Creativity or Mistake?

Feb 6th 2014

Many parents like to customize the spelling of their kids' names. They play with the letters to make the name more individual or attractive or "namelike," or to include a relative's initials as an homage, or to make their preferred pronunciation clear. The motivations and the possible spellings are endless. You can't assume that an unexpected spelling you come across is "wrong," even when the name is traditional or based on a common English word.

But sometimes spellings ARE wrong. If you're looking at a record of a student, patient or client named "Wlliam," isn't it likely to be a typo? And shouldn't you ask the person to make certain, rather than risk their records getting lost in your database?

Plenty of typos make it into official government name data, too. Most parents have the mistakes corrected, but some just roll with it. The harder a name is to spell and/or type, the more erroneous versions will pile up. The trick is, the same names that spawn the most errors tend to spawn the most intentional respellings, too.

Take a look at this list of spellings of Autumn, all of which show up in federal data as being given to five or more girls in a year. Which ones would prompt you to ask about a possible error? Keep in mind that mistakes could take the form of typos, misreadings (human or machine) from a handwritten form, or poor spelling on the part of the typist:


I'd place "Autymn" at the clearly deliberate end of the spectrum, and "Autunm" as the surest typo. But there's plenty of gray area in-between.

If the person is standing in front of you, it's simple enough to ask them to confirm that you have the spelling correct. If they're not, though, checking can take a lot of time and effort -- and sends the message that you think their name is "wrong."

Here are three more official spelling arrays of traditional names. Where would you draw the line? I'll start off gentle: 

Eliajah     Eliijah     Elijha
Eliejah     Elijaah     Elijhah
Eligah     Elijan     Elijiah


OK, now brace yourself:

Staphanie     Stefoni     Stephanni
Staphany     Stehanie     Stephannie
Stefanee     Stehpanie     Stephanny
Stefaney     Steohanie     Stephany
Stefani     Stepahanie     Stephanye
Stefanie     Stepahnie     Stephenee
Stefanni     Stepanie     Stepheni
Stefannie     Stepfanie     Stephenia
Stefanny     Stephaie     Stephenie
Stefany     Stephaine     Stephennie
Stefeni     Stephane     Stepheny
Stefenie     Stephanee     Stephiane
Steffani     Stephaney     Stephinie
Steffanie     Stephani     Stephne
Steffany     Stephania     Stephney
Steffenie     Stephanic     Stephnie
Stefhanie     Stephanie     Stephonie
Stefhany     Stephanine     Stepphanie
Stefnie     Stephanne      


Christiopher     Christphor     Khrystopher
Christipher     Christpoher     Krisopher
Christofer     Christropher     Krisstopher
Christoffer     Chritopher     Kristapher
Christofher     Chrostopher     Kristepher
Christoher     Chrsitopher     Kristifer
Christohper     Chrstopher     Kristofer
Christohpher     Chrysander     Kristoff
Christoopher     Chrystal     Kristoffer
Christop     Chrystian     Kristofor
Christopehr     Chrystopher     Kristoher
Christoper     Crhistopher     Kristoper
Christoph     Cristhofer     Kristopfer
Christophe     Cristofer     Kristopher
Christophel     Cristoffer     Kristophor
Christophen     Cristofher     Krystofer
Christophor     Cristopher     Krystoffer
Christophr     Crystofer     Krystopher
Christopoher     Crystopher      
Christorpher     Khristopher      


February 9, 2014 2:01 PM

I would assume that Chrysander, Chrystal and Chrystian were not respellings of Christopher. The latter two seem like creative spellings of Crystal and Christian; all three names seem unrelated to Christopher.

February 9, 2014 3:55 PM

It's funny, I have two friends who just had a baby boy, and chose a spelling of Elijah that doesn't apear on the list above- they went with 'Alijah'. 

February 10, 2014 10:07 AM

The thing that drives me nuts is when the name is spelled creatively in a way that doesn't match the normal English pronounciation.  Then you have to remember the wrong way to say the name.

Two examples that come to mind are Rachelle (but pronounced Rachel not ra-chelle) and Illa (pronounced Isla not ill-a).  

I'm not of course talking about foreign names where it's fair game that something is pronounced differently from the English way. 

February 11, 2014 12:17 PM

I'm not sure where to ask this, but was wondering if you've covered the absolutely flattest, most consistent Name Voyager graph. I suppose you could also call these "timeless" names, but I've noticed that even the timeless names sometimes have significant spikes and drops, or downward/upward trends. Is there a name that has a completely flat graph?

February 11, 2014 2:20 PM

LOL, one more addition to variations of Christopher that you missed: I have a nephew Christapher.

It's definitely hard in this day & age to know if it's a mistake or creativity sometimes. I wanted to name my daughter Hayley, but didn't want to use the classic spelling as that was becoming common (and got even more common after she was born.) We came up with about 10 variations of the spelling...Haylee, Halee, Haylea, Halea, Haleigh, Hayleigh, Haley, and a few others before we finally settled on one that we liked.


February 11, 2014 2:20 PM

Well you can't forget the multiple spellings there are for Christina. 

Christina; Cristina; Crystina; Crystyna; Chrystina; Chrystyna

Kristina; Khristina; Kristyna; Krystyna; Khrystina; Khrystyna; Khristyna



February 11, 2014 2:22 PM

I can't help but think of Dwyane Wade of NBA fame. I think his name is misspelled by the autocorrect in most of the media.

February 11, 2014 3:07 PM

Laura's comments about some names looking like a typo that require someone to constantly clarify the proper spelling made me think of my husband named Pete.  He is in his mid-40s and his legal first name is "Pete" not "Peter."  He constantly has to get important documents revised because they come back to him with "Peter" listed as his first name because some one somewhere thinks that they are helping this poor dumb guy who must have filled out his form with his nickname rather than his legal name.  It's really annoying and time consuming to have to address these errors.  I know that it's increasingly common now for people to name their kids the nickname and not the traditional name, so maybe this will be less of a problem when current babies are in their 40s, but we intentionally chose names for our kids that didn't have nicknames so that there would never be any confusion.


February 11, 2014 7:18 PM

"I would assume that Chrysander, Chrystal and Chrystian were not respellings of Christopher."

Agreed--isn't Chrysander a Greek name?

Also, why is there a "Reply" button on individual posts, if the reply just shows up at the bottom of the list? Is there a "threaded" option I don't have turned on?

By Amy3
February 12, 2014 11:45 AM

I have a nephew Calob. That's a respelling I've never seen on anyone else, but given the lists above for Christopher and Stephanie, I suspect he's not as alone as I might have thought!

February 12, 2014 11:10 PM

As a "Stephanie" who has seen her name come back as:

Stepanie (leading to several unfortnate years in high school as "Step-on-me"...being under 5 ft. tall likely didn't help my case!), Stefanie, Steffany, Stefani, Stephany, Stephy, Stephie, Steffie and Stephen...just to name a few!

I completely relate to this post!

When we were selecting names for our children, "must have a standard spelling" was near the top of the "name rules" list (along with "not a Top-10 name."  I was born in 1980 and there were always 2, 3 or even 4 Steph/f/anie/y's in my classes.)

HOWEVER...  We had a terrible time finding names that we both liked!  We knew that if we had a girl, she would be given the middle name "Elizabeth," common to both my husband's and my maternal grandmothers, but we could not agree on a first name. Somehow we stumbled upon the name "Tegan" and both loved it, but in the delivery room, I decided it should have an "a" and an "h" (Teaghan) because it "looked nicer."  Voila, non-standard spelling incident #1. (Curse you, crazy pregnancy/post-partum hormones! ;p~)

Then, with our second daughter, we wanted her middle name to have the same depth of family connection as her sister, but no longer had the convenience of a name that was shared on both sides of the family.  Hence the decision to combine "Kathryn" (my mother) and "Madelin" (his mother) into "Katelin".  Non-standard spelling incident #2. *sigh*  Her first name is Mattea, which is not entirely free of confusion either (Matea and Mateo being common substitutions), but I console myself that we limited the most "creative/wrong" spelling to a middle name the second time around...?!?

Also, my husband teases that I just wanted to have the word "tea" in both their names to honour my favourite beverage...  (Definitely limits possible sibling names!  We could switch to his favourite drink if we have any more kids, but "water" is harder to work with.  I suppose "eau" (the french) has possibilities... ;p~)

February 13, 2014 6:22 PM

I am worried for a friend who is thinking of naming her daughter a name that looks like a true mispelling - shall we say " Clar " (prounonced like the standard Clare). I don't know her well enough to tell her "terrible idea, dont do it!" but want to warn her about all the possible trouble! Any suggestions?

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