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

Andersonรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs 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. That is so true! I had a friend named Kaitlin, and I always spelled her name wrong! Good luck with name anatomy!

  2. I have a friend named Katelyn. I’m not sure about Catelyn though.
    And my name is Mary Gen(short for Genevieve) so that’s pretty wierd. I was almost Genny.

    I love how in the first book you signed you spelled my name wrong and had to correct it. It makes my copy of Leviathan so much cooler. And don’t worry most people do spell my name wrong, I don’t really care. Most of my teachers are under the assumption that my name is Mary.

  3. I teach 5th grade, and in my class this year, I have Katelyn, Katlynn, and Kaitlin. Luckily all of their last names start with different letters. It’s the only way I have to differentiate when calling on them!

  4. I will be seeing you on the 30th in Provo! And I will have you sign my books to my nickname, Suey… which I know is a bit unique, weird even, but easy to write and spell I hope! ๐Ÿ™‚ Either way, I’m very much looking forward to meeting you!

  5. What about Katelynn? People always spell Jessi wrong: Jesse, Jessie, Jessy, Jessee….. Even my friends I’ve known for 4 years. But, yay! I wasn’t paying attention! You are coming sort of near my town, I mean, It’s out of state but… maybe I can make it…. Names are very confusing, my friends spell their names weird and people pronounce them wrong and such. Have fun spelling people’s names!

  6. It is interesting how diverse language is! There are so many different ways to spell and say things. I also have many Kaitlyn friends (and yes, Catelyn, too ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  7. i’ve got another one: my friend’s name is katlyn. said the same way. i dont think that one was included in that list anywhere…

  8. Catie you live in Provo?????????????????? BTW I have a cousin named Katelynn… so you missed a spelling.

  9. A girl named Katlyn is in my Algebra class. It’s the same as Caitlyn, but people always pronounce it as cat-lyn, like the animal.

  10. Speaking of names, I bought Touching Darkness at Books a Million a few months back, and the sticker on it said it was an autographed copy. I looked inside, and sure enough, it was signed! Of course I bought it, but then I wondered, did he really sign this book? Or did he sign one of the books and the company printed the book over and over again with your name ”signed” inside? Because if you really did sign my actual book, I might just faint. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Well, (checks site stats) 17 of the top 25 search terms leading to my page are misspellings of my name – some of them so outrageously varied that I swear the people at Google must be freaking WIZARDS to have landed the hit correctly.

    “Caitlin” might have “Cherie” beat, but I would argue it’s probably not by a lot.

  12. Beth-la: Yes, I signed it. I sign stock all the time in large quantities. For example, lots of stores in Atlanta now have signed books by me. (The B&Ns in Alpharetta and Perimeter, the Borders in Buckhead, and Little Shop of Stories.)

    Seriously, the name “Katlyn” is pronounced with a long ‘a’?
    Most people would say it with a short ‘a’, I’d think.


  13. Mackenzie also has a lot of spellings. I think one website said there were 45, but there might be more.

  14. dear scott,

    i think your books are amazing. i myself have gone through soooo many names. im an elizabeth, so there are a lot of nicknames. i used to go my lizzy but then i decided to make it unique (basically tere were 7 other elizabeths in my grade) so i started spelling it lizzye two years ago, and its been the same ever since. ๐Ÿ™‚


    p.s. pleaseee come to california.

  15. I thought it was smart at the bookstore the other night (the one in Raleigh) that they employees went around and wrote down the personalization beforehand, maybe you should request other books stores to do that as well to cut down on the confusion?

  16. There are a lot of prununciations for that one name, I mean seriously I wonder if that’s the name that can be pronounced/spelled in so many ways it’s in the world record book….

  17. I’ve gotten Sammi, Sammie, Sami, Sammy, and Sammye. (NO ONE EVER PICKS THE FIRST ONE. THAT IS THE RIGHT ONE.)

    It is annoying–as someone with a name that no one spells right, I appreciate that you take the time to ask how to do it right.

  18. I have a friend named Bayley and i always get it wrong. For my name people always spell it Kelsie but never Kelsey unless they ask.

  19. My friend Caitlin gets annoyed sometimes when people think her name is spelt differently despite it being the traditional spelling – apparently she’s seen “Cait-LAN” before, so perhaps that’s another possible variation?

    Luckily for me, “Emma” is fairly straightforward with no/few mutations ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Urg I posted a comment to the last thing instead of this one I just wanted to say thank u for signing my vocal book( and everything else!)

  21. haha, it’s pretty hard to spell my name worng-only two different ways, “Hannah” and “Hanna”.

    At least, I *think* there are only two ways.

  22. So randomly epic Scottsters, I’m a Madeleine, but every year for my past life (starting at like 7) I’ve changed the spelling if my nickname Madi/Maddie/Maddy ect. Currently it’s Madi, but next year I’m thinking about Madee or something!!!

  23. As far as my name goes (Allison), it’s a pretty standard spelling (unlike Alysyn or something like that, and no, I don’t know anyone with that name). My children (that I won’t have for 15+ years) will have easy-to-pronounce and easy-to-spell first names. I get that parents want their children to be unique . . but ridiculous spellings of the first name is no way to do it! Let them be unique on their own! >.<

  24. Amazingly, no one has ever said my friend Katlyn’s name wrong. It has always been pronounced Katelyn. As for myself, I always get people spelling my name “Bailey.” It IS the most common spelling, but my parents wanted to be different…I’ve gotten used to telling EVERYONE how to spell my name right away because they always get it wrong! At least it isn’t as bad as another girl that went to my school. Her’s was spelled something like “Bayllie.” Talk about a tough name!

  25. My full name is Michaela, and I always see it spelled strangely. Just the other day someone spelled it McKayla, which is pretty far away from how I spell it! At least the spelling of my name allows for lots of nicknames, like Mike and Michael-a, etc. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. oh and sorry it was my vocab book

    ping to hannah
    i have that name it can also be spelled Channa ( i don’t like my name, to common

    ping to allison
    my sister spells it allysond Allyson

  27. That’s a LOT of ways to spell “Kay-tuh-lyn”. I there’s only about four or five other ways to spell my name, but people always pick those spellings before the simple five-letter way. Hailey, Hayley, Halley, Haleigh…

  28. Well, that is a problem because you speak English, in Spanish you don’t have that problem ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

  29. Haha, my name’s Katelyn (well as you can see). No one ever spells it right. I’m 14 and I can use my fingers to count how many times people spelled it right the first time.

  30. Well you got most of them right! However, as a Caitlynn, I spell my nickname as “Caite” with the “e” at the end, thinking it provided the same as a regular “Kate.” :}

  31. I just wanted to thank you. We had a school thing Friday night, and so, sadly, couldn’t come to your signing. But thank you so much for signing books to my daughter, she’s really looking forward to reading them! And I can’t wait to start Behemoth!

  32. OH my goodness. This is sooo absolutely true. Being a Caitlin no one seems to know how to spell my name. Everyone uses the German spelling (Caitlyn) even though I am clearly Irish.

    But, the funny thing is that I’m friends with another Caitlin, and, as you can see, she spells it the same way. And of course my teachers always get her name right.

    I guess it’s just my luck, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

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