Learning to love your Irish name: "Oh, you want me to spell that for you? No problem!" Photo by: Thinkstock

How I learned to love my hard-to-pronounce Irish name


Learning to love your Irish name: "Oh, you want me to spell that for you? No problem!" Photo by: Thinkstock

Having a hard-to-pronounce Irish name is no picnic. There’s often confusion over pronunciation, spelling, and let’s not even start with the ordeal of ordering a coffee at Starbucks. Bláthnaid Giles, from Ardcath in Co. Meath, understands this. But she also thinks unique Irish names are worth celebrating. On her blog, "What’s me name?”, Bláthnaid (pronounced “Blaw-nid”) is bringing all the Dorarcas, Odhrans, Meadhbhs, Aoibheanns, etc. of the world together to share their stories. Launched five months ago, the blog features fun Q&As with each interviewee – some of whom Bláthnaid knows personally, but many of whom she simply reached out to online.

Here Bláthnaid writes about learning to love her name, the inspiration behind her blog, and a few of her favorite interviews.

Bláthnaid Giles, pronounced "Blaw-nid." Founder of the "What's me name?" blog.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my name. I hated it when I was growing up and always wondered why my parents didn’t choose a 'normal' name that everyone could pronounce. I even called myself Rebecca when going to meet some of my cousin's friends just for the fear of having to repeat it and pronounce it phonetically over and over again.

Odhran, pronounced "O-rin." What kind of reactions do you get when asked your name? A blank expression, a stunned look, bewilderment.

As a kid you want to fit in, and I kind of resented having such an unusual name. My parents were stuck on either Bláthnaid, Bláithín or Megan when choosing my name, and I would always ask my Mam, "why didn’t you just go with Megan?" However, I’ve learned to love it and appreciate that my parents chose such a Gaelic name, seeing as they both had no connection with the language. My brother is called Tadhg, so I guess they just have a fondness for Irish names.

Tadhg, pronounced "Tige (Like Tiger without the 'er')."

I got the idea for the blog when I came across another Bláthnaid on Instagram and wondered if she had the same problems as myself growing up. Starting off with friends, I decided to get their thoughts on living with a 'tough' name. I then moved on to mutual Facebook friends and random people on Twitter. I used some of the Irish baby name websites for inspiration, then searched for the names and contacted people requesting interviews. After gaining some steam, I have had people contact me asking to be featured on the blog.

Meadbh, pronounced "Mave, like rave or wave." With Irish people there’s no reaction usually, except on the phone: “Elaine?” “No, Meadhbh.” “Sinéad?” “No.” “Mairéad?!”

At first I thought the project would only appeal to a niche audience and was primarily doing it for my own personal interest, however, I soon realized that a lot of people are connected in some way to 'difficult' names - either their friend or family member has one or they just like reading the funny stories involved, the appeal was far more widespread than I first assumed. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, similar to our fascination with the weather, but people are intrigued by unusual names. It’s not just in Ireland of course but also abroad. It’s a great ice breaker and usually follows with the questions "what does that mean?" and "how do you spell it?" A great example of this was mentioned by Garbhán, who met a girl while studying in Sweden and she liked his name so much that she called his parents to tell them.

Garbhán, pronounced "Gar-vawn." "Months after I returned to Ireland, I asked my Dad 'do you remember a Swedish girl phoning one evening and...?' 'Yes,' he says bluntly."