What’s in a Name?

My first name, Helyn, is a different version from my grandma’s name, Helen. My parents thought it was a beautiful name (and yes, I think it is) but it has created some irritation with me over the years. Why? Well, both ways are not pronounced the same. Ah ha! Yes, that’s the trick. You might think it’s like Helen but no. It’s actually, “Hel-lyn”, if you will. Just think of “Lynn”. Close enough.

I’m becoming more amused when I tell people my name and it takes them several times to find the right pronunciation. I still have some friends who pronounce it wrong. I’ve received all sorts of name variations from “Helain,” to “Helene” (a French version).

And then there’s the spelling of my name. I would say my name over the phone of for another person and they would stare at me with a blank stare, “Um, what?” Really, though, it’s not that hard to spell. H-E-L-Y-N. One time I had someone who put an “i” where the “y” is supposed to go. Close, but not quite.

When I’ve gone on first dates I usually ask them how to pronounce my name. I’ve become more amused with it over the years as they try to look like they know how it’s pronounced. But they usually get it wrong.

Anybody else have funky name problems? I could tell you about my long last name and the spelling of that but that might be for another post.


This was an assignment for the DS106 (Digital Storytelling) assignment in Writing. http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/whats-in-a-name/

It is a really simple assignment that can be used in the classroom as an ice breaker for students. It’s a great way to let them write about themselves and talk about their name and the experiences they’ve had with it. As I kept writing the ideas and stories just kept flowing. This would work really well for a high school ELA classroom and would work well for a prompt to a character — the students could write about a certain character’s name and see what type of story comes from just doing that.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I wouldn’t have thought you would have so many people who can’t get your name right Helyn, (seems pretty straightforward to me) but I can imagine it would be rather frustrating after a while.

    My first name is so simple I never really had issues with people spelling it or pronouncing it, however my last name is a different story. McLauchlin is the correct spelling of my last name but I don’t think I have had single teacher or employer that hasn’t tried to spell it McLaughlin, McLauchlan or some other variation. I understand that the spelling of my last name is not the common way to spell McLauchlin but once I tell someone how to spell it, I would think it should be correct (usually not). It’s also amusing that once I spell it for some people the pronunciation changes. It’s as if the u disappears and a large K appears in middle making it sound like McLaklin! I have even been told that I am spelling my last name wrong and it should be McLaughlin!

    I can appreciate your frustration. I will make sure I always say your name correctly Helyn!

    • Haha thanks, Todd! That makes sense, though. Your name would be rather difficult to spell right off the bat (I’ll admit, I would have to ask you, too.) But yes, names are so silly. Both my first and last (van Staveren) are difficult to spell and say. Oh the woes.

  2. Helyn,
    I have similar irritations. Because my first name can be spelt so many different ways, Britney being the most popular, that is how the majority of people pronounce it: Brit-ney. In actuality, my name is pronounced Brit-tan-y, but my name has been mispronounced for so many years that I have either stopped noticing, stopped caring, or both. Then there is my last name, Sklar, which is pronounced exactly how it looks. So, it would never cross my mind that it is a difficult name to pronounce, as apparently it is difficult to pronounce three consonants in a row. Therefore, many people decide that my name is Skylar instead, when I have absolutely no idea where they get the ‘y’ from.

  3. I found this post amusing as my daughter runs into this all the time. I admit, she does have a very unique name. Azura. Her name is constantly being hacked to bits but she understands that it’s very unique and I have only ever heard of one other person by the name (an actress). She doesn’t seem to find it frustrating because I’ve always told her that her name is as unique as she is and she loves that. She also really appreciates when people go through the effort to remember the pronunciation of it.

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