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And how do you pronounce that?

Having lived for the last ten years in Ireland, I had forgotten about the absolute inability of the English to pronounce my name.

Now, I will admit, I have an unusual name, even by Irish standards. The double n at the end of my name is pronounced like a g. It’s characteristic of the Munster dialect of Irish, and can be seen in other aspects of the same dialect, in the módh coinníolladh, and in the adjective álainn, which means beautiful.

Depending on what part of the country you’re from, the pronunciation of -inn can be an n or a g sound. Because both my parents are from Munster (and my father is contrary) I got a double n, which is pronounced like a g.

So far, so easy to understand. People in Ireland have some issues with that occasionally, but if I yell at them enough, they’ll get it into their heads that it’s Aislinn pronounced the same as Aisling or Ashling, but spelled differently. Much like Sarah and Sara are pronounced the same.

It’s not a big deal to put up with that, because it’s a very minor difference, which, to be honest, isn’t really noticeable unless you’re listening, so it’s only really something I’ll drill into my friends, because they’d use my name frequently.

But here? It’s a whole different kettle of fish.

They just don’t get the name Aislinn. It’s like it’s a foreign language or something (see what I did there?).

It occurred to me, at interview for the PhD, that it might be something I’d have to deal with again. That was because the first question they asked me was how to pronounce my name; when I told them the correct pronunciation, the table was filled with thoughtful noises, as they told me they’d tried twenty alternatives, but hadn’t managed to hit on the right one.

Then in the process of registering, getting my student card, setting myself up with library and internet access, opening a bank account, meeting my supervisors and (some of) my sponsors in the last week, I’ve met and introduced myself to a lot of people. And I’ve had a lot of mispronunciations.

It’s strange, you know, because there’s a massive Irish population in London. And Aisling’s a really common name – there were six variations of the name in my year in school. And that was just one year! There were more both above and below. That’s a popular name!

In any case, it’s just one of many things that I had forgotten about living in London. Mispronunciations of my name will become an everyday thing from now on.

But hey, it could be worse. I could be called Aoife. That one flummoxed every person my sister ever met in England, I’d say. Thank God for small mercies, Aislinn has only stopped a few people.


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