Happy Feast of St. Joseph! And a name by any other spelling?

Happy St. Joseph’s Day! Especially to my Italian-heritaged readers! What a wonderful feast day, what a wonderful saint!

We considered Joseph for our third son before we decided to give it to our fourth, and when we were first thinking of it, when #3 was on his way, we considered spelling it Jozef (or was it Josef?), because Pope Benedict’s name had been spelled that way. Of course, now that I look it up, in order to provide a link to Jos/zef Cardinal Ratzinger, I’m only seeing the Joseph spelling. So maybe I’m crazy? I just looked it up on behindthename and Josef and Jozef are listed as variants of Joseph in Czech and Polish and Dutch … but not German. So now I have a memory coming back that maybe we liked the Polish version (Józef)? Because my father-in-law’s family is from Poland? (We would not have used the accent.)

Anyway. We did consider that spelling, and when we got to #4 we had abandoned the unusual spelling for the usual, and all has been fine, and I’m very happy with the spelling Joseph.

I was thinking last night about spellings of names, and how spelling really really makes a difference to me. Does it to you? I mean, on the one hand, in day-to-day life, the spelling of one’s name barely matters. You hear what you hear, and who cares if your best friend’s name is Kelly or Ckelleigh? It all sounds the same, and that sound is what you associate with your best friend, and it’s a pleasing sound because of it.

But we’re not an audio-only society, and the visual adds a whole dimension to names, doesn’t it? For example, I’m not a huge fan of the name McKayla. I can definitely see its appeal — it’s kind of cool and kicky with the Mc- beginning — it’s got an Irish feel, it’s got a surname feel. The Kayla part is pretty and feminine. Put cool and kicky with pretty and feminine and it’s sort of obvious why it’s spread like wildfire all over the country in recent years. It’s just not my style, you know? But you know what name I looooove? Michaela. Or Micaela. I’m good with either of those spellings. Guess how I pronounce Mic(h)aela? Exactly like McKayla.

Off the top of my head, other names that have totally different feels for me based on their spellings are:

John and Jon

Julia and Giulia

Sara(h) and Sera (like Serafina)

Even Juliet and Juliette

And not only do the names have different feels for me based on their spellings, but I get a different impression of people themselves based on the spelling of their name (before I get to know them. After that, I find spelling doesn’t influence me in regards to how I feel about them one way or the other). If I was reading over two resumes, one for a Jon and one for a John, I’d have a totally impression of each, exclusively based on the spelling of their name. (So unfair, right? It’s not Jon/John’s fault, this one’s on Mom and Dad. Parents, beware!)

Swistle had a post somewhat recently where I first really took notice of this: the older child, a girl, has a first-middle combo that are both nouns used as names, and her husband really wanted to consider the name Noel for their second if it was a boy. It’s not really my favorite name for a boy, and I find the pronunciation NOLE (which is what they intended to use) sort of … something. I don’t know, maybe hard to say? I know that’s weird, because it’s such a simple sound, and especially considering that a reader suggested changing the spelling to Knoll, to fit better with the nature-y noun name the big sister had, and ohmygoodess I was blown away by the brilliance of that suggestion and what I considered to be the perfectness of it for that family. Why on earth would Knoll strike me as so fabulous and the sound of it not bother me at all — in fact, I thought it *sounded* pretty cool with that spelling — but Noel, with the exact same pronunciation, was not really doing it for me. There was also an interesting post on BNW just the other day, where a reader was asking about the name Ceilidh for a little girl, which is a noun (the name of a dance-party type thing in Irish), and it’s pronounced just like Kaylee. I don’t love Kaylee, but I kind of love Ceilidh!

What about the rest of you? Do you find that knowing the spelling of a name influences how you feel about either the name and/or the person with the name?

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32 thoughts on “Happy Feast of St. Joseph! And a name by any other spelling?

  1. Yes! I love Zelie but I can’t get past people thinking her name is Zaylee when introduce. I also like Rhys for a boy but not Reece. And I have a Katherine, who we originally were going to name Catherine. We found out I had a great grandmother Katherine who was called “Kay” so we went with the K spelling as a surprise for my grandparents. After her birth (and naming) we discovered it was actually great-grandma Kathryn. Ha.

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    • Holly, I was thinking more about Zelie … on the My Child I Love You blog, her daughter’s name is spelled Zellie — maybe that would help? It’s such a beautiful name, I love it!

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    • I can’t reply to your lower post, too far down in the thread, but if you are talking about soon-to-be-canonized Bl. Zélie Martin, I have been told (but have not done independent research, so forgive me if I turn out to be wrong), that her given name was Azélie which is the French spelling of azalea. Given that she was born in the 19th century, a floral name seems befitting.

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  2. Spelling very much has an effect on me. I literally “see” a person’s name in my mind when I say it. No matter how long I’ve known them. I also got my BA in English, so linguistics, grammar, meaning, history, language development tend to matter quite a bit to me. Also, sometimes the spelling can tip a name a certain unintended direction. For example, the spelling Giulia. It’s a lovely name. Don’t get me wrong. But it triggers the scene in the Wedding Singer when Drew Barrymore’s character is crying in the mirror when she realizes the awful man she is about to marry also has a terribly fitting last name (Julia Gulia… Julian Gulia… My name will be Julia Gulia?!). Yes, I realized the g is supposed to be soft and no, we shouldn’t choose a spelling just based on one modern movie that will soon be forgotten, but it’s one example of how spelling affects me. Rhys/Reese is another great example. I associate Rhys with an old Welsh tradition and Reese with hip celebrities and sweet candy!

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    • Yes! I am the same way! “Seeing” names in my mind when I say it! And ohmygosh, Julia Gulia is so spot on — that scene always makes me laugh! Also Josie Grossy from “Never Been Kissed.” Haha!

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  3. Ps Dh has a unisex name where spelling really matters. It’s jarring to see his name misspelled (often with a feminine form). It’s an unfair thought considering that the mistake is innocent, but I always think, “Do you even know my husband? For starters, he is a GUY!” :).

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      • I’m so glad Amy asked — I was dying to know too! 🙂 Oh yes, Corey. That spelling though — Corey — is all boy to me. Cori/Corrie etc. are feminine to me too.

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    • How irritating!! My hubs has a traditional, masculine name that has two acceptable spellings … he has the more traditional Biblical spelling, and still he gets people mispronouncing it … it really helps to weed out junk calls when they don’t even know how to pronounce his fairly common name!

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  4. When I was younger I liked the name Natalie. However I wanted a unique spelling. I came up with Naitaly because I heard Italy in it and I have roots there. I also always liked the ai combination and a y. But I was not sure people would pronounce it right. Now I would go for the traditional. I don’t want to put an undue hardship on my kids where they constantly have to correct spelling or pronunciation.

    Speaking of unisex names (kind of off topic)… I have a male cousin named Jordan. He ended up marrying a female Jordan, yes, spelled the same way. If picking a unisex name, or the trend of giving girls boys names, do you ever fear that will happen?

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    • WOW that’s so funny about Jordan marrying Jordan!! I do worry about that, and it’s one of the (many) reasons I want my boys to have boy names. But with all the stealing that goes on by girls’ parents, it might happen anyway! I’ve seen James used for celebs’ daughters recently … I actually don’t worry about that name too much, since I can’t imagine James ever really being considered a girl’s name …

      I too liked to invent interesting spellings when I was little! I do think that a reputation the “kre8ive” spellings have is that they come across as somewhat immature … maybe because it’s something kids like to do, but most adults have grown out of that? Your point about undue hardship is a really good one … I even think that sometimes about some of our heavy-hitting saint names — is it too much to name a boy Athanasius? But then I think a great friendly “normal” nickname can make any name okay.

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      • “James” for girls made me also think of Maxwell, Wyatt, and Owen, three celeb daughters’ names. Like James though, I don’t see any of them becoming names considered to be “girl” names or even androgynous … rather, I think they’ll remain “boy names used for girls.” In the early part of the twentieth century, I know Tommie and similar names were given to girls, and Bobbie as a nick for Roberta hasn’t affected people’s impression of Bobby as a masculine nickname … it’s interesting to consider what characteristics a male name needs to have for it to either totally move to the girls’ side (Courtney, Meredith, Carol), or even be considered androgynous (Corey, Sidney, Bailey).

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  5. Yes! I greatly dislike kree8iv spelling. A family member of mine recently married a young woman with a beautiful son named Joezaiah. Ever time I see his name I wonder why? Josiah is a great name but Joezaiah makes me die a little inside. I am a new reader and I am so glad I found your blog! Happy St. Joseph’s day!

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    • Hahahaha “die a little inside” — that made me laugh!! I know what you mean! I’m such a stickler for grammar/spelling rules, I know it spills over into my taste in names … I just try to remember that parents choose names they think are beautiful, and often when I hear a mom gushing about the name she chose, her enthusiasm and affection for it makes me like it, even if I don’t *objectively* like it! But yeah. 😉 Welcome to the blog!

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      • The odd thing about creating your own spelling is that, as much as spelling does affect the name (which is obvious in this discussion!), it’s not everything. McKayla and Michaela will both turn their heads on the playground when one is called. And as one who grew up forced to be “Sarah-with-an-H” at school, I prefer to give my kids rarer names instead of simply relying on spelling to differentiate!

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  6. This was a great post! There are many name spelling I don’t particularly care for (not that it prejudices me towards the person at all.) One of my daughter’s friends is Mikayla and I cannot believe how many versions of that name there are. Also, the other day at the library, two mothers were talking about their sons’ names and one boy was Jackson (which I love as a name.) And the other mom says “Oh is that spelled with an ‘x’?” Like, Jaxon. I think that kind of negates the name for me, for some odd reason. Its too ‘trendy’. Or names like Ashlee, Brandee: names that have a traditional spelling but then they (the namer) make it spelled differently to be ‘different’ but ultimately, looks different and a little too….like they spelled it incorrectly? I also have a pet peeve about Irish name spelled ‘wrong’: like Shaymus for Seamus or Brendon for Brendan or Shawn for Sean. That’s just me, though. I never try to let it effect me towards the person her/himself.

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    • Those are good examples! Unfortunately for namers/grammar geeks, once a certain spelling of a name is used, it becomes just another acceptable (if rare/trendy and perhaps sometimes uneducated-looking) spelling. Crazy!

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      • Perhaps this was a sign that I would grow up to be a name nerd, but I’ve always loved Michaela – the sound and obvious connection to Michael. It baffled me when, as years past, the traditional spelling was so rarely used on this rising name. It’s by far my favorite version.

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      • Seriously, whyyy is the spelling Michaela not used?? I do think part of it is that those of us who love Michaela are shying away from it because of the glut of McKaylas and not wanting our Michaela to get lost in the (differently spelled) crowd. There are a few names that I think need to be reclaimed, and Michaela is def one of them!

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  7. Yes, let’s reclaim Michaela! I think you are right that perhaps the alternative spellings took on a life of their own and now kind of overshadow the original. (And *passed. Among other iPhone autocorrect errors, ha).

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  8. I agree wholeheartedly about spelling affecting my feelings about a name!

    Also, we have a daughter named Elisabeth and I (and now she, too, as she’s older) use it as a sort of “test” to see if a person is paying attention. She swims competitively and she has one coach who consistently spells her name correctly and one who consistently spells it incorrectly. It seems to point to their personalities, as well.

    And there are definitely the stubborn types who don’t like that we spelled it in a less common way and insist on using the “z”, as though to point out our error to us. Lol!!!

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    • Haha! What nerve! I’ve met a few people like that, who take it upon themselves to decide what your child should be called (parent-chosen nickname vs. nervy person’s-chosen nickname vs. given name) or, like you said, how a name should be spelled … I remember one of my teachers in elementary school disliked the nickname my parents decided to use for my sister, and insisted on calling my sister by her formal name!

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  9. I swoon for the name Theresa. I just adore it. For a good decade it was my absolute favorite girls name. Teresa is okay but it doesn’t have my heart.

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