Saturday, August 1, 2009

Irritable Vowel Syndrome

I'm not sure of the exact physiopathology of this newly named disease, but I'm sure it is a pain in the neck to study under a microscope. Because it's probably the result of watching too much TV.

I'm spending this lovely weekend slaving over a Web project that mentions irritable bowel syndrome a lot, but I keep typing the name of my new disease instead. So I thought I'd spread the word.

This syndrome affects a small but growing percentage of new parents. It messes with their minds, inspiring them to give their babies weird or misspelled names with the wrong vowels: Micheal. Meshelle. Susyn. Britney. "Kirsten," instead of the far more melodic and natural-sounding "Kristen." In rare cases, it can affect consonants, too. I once met an American college student, named Gillian, whose parents didn't realize that the "G" of this lovely British name is soft. As in "gaol." I bet her friends thought her name was a feminine variation on "Gilligan."

This illness can force your child to be a hapless pawn in a society that instantly recognizes, upon hearing his name, that his parents were barely in high school when he was born.

There are only experimental treatments for irritable vowel syndrome. For the best outcome, designate someone with a functioning brain to choose a name for the baby. Parents who don't have access to a brain should purchase a used Names for Your Baby book from no later than 1967 and stick to it.


  1. Maybe "gaol" isn't the best example of the correct consonant sound; speaking just for myself, I always thought that word was pronounced "gay-ole." How about "germ"?

  2. Kirsten is a perfectly lovely northern name. Scandinavia and Scotland are two places one hears variations frequently (Kirsty comes to mind).

    I was brought up never to make fun of anyone's name, and my usually prescriptive Mother (when it came to language) told me that people could spell and pronounce their own names any way they pleased, it was a personal matter, and therefore, off limits.

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  4. Charlotte, you were beautifully brought up! My mother gave me a a nice but unusual name (at the time) that no one could pronounce, so I grew up being called all sorts of things, including a similar-sounding nickname my family always used (out of desperation, I guess) but seldom my actual name, pronounced correctly.

    When I was in my 20s, my name suddenly became extremely popular; everyone can pronounce it. So I've seen this issue from both sides. I would never make fun of anyone's name — except on my blog, or in the private confines of my home, where it's impossible not to, because my husband has a colleague named "Herr Drier." But here, in the public privacy of blogging, I can ask parents to give their children names that will help them through life, not perpetually drive them nuts — and make them feel like their name is some kind of mistake.

    "Kirsten" is a perfectly nice name, I agree. But "Kristin" is so much lovelier that I've always viewed "Kirsten" as a missed opportunity. It's a little like "Ann" versus "Anne" - if you grew up reading about Anne of Green Gables, you knew that, to her, that "e" mattered enormously.

    As you can tell, I enjoy thinking about names and have a lot of prejudices!

    SAR, I keep forgetting that you don't watch "Masterpiece" or Merchant-Ivory films. I guess a trip to England is in order. For us both.

    Thank you both for reading! I'm grateful for your comments!


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