Fun Friday Question: What is your Name Fuss threshhold?

Happy Friday everyone! By special request of one of our readers who is homebound because of the coronavirus, here’s a Fun Friday Question for you: What is your Name Fuss threshhold?

This is inspired by this post over at Swistle — it’s an older post that I came upon this morning, discussing the name Imogen (which I was surprised to see that some say it differently than me — I say IM-o-jen, how about you?), and Swistle said,

I do think you and she would spend some time spelling it and pronouncing it, and there will be a few people who haven’t heard of the name before. It kind of depends on how much you think that would bother you: everyone has a different level of tolerance for Name Fuss.”

I love that: “tolerance for Name Fuss.” I think my threshhold as a parent is fairly high — I don’t mind having to explain how or why we chose a name, I don’t mind correcting pronunciations, and I love nicknames that may or may not be related to the given name. But hubby and I have also chosen names that aren’t really that “out there” — maybe I just haven’t been in a high Name Fuss situation before? I also think one’s tolerance might change as one ages, to become either more or less tolerant. Do you agree?

And of course, on the flip side, in my encounters with other people, you know I LOVE an unexpected name or nickname or whatever, and I always want to hear every detail — give me all the Name Fuss!

Where is your threshhold? Have you crossed names you like off your list because their level of Name Fuss Potential is too high? Or what about the opposite — is there a name that might normally fail your Name Fuss Tolerance Test, but you just love it so much that you just went for it? How about in your encounters with others — do you tend to be irritated by high-maintenance names, or do you delight in them?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

49 thoughts on “Fun Friday Question: What is your Name Fuss threshhold?

  1. As someone with a uniquely-spelled name, name fuss was definitely a consideration for my kids’ names. We did go with first names that generally have 1 spelling, although they are not super common, so sometimes it takes people a few tries to hear them correctly. I personally don’t care if my name is spelled incorrectly – I never correct people unless it’s something super important, like an official record. So…I guess I have a low tolerance for fussing about my own name.

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  2. I have Rules for names: 1) Clear way to spell; 2) clear pronunciation; 3) Clear gender

    But, what I have learned, is that I am not always aware of how familiar other people are with the names I have picked. Charlie, people question if he could be a girl. Toby, People go to Tobi a LOT. Gideon, gets mispronounced at every appointment he goes to. Alice is the only one that doesn’t get Fussed with.

    So, I have relaxed some on my rules over time after I learned that people will mess it up pretty much no matter what it is. Gideon is my 4th and I don’t think I would have picked a name so uncommon earlier.

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  3. As an Anastatia, not Anastasia, I’ve developed a tolerance for it. My Aine has no problem correcting people who butcher her name. She says, “It’s Irish,” lile, “Have you idiots never heatd the mother tongue.” My Conall loves his name, but he hates when people call him Connor.

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  4. I think mine deal breaker (even though I haven’t chosen any names yet for any human babies) is pronunciation and if a name has multiple pronunciations, it’s normally not a name I would use even if I love it. I like names with one clear pronunciation because, for example, Madeline can be mad-uh-line or mad-uh-lyn and those are two different names to me and that I think would be frustrating because if you name your daughter Mad-uh-lyn, mad-uh-line isn’t her name. Does that make sense?

    Spelling isn’t as big of a deal for me because I think almost everyone has to spell their name at some point in time/gets their name misspelled. My last name is constantly being misspelled and it doesn’t really bother me, so I guess my name fuss meter for spelling is low.

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  5. Interesting question! I’ve never minded my last name being mispronounced, which it often is. In fact, I delight in having an unusual last name, partially because my first name is so popular. I don’t mind one name being popular, but I would mind both!
    I’ve never experienced it, but I don’t think I’d mind having to spell/pronounce my first name as long as it was a name that had a legitimate reason to be spelled in a way confusing to English-speakers (e.g. Mairead, one of very favorites which I would definitely consider for a daughter). I don’t like when name spellings seem to exist to draw attention to themselves, though.
    As for unexpected nicknames, BRING IT ON! For instance, I totally think we should revive some more historically accepted diminutives. (Mia for Maria is one I’ve been liking a lot lately.)
    I say Imogen IM uh gene. I didn’t know there were other ways. Cool!

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    • I like how you articulated that: “as long as it was a name that had a legitimate reason to be spelled in a way confusing to English-speakers.” I love so many historically accepted diminutives!

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  6. This is a question I have given a lot of thought to! As a Siobhan living in New Zealand, I constantly have to explain and spell my name, and any job with a name tag is a nightmare (for the people trying to read my name). I have had this conversation so often I have a ton of replies at the ready:
    Stranger: oh that’s an unusual name.
    Me: not to me, I’ve had it 37 years.
    And when I lived in Dublin for 2 years, it was a refreshing change that everybody recognised and found my name super normal, and even had nicknames for it.
    But ultimately, I think it gave me a unique characteristic. So when it came to naming my own kids, I was keen to continue the family tradition of Irish names. And it helped that I married an Irish surname as well.
    We decided to use Irish names with spellings that at least nominally resembled the name, but crucially that sounded the same with an NZ accent as an Irish accent (eg Declan was out).
    So my eldest is Finnian, and he gets Finnegan a lot, or Vinny?
    My daughter is Aisling, and she gets confused with Ashley.
    But my youngest (you always push the boat out more as you keep going right?) is Ruairi. It’s pronounced Rory. But to look at it resembles the Maori language, so many people attempt to pronounce it using the rules of that language.
    I think giving the kids names they have to stand up for and correct helps instil them with a voice to speak up for themselves and a unique identity.

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    • I love hearing your real-world examples!! I’d love to know more about the differences between Irish and NZ accents, as well as how people want to pronounce Ruairi (what are the rules of the Maori language for this name?).

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  7. I think mine is pretty high. My name is not uncommon, but my mom’s is very rare (her name is Ixtlac), so I’m used to having to explain it to people because they didn’t want to offend her by asking how it was pronounced etc. I personally wouldn’t choose a non-standard spelling for a common name, because I feel like that invites confusion, but that’s just me 🙂

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      • Thanks, I love my name too! 🙂 Ixtlac is Aztec, the full name is Ixtlacihuatl which means “beautiful sleeping princess,” but it was shortened on her birth certificate because the full name wouldn’t fit. 😂 The correct pronunciation would be something like “eesh-la” for the shortened version, but it’s been Americanized to “ix-lac” (basically said the way it’s written, with a silent T) and that’s what she goes by.

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  8. I’ve had so much confusion/drama/people who can’t pronounce my name, that I think it just made me more of a “don’t give a damn” personality. 😂 (my first name is Giedrė and almost no american can pronounce it right). I love my culture, though, speak Lithuanian fluently despite being a third generation, and even married another third gen Lithuanian….so we totally went for fun Lithuanian names. Povilas (nicknamed Povi), Aidas, and Apolonija. I’m shocked that Povi is the name most people can’t say correctly, Aidas usually only gets slaughtered a little, and Apolonija is pronounced perfectly once they hear it. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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    • Haha I can see how having a name like that can give you that kind of personality!! How do you pronounce your name? Can you share the pronunciations of your kids’ names? (I hear them in my head as PO-vi-las/PO-vee, AY-dis, and app-uh-LO-nia, or app-uh-lo-NEE-ah — how far off am I?)

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      • Totally missed your response and just found it in my inbox! My name is SUPER hard to pronounce. Best guide I have is g (as in girl) – ie (like the first part of the word “air” minus the r) – d (like dog) – rolled R – e (as in egg). :p

        Kids are kind of tough too, haha – say Po like the beginning of the word “pour”. Or imagine saying it with a Boston accent to get the right sound. So then it’s PO-vi-lus or PO-vee. Aidas is EYE-dus. You got Apolonija right! Up-uh-LUH-nee-uh.

        Lithuanian names, man 😀

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  9. I have really low tolerance for name fuss. My maiden name is was very difficult to pronounce and I really didn’t like having to pronounce it, spell it, explain why it was so unusual, etc. So no names for the kids that can’t be easily pronounced or spelled.

    The two I’ve crossed off my short list for this reason are Chiara and Xavier. I just know that in the US, Chiara would be pronounced Chee-ara. And I’ve read about the Xavier debate on here (I fall into the Zay-vier pronunciation camp). They are such great names with wonder saints and histories but I don’t want my kids to have to deal with the hassle.

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  10. My ‘name fuss’ threshold is really low. I have an unusual name and, while it wasn’t really a problem growing up (we were part of a small community), I’ve moved a lot since getting married and it’s gotten so tiring having people constantly mishearing, not understanding, and not remembering my name. So we’ve given our children straight-forward, pronounceable names as a result. 🙂

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  11. My requirement is that a name have a history, and ideally namesakes worth emulating. (There’s a bit of flexibility there for something like Mariel, which I heard of through the Redwall books, but is a clear enough Mary variant to suit me.) I do want a high level of Name Delight.

    Our first is Hilaria, which is high in both Fuss and Delight. Everyone loves it when they hear it, even if they think it’s Alaria. (Read aloud, we often get Eye-larry-a or Ill-larry-a, urgh.) But I didn’t realize how RARE it really is, since it’s an old name, shows up in Russian Greek Italian Spanish, and has been Top 50 in Italy for a decade. Still, to Americans, it may as well be invented.

    Our second is Katherine, which has only 1 letter of Fuss and nearly as much Delight. Even though there are 5 major spellings and countless possibilities, most people know the dominant spellings so “with a K” or “with a C” defaults to C/Katherine easily.

    My ideal is familiar, uncommon, and makes people’s eyes light up. I’m campaigning for Theodora, Paulina, or Rosalind if we have more.

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  12. I’m Lithuanian (that was my first language). Growing up, my cultural identify has always been tightly interwoven with who I am and I knew I wanted to give my kids Lithuanian names—but nothing too crazy. My husband was on board and we started brainstorming. For example, my name (Viktorija) is easily pronounceable. I can count on one hand the number of people who have attempted to pronounce my name with a hard “j”. Meanwhile, two of my sibs are Giedre and Gintaras—no one gets their name right on the first try. For our first son, my husband and I settled on Lukas Tomas (LOO-cuss Tuh-muss). Our second son is Aliksas Richard. We actually tweaked the spelling of his name from the traditional Aleksas because my husband worried that on paper, people would assume he was a girl (ie Alexis). I didn’t realize how difficult his name would be pronounce (especially to southerners!) until after he was born. The emphasis is on the first syllable, which throws most people—AH-lick-suss. No one ever gets it right and so many people don’t even try, preferring to call him by his nickname, Ollie. I love his name and think it suits him perfectly, but occasionally, I worry about this difficult name that we gave him. But then I remember that the U.S. is a giant pot of many cultures. There are so many folks here with unique names, particularly in bigger cities. Plus, he’s my sassy, stubborn, determined little boy. I know he’ll be up to the challenge of teaching people to say his name. 😉

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    • We really are lucky to have such a melting pot here, I love learning about names from other cultures! I wouldn’t have guessed that Aliksas has the stress on the first syllable, but I love it, and Ollie! (Are you sister of Giedre above?? How do you say Gintaras?)

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      • yep, Giedre’s my sister. 🙂 Aidas is EYE-duss and Apolonija is pronounced Uh-puh-LO-nia. You were very close! My brother’s name is pronounced GIN (not gin like the liquor, but “g” as in grass) – tuh – russ (rolled r).

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  13. I have a high tolerance having a name that can be pronounced at least 4 different ways.

    But for our kids who are being raised bilingual there are Spanish and English pronunciations. One clearly prefers the English one clearly prefers the Spanish pronunciation of their name. So for our third we picked a name we thought – easy same in both languages – Lucia. And then people called her lu-Chee-uh 🤦🏻‍♀️

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    • I’m another Andrea and I’ve always dealt with the multiple pronunciations of the name. I correct people every time they call me On-DRAY-uh or On-dree-uh. I say it ANN-dree-uh. Most people seem to be able to spell it, but I have had a few spell it with an i.

      I think names that are unfamiliar to a population can be a challenge for shy kids. I was at a spelling bee a few weeks ago and the announcer butchered the names of several of the kids, but they didn’t correct her. A girl named Moira (MOY-RA) was constantly called Mariah. A girl named Saoirse (SEER-sha) was introduced multiple times as Sa-royce. Neither are names anyone in this area is used to hearing.

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      • Oh yes, I so agree with you about shy kids. I’ve always been Kate (or Katie to some), and when I was little some older people (especially teachers) misheard it as Kay and would call me that, which I loathed, but I never spoke up because I was way too shy to make a fuss. Poor Moira and Saoirse!!

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  14. Our number three is Therese (shortened to Tess). I hadn’t realised how many people wouldn’t know how to say Therese. I’m a cradle Catholic and it obviously isn’t well known outside Catholic circles. We have had someone call her There-see once 🤣

    We had the added difficulty of moving from New Zealand to Australia when she was little and there are a few vowel pronunciation differences between countries. My long E sounds like a long I to Australians so she got Tiss a bit after people heard me say her name. Definitely made me think carefully with naming number 4. Ben (Bin) was definitely crossed off.

    Made me realise I don’t like a lot of name fuss! But for a name I loved I would prob still use it even if it involved explaining.

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  15. Low low name fuss for us. Last name is a Lithuanian name respelled in Polish, and no one knows how to spell or pronounce it. Therefore: our kids are Ella, Aria, Max, and Ivy. Short. Easy to spell. They will all have to spell their last name anyway, so may as well make the first names easy!
    Full names are Elizabeth Josephine (Elizabeth for extra nickname options), Aria Rose (patroness Our Lady of the Rosary—>Rosaria— Aria Rose backwards), Max Blaise (sounds like a superhero, not named Maximilian because that long of a name would be child cruelty), and Ivy Joy (our number four, IV).
    My name, incidentally, is an acronym. I’m Karen Elaine Laura. Never liked Karen so I became KEL twenty years ago.

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  16. My mom once asked me if I didn’t mind that my favorite boy name has two different pronunciations. I said no, I love them both! 🙂
    As for spelling, I don’t mind as long as it’s easy to explain, as in “Phillip with 2 Ls” or “Ellen with no H”.

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  17. My girls (Clare and Katharine) names are typically misspelled. I feel bad for Clare because it clearly bugs her, but it wasn’t high on my list of concerns when I picked their names. Katharine goes by easy to spell Kate outside our house so she skirts the problem more easily.

    I think the reason I gravitate towards short names (my older boys are Paul, Mark, James & Andrew) is I like the lack of name fuss involved in having 1 call name.

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    • I wouldn’t have thought that Clare would be problematic from any Fuss perspective, I’m so surprised she typically gets misspelled! I’m assuming Claire? And yes, I ALWAYS have to spell Katherine, but Kate is never a problem.

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  18. my Uncle and Aunt chose “Tara” for their daughter. He pronounced it “TAR-uh” and she prounounced it “TEAR-uh” all her life. Most people pronounce it the way her mother does. Her father tragically passed away in an accident several years ago and I have to think she misses the way he says her name, and that whenever she hears it pronounced that way, she thinks of him. It is a thought that just occurred to me recently, how even the experience of hearing her name pronounced can give rise to many emotions and memories. But as for name fuss, two pronunciations in the same household! And they still agreed on it. 🙂 It makes me laugh to this day.

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