WHY must they change the spelling?

Ooh, I usually admire the more unusual names I've encountered, but my niece just announced she was having her third son and naming him "Malakie." YUCK! Several family members have already expressed their distain (as family members are wont to do), so the mom is getting all defensive. Of course, I do not want to be the annoying aunt who criticizes, so I am venting here in this forum.

I think it looks like it is pronounced "Mah-LACK-key." Others thought it was "MAL-a-key" or "Mal-ACK-ee." But it's pronounced "MAL-a-k(eye)", like Malachi in the Bible.

It's the spelling that I can't stand, though Malachi is quite different from her other sons, Austin & Christopher. I also feel like it is being 'feminized' (is that a word?) by the spelling change (i.e., James --> Jaymz). And I hope his nn doesn't become "Mal." Doesn't that mean 'bad'? As in malevolent or malodorous?

If she asks me what I think, do I really say? Do I lie and say it's awesome? Or do I just change the subject?


August 17, 2013 7:28 AM

Well I would support her on her name choice but explain to her that you think the original spelling is better than the spelling she is going for at the moment. Explain to her having the original spelling of a name helps the child in later life because the new people he meets will automatically spell his name the original way and not the way he spells it. It could aslo get very annoying for her son having to correct people of his spelling of his name all the time. My niece has a made up spelling. She is seven and gets very annoyed when people mis spell her name. She can not understand that her spelling of her name is original and not how other people who don't know her spell it.

August 17, 2013 1:10 PM

I think that there is a difference between alternate spellings and made-up ones. For example, my name is not the standard spelling, but it's known, has history, and the pronunciation is relatively clear upon seeing it. I still get annoyed when people I know well spell it incorrectly, but never expect anyone to get it right on the first try, with no prior knowledge.

I believe that the biggest problem with your niece's preferred spelling is that the change in spelling appears to signal a change in pronunciation. If she intends to use the standard pronunciation then she isn't doing her son any favours. I sympathise with the situation you're in.

August 19, 2013 8:35 AM

She certainly has eclectic tastes in names! I agree with you on the spelling. Had she merely changed the final 'i' to a 'y', I wouldn't say a word. But she has changed the spelling to the point that it is not clear she intends for the name to be pronounced as Malachi is. What is her intent behind the spelling change? If it's to clarify the pronunciation, maybe your family's reaction will cause her to realize that she has done anything but. Of course, she could get annoyed and dig in her heels...

August 19, 2013 9:15 AM

I agree that the new spelling is confusing, and doesn't follow the general rules of English (I can't think of a word where an -ie ending is pronounced with a long I).  I wouldn't say anything if she doesn't ask, but if she does, I might say, "I think this spelling might be problematic to get the pronunciation you want," and explain what the pronunciation looks like to you. It looks like mal-ACK-ee to me, too.

I know someone who recently named her daughter AshLee, and even though I know she pronounces it just like Ashley, everytime I read it on facebook, my mind says ash-LEE. I just want to shout that second sylllable because of the spelling.

August 20, 2013 11:22 AM

I totally understand where you're coming from. I'm in a similar situation with a friend of mine - although she's mostly a Facebook friend at this point, so it's infinitely more complicated on your end. She named her son Toumas. Every time I see his name, I think "too-mas" like the French version of the name. She had a few posts complaining about how no one can spell his name correctly and I assumed she meant everyone spelled it Tomas, which is how I would spell it if I didn't SEE it written out on Facebook all the time. So, I asked her. "Oh no," she says, "They always spell it like Thomas." This didn't make any sense to me. If you're pronouncing it "too-mas" then there's NO WAY the general American public would spell it like "tom-us". So I asked her to clarify his pronounciation. Yeah. It's pronounced just like Thomas. But she spelled it Toumas because she thought it "looked nicer". I understand the annoyance of having to constantly spell your name for people, BUT my name is Megan. My annoyance is that OTHER parents didn't want their daughters to have a "normal" spelling of the name so now I'm constantly battling people who want to add an extra "a" or an "h" to MY name. That being said, pregnant women are very sensitive about their name choices for the most part. So unless she asks you specifically for your opinion, I wouldn't say anything. (It's not like she's naming him "Shithead" and yes, my school teacher SIL had a child in her class with that name. Pronounced "shuh-THE-ed").

IF she asks for your opinion, I wouldn't lie and tell her that you love it, but I wouldn't put her on the defense, either. I would simply tell her that with the spelling she chose, it may prove to be difficult to obtain the pronounciation she wants. Because, I'll echo previous posters, it does read "mal-ACK-ee" to me as well. I wouldn't mention your opinion on the spelling being feminized - I think the pronounciation is a larger issue anyway. 

Yes, Mal does mean "bad" in Latin. But I happen to adore the nickname Mal. I'm also a gigantic geek and am obsessed with the majority of Joss Whedon's work, but my favorite is Firefly/Serenity in which the "main" character was Captain Malcolm Reynolds and he went by Mal. If she does wind up using it as a nickname, I honestly don't see anything wrong with it. Mal is an awesome character - and he's not a bad guy. They did address that his nickname means "bad" in latin in the series...which makes me like it even more. 

August 20, 2013 10:52 PM

Thank you, everyone, for letting me vent.  I appreciate your comments, letting me know that I wasn't just being unreasonable. 

My niece asked me tonight if I was going to embroider a diaper bag, blanket, and Taggie for this baby, like I do for all the family babies, and I said, "Of course."  She then said, "YOU like his name, don't you, Aunt Donna?"  I told her pretty much what everyone here said:  That I liked the name, but the spelling would be problematic.  She told me that they want to call the baby "Kie" (rhyms with pie) and thought that "Chi", the end of "Malachi" would get pronounced "Chee".  Which it probably would.  She doesn't like "plain Kai". 

I suggested still spelling his full name "Malachi" and his nn Ki or Ky...she wasn't sure.  But she told me to hold off on the embroidery for a little while!

And I would absolutely call a child "TOO-muss" with that spelling!  Wow.

August 20, 2013 11:23 PM

That's pretty much as good an opportunity as you could hope for, and I think that you handled it perfectly :) At least she has a reason for the unintuitive spelling, and she's falling well within current trends of respelling names so that they contain the intended nicknames - however misguided that desire may sometimes be. At lease there's still hope!