Okay, so since we first moved to Jordan, I’ve wondered what’s up with people’s translations of their names to English. I know that in the US we’re old hats at coming up with odd spelling for common names (like that makes either the kid or the name unique), but Jordan has an even bigger problem. They misspell their names and don’t even know it. People seem befuddled when Westerners misread their Western names. But, most often this occurs because they have used an exact translation of each letter of the name. Guess what, it doesn’t work.
I thought about this because this morning on one of the morning shows the host (a Westerner) asked a contestant on his show the following question: “So is your name Dinah (pronounced Die-nuh) or Dina (Dee-nuh)?” The response? Deanna (Dee-an-na). Whoaaaaaaa… Hold on there. How could you possible be spelling Deanna that he’s unsure if it’s Dinah or Dina? Really, what are you thinking?
This isn’t the tomayto/tomahto discussion of whether Zaid or Zade is more effective. This is poor spelling plain and simple. And I will grant you that the name Anne (and all of its offshoots) are hard for Arabs, but really, get it right. It’s one thing to name your kid a Western name, but spell the thing right, darn it. I am providing here a partial list of names that are routinely (always) misspelled and how the name as spelled would be pronounced.
Suzanne: Suzan (Sue-zun)
Marianne: Marian (Mary-un)
Joanne: Jawan (Jah-wun, Juh-wun))
Leanne: Layan (Lay-un, Lay-anne)
Leia (yes as in Star Wars…): Leya (Lee-uh, although people will think you just don’t know how to spell as Leah is spelled Leah typically)
Yeah, so I see now that most of the problems come from the whole Anne ending. They don’t seem to get that translating only the letters in Arabic won’t get the sounds you’re expecting. So for those planning to use a Western name, show it to a Westerner and ask how they’d pronounce it. If it isn’t what you were expecting, ask them how to properly spell the name. Take it from someone who spent her entire younger years (okay and older years as well) correcting people, having your name said wrong constantly is annoying.
Dale Carnegie wrote in his book about winning friends, “Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.” I would say it actually applies to any language. So, I find myself wondering… What’s in a Name?
Happy Naming Conventions!