Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cy = Si

When we took Cyprian to the doctor's office for his first visit, I realized one of the challenges faced by the nurses who call patients back from the waiting room: they have to say the patients' names loudly regardless of how confident they are on the names' pronunciation. I would be terribly embarrassed to mispronounce people's names in front of others...but maybe they get over it quickly.

Why these musings? The nurse mispronounced Cyprian. I chuckled to David and noted that we'll probably get that a lot.

The day after Cyprian was born, when I was passing time alone in the hospital, I thought about all the words I knew that started with "cy". I realized that the majority of them are pronounce with a long I sound: cypress, cycle, cypher... I could only think of one word with a short i like Cyprian: cygnet. A baby swan. That's a nice word to compare a child's name to. Unfortunately, not everybody knows the word cygnet.

So I pulled out my dictionary when I got home and went through all the "cy" words. It turns out there are several more that are also pronounced with a short i. Some of them are nice, or at least neutral: cyclic (-al), Cygnus (the swan constellation), cylinder, cymbal. Others are negative: cynic (-al, -ism), cyst, cystic fibrosis.

Which word should I use when helping people learn/remember how to pronounce Cyprian? Cylinder?


Anonymous said...

As a one who is always correcting people with the pronunciation of my name, I'd suggest using two - Cylinder and Cymbal as you don't know which one they will best associate with. I also reintroduce myself a lot to try to help people. I'm not very good about correcting people who are not new to me... just not sure how to politely do so and yet I know that not doing so will lead to further embarrassment should they discover their mistake! Even with these challenges I wouldn't change my name and hope Cyprian grows to love his name too!

Anonymous said...

oops, forgot to sign my name! That last comment was me - Stasia :)
And that's Stasia with an S... it's the spelling from Anastasia but no, my name is not Anastasia, just Stasia...

Stay-sh-ah ;)

Andrea said...

Oppps. I've been saying it wrong. I like your way better! He'll get used to it. I'm Andrea On-dree-uh yet I've gone through my life with On-dreah, An-dree-uh An-drea-uh and any other version you can think of. It starts up conversation with people when you tell them the right way. It's good!

WOOD said...

I think cylinder is probably your best bet since it has a neutral connotation and a word most people should be familiar with. If you use cymbal, people might think "symbol" and be further confused.

I truly do love the name. It is so unique, yet completely familiar (to me anyways, but I am used to hearing it at Mass!)

Elizabeth said...

Oh how I can identify with this problem! My mother in law, the first moment we met, told me that her name was Mrs. DeHority, which rhymes with authority. Ouch. The other funny think is how many crazy words auto correct spell check can come up with for our last name....

KATEDDY said...

I was thinking "cypress", Frances, just because it is the most familiar and memorable to me. I am sure you will decide on the perfect word, and do a fine job helping others remember! Looking forward to hearing about Cyprian's birth! Hope you all are doing well ;)

Frances said...

I've enjoyed reading all the comments on this post - thanks, everyone!

Kate: cypress would not work because that has a long I sound. As soon as David reviews my birth story and lets me know what I forgot, I'll post it! :)

Jenny L said...

By the way, Aliyah's first name gets bungled all the time. It bothers me more than Theo, as he grew up with people bungling his name his entire life.

Anonymous said...

Was just reading over Jen's shoulder. As she says, I got used to people mispronouncing my name long ago. Here are my two cents:

Right on for choosing a meaningful and distinctive name! Nothing wrong with the traditional ones, but I have a soft spot for the mavericks. (Plus, Cyprian is just a cool name.)

As for a pronunciation guide, I'd say go with "cylinder" -- it's probably the most common of the bunch, though I like the idea of using two. All my life, my parents (and now I) have had a sort of patter: "Theo, pronounced like it's spelled 't-a-y-o'." Usually it works, though many people soon forget if they first got to know my name in print (emails, etc.).

But also, don't stress too much about it. You'll say it right, your friends and family (and his) will say it right. People who are around him long will get it, and we'll all immediately be able to tell someone who's only pretending to know him (telemarketers? Strangers up to no good?) when they mispronounce it. (In fact, his name is something of a shibboleth!)

He may grow up to be very particular about it -- some people I've met with distinctive names feel it's who they are, and a mispronunciation isn't them -- but in my case, I've decided I am who I am, and it doesn't matter too much what people call me. (Though for some reason, I'm adamant about not being a Ted.)

Finally, whatever you do, there will always be some people who simply don't get it, and never will. They may hear it said right a million times, and they simply can't, for whatever reason. Just roll with it. A swimming teacher of mine called me "tie-o" for years. The priest I grew up with, who christened my brother and knew me essentially from birth, to this day pronounces my name "thay-o" (with a "th" like in "thousand"), and even said it that way at our wedding. In the end, I grew to like it -- it was a special connection with him, however inadvertent.

Sorry to go on so long. It's clearly something I've thought a lot about (mostly in talking with people profusely apologetic about having gotten it wrong for weeks or months, or even years). No need to approve the comment for publication, since it's likely a distraction distraction -- I mostly just wanted to let you know how it looks from one perspective.

Congratulations again, and all our best,