Parents, to be perfectly blunt, suck at names, sometimes

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/10/01 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

The epiphany started with a comment.

A comment to that blog Tavultesoft is one of the company names mispronounced more often than Trigeminal.

It was after Andrew Durdin gave the suggested pronunciation here and his brother Marc said more about it here.

The next day, Marc commented:

I have been informed (by my parents) that both Andrew and I got the phonetic transcription of Tavultesoft wrong.  Here's what they suggest is the correct pronunciation: [tɑβʊltɛˈsɔft]ǃ  Not quite sure how to turn that into a domain name...

I suddenly recalled how often tje relationships we have with our prents zbout names has some very real flaws.

There are obvious examples, like my Hebrew name. You see, I am a member of the Honorable Society of People Whose Hebrew Names Don't Correspond to Their English Names.

Thus Michael becomes מאיר instead of the more conventional מייקל.

And there is my sister's Hebrew name, that someone who our parents consulted just made up -- it isn't even a word! What's up with that?

Supposedly it was a Rabbi, but that word is based the Hebrew word "My teacher" and clearly he wasn't teaching anything useful that day!

I am not going to spell it here and make the word more of an actual word by making it easier to Google.

Of course there is Goldie's name, which I talked about in Learning to spell in Bengali (when one doesn't know the language).

That name (গোধূলি চৌধুরী) was based on a beautiful poem/song by Tagore (it might be a poem though I have heard it sung since then so we'll call it a song), though unfortunately the way she was taught to spell it all her life turns out was wrong.

Doesn't that work against the beautiful gesture a tad? :-)

I hesitate to ponder how long it would have been before she found out if I had not been on that odd project that I enlisted her in and she involved her parents in!

And then there is my colleague Daniel.

Daniel, you see, is from Hawaii.

Remember when I mention As the comma turned (in space!)?

Well, his name is Daniel Kamanaʻo.

I should actually give you the full name, including the middle name (which is decidely more "Hawaiian" than the first name!):

Daniel Keiki Oʻkalani kala hoʻo lewa Kamanaʻo

He also has it on his office door:

If you know Hawaiian you will know why this is kind of a cool name. And even if you don't, you can delight in imagining how the software developers who were hyperventilating trying to solve the problems in What's in a name? would be having a coronary trying to handle Daniel's name.

Now this is not the name on his birth certificate.

The name there is something like:

Daniel Keiki kalahoʻolewa oʻkakakakalani Kamanao

Now let's not even talk about the missing okina in the last name.

Let's focus on the middle.

It is kind of ironic in both the actual sense and the Alanis sense the way that the kaka bit is repeated, given that kaka is often used to mean crap. They stuck some random "crap" in the middle of his name that has no meaning in Hawaiian!

So, there are many morals/lessons one could get from all of this, including how cool it is to be in contact with so many people with so many different languages and cultures.

But I prefer the one that was the source of my epiphany -- Parents just really suck at names. :-)


This blog brought to you by ʻ (U+02bb, aka MODIFIER LETTER TURNED COMMA - typographical alternate for U+02BD or U+02BF, used in Hawai`ian orthography as `okina (glottal stop))

John Cowan on 1 Oct 2008 7:38 PM:

I just put this wonderful into a rant (unfortunately non-public at present) about why structured names in XML are a Really Bad Idea.

Keith J. Farmer on 1 Oct 2008 10:11 PM:

Are they going to correct the `okina on his nameplate?

John Cowan on 6 Oct 2008 12:29 PM:

I thought for some reason you had mentioned Batman bin Suparman here, but you didn't, so I will.

Michael S. Kaplan on 7 Oct 2008 12:45 AM:

Of course I would have loved to have been either Batman or Superman growing up, so I am not sure that one would count as the same kind of problem. :-)

The rant is now public! on 14 Sep 2010 11:22 AM:

Read all about it here: .  There are also links to postings by James Clark and Richard Ishida.

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