Why I don’t use my real name at Starbucks

My mum always tells me that I got my name because they thought I was a boy.

First of all, it’s a little concerning that fetus-me was apparently very male-like throughout the entire duration of my mother’s pregnancy. I mean, hello. I’m, like, the ladiest lady that every ladied. Lady. But, fine, I guess maybe, maybe — for argument’s sake — fetus-me was positioned in such a way that the fact that I was lacking a penis wasn’t abundantly clear. Fetus-me was a modest little fetus, I guess.

I wonder what happened.

Somehow that modest little fetus-me grew into the type of human being that uses phrases like “fetus-me.” Over. And over.

Sorry, fetus-me. For letting you down. And stuff.

Anyway, back when I was still a little fetus-me, my parents thought I was a boy. And they were going to name me “Sean.” Or maybe “Shawn.” And there IS a difference, apparently. Regardless, note how incredibly phonetic both of those names are. We’ll coming back to that in a moment.

Fast forward to my day of expulsion from my mother’s womb, which happened to take place in London, England (we’ll also be coming back to that as well). As I exploded from her vagina, it probably became clear almost immediately that I was not a boy, actually. So I guess that meant I was a girl, actually.

Now, if my parents had known all along that fetus-me was a girl, actually, I would have been named “Sarah.” Yup. True story. Instead, when it came time to name me, a nice Welsh woman at my dad’s London office mentioned a Welsh name she liked that was somewhat similar to “Sean” and “Shawn,” but for a girl.

And so, that is how I was christened with the name Siân.

Go ahead. Pronounce it. I’ll give you a hint: Welsh people aren’t exactly hooked on phonics. But if they were, my name would be spelt “Sharn” and it would rhyme with “yarn.” Except I don’t have a lovely Welsh accent and spent far too much time living in the midwest, so I over-pronounce the “R.” Sharrrrrrrn.

And if that weren’t confusing enough, in some parts of the UK it would be pronounced “Shan” and in others “Shawn.” Case in point: I once had a grumpy British dude online try tell me I was pronouncing my own name wrong. And I was all, “My dude, please, it’s my name. I could pronounce it ‘Kevin’ if I really wanted to. But in an effort not to confuse people any more than I need to, I’ll stick with ‘Sharn,’ cool beans? Cool beans.”

Thanks, Mom and Dad. I love you guys too. What were your names again? Oh, yeah: Donna and William. Those sure are nice, normal names, eh. They were definitely feeling a little guilty, though, because my brothers were given some overly-phonetic, super easy to pronounce names: Erik and James. It doesn’t get more normal than that. I carry this name burden on my own. My cousins — Mark, Sarah, Allison, David and Katie — will never understand. Neither will my aunts and uncles — George, Gary, Mary, Edwina and Anne-Marie. I don’t even want to tell you that I have other cousins and their names are Kaitlin and Kristen. Poop. Like, really now.

If we’d stayed in the UK, it might’ve not been so bad, because at least Brits are more inclined have brains capable of pronouncing Welsh things.

Americans, on the other hand, seem to lack the skill of Welsh (okay, most foreign) pronunciation. So, as a child growing up in Kansas, I got called “Sigh-Ann.” A lot. School attendance went like this:

“Si, uh . . . hmmm, uhhh . . . Sigh-annn?”
“It’s Siân.”
“Sharon?”
“Siân.”
“Shar?”
“Siân.”
“Sean?”
“Yeah, why not.”

I let almost everybody call me “Sean” for most of my childhood, while I secretly plotted to change my name to one of my middle names (Elizabeth) as soon as I was old enough.

It never did happen, though. Obviously. I think more out of pure laziness than anything else. Just think of all the annoying paperwork. And I’d have to change all of my IDs. Ugh, no thanks. But, really, my name isn’t so bad. When said properly, it’s incredibly pretty. If anything, the five minute back-and-forth it takes to get to the right version of my name usually means that people don’t forget it.

It also means that this one time at Starbucks, I had “Shark” written on my cup because I guess that sounds like Siân? Sure. (I tend to use an easy to pronounce “Starbucks name” now because I want to have my name shouted properly, even if it isn’t technically mine. Is that so much to ask?)

Despite the fact that my name has grown on me enough that I don’t cringe whenever anyone says it, ever since I can remember correcting people about how to say my name, I vowed to make sure that I gave my future children super phonetic names, or at least super recognizable ones — ones that nobody would mess up pronouncing. Like Car or Pizza Hut or Ice Cream Sandwich. So what did I go and do? Fall in love with a name even more complicated than my own.

As if Siân wasn’t confusing enough: Saoirse.

Dammit. It’s so pretty. But could any of you pronounce it without double checking the internet first? That’s what I thought. Maybe the actress will make it more popular. Maybe by the time I start expelling children from my womb, she’ll have won an Oscar or something and it will be more of a household name. I should tweet at her about it soon. I’m not getting any younger, you know.

And, hey, guess what. After all of that, do you know what my name actually means?

Siân is — drumroll please — the Welsh form of . . . Jane.

Mother fuckin’ Jane.



I also write on my website, write and co-host The 405 Film Podcast, pretend I’m funny on Twitter, and remember once a month that I have a Tumblr.