What is your name mistaken for?

Jun 6th 2012

My daughter was talking to Siri, the virtual assistant on her dad's iPhone, and phrased her question rather impolitely. She immediately regretted it. "Sorry," said my daughter. "Calling Ari," replied Siri. Oops. 

In this brave new world, is our friend Ari destined to receive calls every time one of his contacts feels apologetic? If so, he'll surely have sympathy for another friend, Kay. She tells me that the ubiquitous phrase "O.K." is the bane of her existence, because it sounds like somebody's trying to get her attention.

Most of us know the drill of mistaken name identities. Laura is heard as Lauren, Martin as Mark, etc.  But some names are especially susceptible, to the point that the confusion becomes part of the name experience. "O.K." is an extreme example, but I'm sure many of you can relate to NameCandy writer Alyssa's lament: "When I say 'Hi, I'm Alyssa,' people ALWAYS think my name is Melissa!"

A new generation of Madisons and Addisons is doubtless headed down the Melissa/Alyssa path. I also predict that every young Zayden will be taken for an Aiden more times than he can count. (Try it: “Everybody, this is Zayden.")

At the opposite end of the spectrum, it's hard to picture a Jacob being confused for anything at all. The crisp consonants define the name's boundaries clearly, and it doesn't sound quite like anything else. Jacob's an exception in our name landscape today, though. With our modern wave of rhyming and variant names, and our global love affair with vowels, mistaken name identities may reach epidemic proportions.

From your own experience, is your name vulnerable to confusions? What about your kids' names? And does this factor into your baby name decisions?

Comments

1
By Jake (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:09 PM

Being a Jacob myself, I find it odd that quite often at work (I tend to go by Jake in my personal life, but Jacob at work -- one of the great perks of a great name), people call me Jason.  I don't know if its because Jacob is a less common name in my generation (I'm 33), or just that there have been a lot of Jasons who worked here before me? I had a professor on my supervisory committee for 5 years who called me Jason almost the whole time.  Don't know if the sounds are that similiar or what.  Its generally only been a problem with persons a generation older than me, at least that I've noticed.

 

2
By Gueset (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:14 PM

I named my son (now 2) "Abe." Everyone thinks his name is "Gabe."

 

 

3
By Erinne (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:15 PM

My daughter is Ada and we've gotten complements on it only to later find out that the person thought I'd said "Ava." Ouch! A few people have thought I said "Aidan," although that's less common.

4
June 6, 2012 12:19 PM

My first name (Jessica) is rarely confused for another word - just for the million other Jessicas my age. It was always irritating at school when the teacher would say 'Jessica' and 4 of us would turn around.

But, I majored in French in college, and when people are speaking fast "jusqu'a la" sounds a lot like the way French people say Jessica. I turned more than once for that.

As for concern - our favorite boy's name is Vaughn, but I'm worried everyone will think it's Sean or John.

 

5
By Mary-Elle (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:21 PM

With a name like Mary-Elle, I get called Arielle everytime I use "I'm Mary-Elle."

6
By GuestA (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:24 PM

As another Alyssa, I can definitely relate to that story. I tried rephrasing introducing myself to "Hi my name is Alyssa" to avoid the m blending into my name, but it always sounded awkward. I now usually wait for people to introduce themselves first and simply reply: "Alyssa." But sometimes I just can't avoid the inevitable "Hi I'm Alyssa" "Melissa?" "No *A*lyssa." It doesn't help that I'm in my 30s when I would be far more likely to have been named Melissa.

The first thing that I thought of when I saw the title of this blog was how I often hear the word 'listen' as my name. I had a second grade teacher who used to always yell "Listen!" to get the class's attention. For a few seconds I would always think she was yelling at me specifically.

 

7
By GS (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:25 PM

Gretchen is most often misheard as Rachel and sometimes Bridget.

Willa gets misheard as Willow.

8
June 6, 2012 12:36 PM

My name is Melissa and everyone always seems to want to call me Michelle for some reason. I have never understood this because the names sound nothing alike! Ironically, I had a friend named Michelle who said people always called her Melissa. I never get the obvious mistakes like Alyssa or Marissa. That would make more sense to me than Michelle.

9
By Mary-Lynn (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:38 PM

I'm Mary-Lynn and I get called everything but. MaryAnn, Mary Beth, Mary Ellen, etc. The hyphen causes even more trouble.

10
By JB1112 (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:42 PM

I had my third child last year, and we named her "Astrid." I was prepared for people to be unfamiliar with the name, and have no problem repeating it for the many who ask. But then there are those who, strangely, don't request clarification and just call her "Aspirin." Didn't foresee that one! It happens pretty often...

 

11
By JB1112 (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:45 PM

I had my third child last year, and we named her "Astrid." I was prepared for people to be unfamiliar with the name, and I gladly repeat it when asked. But then there are those who, strangely, don't ask for clarification and just call her "Aspirin." Didn't foresee that one! And it happens pretty often...

12
By Amanda Renea (not verified)
June 6, 2012 12:53 PM

For some reason on the phone a lot of people think I say Samantha.  And a lot of people that can't quite remember my name call me Amber.  Sometimes even people that didn't know  my name in the first place.

13
By TheLetterK (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:01 PM

My middle name Marika was once heard as "America"! I thought that was rather amusing, since I had no ties to America when I was young.

 

14
June 6, 2012 1:03 PM

Google Voice transcribes my voicemails and "Katie" is frequently transcribed as "J,D."  I've gotten "Janey" and "Kenny" once or twice, too.  That doesn't tend to happen in person, probably because there are so many of us Katies around.  

I did take this into consideration when I named my kids.  It was one of the questions I asked in a series of online surverys I did as a "baby name tournament."  I was lucky that the tournament winner was also my pick:  Evie.  Not a single person predicted any name it would be mistaken for, so imagine my surprise at our first pediatric appointment, when the nurse comes out calling for "Easy."  

15
By YesmynameisGotcha (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:05 PM

The European spelling of Katya is with a J: Katja. This causes all sorts of hilarity when pronouncing in English. Words that have gotten me to look around to see if someone's talking to me include: Gotcha and even "couch".

That said, one strange old man once misremembered the name in a very fanciful way. He must have thought it was something very very east European. He called me Karpathia.   :)

16
By knwd
June 6, 2012 1:18 PM

My name is Kristin, but for some reason, men over the age of 60 seem to call me Kirsten, even after knowing me for years, even when they work closely with me on a regular basis, and even though they frequently hear other people calling me Kristin.  It's a weird phenomenon, because I'm not aware of the name Kirsten ever being particularly popular, and certainly not for the 60+ age group, so it's not like they're mistaking my name for something that would have been common amongst their friends growing up.

17
By Valerie C (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:21 PM

In person, I don't have any problems, but on the phone at work, hardly anyone understands what I said. I can understand turning Valerie into Mallory-they're similar. But I also get a lot of Ally and Sally. I don't get it but it's an almost constant thing. It could be my pronuncation though. The Southern way to say Valerie (how my grandparents pronounced it and sometimes my parents) is Val'ree. I guess If I'm cutting out the middle, it might confuse people.

18
By Erin Leigh (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:24 PM

I'm an Erin and I usually have to repeat my name a couple times, especially if I'm in a loud place - it's not that people so much mistake it for something else as that it seems somehow hard for people to hear. 

Younger people are usually pretty familiar with it but older people always think I'm saying Anne or Karen. I've had the following conversation countless times:

"What's your name"

"I'm Erin"

"Karen?"

"No, just Erin"

"Karen?"

"No K."

"Kay?"

19
June 6, 2012 1:31 PM

I am another Melissa who is always called Michelle! It seems to be older people, specifically older men, who can't get it right.  In fact my husband's grandfather still calls me Michelle after 10 years!  I guess the name Melissa isn't common at all among older people, while they know Michelle.

20
By Michelle22 (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:32 PM

Mello,

My name is Michelle and I have been called Melissa tons of times throughout my life.  I have never understood the connection either, the two names have almost nothing in common aside from the first letter.  I could understand "Rachelle" or another name that sounds very similar, but Melissa seems very distinct from Michelle.  I find it happens the most in the context of someone trying to remember my name.  For example, the conversation is not usually "Hi, I'm Michelle." "Nice to meet you Melissa!"  Instead, it's more of "Hi, I'm Michelle."  Then 10 minutes later the person says "Melissa, can you help me with this?"  In any event, I think it's odd.

21
By ClaireS (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:32 PM

My 5 y/o Daisy is sometimes misheard as Stacy, which I never thought of, even though I have a sister named Stacy. Of course, the idea of a little one being named Stacy is to me ridiculous, but it is usually older adults who expect to hear Stacy over Daisy.

22
By ClaireS (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:33 PM

My 5 y/o Daisy is sometimes misheard as Stacy, which I never thought of, even though I have a sister named Stacy. Of course, the idea of a little one being named Stacy is to me ridiculous, but it is usually older adults who expect to hear Stacy over Daisy.

23
By Kayt (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:35 PM

I notice that a lot of people can't resist calling me Katie, even though my name is pronounced like Kate. I understand the confusion if they are reading my name off the page, but I don't get it when we're speaking to each other and I introduce myself as Kate. Katie is what people who changed my diapers get to call me, no one else. I sometimes get Kelly or Casey, but mostly, it's the Kate/Katie thing.

My son is Jamey, and there is one particular person at his school who calls him Jimmy all. the. time. It's not that she dislikes the name Jamey, she just can't remember it. He's a pretty masculine looking three year old, although he has shaggy hair and beautiful eyelashes. He's been called Amy more than once, and with the unisex nickname confuses people sometimes. Doesn't bother him or me any.

We're expecting our second, and we're naming her Fiona. My MIL thought we'd said Theona (????) for about three weeks before she saw it written down.

24
By Kayt (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:38 PM

Oooh, and on the phone, I've gotten Keith, Pete, and Candy, all instead of Kayt.

25
By Shel (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:48 PM

@Mello - how funny!  I'm a Michelle who ALWAYS gets called Melissa.  What is it about those two names?  I know both are very common in my generation (I'm mid-30s) but they sound nothing alike beyond starting with the same letter!

(/re-lurking)

26
By justme2 (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:49 PM

I have a friend named Avril, which is French for April but pronounced differently (AV-ril). It's better after the Avril Lavigne phenomonen, but before that, it was mispronounced all the time. April was the most simple mistake - but she also got Arvil and even Anvil. Not that those are names.

27
By kgstar (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:56 PM

My hubby's name is Graham and it gets confusing when discussing "Graham" vs. "Grandma." People mishear that all the time! (Especially awkward when Grandma had open-heart surgery, or broke her hip...)

28
By toorsdenote (not verified)
June 6, 2012 1:58 PM

Jake, my husband gets called Jason a lot, too, but he's a Justin. Even my mother has called him Jason once or twice! I guess Jason is just the memorable J name of our generation.

29
June 6, 2012 2:00 PM

Really interesting hearing about all of the Melissa/Michelle confusion! I have to say, speaking as a non-Melissa/Michelle from a generation with lots of them...there is something about those names that just FEELS the same.

30
By Lady Harvatine (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:02 PM

We named our 16 month old Virginia and called her Ginny from the start. I never considered that it would be misheard so often. People usually hear Jenny but we've also gotten Jeanie and even jimmy when she's not dressed particularly girly. I don't want to introduce her as Virginia because we never call her that so I usually say Ginny, short for Virginia. People still give me blank stares. 

31
By Jeanni (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:04 PM

I never had much of a problem until I came to college.  Except that I have family who call me Jean, some who call me Jeanni, and some who call me Jean Marie.  And occasionally I'll even get Mia, my sister's name.  In school I was always the only Jeanni and everyone knew it, even though I went to big schools.  In high school there was one other, but it wasn't a big deal.  

Then I came to college.  My roommate first semester sophomore year called me Jenny for the entire semester.  Then a professor I had for an entire year misheard my name once and called me Ginny.  I get why, but still.  Jenny I get more than Ginny, which is not very common.

32
By Jenjenjen (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:10 PM

I get called Jessica a lot.  One of my coworkers called me Jessica about half the time for 3 years ... ?!?  Are there not enough Jennifers around to remember the name?

33
By Jenjenjen (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:10 PM

I get called Jessica a lot.  One of my coworkers called me Jessica about half the time for 3 years ... ?!?  Are there not enough Jennifers around to remember the name?

34
By GuestA (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:11 PM

My husband's name is Matthew, but he always goes by Matt.  People on the phone often mishear and think his name is "Mac".  I really liked Max for a boy's name, and then I considered that if we had a Matt and a Max in the house, and someone called on the phone asking for them, we might not be able to tell who they were calling for!  Had to cross that one off the list.

35
By JosieJosie12 (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:12 PM

Joslyn is CONSTANTLY misheard as Jaqueline.  All the time, especially with older people on the phone.

36
By Guest Rebecca (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:23 PM

I am a Rebecca who has been mistakenly called Rachel more times than I can count.  I guess it's because they're biblical and both start with "R"? 

The other one I occasionally get is Jessica which has more of the same rhythm as Rebecca and thus makes more sense to me.

But even today as a 30 year old woman I will say Rebecca and they'll write down Rachel instead or be introduced to someone and they'll repeat my name back as Rachel just a few minutes later.  I have even been called Rachel by my boss and he didn't even realize it.  I'm so used to it that if it doesn't matter then I just respond and ignore it.  Rachel is almost my second name :)

37
June 6, 2012 2:31 PM

Back in the UK I never had anyone confused my name: Jennie. But then I came to the US and people would call me Jeannie: sounds like "Jean-ee". The preacher that married my husband and I, kept calling me Jeannie throughout our wedding ceremony. I also had someone call my Ginny too.

I can't think of any times that people have confused the sounds of my own childrens' names: Rose, Henry & George.

Though my husband wrote down Henry's name at an event lately and they thought he'd written Renry instead of Henry. He corrected them and they said they didn't want to ask, as they see a lot of unusual names these days, so they figured Renry was a likely name.

38
By alysa (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:34 PM

As an Alysa in my 30s, when I was growing up no one got it right at first - usually some variation of Alisha, Lisa, Elisa, etc and was thankful that Melissa is popular enough that I can say, "it rhymes with Melissa." Now, it's much more popular and it just gets misspelled.

Like the commenter above, I often hear my name in "Listen" and was startled by teachers a lot.

39
By Amy3
June 6, 2012 9:09 PM

I don't think my name, Amy, is misheard, but I also have an Astrid and that one goes through the wringer. In over 10 years we've had Aspirin (as JB1112 mentioned) but also Aspen, Astrin, Astrik (yes, mispronounced like this), and Aristide. Far and away the most common is Ashley. It can be a tricky name to hear, especially in noisy places, but I also think people hear the start and believe they know where you're going with it. And for loads of them, that's Ashley. We taught our Astrid to spell her name early and prepped her to correct people. Depending on the situation she either corrects the person or just lets it go. I never realized how much confusion it would generate.

I have misheard her name recently in people calling someone named Katherine and in someone shouting 'that's it' across a softball diamond. 

40
By Linz3 (not verified)
June 6, 2012 2:39 PM

I'm a Lindsay. My name gets mistaken for Leslie. Makes sense. What bugged me was that if I spelled my name for someone, or they read it, they'd mistakenly pronounce it as Lin-SAY, which is odd. Granted, there are many ways to spell Lindsay, but most are still pronounced Lin' zee.

41
June 6, 2012 2:40 PM

Yes, I agree with that one. I took a phone message from a Joslyn, and I heard Jacqueline. I thought it was just me. My name is Jacqueline, so I thought I misheard because of my own ego. :-)

My sister is Meredith, but goes by Merry. She is constantly getting called Mary. She HATES it. With some accents, even after she says "Merry, like Merry Christmas." She still gets called Mary.

42
June 6, 2012 2:53 PM

My name is Abbey -- and for some reaons I get called Amy alot, inclluding in my wedding vows by the priest...if you can imagine.  That caused some confusion among me then "new" inlaws. 

43
By Jessie Jensen (not verified)
June 6, 2012 3:02 PM

My sister Annie ("Hi, I'm Annie") was mistaken for Manny once. She's been Manny and Mangela to us ever since :)

44
June 6, 2012 3:17 PM

I can't believe that other Melissa's and Michelle's have the same problem. I'm a little relieved because I tend to take it personally when it happens. Like you, Michelle22, it's always after they've known my name for awhile. So weird!

45
By BellaNuit (not verified)
June 6, 2012 3:17 PM

I am Anne, constantly mistaken for Sam on the telephone. Many take liberties and change my name to Anna in writing. It only bothers me when they reply to an email I sent that clearly had the proper spelling of my name, Anne, written in the closing.

46
June 6, 2012 3:19 PM

And for the record, I am in my early 30's so maybe it is that those names were more common for our generation.

47
By JKE (not verified)
June 6, 2012 3:24 PM

I'm a Jae. Like Jay, pronounced the same--but nobody ever seems to believe that's really my name. I get Jane and Jade enough that I started introducing myself as "Jae, like the letter."

Then I get: "Oh, just J? What's that short for."

"It's not."

"Jennifer? Jamie? Jackie? Jaylene?" *insert any other female J names they can think of, despite my insistance that no, my name is just Jae*

48
By Allison Margaret (not verified)
June 6, 2012 3:38 PM

Nobody really mishears Allison. But I am with Jenjenjen above - I used to work with a Jessica who was constantly being called Jennifer.

49
June 6, 2012 4:17 PM

mamajaybee, what does your sister do with people (like me) for whom Mary and merry are pronounced completely identically?

My name is Julia, which doesn't get misheard much, but a lot of people assume that they can call me Julie. I answer to multiple names, but that's not generally one of them -- it can take a few repeats for me to realize that I'm the one being addressed. Dunno why; in Hungarian I answer almost exclusively to Juli (YOU-lee), which is Julie with a different initial consonant.

And to the various Michelle/Melissa posters above, I can actually sympathize with the people who get those names mixed up. Starts with M, popular about 30 years ago, has an L and a sibilant...

50
By Allyson with a y (not verified)
June 6, 2012 4:22 PM

Oh, Allison, I disagree!  People often think I'm "Alice."  My son is Jasper and people hear "Casper" and misremember him as Jason.  My daughter is Ivy and people hear "Heidi."