Four kinds of "confusing" names

I thought of four types of names that some of us like while others think creates unnecessary confusion and other issues, etc. Here’s what they are:

  1. Using the middle name as the name your child goes by.
  2. Using a name more commonly associated with the opposite gender.
  3. Using a name that is often misspelled (or spelled in a non-standard way).
  4. Using a name that is often mispronounced.

What do you think? Any first (or close second) hand experience with one of these? Would you give any of your children a name under one of these categories? (Or for a little game, if you don’t like any of them which is the least of the evils in your opinion?)

I’ll wait awhile to give my thoughts (you probably already know I have one of these kinds of names).

Yes, I do have some experiences with this.

One of my cousins is named [name]Kirsten[/name] (pn Ker-stin) and when she was little people always would pronounce her name [name]Keir[/name]-sten

someone who I went to HS with had a daughter and named her Mailie. And I thought it was pronounced [name]May[/name]-lee come to find out it was pronounced like [name]Miley[/name]. So I thought that was weird so I went to search for this name to see if that was the correct pronunciation and I couldn’t find the name. They said it was the original Hawaiian spelling. So I eventually found out it’s spelled [name]Maile[/name], and had a little giggle to myself.

My name is [name]Brittany[/name] and I always have people spelling my name out to me if they have to sign my name or something to make sure they have the correct spelling.

There was this cute as kid from NZ, and his name was [name]Milo[/name]. Naturally everyone pronounced it like the milo that you drink, but he’d correct us each time with a roll of his eyes- “It’s M(ee)lo.” Mee-lo. Cute name, but poor kid, having to have to tell people that for the rest of his life. They could’ve at least spelt it [name]Melo[/name] to make his life easier… I’m all for unusual names, but can you imagine a guy in a suit… called [name]Milo[/name]? (and thats ‘Mee-lo’) :wink:

I would think most people would think [name]Melo[/name] was pronounced like Mellow. They probably should have just spelled it Meelo…

  1. Using the middle name as the name your child goes by.
  2. Using a name more commonly associated with the opposite gender.
  3. Using a name that is often misspelled (or spelled in a non-standard way).
  4. Using a name that is often mispronounced.

All of your four examples are some of my top pet peeves. One and four are not as perplexing as two and three for me. So many boys names are being taken over by girls and it drives me nuts. Maybe this trend is one of the reasons why people seem to have a more difficult time choosing names for boys. Misspellings or “kreatif” spellings is another huge problem for me. Changing [name]Mason[/name] to Masyn for example does not “feminize” it or doesn’t make the name look fresh and new, it just looks silly. The poor child will have to correct people for the rest of its life. I would have added a fifth example: Word names that are so strange they would encourage ridicule and teasing (eg. Ecstasy for a girl - what are these parents thinking?). It’s good to know that someone else finds theses issues “confusing” too! Thanks fo posting!

I don’t necessarily think that it’s bad to use one of these kinds of names (in fact I applaud parents who want to use names that have been “taken over by the girls” for boys such as my own name, [name]Kelly[/name] [yes I am a guy]). I merely said that they can be sources of confusion.

  1. Using the middle name as the name your child goes by.- TOTALLY agree. Creates a lot of unnecessary confusion, though I can understand it in a few cases. For example, I’ve heard of parents who want to give their child a sort of off-the-wall name (say [name]Zebedee[/name] or [name]Juno[/name]) but are afraid their child won’t be taken seriously or won’t like their name, so they give them a different, more conservative legal first name- say, [name]Joseph[/name] [name]Zebedee[/name] and [name]Amelia[/name] [name]Juno[/name]. I understand that, though I wouldn’t do it.

  2. Using a name more commonly associated with the opposite gender. I hate this with passion. I have a technically male name that’s now used far more often for girls (and is also a surname), but even then, I don’t like it. There have been a few famous men with my name (mostly decades ago) as well as famous women (more common now.) I guess I’d equate my name to a far less common form of [name]Ashley[/name].

  3. Using a name that is often misspelled (or spelled in a non-standard way). I can deal with a name that’s spelled a different legitimate way for family, cultural, or pronunciation reasons ([name]Giulia[/name] instead of [name]Julia[/name] to honor an Italian grandmother or [name]Kieran[/name] instead of [name]Ciaran[/name] to simplify the pronunciation and spelling) but I think changing an easy to spell name just to be “unique” is extremely annoying. Maddisyn, [name]Aaden[/name], and [name]Kamryn[/name] just irk me.

  4. Using a name that is often mispronounced. I’m actually okay with this one, though I wouldn’t do it myself. [name]Even[/name] common names can be mispronounced- Is [name]Eva[/name] pronounced EH-va, EE-va, or A-va? All three are correct, technically. Is [name]Katherine[/name] two syllables (KATH-ryn) or three (KATH-er-ine)? I wouldn’t do something like [name]Ciara[/name] ([name]KEER[/name]-a, NOT the more common see-AR-a) or [name]Mireille[/name] (meer-AY), but if you’re pronouncing it a way that is technically correct, then I don’t see a huge problem with it.


I understand people going by their middle names, but I don’t understand why parents would put the names in that order if they intended that name to be the primary name. I know this is at least sometimes a result of feeling obligated to use a family name.
I don’t have any problem with other people doing this, though. One of my big wishes in naming is for English-speaking countries to adopt flexible name formats - allowing the multiple names needed for Spanish, or allowing family name first so [name]East[/name] Asians don’t have to flip their names. That is, anyone should be able to immigrate from anywhere and use their name on all legal documents with no changes.


I have experience with spelling/pronunciation issues. However, this has led me to realize these are practically unavoidable.
My last name, like many common last names, has multiple spellings and pronunciations, so I often have to clarify it.
My brother has unusual first and middle names with variant spellings. These don’t add to the confusion, as his names are so uncommon most people won’t try to spell them without asking.
My first name, though not rare and in its usual spelling, is often heard as other similar-sounding but unrelated names of both genders. This makes me realize that using a dictionary-standard name isn’t sufficient to avoid confusion.


There are a few names more used for boys that I’d only use on girls. They fit familiar patterns of boy-to-girl names and are rare enough on boys that many people wouldn’t know what they were.

I got to thinking…each of these kinds of names sometimes enables you to tell that it’s someone that you don’t know trying to contact you (not that you’d necessarily get thrilled when these mistakes happen). With the spelling-challenged names it applies mainly to written correspondence (e.g. mail or e-mail), with the pronunciation-challenged names mainly to verbal correspondence (e.g. telephone), and with the other two can apply to both.

With being called by your middle name: When someone refers to you by your first name.
With a gender-confusing name: When someone addresses you by the wrong salutation (i.e. Ms. instead of Mr. or vice versa) or refers to you with wrong-gender pronouns.
With a spelling-challenged name: When someone misspells it or spells it the “correct” way instead of your “creative” way.
With a pronunciation-challenged name: When somone mispronounces your name.

I suppose #3 applies to me. I named my son [name]Quentin[/name], but still get people spelling his name as [name]Quinton[/name] or [name]Quinten[/name] (that includes family members, too!). I understand the “[name]Quinton[/name]” spelling as a mistake, because it is pronounced exactly the same (just has a different meaning). I see [name]Quinten[/name] as just a clear misspelling of the name. I knew by choosing his name that I would probably have to correct people on the spelling of his name.

Eh, my husband got stuck with a stinker of a first name and has been going by his mn for most of his life. I don’t think his mom planned it that way, however. I will say that it creates much more amusement when friends find out his “real” name than it has ever created confusion on the part of teachers or financial institutions. Actually, a lot of my friends go by their mns because there are just too many people in our age bracket with the same first names…not much naming creativity within our SES in the late 70s. It honestly doesn’t bother me. I save my indignation for people giving childish names or nn as full names (frequently the same thing).

Frankly, I stopped worrying about giving our kid a hard to pronounce name when my teacher-friends started discussing the fact that NO ONE has easy names anymore, especially in a school district as diverse as ours. Our kid will probably be in a class with a [name]Jai[/name]'breon, a [name]Valeria[/name] and at least one [name]Atticus[/name]…and those are the straightforward names.

Basically I wouldn’t do any of these intentionally.

  1. Using the middle name as the name your child goes by.
    I don’t really mind this one at all, although I wouldn’t do it intentionally. Although it totally makes sense if it’s a jr.

  2. Using a name more commonly associated with the opposite gender.
    For some reason I see giving a girl a boy’s name is not as big of a deal as the other way around. Although this rule completely ruined the idea of naming a son [name]Avery[/name], I wouldn’t want him to be the one male [name]Avery[/name] in his grade, alongside 3 females with the same name… Tragic, but I’ve move onto other names, and actually started considering [name]Avery[/name] for a girl.

  3. Using a name that is often misspelled (or spelled in a non-standard way).
    I suppose if there’s no standard spelling then it doesn’t matter, but if there is a standard spelling, I’d rather see it that way. My nephew [name]Camron[/name] will never be able to get a Disney mug with his name spelled correctly like his brothers [name]Tyler[/name], [name]Zach[/name] and [name]Drew[/name].

  4. Using a name that is often mispronounced.
    I just feel bad for these people. I always liked that my name is easy to spell and pronounce, but not ultra common for my generation ie. [name]Katie[/name]. I wouldn’t like it if I knew my name was the butchered mumble of sounds that came after a long pause, or to have to constantly correct people.

[name]Gee[/name], I guess I am “guilty” of #1 and #2.
We named our son after his grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom are deceased. We call him a nn of the middle because there is a nephew who was also named after the grandfather and goes by that name. With the same last name, we thought it would be confusing. People get over it quickly though.
#2 I am [name]Lesley[/name] and while it is the “correct” female spelling according to people in [name]Britain[/name] where the name originated, I am constantly correcting people here in the US. In fact, it is a marker for me. If someone continually misspells my name, even after I correct them, it tells me quite a lot about that person. This was esp. helpful when I was working and would interview someone and get a thank you note with the wrong spelling!!

Why would it bother you if he had a girl in his class with the same name? Why wouldn’t it bother you if a girl shared her name with a boy? (I’m a guy with a name that is more common for females and it never irked me. Then again I was not strongly ingrained to think that “girly” is bad.) Plus, these days even with the most popular names the chances of sharing it with anyone - boy or girl - is quite a bit lower than when you or your parents were growing up. If you like [name]Avery[/name] for a boy by all means use it and don’t contribute to its falling masculinity!

On the subject of issues with gender confusion, there is one advantage that males with unisex have over their female counterparts (at least in the U.S.): No “false demand” letter from the Selective Service telling you to register or face penalties (I’ve known girls with boy names who got them). Of course the guys in question still have to register (but the ladies in question often have to submit proof such as a birth certificate that they’re actually female to get out of it). The girls with unisex names get the converging waves here, while the boys with unisex names are at the diverging end.

The only point I can really relate to is the first one. My name is [name]Helen[/name] [name]Margaret[/name], but I go by [name]Maggie[/name], a nickname for [name]Margaret[/name]. My mom wanted a [name]Maggie[/name] and a [name]Helen[/name] but she didn’t like the combination [name]Margaret[/name] [name]Helen[/name]. Therefore, I have to explain to everyone why I am called [name]Maggie[/name]. However, I would much rather be called [name]Maggie[/name] than [name]Helen[/name], so I don’t really mind.

  1. I can understand doing this if it creates a better overall flow or they weren’t sure which name they’d end up calling their kid by. But I’d concur it’s best to have the first name be the one you primarily use, otherwise it can get confusing.

  2. I hate this one for many reasons. Namely, I see the name and I end up thinking the person is the opposite gender that that are. Also, it makes it so there are less and less boys names out there.

3 & 4. I have personal experience with this one, the original name I had was both mispronounced and misspelled all the time, it got to the point I hated my own name and legally changed it. I could never do that to my kid, give 'em a name that would be constantly botched like that.

  1. middle names as first names
    to me understandable in some situations and not such a big deal but then i have no experience whatsoever maybe if it was me it would bother me

  2. names more commonly associated with opposite gender
    i am beginning to think that names are going to become a free for all pick regardless of culture, gender etc. i would be surprised to meet a girl my age who was obviously english european to find she had a very traditional indian name but prehaps not if it was a little girl as it seems normal now. you dont have to be irish to have a very irish name anymore it seems. gender is funny because just like girls can wear jeans and ‘masculine’ clothes we can also have boyish names but not the other way around. I dont see any boy trends with names like [name]Elizabeth[/name] and [name]Isobel[/name] on boys! just like boys wearing skirts and dresses ‘feminine’ clothes never really took off. i am slowly coming to accept this name trend though, even though i still find all these little girls being named [name]Sawyer[/name] and such a bit strange i am being open minded!

3 hard to spell
this also isnt bothering me so much as i thought anymore, it seems every name now has to be spelt out. my bestie [name]Alice[/name] was complaining she was asked to spell her name over the phone she said how hard could it be? but i suppose there are [name]Alyss[/name] and Aliss out there so they have to check! even with my name [name]Rebecca[/name] i am more often than not having to spell it for people (with the alternative [name]Rebekah[/name] version out there!) so although i find Masyn silly and unnessecary i think [name]EVERY[/name] kid not just Masyn is going to grow up having to repeatedly spell their name out!!

4 hard to pronounce
to me i suppose this depends, i think if its one where you ask once and then yup you can pronounce it fine thats okay eg [name]Mila[/name] is Mee-la not Mih-la so once i have that clarified its easy. A name that is going to have to be constantly repronounced is a different story. I think if you are giving a kid a really cultural name that is difficult for others to pronounce (in this hypothetical situation you are living in an english speaking country!) then you need to be aware of how hard this will be on the kid, and possibly have an easy nickname or something to make up for it that they are known by. i remember someone at school had an aboriginal name that was long and crazy to pronounce i cant even remember the name! we just called him [name]Ky[/name] the first letters i believe and it was fine!!

all in all i think these are confusing but i am imagining this up and coming generation is going to be an interesting mix name wise of people choosing unique names, yooniik names, classic names, foreign names, and unisex/opposite sex names. naming your daughter [name]Elizabeth[/name] as opposed to [name]Cooper[/name] isnt going to stop this! in a way i think it will be quite delightful having a mixed class of [name]Alice[/name], [name]Eliza[/name], [name]Thomas[/name], [name]Harry[/name], [name]Aubrey[/name], Masyn, Darielle, [name]Isobel[/name], [name]Emma[/name], [name]Emmalee[/name], [name]Emily[/name], [name]Jaymee[/name], Aaryn, J’maia, [name]Lulu[/name], [name]Atticus[/name], Derrikk, Symin etc
its such a mix and its really interesting! those were probably bad examples of a class roll as i just made them up from the top of my head but you get the jist!

I don’t understand the hangups with the first one at all. I know many people who go by their middle names with no problems other than having to tell someone they go by A instead of B when they first meet the person. What’s more, going by your middle name is nothing new and has been done for centuries.

I wouldn’t mind giving my child #2 or #4. I like unisex names, and I like international names that will probably be mispronounced by the average person.