A Note on Names

I’ve been personalizing between one and two hundred books a day for most of this month, a process that means I have to spell people’s names correctly, a lot. Names, unlike most words, can be spelled pretty much the way the owner (or their parents) wants. As a result, first names are a hotbed of creativity. And I assure you all, you Jazmyns and Shons and Madelens, that I applaud your innovation and uniqueness. The minor chaos these mutations cause for me during signings is a small price to pay for a world full of unexpected variation

In fact, my new game is to figure out which common first name has the most spellings. And at the moment, I think it’s Caitlin, with forty-eight sixty-four. Here’s my logic:

There are six eight first halves of the name:

And eight endings:

And thus, six eight times eight is 48 64 ways to spell the same basic name, all pronounced exactly the same way. (In normal speech, anyway.)

Does this seem right to you guys? Or am I missing any?

But anyway, shine on you crazy Kate-lynns. And fill out that post-it clearly.

Here’s the rest of my tour this month:

Joseph Beth Booksellers
2692 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH 45208

Blue Marble Bookstore
1356 South Fort Thomas Avenue
Ft. Thomas, KY 41075

Anderson’s Bookshop
123 West Jefferson
Naperville, IL 60540

43075 Crescent Blvd.
Novi, MI 48375

Ann Arbor District Library
343 South Fifth Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Provo County Library
550 North University Avenue
Provo, UT 84601
My keynote speech requires tickets, and I hear they’re sold out! But google “Provo Book Festival” for details.

77 thoughts on “A Note on Names

  1. My name can be spelt many different ways too.

    It sounds like Carrie but is spelt Kari.

    It can start with a C or a K.

    The second letter can be an A or an E.

    It can have one R or two.

    It can have a Y, IE, I, E, EE, EY ending.

    All in different combinations.

  2. I haven’t seen so many variations on Kaitlyn, but I know sooooo many variations of Catherine.

    My sister’s middle name is Katherine. I have a friend whose middle name is Katharine. I know a Kathryn, Katharyn, Katherine, and I know I’m missing a few more. And then, whatever starts with a K can also start with a C…Luckily, all the ones I know go by different nicknames (except for Kathryn, but since she’s the only one, it’s easiest to remember how to spell her name).

    I got a nice, relatively easy name. Alexis. The worst people have messed up is along the lines of “Aleksis,” which was my younger neighbor a few years ago when she was first starting to learn to read and write. But people always think I say “Alex.” I’ve known too many Alexes to go by Alex, so I generally go by Lexi. Some people spell it Lexie, others Lexy, but I like Lexi the best, because all you do is drop the first and last letter, and add/change nothing.

    PS. I’d like to thank you, Scott, for your books. I looooove them. They’re some of the ones that got me through high school! And now I’m a busy college student who spends too much time on facebook instead of doing homework so she can actually read, so I wasn’t able to start Behemoth until the other day! But rereading the last half of Leviathan and starting Behemoth got me through some looooong hours in an airport on Sunday. Thank you for keeping me entertained while I waited for seemingly endless hours after a cancelled flight shifted me to one five hours later. 🙂

  3. Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog today and couldn’t wait to find an excuse to post a comment. My name is Marya and so far not one local has pronounced it correctly. I hail from Pakistan and my dad tells me he spelled it like that to make it look snazzy. Yup. Anyway, its supposed to be sounded out like Maa-ri-ya. Not Mariah, not Maria. Although almost everyone calls me the just that. I don’t mind but I miss my name sometimes.

    I eagerly looked at your bio to see what you write about. Sorry not much a Sci Fi fan, although I did obssess about the original Star Trek series. Does it count? Anyway, good to have found your blog. Cheers

  4. How do you overcome the cramps from all the book signings? I’m amazed how many ways there are to spell Jennifer. Just don’t call me Jenny. 🙂

  5. So I was at Joseph Beth in Cincinnati last night, and for the life of me can NOT remember where you said you got your awesome reversible jacket.

    Thanks for being so awesome.

    Also, I hope Justine is feeling better. 🙂

  6. Why do so many names have to be soooo messed up?????????????? I mean, it’s really cool and all, but for my name it’s soo easy to spell and stuff because it’s the name of a teen popstar who is soo not cool I mean, like bluck!!!! But uhhhhhhhh it’s soooooo annoying anyway…

  7. I think my favourite name ever has to be this poor child named Tuezday- no joke, with a Z, who was actually born on a Thursday.

  8. HEY! this is really random and not topic related but who cares (i don’t!)
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  9. I’ve known a ton of Caitlins, one was even Caitline (which you missed!). My name (Genevieve) is commonly misspelled or mispronounced. I had a teacher in 10th grade that insisted on calling me Geneva all year and got mad when I wouldn’t answer to it! I pointed out to her that I had a friend named Geneva and it wasn’t my name. She said “But it’s close enough!”.

    I had a friend named Emmalynne and it was pronounced the same as “Emeline”. She’d also go by a nickname of Emmaly (aka Emily) or Emma half of the time. She’d flip out if people didn’t guess the correct spelling right away.

  10. Hmm. I just noticed that you can also spell this name “Katlyn” without an “e” after the “t”. Not sure if you have that one up there.

  11. Several times on the way to work this week, I have spent the drive trying to think of a name with more possible spelling options than that. So far, no luck. But it has become a maddening personal challenge now.

  12. Scott,

    Saw you last night in Novi. Today I noticed we have a student with a spelling you don’t have: Kaytelynne.


  13. I can’t even count the number of times that my name is misspelled. “Caitlin” or “Kaitlyn” seem to be the common spellings, at least around where I am, so people always go for those two when trying to spell my name. Spellcheck even thinks my name is misspelled.

    A while back I actually found a site that has 155 different spellings of “Caitlyn.” http://www.namenerds.com/irish/Katelyn.html

  14. I have a student named Kathlynn. Prounounced – you guessed it – Kate-lyn. She gets upset when people (say, teachers taking attendance for the first time) pronounce it Kath-lyn. At some point in pronunciation history has the -th ever made a hard t sound? I am waiting for a Q to appear: “Oh no, Ms. Landon – the Q is silent…”

  15. Haha I have been reading this blog for years as you are my favorite author and how funny that of all the names to use as an example that you would choose mine!! I hardly ever come across other Caitlin’s of any spelling but whenever someone tries to spell mine it is almost always “Katelyn”….curious! Excellent blog Mr. Westerfeld, hope to meet you someday at a book signing, and wishing for that Uglies movie! 🙂

  16. Please don’t blame us for the curse our parents have put on us! You know what my mother’s defense is? “Oh, but it’s phonetic!” Sadly, that doesn’t help anyone. Ever. I’ve been called “Kathryn” and “Kathleen” before – I kid you not.

  17. I think you missed “Kat” and “Cat” in your first halves list…

    Also. Rebecca (Rebbecca, Rebeka, Rebekah, Rebecka, Rebbekah, Rebbeka…etc) is a name with a ton of variation. Not near as much as you Caitlins and Katlynnes, but still. For my last birthday, I counted seven different ways of spelling my name on my b-day cards…. just from my relatives.

  18. hate to add to this… but I have a neighbor – whose daughter’s name is pronounced the same as all of these… but is actually spelled Kateland. I try my very best not to pronounce that darn “d”…

    my own worst name snafu?

    Tawnjia – no joke… because that’s apparently a reasonable guess?

  19. My name is Megan and, more often than not, people spell it in different variations. Meghan, Magan, Meagan, Maegan, etc. My older sister’s name is Anneliese (pronounced ann-a-LEES), which also has many variations. Analise, Annalees, Analiese, etc.
    My younger sister’s name is Shaina, which ALSO has many variations. Shana, Shannah, Shayna, etc.
    It can be tough.

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