A few weeks ago, I received an email confirmation from our new housing association. It was addressed to Katherine. What’s wrong with this you might ask? Well, my name is misspelled. There’s no “e” at the end. Who cares you might be thinking? ME! I know it seems quite the trivial thing, except it’s not. It’s something that has plagued me year after year after year for as long as I could write my own name and then correct people when they spell it however they want.
I’ve had cashiers and bank tellers ask me if I’ve spelled my name incorrectly, “because you know there’s no “e” at the end of it.” Can you imagine someone asking you if you’d misspelled your own name? People are nutz.
My stepmother misspelled it on the handmade wedding favors she’d created. All 200 mini-scrolls said, Congratulations Katherine and Dwight!
After a couple of decades of this, I’ve come up with some strategies. I spell it real slow and then say nice and clear, “There’s no “e” at the end of it.” And you know what happens? Fill-in-the-blank person still puts an “e” at the end of it.
This happened recently. I sent my email address to someone and made sure to note the no “e” part. You know what she did? She argued me down that she’d sent the email and didn’t know what happened, until I asked her to please go back and make sure she didn’t misspell my name. Guess what? Oh never mind. You already know what happened.
So, how did I get this name? Well, it’s kind of a funny story.
For the longest, my dad’s side of the family would insist that Aunt Cat was my namesake. They’d refer to her this way, saying things like, have you talked to your namesake? In my mind, I would just shake my head and disagree because I knew she couldn’t have been for one simple reason: my mother disliked the lady.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Cat had a milestone birthday. Her daughter thought it’d be a great idea to create something handmade, so she called me up.
“Kathy, can you please contribute to Mom’s scrapbook? I mean she is your namesake and all?”
“She is not my namesake,” I clarified. “But I’ll send something.”
“Uh. Yes she is. You were named after her.”
I didn’t continue the conversation. Instead, I called my dad. This had to be squashed once and for all.
“Oh yes. You were named after her,” he confirmed. “Your Aunt Cat was my favorite cousin at the time, but your mom didn’t like her.”
Right. Right, I thought.
“I wanted your name to be Catherine, like hers, but your mom said ‘no.’”
I nodded in agreement to the phone.
“So she compromised.”
“Yes. She said your name could be Catherine, but it had to be spelled completely different, with a “k” and no “e” at the end.
Hmmmph. I was wrong. And that was a clever move, sort of. I suppose my mom couldn’t have predicted that decades later I’d still be correcting store clerks and housing associations. The same way I didn’t realize that my oldest daughter would spend a lifetime correcting people’s pronunciations (it’s Kesi, like Kasie, not like Keeesie). Or the way my youngest has to repeatedly say Desi isn’t short for anything; it’s just Desi.
Names are interesting. They are the result of your parents’ creative expression. Maybe that’s why I continue to be so bothered when I see it misspelled. My mother’s innovation is woven into those eight letters. I want people to recognize that: it’s Katherin with no “e.” I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Do you?
I know my name is not the weirdest thing out there. Do you have a “strange” name that’s caused a lifetime of confusion and misspellings? Do you have an interesting story about your name?