Speak & Spell

One of the biggest burdens of being a parent is coming up with a name. You have to choose the collection of letters that's going to represent someone else, and that person has no say in the matter. I like my name but it's uncommon, which is both a blessing and a curse. Only people who have the same name can understand this. I don't really know anyone else with the same first name, but when you hear it called out, intended for someone else, it's a little surreal. I remember going up to a cashier at Michael's once, just to say, "Hey, I'm Giselle, too." And I also remember a woman who entered the elevator, glanced at my company badge, and exclaimed, "My name is Giselle too!" Then, to prove her solidarity, she produced her own badge, and there was my first name staring back at me.

The Good:

Just one thing really—it’s unique. When you run into someone you knew once upon a time, chances are high that you can say your first name and you’re the only person they’ve known with that name, and that's kind of cool.

The Bad:

I like my name, but when I was younger, it caused me a lot of unhappiness because I could never find it on a keychain, or a mug, or some other useless trinket that was likely manufactured in China. If your name wasn’t there, it was either because it was sold out, or because your name was too uncommon to be profitable. When you're in the second category, you eventually lose hope and stop checking the racks altogether.

At this point, I’m over it. I think the solution was getting a personalized license plate (seven letters) with my entire first name on it. When I emerged from my car in a parking lot and someone I didn’t know passed me and said “Hi, Giselle,” in an instant, the need for vanity plates and the need to have something with my name on it was cured. Strangely enough, it happened again on a plane, when someone peered over my shoulder from the row behind me to ask about my laptop. My profile was under my full first name, which I have since switched. I have come to value anonymity over personalization.

With an uncommon name, you run the risk of being questioned. “Is it a real name?” they’ll say, hinting that someone did you the great disservice of sticking you with some dumb, made up name just because they never heard of it. Or, “That’s a weird name” someone else once said, who, I might add, went by the name “Rocky.”

Most people get the pronunciation right…mostly. I have been called “gazelle” more times than I can count. People have also asked “Do you have a nickname?” It’s a two syllable name, the last syllable is the very, very common “elle” and you need a nickname? Sometimes people add their own twist. Usually the “s” is spoken with a “z” sound, but some use the softer “s” sound. I’ve known two people who pronounce it this way and I’m really not sure if it's right. I will accept a soft “s” but correct a hard “g.”

Then there’s the spelling—you wouldn’t believe the variations that develop when people only hear the name.


Okay, I can see how this happens. If you’re hooked on phonics and it worked for you, this would be your logical conclusion. Sure, it’s a little clumsy and it brings about thoughts of “Jezebel” but it sort of makes sense.


Yeah, I get this too. This offense is probably made by people that spell “tomorrow” as “tommorow” because they simply can not remember which consonant is doubled.

The Ugly:
It’s been decades since my eyes were witness to the worst spelling of all, and I’m still a bit traumatized by it--for the sake of this entry, I will share this memory with you (don't you feel special now?). It was elementary school (I want to say Mrs. Gorman’s 3rd grade class) and there was an instance where the students were divided into groups and the names were written on a list. Back in the olden days, the best way to do this was to write it out in pencil or pen, or with chalk on the boards. The details of why we were on these lists, or who actually wrote them remain sketchy, but I distinctly remember checking that list of names and realizing I wasn’t there. Some other name was there. It was oddly spelled, and indicated that maybe we had a foreign exchange student in our midst. "Who is that?” I thought. “There’s no one in this class named 'Drezel'”

Then I sounded it out.



The Butterfly BAP said...

I think Giselle is a beautiful name! But I am partial to any name with an "-elle".

I am sure that Giselle is becoming popular...You know - Beyonce "Giselle" (she probably pronounces Ga-selle *umph*) and Giselle Bundchen. :)

-GRC said...

Why thank ya, thank ya very much.

Adrian likes to add "like the supermodel" when he explains how to pronounce my name to other people, but you know if I did that for myself, I'd come off sounding like a jackass.