Name your child something that's easy to say and spell.


For quite a few years in my childhood I didn't like my name*. Cecily seemed too unusual, kind of old fashioned and a little awkward - perhaps even ugly. Plus, it doesn't have a great meaning. St Cecilia may have been the patron saint of music but she was also blind and Cecily means 'dim-sighted'.  

Plus, no one can say it right.  

I've had 'Celia', 'Cecilia', 'Cissy' and other odd variations. Nine out of ten people stumble when they first hear it, whereupon I smile and say, "it's okay, I pretty much answer to anything," which gets a laugh, and so of course we're friends after that. 

My childhood surname posed it's own problems.

'Thew' said by Australians is 'Th-yew'. But when you give it to an American, it becomes 'Thoo'. Which kind of hurts my ears. Growing up out of Australia, half the world couldn't actually say my surname properly. The other half thought our family was Chinese. 

At an inter-school sports competition when I was 13 I was called for a race like this: 'Number 5, Ce-cIlia Thooooo.'  

It was no wonder I developed the habit in my later teens of saying and spelling my name out, unasked, when I introduced myself. I did it to a travelling salesman once when I was 18, working in a shop after high school. He looked at me and said, "Wow. You have a very strong sense of your own self. That's impressive."

I answered him: "No, it's more that you're going to ask me how to spell my name anyway. I might as well get in first." 

When I got married I changed my surname to the seemingly innocuous name of my beloved.  In one way it did me some good. I moved down the alphabet from T to P. (Believe me, you can't know just how much waiting you can do in life until you've had a surname in the final quarter of the alphabet.) 

The problem was, that I married a man whose family name was spelt wrong. At least, that's how the entire rest of the world sees it. We're Paterson-with-one-t. I should probably go and get it changed by deedpoll to exactly that because heaven knows, I've said it enough times in my life.

We have One T people! One!  

I know. It looks weird. It looks like Pay-ter-son. And you think when you write it that you have to put that extra t in there BUT YOU DON'T! And I know, it's a tricky name. There's a real risk of confusing it with Peterson, 'cos you know, they look alike, BUT THEY ARE DIFFERENT!

Whenever I am required to give out my name I do so like this. 

"It's Cecily - that's C-E-C-I-L-Y, no, I-L-Y, yep, a Y on the end... so, Cecily Paterson, and that's with one T, so it's P-A-T-E-R, yes, just the one T, no you don't need that extra one in there, yes, S-O-N. With an O. Yep. Paterson. Yep, I know. It sounds like that, doesn't it." 

Whenever I go to the bank or somewhere that they need to look me up on the computer, it goes like this: 

Me: It's Paterson with one t. 

Them: Hmmm. I don't seem to be able to find it.... Are you sure you have an account with us? 

Me: Yes. Definitely. (I sneak a look at their screen.) But it's Paterson with one t. Only one.' 

Them: Aaah. That'll be the problem. Okay! Cecily Paterson. Yep. Here you are! Easy. 

So here is my request.

Parents of new babies. Forget the exotic, the exciting, the unusual, the 'little bit different'. Pick a sensible, spellable, sayable name for your child.

And ladies, check out your man's surname before you go on that second date.


*By the way Mum and Dad, I actually do like my name and I'm glad you didn't call me Mary Anne or Alison. Just having a little bit of a rant.... 

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