Pretend There’s an H

Growing up with an Irish father and an Irish-American mother comes with it’s perks.  The greatest of these being that I’ve spent a pretty solid chunk of my life in Ireland.   I always liked it a bit better.   When my aunt passed away, the priest at her funeral talked about “thin places” in his homily — thin places being those places or people where the barrier between heaven and earth isn’t quite so thick.  Even non-religious folk can identify with this feeling:  like you’re rooted to the earth but gravity doesn’t seem so heavy (metaphorically… or something). That’s how I feel when I’m there.

Plus, everyone can pronounce my name.

Taking a three month hiatus from blogging is probably not the best way to exercise my writing muscle, but listen, I’ve been really busy doing absolutely nothing.   Some things have changed in my life, one of these things being that I have a boyfriend now, which means I’ve had to pretend that I am an “adult” who doesn’t hide “feelings” behind “sarcasm.”  (Lol, I know.)

I ordered him on the internet.   Which is funny, because I kind of did.   I joined OkCupid (for the craic) and he was the first person I messaged and the only one I actually wanted to respond.  One of the stranger things about meeting someone on the internet before you meet them in person is The Introduction.  Introductions are always awkward for someone like me, who has a name that isn’t easily pronounced in the English language.  My screen name didn’t even have my first name in it.  This was in part an effort to avoid serial killers and in part because I know it’s easier to pronounce my middle name.  So, since Boyfriend’s screen name was actually his full name because apparently he is not concerned about serial killers,  I felt I should probably give him mine:
My name is Aislinn, pronounced like Ash-lynn.  I’m assuming your name is Winston Poundsley because your screen name is WinstonPoundsley.  (Disclaimer: not his real name.  When I asked him what his code blog name should be, he answered this with concerning immediacy.)
Thinking on it, it may actually be a bit easier to explain via text than in real life.  Usually, that goes something like this:
Person:  Ace….Ayz….Ice… Ms. Gavin?
Me:  It’s “Ash-lynn”!
Person: Oh, we have it spelled wrong.
Me: Oh, you don’t, actually!  It’s Irish.
Person:  Are you Irish?
Me: My dad is.
Person:  Why don’t you just spell it Ashlynn?
Me: ….. Because that’s not my name.
Or trying to explain how you spell your name to someone who has only heard it spoken:
Me: It’s A- I – S – L—
Person: Wait, I think I spelled it wrong! Where do I put the h?
Me: No h!  Pretend there’s an h.  It’s invisible, it’s like the exact opposite of a silent letter.

As you can imagine, Starbucks – which truly is a language in and of itself, for example: one time Melanie’s cup said “Melony”  as in “this punch tastes very melon-y.”  – is really fun for me.  I usually go by “Gavin” in an attempt to make things easier.  My cup generally says “Gavan,” “Devin,” or “Alicia.”  I don’t mind all the confusion, though.  It comes with the territory of the Irish name.  Just ask my friends Caoimhe (pron. Kweeva) aka “Cay-oh-me”  and Roisin (pron. Roh-sheen) aka “Raisin.”   They go by “Beth” and “Tara” at Starbucks.

As a kid, everyone knew how to pronounce my name.  One of the great things about being a child is being your very own thin place: you aren’t fully blemished by how things “should” be and accept them as they are.  I still remember the teachers in class mispronouncing my name and every kid in class in unison saying “ASH-LYNN. Jeez!”  This is, of course, omitting the month long period of my life when I refused to respond to any name other than “Dorothy.”

Ruby slippers and munchkins notwithstanding, I did always like my name.  I liked how it sounded, I liked how it was spelt, and most of all I liked what it meant.  As a derivative of the name Aisling (pron. Ash-ling or -lynn or -leen), it means vision or dream.  Talk about the right name for the little girl who loved (and still loves) all things fantastical and dream-like.  Sometimes, I wonder if my name defines me just as much as I define it.

In the meantime, I think I’ll wait for George R. R. Martin to name a character after me.  It’s bound to happen one of these days.

3 thoughts on “Pretend There’s an H

  1. betsy

    You say it’s not one of your best but you’re wrong. I think Paddy would get some of your experiences of having an Irish name. I believe junior high was when he attempted to go by “Pat”. Needless to say, that did not work out and he is a proud 33 yr old Paddy!

    1. To China And Beyond

      I also have the same problem because my name is Aisling. With me, it’s the spelling and pronunciation of Ais, but it’s also the problem with ling. People say ‘linn’ so I have to say “no, it’s ling, not linn”.

  2. Nancy Herbkersman

    Love your blog! With our last name, I get it. My favorites are when people call me Mrs. Kerzman (and my husband Herb) or when someone called me at work and asked to speak to Nancy Herr-boogers-man!! Love it!!


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