She-oh-nah, not Shona, no not Sinead, yes it’s a real name. No, my parents didn’t hit their heads off a keyboard when naming me, yes it’s not English that’s the point of having a Gaelic name. No, Gaelic. GAH-LIK. That’s Irish. Yes, they’re different. No, you can’t just call me Shona. Why? It’s not my name. I don’t care if it’s similar it’s not my name. No, you can learn to spell it, no you can’t just write my name as “s”.

Oh God, they’re getting near my name on the register, oh God they’ve stopped. I can see them staring, they’re squinting now, their nose has turned up. Deep breath here we go, what will it be today? Sinead is the popular choice, I might be Siobhan, Stacy was the weirdest translation. Why don’t they just ask? Why can’t they just say “sorry I am unsure how you say this name”. “shanid?”, there’s a new one. Here comes the laughter, here comes a new nickname from the Jacks and the Emmas and the Bens. “she-oh-nah”, don’t keep talking, just go to the next name. Oh no, they have questions. “How does THAT mean Shona?”, I just said it. She-oh-nah. “It’s Gaelic”, just go to the next name. I’m begging. “what a weird way to spell it?” It’s not weird, It’s Gaelic. “Isn’t that a dead language?”, you’re thinking of Latin. “Ach, tha mi beò”. That shut you up.

“Hi My name is Seònaid, but it’s the Gaelic spelling, so I’m worried it’ll be said wrong. Can you write the pronunciation next to my name on the list?” why are you rolling your eyes, it’s my graduation, of course I want them to say my name correctly. My mum, Màiri, was called “Mary” when she graduated. She refused to walk on stage until they said it properly. I admire the determination, but most of the audience spent years teasing whilst I grinned and bared it, I don’t want to give them the satisfaction. The guy who is reading the names is American, this isn’t a good sign. I will be Shaw-na, oh God they’ll be reading out my middle name too, my mum’s name. “And my middle name is pronounced mah-ray, not Mary or Marie, MAH-RAY”, okay Lauren you can stop huffing.

They’re calling me to the front, which means I’ll be walking out soon. I feel sick. I did not work my arse off for four years to be called Sinead Mary in front of my lecturers, fellow students and their families. He’s gonna say it wrong. Right, here we go. Deep. Breaths. “Seònaid Màiri!”. Thank GOD. Right, smile, walk and don’t fall. He said it right! He actually read the note next to my name! This is the best part of the whole day!

“Your name badge arrived”. This should be interesting. The manager called me “Seona” in an email yesterday so this isn’t promising. Ah, here it is. Seona, apparently happy to help. I do not get paid enough to put up with this. I will need my name badge replaced? Well, my name is spelt wrong. Yes, you missed out the I and D at the end. She-oh-nah. But it’s not my name. When can I get a new one? You’ll replace it soon, okay (they never did). I hate putting this badge on every day, but I will be sacked if I don’t. It’s so horrible to look at. I may as well have a badge on which says “Emily”.

I’m not Sinead. I’m not a topic of ridicule. I will not smile and nod through one more butchering and join in on the jokes so I can get through a job interview. I will not be anglicised for your convenience. I hate the red squiggly name pops up below my name. I hate autocorrect changing my name to “she raid”. I see the eye roll when I demand the basic respect of my name being said correctly.

When you anglicise me, you anglicise us all. My name is Seònaid and it is beautiful. I learned yours, you can learn mine.



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History & Publishing Studies graduate. Gàidhlig and Scots enthusiast. Book fan and occasional writer.