle of pilot season. I watched Salem Rogers, the story of a former supermodel attempting a comeback. Salem is a total trainwreck, but she’s funny – and I loved Rachel Dratch as her former assistant-turned-life coach, Agatha.  And, of course, I had to go look at usage numbers for Salem as a given name.  It’s been slowly, steadily rising for boys and girls over the years.  As of 2013, 91 girls and 93 boys were given the name. Should Salem Rogers get the greenlight, could Salem be the next Piper?
  • Names with multiple accepted spellings fascinate me, and few masculine names have as many as Alistair.  The Art of Naming is running a poll to choose your favorite.  My heart belongs to Alasdair.
  • Baby Name Pondering has a great name quote from the movie When in Rome. The best part? It’s about the name Gale, for a boy.  As in The Hunger Games.  As in this post I wrote for Nameberry on reclaiming great names for boys.
  • Philippe Starck named his four children using a baby name generator program he wrote four decades ago.  The names it generated? Ara, Oa, K, and Lago. Seriously. Read all about it at Daddy Types. How I would love to try out that program!
  • I’m intrigued by Calissa. For Real spotted a Calissa Vale in Kansas, and I saw the name mentioned elsewhere not too long ago. It’s apparently a form of Calisto – a name I truly adore.  But just like Ariana is a more accessible form of Ariadne, could Calissa also catch on? I’ll always prefer Ariadne and Calisto, but Calissa could have broad appeal.
  • Or maybe I’m just super-into C names at the moment, because I’m loving Constance – as in Constance Wu, the actress who plays the mom in new ABC series Fresh Off the Boat.  The name is also the winner of a Matilda award. Rui pointed out that Constança is big in Portugal.  And then I saw Ceony, from The Paper Magician series.  Yes, I might just be having a C moment.

That’s all for this week – as always, thank you for reading!  And I’d love to know: what names are you loving lately?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I was named Winter. For the majority of my childhood, adults wanted to call me Winnie or Winner. Adults had a difficult time wrapping their mind around the name Winter. So they shortened it to Winnie as a compromise for familiarity or Winner to make a mockery of my name because they felt that it was not a “real” name. Some Adults sincerely couldn’t pronounce my name correctly because they were in a hurry or to short corners. This infuriated me either way. To deal with the adults that had issues, I suggest that they call me Winifred. I had came up with that name from some sotry book and sincerely wish that it was my “real” name. The adults were very happy to comply. I felt that my name was very English, and clearly it had a ter at the ending of my name. However, the children didn’t have that much of problem. I think the simplified answer came from the fact that we were at school. Back then, schools taught proper pronunciation, elocution, and respect, something that we are sorely lacking today. At school you weren’t allow to cut corners. Also, the kids loved that I had an unusual name, it was cool and not the run of the much names.

  2. You can spell and pronounce your name any way you want, but it’s not reasonable to expect people to know how through some sort of psychic power – I do not have a mystical ability to instinctively know you like your nickname spelled Emmy (or Emiiiiiii) rather than Emmie.

    You may also have to accept that some people, due to their accent or a speech impediment, will never be able to pronounce your name to your satisfaction, as even common names can be difficult for some people.

      1. I agree. My disabled brother had speech impediments, he called me Baby. It was easier than Winter. W’s and T’s were difficult to make out for him.

  3. In the movie The Opposite of Sex, Lisa Kudrow’s character, Lucia, pronounced her name “Loo-sha” and there’s a hilarious scene where she yells at someone and says, “I think I know how my own name is pronounced.” Everyone in my family pronounces our last name differently.

    My name (spelled precisely the same) is pronounced differently in English than in Spanish, as are a lot of other names (cf. Frozen’s “Anna” as “Ah-nah” whereas most Americans say it “Ann-uh”). There’s leeway.

  4. to some degree people need to accept and embrace the name given to them, just as we should love our natural hair color, body type, etc. our genes and name came from our parents, it’s part of our heritage. we shouldn’t try to change ourselves to the point where we become unrecognizable. for a season, for fun? okay sure. but to ignore/hide/cover up a part of the real you?

    also completely disagree with a name should be pronounced however the named wants it. language is only language when you follow the ‘rules’. it’s getting to the point of ridiculum. basically ‘my name is spelled john but I pronounce it alex.’ again, the name because unrecognizable. you have big ears, a big nose, small breasts, you’re too short, you have what you consider to be an unattractive name….accept and embrace it.

    1. If you find empowerment in embracing these things, good for you, but that’s certainly not the case with everyone, and what business is it of anyone else’s what someone does with their own identity? From hair color to name to nose, it’s theirs to live with.

    2. Certainly there are some limits to pronunciation. John-said-Alex is pretty wacky, and I doubt you’d find many trying something so guaranteed to cause headaches. Even the most outlandish respellings (Eighmei for Amy, for example) are happily rare.

      But Andrea who prefers AWN drey ah to ann DREE ah? Why not? I once met a (now) 40-something Chloe who rhymes her name with Joe. Her parents saw the name in writing, liked the look of it – but had no idea it was two syllables. When the name was obscure, it wasn’t a problem. Later in life, she had to explain – and repeat, “Call me Clo.” Maybe it was an error originally, but it’s now her identity.

      Language has rules, but rules evolve and usage changes. Names are part of that. We used to pronounce Nina like the number nine – now it rhymes with Tina. We used to assume William would be Bill, but these days he’s probably Will.

      Still, I think there’s good in the idea of seeing our names as gifts. Plenty of people do grow into their names, and come to appreciate the connection it gives them to their families and heritage, or love the story behind the name. Or just plain forget that they disliked it once upon a time.

      And I’m all for accepting our imperfections. (Though I still can’t quite believe that I’m only 5’4.)

  5. I have a niece named Aislynn… and they pronounce it ACE-lynn. I heard it before I ever saw it spelled out. I was bursting to tell someone that that was just… not right. But I have kept it to myself because, obviously, I would be a huge jerk to tell this girl and her family they are pronouncing it “wrong.”

    But then, when I was little I used to think my maiden name was pronounced a certain way and I would tell everyone in my classes that people were getting it wrong, and then I realized that actually *I* was wrong. So I just stopped insisting on the other pronunciation, and if anyone noticed, they never called me out on it. Haha!

    Thinking about my own children, I would feel hurt if they wanted to outright change their names. I love their names so, so much and I put a lot of thought and feeling into choosing them. So I would probably struggle with it if they decided later on that they wanted to change it, but I would at least try.

  6. It seems unfair and contradictory that people both want a name set apart from the pack… but still want the pack to know how to say, spell, and pronounce with an accent their selected moniker.

    This. Is. Unreasonable.

    If a person chooses to give their child a ‘Top Ten’ name, they cannot complain that their child must also go by their last initial.

    If a person chooses to bless their child with an esoteric, never-been-on-the-social-security-register name, they cannot complain that it is entirely unfamiliar to the rest of society.

    And perhaps this is why so many parents seek that magical combination of a name that everyone knows but never uses… that will never gain or lose popularity. Too bad that sort of name is a myth.

    A parent must choose which is more important to give their child: individuality or belonging, inconvenience or conformity.

    Personally, I was the kid with the ‘Top Ten’ name growing up. My last initial, sometimes middle initial, sometimes social security number (hey, it was a different time) went on every form, every assignment, every test. It should have gained me an instant peer group and protection from teasing… after all, that’s the touted benefit to a ‘popular’ name. Yet, I was teased as much as girls named ‘Destiny’ or ‘Cody’, ‘Amy’ or ‘Jessica’. Therefore, it was difficult to understand when girls named ‘Deirdre’ and ‘Teneille’ were so outstandingly popular.

    This was my amateur conclusion: An unusual name teaches a child from an early age to confidently present themselves to the world. They are special and different right down to their very title. They learn to own that, who they are, and unabashedly embrace their unique identity. Playground taunts then are worthy of only an eyeroll, not an elementary emotional break-down. And confidence attracts admirers.

    All of my children have names outside the top 1000 for this reason. And, happily, none of them have experienced teasing from their names.

    1. But you can give your kid an unusual name only to see it get used on a celebrity then shoot up the charts, or just happen to live in a place where the neighbor has it. My last name is HIGHLY unusual, with only a few dozen people (most of them related to me) in the entire country having it, and yet, in my small town, there was a man of no relation who had the same first and last nam as my father. There’s no protection and saying that parents “deserve it” for not planning ahead isn’t very fair. When someone names their child, they are hoping for all manner of things.

  7. This is a different thing, but when I came home from kindergarten and announced I wanted to be Alli rather than Allison, my mom refused. To this day (I’m 30), she refuses to call me Alli. When we were fostering a little girl a couple months ago named Allie, I was just joking about adoption and how one of us would have to change. My mom still said, “Or, you could just go by your actual name.” Sorry Mom, you’re never going to win this one!

    1. HA! Allison is one of the names that I would have LOVED to have growing up. Something just a little different in a sea of girls named Jen and Amy and Michelle.

      My mother remains baffled that I changed my name. (My family tends to use affectionate nicknames, so the issue of my actual, legal name comes up very rarely.) I *adore* my mother, but I prefer to be called what I want to be called.

      1. Thank you. I am absolutely with you, regarding being called what you wish. I am in my mid thirties and grew up in a sea of Jennifer,Jessica, Amy, Jill, Allison’s…I was the only Alexandra….and i was made fun of relentlessly for being unique. I was told by these same girls how ‘ugly’ my name and I were, because it started with Alex, which was “a boy’s name”. I felt badly about my name for a very, very long time…tried to get people to call me Sasha instead, but that never flew. They always came back to Alex…I silently accepted it. However, in junior year of high school, i choose to take back the power of my name. There was a boy named Alexander who went by Alex in my creative writing class…so, I became Xan. Sure, some people try to spell or say it Zan, or Zen, or Zanne….but to me, it fitting to who I am. And to add to my choice, when my first sister was little, she could never say my name, and called me Xandra or Xangie instead.LoL My parents and extended family never accepted my choice…but it’s ok. At least my sisters embrace it. 🙂 I think you were wise to choose a name that was and is comfortable to you.

  8. There is an Ngozi in my grade at school, but he pronounces it en-GOH-zee. According to Nameberry, that’s the correct pronounciation, but I agree that if she wants her name pronounced differently, people should respect that.

  9. I had my birth name mangled quite a lot, my name was Breanna and people could never get it right. My high school English teacher called me Breaunna even after I corrected her about twenty times. I never felt like a Breanna, so I legally changed my whole name to one I think better suits me. But even now it gets mispronounced; Falcon, Faylon, Fillon.
    In my classes, there are girls named Katria, Lorna, Ilsa (I thought it was Elsa at first). I’ve also heard Lorena and Pandora in my building.