How I learned to love my weird name

October 26 2015 | Guest post by Daryl Sztuka
Aw, good try Starbucks barista.
Aw, good try Starbucks barista.

In the mid '80s, my parents saw the movie Splash starring Daryl Hannah. Several months later, I was born, and she became my namesake. At the time, Daryl wasn't as common as it is today, but growing up people knew it was traditionally a boy's name. People always commented on it or asked about it, and when I was young, I didn't want that extra attention. I didn't want people to think I was weird or different. When I was a kid, I used to daydream about what it would be like to have a "normal" name, like Susan, or Linda.

My parents chose semi-unusual names for my brother and me, because they grew up with very common names. When my mother worked as a nurse, she once had four other Karens on her floor at the hospital. Whenever someone got called, they would all flood the nurses' station at once. My parents didn't want us to be one of three or four kids in a class with our name.

Throughout my life I've received a variety of responses when I introduce myself. There are people who just say "What?" or "Huh?" or "Carol?" and I need to repeat my name or explain it. A few years ago I started saying, "Daryl — like a dude." Then there are the people who tell me that my parents must have wanted a boy.

The worst response happened when I was working at my first job out of college. I picked up the phone and said my normal script, which ended with, "This is Daryl, how can I help you?" Without missing a beat, the woman on the other end of the phone said, "Daryl huh? Your parents must not have liked you very much." (Yes, really.) I remained professional and polite on the phone, but as soon as I hung up I had to take a long coffee break to cool off. I was so angry — how could someone be so rude? I know some people would give you that "a rose by any other name" blah blah blah, but what is more intrinsically you than your name? When someone attacks it, it feels like they are attacking you. I highly doubt that woman remembers me, but I sure remember her.

On the other end of the spectrum, the funniest response to my name is guys at bars who try to use it as a pickup line: "Why are girls with dude names always so good looking?" Oof. Come on guys, you can do better.

I once showed up for my first day at a part-time job, and my new coworker told me she had expected a stockboy. At another company, all the coworkers in my new department had been expecting a guy to show up. I've talked to customers for months via email, only to have them sound very surprised when I speak to them on the phone for the first time. It's kind of funny that you could talk to someone for so long and that they could have a completely different picture of you in their mind. The hiring process is also interesting; I sometimes wonder if people have seen my resume and called me in for an interview expecting to see a man.

The great thing about seeing different reactions to my name is that it immediately lets me know what kind of person I am dealing with. A brief period of confusion or a question about it is fine, but people who are openly rude or offensive? Those are the ones that I immediately know are not my kind of people.

When I met my husband, he never questioned my name. I thought that was odd — almost everyone I had ever met had at least asked about it. Then, a few weeks after we started dating, he went to visit his extended family and mentioned his Aunt Daryl. To say I was excited is a real understatement. I started asking a million questions and then I realized that was why he never asked about it; to him, it was totally normal. His aunt was the only Daryl in his life, so it never seemed strange to him.

Nowadays, I love my name. I love that there aren't a million other women with it, and that people ask about it. I love when people say positive things about it and when they say, "That's so different." I love embracing the weirdness — the thing that makes me different.

When I was a kid all I wanted was to be like everyone else. But now that I'm older, I WANT to stand out, I want to be memorable. And with celebrities jumping on the girls-with-boy-names bandwagon ( I'm looking at you Blake Lively ) who knows? Maybe my parents were way ahead of the trend.

And the best thing? When you have an unusual name, people remember you. You have something that stands out to people and you're less likely to fade into the background. You catch their eye in a way no one else can.

And at the very least, I get a laugh every time they call my Starbucks order.

  1. I actually know the feeling. My name might not seem unusual but it was growing up in a small community in Iceland back in the day. When I was born, there were only two other Nadias in the country and they were both over 40 and foreign. I was awfully teased in school, if you change one letter in my name it would mean "underpants" in Icelandic. So I was called underpants for many years and I would cry to my mother about changing it to something "normal". Now I love my name and it is becoming more and more popular here. I like to think of myself (and my parents) as trendsetters now.

  2. Growing up I had a very common nickname but decided to go by my full name in high school because I was tired of getting lumped in with all the other girls with sound-alike names (I was handed the other girl's corrected homework assignments more than once because our names were similar). Its kind of an 'older' name and I've felt happily unique with it… Until one day at work when someone said my name and myself and two other nurses plus a respiratory therapist all whipped around saying 'what?' So I don't feel so unique all the time now!

  3. When pregnant with me my Mom read a book with a character named Kirsten. She loved it so much that she named me after her. In the 1970's-a time of Jennifer's and Tammy's and Michelle's it instantly marked me as "the girl with the weird name." And it's pronounced "Keer-sten" as opposed to "Ker/Kirrr." My Mom, bestower of the moniker, has since encouraged me to the more user-friendly (& prettier) spelling of Kiersten, but on principal it seems wrong. Over the years my name has lost some of it's oddness and inevitably it seems other Kirsten's I come across or learn of are artistic and creative also so maybe the differentness sets us apart on some level? I now….appreciate my name; but when my own daughter was born I understood how important it was to strike the balance between standing out v standing out too much. It's a daunting task to name another human being! So, I named her something that gave her options and would let her define herself from that.
    Ps: After my birth my Mom promptly forgot the name of the book I was named from, a mystery that continues to haunt me.

    • Me, too! I'm a "Kirsten" as well and I have battled the Kir vs Keer all my life. When challenged, I usually respond with, do you pronounce "Mirror" as "Mer-er"?

      I was born waaaay before the "Kirsten" books came out—they were associated with American Girl dolls, which were published decades after I was born. My mother found my name when she went to see "The Days of Wine and Roses" days before my birth. The Lee Remick character's name was Kirsten. I still love that movie! When I was a kid, nothing in the drugstore ever have my name on it, but I could always count on a Saturday afternoon showing of "my" movie to remind me how much better it was to have a "unique" name. Still, in my 30s, when the books came out, so many people sent me copies. After so much of my life never seeing my name in print, that was fun!

      Things have changed now, of course. In my first 40 years, I never met anyone with my name, so pretty much everyone had difficulties with it. That is, until Kirsten Dunst came along. Now, everyone knows the right way to pronounce it and spell it!

      My brother had the "boy name/girl name" issue. He's a "Kendall." At 50 years old, he still doesn't know another man with his name, but there are thousands of little girl "Kendalls" running about, even though it was traditionally a boy's name.

      I always liked being the only one of my name so I named my son a unique name, too. He's "Astin." In the early years of Facebook, there was an invitation-only group that was formed called "My Name is Cooler than Your Name." It was exclusive to people named "Astin." Numbering only about 20 people, oddly enough, it was evenly split between boys and girls, and they all were within a year or so of each other in age, which I thought was interesting.

      • I tend to say "Kir-as in Ear" when people look at me blankly when I (automatically) correct them on pronunciation. My mr, when feeling ornery, will call me Kristin bc he knows it's like nails down a chalk board to me. I am very much Not a Kristin! Then again having a weird name works great in terms of telemarketers (yep-I'm old!) bc if you can't say my name you don't get to see the wizard and have zero qualms about very politely saying "I'm sorry. There's no one here by that name." 😉

        • Oh Kirstens of the world I apologise but some days its very freaking hard to get the right pronunciation – particularly when you have so many varieties and don't see any of them on a regular basis. I have a Kirsten, Kristen, Kierstan, Kristie, Kristin, and no matter how hard I try very rarely am I successful in pronouncing correctly.

          • Captain Cat- on behalf of most of us-you're good. Seriously, we understand and are Totally used to it. We won't take offense if you don't mind our polite but automatic corrections. 🙂

        • You're singing my song with the telemarketers vs. the gatekeeping wizard! All three of my names are very unusual, but each is spelled exactly as it sounds phonetically. So, anyone who calls me mispronouncing my name(s) obviously has never met me/heard my name spoken, and so the proclamation is made: "You shall not pass!"

          • My married last name is German so you add the 2 together & odds are totally stacked against you getting it right. Created some interesting "discussions" when I lived in Germany as Kirsten over there is pronounced "Car-sten" (I would correct them and say it My way, point to my red hair & freckles & say "American Irish-Not German!") and part of my last name has the German word for wine in it. And yes-I ended up working for a vineyard ironically tho I'm not a wine drinker, and they called me the Wein Frau. Where does the name Reen come from? It's pretty.

    • My dad wanted to name me Kirsten, which my mother vetoed, because the last name is difficult enough and German enough for a family which isn't even German.

      • As my married name is German w a few silent consanants I give points to your Mom for that forethought. Going to any sort of place where my name has to be called out (Dr-food delivery-sometimes work (I'm a school sub) ) I always Know when it's me they want before bc it usually goes something like this Nurse: " ……….. ……………………………….." Which is usually when I speak up & ask "Do you need KEARsten?" And they often laugh w relief & rescue. In that regard about a million times a month I wish I had kept my own name, which is Irish, simple and I love.
        Lately I've started experimenting w different spellings; currently it's Kjersten-knowing most people would pronounce it phonetically as "KaJEERsten" which kind of cracks me up at their expense. They're most likely going to say it wrong anyway-why not have some fun? Yah. Bitchy.

        • My sister's name is Kirsten, and she has never really had the trouble you guys have had, but mine is Ceillie (pronounced like Kaylee). Our family is really Scottish. I did the same thing with doctors, professors, etc. I hate having my name mispronounced, especially by people that should know better! Like the OP, I know that if they haven't bothered to learn my name within a month, they're not going to be worth getting to know. I'm getting ready to move to a new state, and I am sort of looking forward, sort of dreading having to re-train everyone I meet how to pronounce my name.

  4. I have a similar problem. Though my name isn't what some would consider odd, it's actually quite common. For me my name doesn't fit, at all. I'm almost 30 and I don't even respond to my name when people call it out sometimes – it's like my brain doesn't hear it as my name. It doesn't feel like my name. For one, Christine means Christian. I'm Atheist. I have considered changing my name, but that's a big step. I'm trying to like my name. Oh, my middle name? My mom spelled it in a way I don't like! Haha My luck.

      • I've thought about that for awhile. It's difficult. I do like unisex names or odd names. I'd rather be called Charlie or my middle name spelled differently. I guess I need to invest in a baby name book to see what hits me. Autumn is the one I've liked the longest…

        I've thought about nicknames too, so I wouldn't have to change my name…but my friends' nicknames for me are silly.

    • I also have mixed feelings toward my name for the same reason. Aesthetically, it sounds pretty, and it is who I am, but I hate the meaning, because I'm a staunch agnostic. I've always envied girls who share names with flowers or cities, or mean something awesome in another language. My favorite nickname is Stina.

      • I confessed to my boyfriend today that I didn't like my name. He made me feel better but saying it reminded him of Christine the Killer Car and Phantom of the Opera's Christine. Then he acted like a killer car…in the middle of the mall. Made me feel better! Now I'm looking up famous characters with my name.

      • Funnily enough every guy called Christian I've ever met has been an atheist or agnostic, and therefore went by a nickname (usually Chris, one was Kit). One of them joked that it was the best way to put your kid off your religion, which I don't think impressed his parents at all.

  5. I used to HATE my name as a kid and went through a period of several years in elementary school where I changed it every week or so — obvious variations like Celestina, Cellie, Cel, Celeste-Marie (my middle name), etc. but also Chlöe, Chelsea, and others. And yes, I've heard all kinds of butcherings of my name. Eventually, though, I got over that and I absolutely adore my name now. I come across others with my name more often now than I did then (the Internet and all) but it's still pretty rare, and I love that about it.

    • I didn't like my name as a kid either and kept trying other variations and nicknames, none of which really fit or stuck. Looking back I think the two things I disliked the most were feeling different and that my name always got butchered in both pronunciation and spelling. Now I love my name! 🙂 I joke that my parents were hipsters in naming their kids Alissa and Abigail before those names were popular; twenty years later they both end up in the most popular baby name lists (albeit "Alyssa").

    • My mother's name is Celeste! Actually, it's her middle name, which she has always gone by, rather than her first name. She HATES her first name. According to her, her parents really liked "Celeste" but couldn't come up with a middle name that sounded nice with their last name, so they came up with a first name, and then just chose to call her by her middle name.

      Tons of people have told my mom how lovely her name is, and I agree! As someone with one of the most common names around (I have literally never studied or worked anywhere without AT LEAST one other Erin in the same company/class/whatever), I gotta say that I envy those with less common names. Most of the time there have been at least three of us. It's annoying, because I can't go by my middle name to differentiate myself— it's even MORE common than my first name! Needless to say, I have always kind of loathed my name. Though at least since I'm never having kids, they'll never be around to blame me for giving them a name they don't like, haha. 😛

    • I absolutely love the name Celeste! So much so, that I almost regretted not having one more daughter so I could name her this. It brings to mind the galaxies, stars etc. So glad you've embraced it. 🙂

  6. My little cousin was named Daryl! (Daryl-Lynn is her official legal name but nobody called her that) — any time I mentioned her name people would say something about it being a guy's name — was news to me! Daryl was always a girl's name in my mind! And a lovely one at that!

    • My middle name is Lynn! I have a couple of uncles (and sometimes my dad) who call me Daryl Lynn sometimes, but I don't use it in my everyday life.

      • Daryl- my very 1st thought when I read this was "you're named after a mermaid! Jealous!" The spelling is pretty and I bet you have great 'rents.

        • They are pretty good ☺ I am lucky that most people have heard of Daryl Hannah, so when I say that they usually get it.

  7. I am pregnant with my first child, a girl, due January 2016. My boyfriend and I constantly discuss the name issue because we disagree on it completely. My entire name is extremely common. Amy Marie Baker. I mean come on! I'd like our daughter to have something a little different so she stands out but he wants to stick to "classic" names. I love Danica Everest. Built in nickname (Dani) and it isn't super popular. The middle name comes from my paternal grandfathers middle name. I keep hoping that he'll come around to my way of thinking and maybe, just maybe if I show him this post, he will.

  8. As the only Tayla I've ever known I understand your pain. I've gotten Taylor, Talya, Kayla…there is usually a song and dance around my name. My sister also has a weird name. Jordan Ryan, The worst that happened was when we went to a camp one year and they had booked her in the male dorm. I still laugh about it. Poor Jordan <3

    • Here is another Tela – spelled differently but pronounced the way your name is spelled 🙂 An Olympic wrestler! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tela_O%27Donnell

      For myself, nobody says much about my name, other than mishearing it as "Molly" but as a kid I was always disappointed that I didn't get a nickname because "Bonnie" already sounds like a nickname and yet isn't short for anything. Now I just say "Bonnie like Bonnie & Clyde, but hopefully with a better ending!" at coffee shops to avoid the Molly thing.

    • Aww! The first Jordan I knew was a girl so I was surprised when I found out it was more commonly a boy's name. And I don't think I've ever heard Tayla before but I like it a lot!

      • I was around 8-10 when Splash came out, so when I met a male Daryl/Darrell (I did not put together that Hall and Oats, very popular at the time, that Hall's 1st name is Darrell), I thought it was strange!!

        But people forget that common girls names sometimes started as male names. I can't remember the last time I met a male Sydney (unless they were 80-90 years old). I met a male Kim/Clair/Gale. But I've met more female Sydney's in the past 20-30 years that are my age (40's) or younger (unless the kid from South Park counts?!).
        But names like Morgan and yes, even Beverly and Kimberly started as male names. But no one seems to have met a male Beverly or Kimberly (except my coworker who had an Uncle Bev, who has since passed (about 5 years ago when he was I think 75)). But even names like Riley and even Dylan have become more popular with girls.

        • There are so many others, too: Lynn, Ashley, Lindsey, Stacey, Leslie, Carol, Alexis, Darcy, Hilary, Dana, Kelly, Meredith… Most of these, I've only known one or two males named (and by "known" I mean mostly celebrities or fictional characters, often historical ones).

          • I know a male Lynn (granted, he is 73), a male Ashley (my age, 41), a male Dana (I think he is 45), a few male Leslies my age and yes, a young male Leslie (20, son of coworker). A male Jamie. The most famous male Karol is Pope John Paul II and Carroll O'Connor from All in the Family. So it is interesting to see that some people still give males names like Leslie and Dana even though they have become a female name. I've met a few female Shawn/Sean (bass player for White Zombie and Shawn Colvin), and female Ryan. To me I think it might take a while, if at all that certain names like Shawn/Sean/Ryan will be truly accepted as a girls name (just like Daryl). On the flip side, I guess I am traditional in thinking that (other than I do like Sydney for a girl) that I want to know that Rebecca is a girl and Mike a dude. 🙂

    • I teach middle school and I have a boy-Jordan and a girl-Jordan in the same class. I try to avoid calling them boy-Jordan and girl-Jordan, though!

  9. My name doesn't look uncommon, although the Scandinavian pronunciation is what trips everyone up. My name is pronounced On-uh (like ON A boat). I've learned to respond to anything that sort of sounds like my name, and it's a rare treat when my name is spelled correctly on a coffee cup, but I love it! I've only met a few other people who pronounce their name the same as me (not counting distant relatives, as it is a family name).

    Now when I introduce myself to small kids they say, "like the princess?" And I laugh (thanks Disney), tell them it's spelled a little different but pronounced just like the princess.

    • That's also the Mexican way of pronouncing it! I'm Ana-Liset. I love the random punctuation in it. My name is pronounced on-uh lee-set. But I tend to call myself A-na La-set. I actually just realize that my husband calls me La-set instead of Lee-set. He usually calls me Blue (based on my hair for many years), so I really hadn't noticed. Hah!

  10. I can't tell you how many times I've had people ask me or tell me the following:
    1) Is Mitzi your real name?

    2)Is Mitzi short for anything? (like Melissa, which is usually Missy, not Mitzi)

    3) My dog/cat/parrot is named Mitzi (looking astonished it is a "people" name, not a pet name (like Rover or Spot?!?!? WTF)). I've had sooooo mmmmaaaannny people tell me that thinking it is cute. I realize you love your dog/cat/parrot. But I've been told that soooooo mmmannnny times it is not cut to me anymore.

    4) Oh, you were named after Mitzi Gaynor from the movie, "South Pacific?" (as that is the only famous Mitzi they know (and that was not her real name)).

    5) It is MITZI, NOT MISSY or MISTY. (but in this case I get if you say Mitzi fast it does sound like Missy or Misty.

    But on the flip side, in my work global email, I am the only Mitzi.LASTNAME@work.com that I am really easy to find. If I went by my middle name, it is the extreme opposite, I would have been Lisa number 6 in my H.S. Chemistry class (there were 5 Brian's/Bryans in my 10th grade English class), it was already confusing having 5 Lisa's (and 5 Brian's/Bryans in English), that was the only time I was happy I was Mitzi, not Lisa.

    For me, my point is sometimes having a unusual name sometimes is not all that. Even in my 40's I still get these questions/statements. While I dislike the name Mitzi, if I started using Lisa at this point I would not answer to it, plus I really don't want to place burden on my family and coworkers by saying I want to be called Lisa (or Catherine or Hannah or Rachel, my names I wished I been called).

  11. Daryl, I FEEL YOU. When I was a kid, I got teased about my name being a "guy's name" all the time. I used to dream about the day I would be old enough to legally change my name to something beautiful and feminine- anything but Cody. I tried going by my middle name, Elizabeth or Lizzy, but I never liked how old-fashioned they sounded. I was also a very avid hockey player, and usually the only girl on the team, so most teammates and coaches expected a little boy to show up on the first day of practice, and were almost always disappointed that I wasn't that little boy.

    Now that I'm older, I've embraced my name. I still get people who ask about my name, and I definitely have encountered the "your parents must have wanted a boy" people (fun fact: according to my parents, if I would have been born a boy, my name would have been Anthony). One of the lines I get most commonly is, "what's that short for?" Um, nothing! It's just my name!

    I am so glad that I'm not the only girl-with-a-dude-name that struggled with it at first.

    • As a Jessica born in the 80's, I completely agree with this. We want kids soon, and I refuse to have anything to do with any name on any top 20 baby name list. Will. Not. Happen.

      My last name is also really common. I get other people's mail, other people's bills, and other people's collections agents. It makes me crazy!

    • Not being around a lot of kids before I had my own, I had NO IDEA that Aiden was the most popular name of his generation. To me it was a nice, kinda old fashioned name and I'd never actually met an Aiden in real life. But now? I don't think I have ever taken him to a playground with out there being at least one other Aiden there (spellings vary). And it's the most popular name for boys AND girls. We had it narrowed down to Aiden and Anderson. As much as I love the name Aiden, and had my reasons for picking it, if I'd known how oppressively common it was going to be I probably would have gone with Anderson.

  12. My name is STUPID common for my generation – Kristi Lynn. I grew up hating the fact that it had no meaning and was just one of those vapid "cute" names. So when it was time to name my children, I looked to classic literature, painters, artists, and philosophers to name my kids. So I have a Dahlia Violet (Dahl + Dali + feminization = Dahlia. Violet is my favorite color and it's another Dahl reference), and Escher Aemilius (the artist Escher and Aemilius is the Roman form of Emile, so named for Emile Zola and several other great Emil(e)s). So if they grow up hating their names because they aren't cute – I'll go postal!

  13. As a child, I never much liked my name—Veronika is a non-traditional spelling of an already rare name. It was also way longer than all my friends' names, and in grade school playing the "you'll marry someone who has the same number of syllables in their name as you" game was always rough because there was rarely anyone else with a four-syllable name in our class!
    As a child I spent a few years as "Ronnie" because I was tired of my name, but it never fit too well—though I still have friends in my life today who call me that, because it's what I went by when we met.
    I started to embrace the uniqueness of my name in high school, but still preferred a shortened version, at first just my first initial, and eventually someone gave me an Xmas card w/ the phonetic spelling in it, because he'd only ever heard my nickname. I fell in love with that variant, because it's a nickname that still sounds like how I want it to but it looks like a name on paper.
    I still tend to be ambivalent about my given name—it's a part of me but it's become a private/special part of me mostly. Only close family/friends use it these days, which isn't quite how I meant it to go but I think I like it.
    My son has a unique name too, though at only 4 he hasn't had much difficulty yet. Mostly people mistake his pronunciation as "Daniel," which frustrates him but it's just helped him be able to spell his name sooner! I occasionally will encounter people on the phone who assume that my child named Jenner is a girl, so I'm sure that will be an issue his whole life, but he's already really developed ownership of his name so I'm hoping that he never hates his name as much as I hated mine growing up.

  14. Yep, I feel ya. I pronounce my name "KAIR-uh," but I get "CAR-uh" a lot, or if I've told someone my name, it can be Karen, Carrie, Carol, etc. Now I just tell people, "it rhymes with Sara." I usually answer to anything that sounds remotely like my name. My last name is also a common boys' first name, so people add an "s" to the end all the time to try and make it sound more like a last name.
    When I was a kid I wasn't thrilled about my name. I didn't hate it, but I would get sad that I didn't have a friend with the same name (my year was FULL of Megans, Jennifers, and Stephanies), or that I could never find little personalized things at gift shops. I still have a habit of always looking for keychains and whatnot with my name on it. It's a little exciting when I actually find it.
    In high school I went the opposite direction and was actually bummed that it wasn't MORE unique. There was one other Kara at my school and her last name had the same first two letters as my last name, so we were always next to each other alphabetically. We were vastly different people, although I don't think she was a bad person, and I always referred to her in my head as "the OTHER Kara…"
    Now I'm a little indifferent. I like it okay, but I'm not particularly attached to it, which is why for my future children I want their names to have a little more meaning than "we liked the sound of it," which was how I was named. I want them to have history or symbolism or something else they can connect with, regardless of whether or not they actually like their name, hah.

  15. Even in this thread, so many people have used "Jennifer" as an example of a common name. It was the MOST common name in my birth year. Before I got married, my maiden name was VERY common too. (Even with my less common last name, there is still someone with my same name in my town of 60,000.) I was one of 27 women of the same first and last name at my university. In elementary school, another girl in my class told me "You can't be Jennifer, because I'm already Jennifer." Even when I started going by Jenny, I was known as Jenny M. to all my friends, who were also friends with Jenny S. At my first real job, there were 5 Jennifers in the office.

    It has also been dangerous to have the same name as so many other people! One time I got an email with someone else's student loan information. When I went to buy a house, there was confusion about someone else's criminal record! (You'd think there would be more sensitivity about these matters, but clerical errors always happen.) On the plus side, nobody can easily track me down on the internet!

    All this being said, I was ALWAYS envious of girls with unique names, and when we have kids, I will probably give them a unique name.

    • No one can track you on the internet! There is really something to be said for that.

      My unique name makes me so easily findable, it's frustrating. If I don't want people to "find" me, I need to use a pseudonym (as above), which is annoying because I feel like I can't really be myself in a way. Actually, that's (as far as I can tell) the only downside I can think of to having a relatively unique name with a very unique spelling. I never disliked having a unique name. I only remember wanting a name that sounded more like a character from a fairytale or fantasy-adventure book, so apparently my name was not special enough to kid-version-of-me.

  16. When I was born, I was the only Kacie with that particular spelling in Canada according to my parents. Growing up, I liked my name, and was only mildly annoyed when people mispelled it.
    As time has passed, it's become more and more popular, and by randomly typing it into facebook, I see a ton of college aged girls (who are usually cheerleaders) in the Southern States. I've yet to met another Kacie face to face, but I know they're out there, close to me. I have a few that are friends of friends, and now I've had one or two people even spell my name right on the first try.
    I actually liked it a little better when no one else had my name.

  17. When I was born my name (Ella) was at a *very* low ebb in popularity. The only time people would recognise my name right away was if they had an elderly aunt named Ella or if they were into jazz. I was unhappy with it for a while, and even experimented with going by one of my middle names because it was more 'normal'. I got *so* tired with having to repeat myself multiple times when introducing myself to people. 'Hi, what's your name?' 'Ella.' 'Emma?' 'No, Ella.' 'Anna?' 'No, Ella.' 'Ellen?' 'No, Ella.' 'Helen?' 'No, Ella.' & so on…. Of course now it's super popular for little girls and I'm slightly miffed that I'm part of a crowd!

    • I feel you! I used to be the only Emma. "Is that short for Emily? How do you spell that?" and I could never find my name on a mini license plate! I didn't know any other Emma's.

      Then when Rachel named her baby Emma on friends it shot up in popularity and it's the number one baby name. For years. I can't walk past a playground without hearing my name. I used to be so unique!

      So, future parents beware! Your unique name might be "discovered" and lose its shine.

  18. My name isn't all THAT common, although it's more so today than it was sixty years ago when I was a baby. In school there was only two other "Sam"s, one two years ahead of me and the other three years behind. There was never any problem with someone yelling "SAM" and nineteen heads turning.

    While we did recycle family names for my daughters (recycling given names is traditional in both my wife's family and my own), we struggled with them. Our families have lashings of good boy's names but few girl's names that we could stand: we had Flavia, Ava, Elizabeth, Octavia, Lenora, Mary, Ena, Nima, Ovia, Margaret, Frances, Almeda, Linda … in the end, we chose "Nathalie Lynn" for our oldest (after my wife's sister and a college friend of mine), and Tasha (her nickname) and I ganged up and outvoted my wife to choose "Martha Ann" for the younger (after my aunt, who died before I was born, and my mother's middle name).

    Nathalie changed her first name to "Tasha" by deed poll when she turned 18, and Martha has recently started calling herself "Alyks" (pronounced "Alex").

    • There were some interesting gal's names in my family as well. I had a great grandma Almeda and a great aunt Nathalie. My parents wanted to name me after a grandma and Laura was already taken. Other options were Anna Belle, Isabelle, Erma Belle (lotsa ding-dongs in my fam), the aforementioned Almeda, or Kathryn.

      Really, a lot of the names on my mom's side probably wouldn't fly now. Hildegard, Lothar, Ferris, Priscilla. . . .

      There were tons of Katies in my relatively small school. I was "Katie 2" for most of my elementary school career, but I go by Kate now that I am more or less an adult. Much to my surprise, I don't work with any other Kathryns.

  19. I feel this so much. I have a unique name with an un-phonetic spelling. It is pronounced Ty-Na. Which, even in adulthood, I still often introduce myself as "Taina rhymes with China" This has actually become a running joke at various points in my life. First when my entire freshman residence hall floor would call me China to see how long it would take me to notice (upwards of a month I think), and some of my friends have used "Taina rhymes with China" for pub trivia. Even with this though I am amazed at how difficult those two syllables can be if people read it before I tell them how it is pronounced. I am downright shocked when people who have only read my name get it right!

    Unfortunately for my middle school self it also rhymes with "vagina" which is not fun when you are already feeling awkward about puberty as it is. This is why, if I ever decide to have bio kids, each name will get a solid "middle-school mean kid" test to see if I can minimize any of that.

  20. A few years ago I was part of the interviewing comittee for a new Safety Manager. One resume we received was for Kim Richard [LastName]. We hired him, and later he told us that he started adding his middle name to his resume because of the looks he would get when arriving at interviews. I just thought it was weird to include the full middle name on a resume…

    • I actually LOVE the name Kim for a boy, but it's totally not weird that I've loved it ever since I learned about that traitorous double-agent, right?

      Life would be so much better if everyone I knew was secretly a spy.

  21. I rarely go by my real first name online, but I know it's unusual: Nyssa. I was named for Nyssa of Traken, from the fourth and fifth doctors. I always liked my name, though I sort of automatically spell it for everyone.

    • Oh man, my parents were trying to decide between naming me Nyssa and Tegan, both after Dr. Who of course, and went with Tegan because they didn't like the way my grandma pronounced Nyssa. Yay for Dr. Who names that are short yet still always need spelling!!

  22. I grew up with the weird issue of having a name that was really popular in a totally different decade. I used to (and still do!) get a TON of "oh I have a grandma Marjorie/Margie!" Yep, I bet you do, it was a top 10 name in the 1920s (and I was named after my grandfather's sister, born circa 1922 and died in kindergarten which is why the family wanted to give the name another chance). Not so much a top name in the 1980s. I used to hate being the only Marjorie in a sea of Jennifer/Rebecca/Amy/Rachel/Katies (all names I love, no offense intended!) but now I like having a name that's normal-but-not-common, and I plan on doing the same if I ever reproduce (looking at Mara for a girl, for instance).

    I'm fairly certain there will be a resurgence in another decade or so, once the "100 year rule" comes back around, and a bunch of new Marjories will come around in the 2020-2030s or something to replace all the Sophia/Olivia/Caroline/Emmas… and THEN I will be able to buy magnets and pens and other tchotchkes with my name on them!!!! Finally!!!! …Actually, they'll probably all be spelled Margery and I'll be even worse off than now in terms of personalized crap souvenirs. 🙁

    • Rose checking in. I feel we're getting to the point where our names are so old they're coming back around in style. Right?!? Haha

    • I'm a Jane, and I've only met one other Jane my age or younger — and I'm 41. I hated it when I was young, but have resigned myself to it now. My mom said that all her friends were naming their daughters Faith or Hope or Charity or Chastity (which must have been regional, because I never had classmates with those names, just the sea of Jennifers and Saras) and she wanted me to have a name that I "could be proud of in a boardroom."

      We named our oldest Olivia thinking it was a nice, unusual old-fashioned name — and it turned out to be the 2nd most popular girls name of the year she was born. Oops. I blame Law and Order: SVU.

  23. While I'm all about the odd names because, c'mon, nothing is worse than a super common name (mine included), PLEASE PARENTS, don't name your kids stupid shit just for the sake of being unique. Please think of how they will live their lives with super strange names, especially if they go into a very professional career. Nobody is going to be a supreme court justice named "Galaxy" or "Luvly". Also, the new trend seems to be "common name, odd spelling", which is even worse than odd names, IMO.

    I drove a school bus for several years. There were some kids with doozys.

    • My rule for names was simple: could I ever hear someone use it with "The Right Honourable…" or "The Oscar goes to…"? If I couldn't imagine my child becoming Prime Minister or winning an Academy Award with their name, then it wasn't going to happen. We went traditional first name, artistic middle name, but I agree that parents need to consider the bigger picture, while at the same time working with cultural norms and personal preferences.

    • There's a Khaleesi in my 4.5yo's preschool class at the moment. I'm all for literary/geek culture names, but isn't that a title and not a name? Akin to naming your kid "Doctor" or "Mister"?

      • It is a title and those examples do make it sound very odd. However, I've heard title names such as Dean, Earl, Prince, Mason, Hunter, Marquis, Sergeant and Major before so I wouldn't say it's totally out in left field.

        • Hmm, never thought about Dean and Earl and Hunter… although I personally am not a fan of children (well, humans in general) named Prince, Sergeant, or Major– those sound like pet names to me! :/

      • I've heard people say that because you always hear other characters call her Khaleesi, some people have assumed that's her name, rather than her title.

        But if you are such a GOT / ASOIAF fan that you name your newborn after her, surely you realise that her name is Daenerys! And if you're not that big a fan, why on earth are you naming your child that way?!

  24. Though I chose to start going by my middle name in high school, I still get an unbelievable amount of grief about the fact that my first name is Brett and that I am a woman. This happens particularly in healthcare situations (where you think they would have heard every unusual name under the sun and would be accustomed to it!)

    Like the author says, "what is more intrinsically you than your name?" Accept the weird, the uni-sex, the oddly spelled, the hard-to-pronounce – along with the person who owns them. Don't assume gender, don't make rude comments, don't ask them what their parents were thinking, and don't ask (THE WORST) "why?" Unless looking ignorant is your MO 🙂 That being said, I am more than happy to be "Brett Ainsley"

  25. Boy, do I feel this post.

    My first name is hyphenated. The first half is a Scandinavian name that Americans rarely pronounce or spell correctly. The second half is actually now a very common girl's name (it wasn't when I was born) and while most people will pronounce it correctly on its own, when combined with the first half, they usually butcher it. So not only do I have the difficulty of a hyphenated first name, but both halves of it have multiple possible pronunciations and the first half is very uncommon.

    I usually go by the first half of my name for a few reasons. One, I work in a hospital so I deal with a LOT of new people on a daily basis, so I need a name that doesn't require too much explanation (although people still do question it). Two, by having my full first name, people can find who I am online with no problem, even without my last name. That's scary to me.

    I do like my name but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me to combine two names with different ethnic origins, and as a result the pronunciation doesn't make sense. Oh well. It's my name and I wouldn't ever change it.

  26. I hear you on this. For me it is the spelling of my name, my parents were trying to make it as simple as possible but "Elise" looks a lot like "Elsie" and I have been called "Elsie" most of my life. When I was a kid I would get really embarrassed about having to correct people but now I just own it. The last time this happened was when I went to a new doctor and I had to correct the nurse twice because in the time she got me to my exam room she forgot again. Unfortunately when I got married my very simple last name went away and now I have to spell both names for people.

  27. Phaedra is actually my middle name. My first name isn't super popular either (although much more common than Phaedra). My dad wanted to name me Phaedra, and my mom vetoed it because there was a pizza place in their home town (not where we lived) called "Faye's" and she thought if people gave me the nick name "Phae" it would make her think of pizza. Whatever.

    I wanted a less common name for my son, so I used census data and researched online and came up with Rowan. And then right after he was born a bunch of people told me they only knew girls with that name. And in his first swim class (at 6 months) out of 6 kids there were two Rowans and a Roland. I give up… his name suits him well.

  28. I with they had a THISx1000! button.
    Nowadays I love my name, but it took some time getting there. My name is not unusual but the spelling is (Terra) and it drove me nuts as a kid! Never met or heard of another Terra until the one on the little person reality show. (and yes, I am aware of Tera Patrick but I don't think porn names should count!)
    All I ever wanted was to buy a pencil, bicycle tag, or shot glass with my name on it. Nope.
    Not only that, but my parents graced me with a first and last name no one could spell properly, leading to a lifetime of saying my name then having to spell the whole thing out. Naturally I go and marry a man with a difficult last name!

  29. I can soooo relate. Growing up I hated my name. I love it now that I'm an adult, but as a kid I wanted something people could pronounce. I still get people who mispronounce it.

  30. I love that you wanted a "normal" name like Susan, because I great up hating my name. 🙂 It really peaked in popularity in the 1950s, so I grew up in the 80s meeting lots of teachers and friends' moms who had my name. Once I hit my 20s I started to see the advantage – I did a lot of work with people via email and I'm sure they assumed I was much older and more experience than I was! The only thing I still really hate about it is how many people assume they should call me "Sue".

    • The reason was that I had the American Girl doll (Molly) and was obsessed with the books – her two best friends names? Susan and Linda 🙂

  31. I have encountered a somewhat watered down version of this with my name. It's a spelling of Lisa that was actually fairly common back in the 50s but is incredibly rare to find. Aside from a close friend of my mom's, I didn't know anyone else with the spelling until I was almost in my 20s and happened to accept a credit card from someone with the same spelling. We laughed at chatted about how we never see anyone else with that spelling. People get tripped up with the pronunciation, but there are quite a few who see it think it's a really pretty variation. I've even been told as much when I spell my email address over the phone (which gets super awkward when my full last name is involved). So I figure I at least break even on the first name front.

  32. I love unusual names but I hate when people muck about with the spelling too an extreme. As an example when Monique becomes M'on'eek or something like that. Also names like Facebook, Hashtag etc.

    The odd thing about names is that they can suit different ages. Something like Summer is a very youthful name that may sound odd when you're 80 but things like Ethel or Mary sound strange as a child but suit the elderly better. That's what happened with my mum, her name is May Carol Anne but she goes by Carol because she always saw May as an older person name and it was also her mother's name whom she didn't get on with.

    I'm not that fond of mine, I'm lucky that it's a fairly unusual name (there was only one other that I knew of in my school and she was a year or 2 older) but I get problems from the fact that my mum chose the less common spelling. It's normally spelt 'Stephanie' and that's what people know so it's constantly misspelled on paperwork. And for some reason when I was young people used to accidentally call me Sophie. Although I guess I got lucky considering my mum considered Amy and that is a very common name. She also considered Natalie which is less common but I was still in the same school year as an Amy and Natalie.

    I'm not that fond of my name, I don't much like being called by the full version, Stefanie is just so formal sounding to my ears, but at the same time I don't really like the shortened version of Stef yet everyone defaults to it whether I want them to or not. Steffi isn't too bad but after someone I didn't much like used it during a not great period of time (unemployed, feeling very low etc) it's a name I'm wary of. I'd like to change my name but I'm not sure what too. I quite like Alexandra but that's a reasonably common name, Roxie is nice but it doesn't fit, same with Autumn. Summer is a little too cliche though it fits better as I was born in the summer. Plus there's the hassle of trying to find something that fits your surname especially since my whole current name sounds good together.

  33. As an Arrie (pronounced R-E) i get a lot of “Airy?” I guess like Carrie without the c? And the spellings are all over the place. In informal settings I spell it Ari, just for convenience. My last name is just as bad, so i get a lot of “uhhhh”s at doctors offices and such. I’m pretty used to it by now, though, and i LOVE my name and always have.

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