Thursday 1 August 2013

Naming arts

Reading the roll at school these days is something of a challenge. We are now so much more multi-cultural than back in my day that there are students with all sorts of foreign names - Anasetisio, Simranjeet, Echezona, Alysza, Viphawan, Ljubica, Mridhula - which make for interesting mouthfuls. That's fair enough, but there are also increasing numbers with names bestowed by imaginative parents, which take an alternative approach to spelling and are, frankly, often an abomination. Phelisia is my latest unfavourite in a list that includes Bayleigh, Giorgia, Giulia, Mikayla and Jayme. Deliberate misspelling is one thing; accidental is another - poor Antionette and Realene, saddled with having to uncorrect people all their lives.

Of the foreign names, the Chinese ones are often impenetrable - Xin-Yi, Xiu Chu, Zhi Rou, Qing Xuan, Eunseo, Yi Ziao - but at least their owners are usually too meek to make a fuss when the pronunciation is mangled by the teacher. Those with Irish names, though, are generally game for a protest, so Siobhan, Sian and Aisling always ring alarm bells when you're working down the list, and it's quietly satisfying to see the owner deflate when you get it right. But today I couldn't win - calling out "Ashleen" I was haughtily corrected: "It's Aisling [sic], Miss!" Sigh. I hope she goes to Ireland one day, and they get her back for her parents' ignorance.

She should go to Ireland anyway, of course. So should everyone, not just those who claim Irish blood every March 17th. People who like history, comedy, scenery, beer, horses, islands, geology, cities, villages, music... It's all there, all accessible, all gladly shared by friendly people with the most appealing accents in the world. And I do mean accents: just like England, you go a few miles and the accent is distinctly different. Watch out if you go to Killarney, though. We made a bit of a detour from our circuit of the excessively picturesque Ring of Kerry, and spent about an hour with this sweet old man, who took us in his boat along Upper Lake and back again, past fishermen and sheep and ancient rocks, chatting all the way about himself and the scenery - and I didn't understand a word he was saying. Except for his name. Michael!

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