I love a “correctly” spelled and pronounced name as much as the next name nerd. But in my years (and years) of reading reading reading name blogs and name books and name discussion forums, and inserting myself (invited or not) into any name discussions I hear going on around me, I’ve come to realize that I have not always been correct. Or rather, that certain “errors” I sometimes see/hear people make in regards to names are not actually as incorrect as I have believed.
One big example is Kateri.
I am familiar with the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs (for the North American Martyrs, including St. Isaac Jogues) in upstate New York, which is at the birthplace of our brand new St. Kateri Tekakwitha. For the life of me, I can’t remember ever hearing anyone who works there actually say the name Kateri, but I’m sure they must have in my presence a thousand times, and since I grew up knowing Kateri is pronounced kah-TEER-ee, I assume that’s how they say it. (Otherwise I’d have some memory of being jarred when hearing a different pronunciation said at the shrine, right?)
Therefore, I always knew that Kateri was pronounced kah-TEER-ee.
Then I made a friend who has a sister named Kateri, and they say kah-TARE-ee.
Then a friend named her daughter Kateri, pronouncing it KAH-ter-ee (nickname Kat, so cute!).
Behindthename.com’s entry for Kateri didn’t even venture a pronunciation, and among the people who commented the following pronunciations emerged as ones they’d heard used or assumed were correct: KAY-teree, kah-tuh-REE, kah-TAR-ie (all I think of with this is the John Wayne movie Hatari and the Atari video game system), and GAH-dah-lee, which is said to be the “authentic Native American pronunciation.”
Given all this, would you be able to say there is one “correct” pronunciation? Which one would it be, and why?
What about Gianna? St. Gianna Beretta Molla is so beloved (for good reason!) that she has a million little namesakes — first names, middle names, Confirmation names, religious names. It seems the Italian/original pronunciation is JAHN-nah, but I’m sure you’ve all heard and/or used the pronunciation jee-AH-na. Does that make the latter wrong? Not in my opinion, and I’ve got good company: My mom was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph at the convent school she attended from Kindergarten until twelfth grade, and she remembers the Sisters — who were sticklers for every kind of rule — specifically teaching them that when it comes to proper names, no one has the market on the “correct” pronunciation.
How do you say Kateri and Gianna? What other names can you think of that have different pronunciations? (Coming very soon, a spotlight on the grandaddy name of split pronunciation opinions: Xavier.)