Sorry, but only one “t”

There seems to be a rash of misspellers on my blog of late. My mom and dad, because my father’s father came from Scotland (one “t” kind of land), saddled me with a one “t” kind of first name and I have lived my whole life getting folks to spell that name correctly. (To those who know Hebrew, I often say there’s no dagesh.)

Here’s an odd question for those of us who have names that are routinely misspelt: What’s your best story about your name’s spelling or misspelling? Here’s mine:

As a kindergartner, my teacher wrote everyone’s name on the chalkboard. Then she went through the room, seeing if we could spell our names, asking each of us to go to the board and erase our name from the board if we saw it. Well, I sat there refusing to erase a name that looked so much like my name that I was tempted to humor her and just give in. But, no, not this proud “Scot.” Finally, I explained to her that my name was not on the board, that she had misspelled my name and that, if she would kindly erase that second “t”, I’d be glad to erase my name.

I think that day she also wanted to teach us how to “bounce” a ball. When I got the ball I began to dribble all around the room, weaving between the desks like Curly Neal, and she got all flustered and bothered by my hubris. Within the week my parents pulled me from kindergarten and let me stay home another year.

Kindergarten dropout, as in “beauty school dropout.”

So there folks. Spell this Scot’s name with one “t” and you’ll keep him from saying silly things to you in private e-mails or on this blog!

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • JoeyS

    My grandfather had to convince every teacher that his name was, in fact, “Billy,” rather than “William.”

  • Kevin Glenn

    I feel your pain Scot, but in a different way. I’ve spent my life correcting how people spell my last name. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to say, “two n’s…yes, like the astronaut”…

  • AHH

    And you ended up with Curly Neal’s hairstyle, too!
    People look at me funny when I tell them my name is Allan, spelled with “two L’s and two A’s”. I don’t say they are consecutive …

  • http://www.kinnon.tv Bill Kinnon

    My last name is Kinnon, no Mc no Mac and definitely no Paddywack. (Though my Kinnon forebears were Irish.) My middle name is Elliott – 2 l’s and 2 t’s, please. And my first name really is William – a tradition for the 1st born with my oldest, Liam being #5. As she is an Estonian-Canadian, my dear wife was fine to call me Bill, but not her son. The word that sounds like “bill” in Estonian apparently means “instrument”. Fine for me, but not for Li.

  • http://theeagleandchild.com Marc

    Having a Dutch last name *can* be easy–simply van + der + something. Except that the “something” in my last name is “sluys” (in English pronounced as “sluice”) and it has resulted in all manner of mispronunciations and misspellings.

    There’s the easy to understand “Vandersluts” (since the “t” stands next to the “y” on the keyboard), which my wife actually uses to explain how to spell our name. The worst was a Safeway cashier’s pronunciation (why do they even need to do that), after her panicked squint at the name on my credit card, which made it sound like a–how do I say this delicately so the comment can stand?–gender-specific ointment.

  • http://real.uwaterloo.ca/~mboos Mike Boos

    I’ve seen misspellings of my last name as ‘Bos’ or ‘Boss’, but I mostly have to deal with mispronunciations. One aunt, who is a minister, went so far as to change the spelling so she wouldn’t be Rev. ‘Booze’. My funniest story is probably how my supervisor will often get it wrong when introducing me, but his wife who I’ve only met a few times corrects him! My wife, who for some reason *chose* to share my last name, has taken to telling people it’s like ‘boast’ without the ‘t’. How generations of Boos’s never came up with that on our own is beyond me.

  • Dan Jones

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how to spell my last name.

    DJ|AMDG

  • http://gcjeffers.wordpress.com Greg Jeffers

    I sometimes get a second “g” as in “Gregg” rather than “Greg.” But, mostly, I get misspellings/mispronunciation on my last name. Usually things like: Jeffries, Jeffreyes, or Jefferson.

  • Rick

    Can’t help but think of Peggy’s “One T Saloon”.

  • Sara

    In the South people often like to pronounce my name as Say-ruh. When I was about 4, a lady said to my mom, “Sayruh is my buddy.” I looked at the woman and said, “My name’s not Sayruh, it’s Sara, and I’m not your buddy.” :)

    And I hate when family members add an “h” to my name. I have been around for 26 years now and they still haven’t noticed that I have no “h” on the end of my name.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/greenjoelb/ Joel

    It’s “Green,” like the color — not with three e’s….

  • Fred

    I don’t know what it is with you theologians. Roger Olsen is the same way. ;)

  • http://desperatetheologian.wordpress.com/ Russell Almon

    My first name is Russell – which means during my childhood I was often called ‘Ruffle’, as in the potato chip. It also gets misspelled with either one s or one l (there are two).

    But the biggest issue has been with my last name – Almon. Its generally mispronounced as ‘Al – mon’. But it is also gets misspelled as ‘Almond’ – as in the nut.

    On the first day of my first undergraduate religious education class the prof decided that a good way to remember how to spell my last name was the saying ‘the nut without the d’. It stuck. Later, after I got married, my wife and I were taking the a grad class with the same prof who said on the first day of class, ‘Ah yes, the nuts without the d.’ That stuck too. This is still how we explain to people how to spell ‘Almon’ – its like the nut, without the d.

  • Kevin Gasser

    My last name is pronounced like the a in father, but I would probably say it wrong, too. I like to say that it is appropriate that a Gasser spelled gasser lives in Stanton, spelled Staunton (VA). I have found my missing “u”!

  • http://www.breathinggrace.com Raine

    People usually drop the final e on mine, so I said “Raine with an e” for a while, until I had a boss who’d filed all my paperwork under “Rein”.

    The pronunciation is great, too. My name was supposed to be pronounced Rain-a, but it got shortened because nobody in the US reads it that way. I still get “Rainey” a lot though, which my husband finds amusing.

    The hubby’s got a fun name too. It’s legally Billy Ray, but he still gets things addressed to William, or even William Raymond.

  • http://sacramentalliving.blogspot.com Gina Wright Hawkins

    Gena, Jeanna, Jena, Ginna, Jina – take your pick, I’ve seen them all. Pronunciation is a whole other story. Gina with a soft I is very common as is Ginny. I won’t bother with accounts of my maiden name. Let’s just say, I’ve heard all the jokes, many, many times.
    Btw, Kevin, I live in Roanoke and cannot bring myself to say Stanton, but then there’s also, Buchanan and Botetourt. My theory is that they are pronounced the way they are to identify outsiders. :o)

  • http://www.normmacdonald.wordpress.com Norm

    Well, I’m a MacDonald, not a McDonald, so it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how many times I’ve gone through the Mc routine. Any time someone asks my name for an “official” reason, I always say “MacDonald…m-A-c capital D-o-n-a-l-d.” And yes, they spell it wrong in spite of the effort.

  • Terry

    Sigh. It’s a plague. Virtually every lady that spells my name puts an i at the end. It makes me ask y as I’ve never met a Terry, who is a guy, without a y. It’s particularly messy at Starbucks, as, I have to carry that cup around and advertise.

    Some friends started calling me T years ago, that has helped. But, it’s no help at St. Arbuck’s, as it always comes out Tea, and I’m very much a coffee drinker.

  • Stacia Michael

    My name, Stacia, is often mispronounced. I once tried to explain it to a couple of 3 year olds – like “station” without the “n.” I was “Station” from then on.

    My mother once ordered a personalized book for me. The main character had my name – how cool is that! Except the company clearly assumed by mom didn’t know how to spell my name as it came with “Staci” as the main character.

    My last name, Michael, I would think would be easy, just like the first name. Didn’t know there could be so many ways to misspell it. I also routinely find my prescription and photo orders filed under “S” because people assume Michael is the first name on the order, not the last.

  • Brad Vander Waal

    Can relate to #5 on the Dutch issue. The obvious problem is the Waal part being misspelled with “Wall” or “Wal”. But there is also the issue of space or no space between Vander and Waal. I used to be more particular about wanting the space but when filling out forms like credit card applications and scantron sheets in school it can be easier to forget it. Plus when it is entered wrong into databases I can end up having a middle name of “Vander” and getting quite a bit of mail to “Mr. Waal”.

    And then my wife has to deal with this and having a first name of Lesley which obviously is misspelled a lot by friends and family. She also prefers it to be pronounced Lez-lee verses the Less-lee version.

  • Phillip

    There is a teacher with my first and last name, except he spells Philip with one L instead of two like mine. We both teach in colleges affiliated with Churches of Christ. I teach Bible and he teaches music. He went to school with my wife’s sister, which created some confusion about who my wife was dating. And my name was misspelled with one L on commentaries I wrote for a one-volume commnentary, which may mean he gets to include them on his vita.

    Friends inform me that the two Ls mean I am the unbiblical Phillip.

  • ReJoyce

    Having a routinely misspelled maiden name (Holley) I was anxious to be sure to spell my new name correctly (Kramar) when we went to the DMV to get my new license shortly after we married. The lady behind the counter asked me how to spell the name change and in my nervousness to be sure to include the second A I started out “C-r-…” and my new hubby started sputtering. I quickly realized my mistake and started over, but the damage was done. They both looked at me like I was nuts. And the sad thing is, I always try to spell people’s names correctly. Just couldn’t manage to do it with my own!

  • http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com Jenny Rae Armstrong

    As a “Jenny, not Jennifer,” I feel your pain. In my teens I got so exasperated with being referred to as Jennifer (especially on uncashable checks from babysitting clients) that I started tacking my middle name onto everything, and even introducing myself as “Jenny Rae.” Of course then people misheard, and said “your name is January?” Sigh.

  • http://www.justvisitinghere.blogspot.com Kathi

    My full name is Mary Katherine, but I’ve always gone by Kathi. My Kindergarten teacher would refuse to call me Kathi because, in her mind, my given name is Mary, therefore I must go by that name. My Mom was once told by the teacher that I was not a very compliant student because I would never respond to her when she called me Mary. I never knew she was talking to me.

  • Josh T.

    Last name fun for me my whole life: Tschirhart–pronounced Sheer-hart. Most people don’t get it right; one of the first to correctly say it was a college English teacher. Typical first tries: Tish-hart, Tish-er-hart.

    My two favorite mispronunciation stories, both when I was a teenager… (1) Pediatrician’s receptionist worked for a Dr. Tschan (pronounced as “Shawn”), yet she still managed to mess up my name by pronouncing the T. (2) Cashier at a mall department store hands my mom back her credit card and says, “Thank you, Mrs. Shmeer-mart.” The lady correctly left of the T sound, but added two nonexistent M’s. Weird.

  • Scot Sharman

    I read your book ‘The Blue Parakeet’ for no other reason than my name is also Scot. To make a distinction though as I am Australian I am ‘Aussie Scot’. I loved the book and gave it to the worship leader at church (one could say the most important leader at church). I was thrilled when she gave the main sermon a year later for the first time. As for my name the big thing was to have your baby’s name published in the paper. I am told that Mum was excited when dad came into the hospital one day saying “Did you see Scot’s name in the paper, but they spelt it wrongly, they only put one ‘t’ in his name.” Dad’s only response apparently was “OH”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    My wife is Kim, nothing more. The kids now call her Kimathy, I like it.

  • Katherine

    Well, with a name like Katherine, there are a million ways to spell it, and then you get all of those again only with a C. Except for the times where it matters (official documents and such) I’ve become rather apathetic, just as long as it’s spelled with a K, because I am a K Katherine and not a C one. :-) The spelling I encountered that was the most of a headscratcher: Cathren. I mean, really…

    Mostly, I have to spend my time fending off nick names. No, I’m not Katie, Kate, Karen, Kathy, Kit, Kitty, Kit-Kat, or whatever your over-familiar lazy-brained self comes up with. I don’t understand how people can continue to call you something else than what you *explicitly* ask them to call you by, repeatedly. I mean, I understand forgetfulness and being bad with names (apparently I look like a Rachel, Elizabeth, and Sarah, and there are people at work who’ve called me Rachel for years) and that doesn’t bother me, but being told what my name is and deciding to impose a nick name on me anyway? Grr…

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    I’d estimate that about a third of the time my name is read out loud by someone who doesn’t know me, the read “Krause.” When I give my name for someone for data entry, I nearly always say “Kruse. That’s K R U S E.” It could come out about 10 different spellings if I don’t, and even then people still want put an “a” in there. It’s Kruse, rhymes with noose.

  • Jeremy

    The worst I’ve gotten is Jaramy, but I also get Jermey Jerimy Jereme and others.

  • Ben Thorp

    Well – my last name is Thorp, which is more commonly spelt Thorpe. Even when I tell people there’s no ‘e’ on the end, they often put it in by instinct. I’m also surprised at the number of variations people come up with for spelling Benjamin, which I would have thought only had 1 real option….

    My wife was “blessed” with both the middle name Miln (yes, without the ‘e’), and the last name Silvestri (yes, with 2 ‘i’s and not a ‘y’ in sight….)

  • http://deartheoph.blogspot.com/ JaYmes Lackey

    Everyone is always intrigued by the ‘y’ in my first name… ‘Jaymes.’

    I am always a little hesitant to tell the story I was told but the story goes like this:

    “My parents said that I was always going to be ‘James’ but a few days before I was born they were down by the river drinking wine coolers. They noticed that the brand was ‘Bartles and Jaymes’ and thought it was a cool spelling. And so… I was born… Jaymes.”

    That’s right… wine coolers!

    BEAT THAT!!!!!

  • Matt

    Mat with one “t” drives me crazy. Matthew has two t’s, therefore so does “Matt.” However, some jerks got to Gmail before me, so my email address has one “t.” Over this, I frequently lose sleep.

  • Richard

    With the name “Richard,” I despised the movie Tommy Boy for several years after it came out while I was the manager for the 8th grade basketball team

  • Nick Mackison

    Great story. It’s funny that, here in Scotland, your name is almost universally spelt “Scott”.

  • http://multihatpastor.com Steve Cuss

    My last name is “Cuss” and I’m a pastor.

    I’m an Aussie trained in East Tennessee and now living in Colorado. Australians really don’t use the word “Cuss” so I got quite a shock when I came over here.

    Nickname, Steve, “Don’t Make Me” Cuss and of course, in the south when I would guest preach places, the person introducing me would say, “And now we’ll hear Brother Steve Cuss.” I’ve tried not to disappoint…

  • Rick in IL

    My last name ends with a “Z” and on the first day of first grade the teacher put my first name on the card on my desk as “Richard”. I insisted I was “Rickie” so she made a new card that said “Ricky”. I corrected her and the third card said “Rickie” but ended with an “S” instead of a “Z”. Finally on the fourth card she got it right. I bet she was happy to settle that one.

  • http://sundaymorninggreekblog.wordpress.com Scott Stocking

    My last name is Stocking, that’s right, like Christmas. Not Stockings, not Stockton, not Stockington, and certainly not Stalking! Surprisingly, though, the name does not derive from anything having to do with leggings, but from an Old English word stoccin, which means “ground cleared of stumps.” I had made dinner reservations for Christmas eve one year at a restaurant, but when I got to the restaurant, we had no reservations, because whoever had taken my phone reservation thought I was joking about my name. I suppose I could have been insulted and demanded a discount, but as it turned out, the restaurant was pretty vacant, so we had no trouble getting seated.

  • John W Frye

    Rarely does anyone spell my last name correctly. Usually I get it as “Fry” or “Frey.” So, I introduce myself as “John Frye, F-r-y-e.”

  • Doug Wilson

    Scot, I have two grievances.

    First, my name is Doug, so I am not happy when occasionally people add an “h” to the end of my name, which I find too close for comfort to a character in a Pillsbury commercial.

    Second, when I was ten or so I liked to send away for free offers in the mail from Christian broadcasters. I was annoyed when one of them began addressing me as “Mrs. Doug Wilson.” No self-respecting ten-year old boy wants to be referred to as a “Mrs.” So I wrote to request they correct the error. Which they did. And began mailing me letters addressed to “Soug Wilson.” To this day my sister calls me Soug. Thanks a lot, Billy Graham.


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