Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Penney vs Penny

Growing up with the name Rionnach I was slow to make phone calls. I would be asked (and still am) to repeat my name, to spell it and then to pronounce it. Always there would be a comment which seemed to infer that didn't I think I was fine and dandy wandering around with such an odd name.

I've grown into Rionnach. I'm comfortable now with it and the extra work which it entails. When I was a teenager though it was a source of anguish. Beginning secondary school with a name like that just drew attention to me, attention from teachers, attention from pupils, attention that was not wanted.

I squirmed and mumbled and generally died a thousand deaths of mortification all the while cursing my parents. Underneath it all I still loved the uniqueness of it though, being special, being the only Rionnach that I had ever known. It knew that it meant queenly, what girl wouldn't love that?

Enter the teacher who shall not be named. This teacher informed me in front of a hoard of teenage girls that my parents had made a mistake and spelled my name incorrectly, rendering my name no longer queenly. Nope, now my name was the anglicized version of spotted mackerel. Just what every teenage girl wants to be associated with.

As you can imagine that was not a happy day. In fact writing this I think I still may not be over it. Some traumas just leave a scar don't they?  This is not an admission I would make to many. My lovely husband, back when he was not my lovely husband (though he was still lovely) went to the effort of digging out an old Irish teacher,who dug out an even older Irish dictionary which defined my Rionnach as 'starry' or 'star like'.

And now you know why I married him. As a girl who cares about words more than she probably should, to be deemed a spotted mackerel for most of my teenage years was not great. This came back to me recently when I realised, to my horror, that I had been spelling my Penney, my very own Penney Finch Browne, a character so close to my heart, with an additional e, making it more akin to an affordable clothing line that the typical girl's name Penny.

I guess if it's good enough for my favourite Anne it should be good enough for Penney. What do you think?

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