Gaelic names are always the hardest to pronounce

I’m spending all weekend in the office, working on a couple of grants that are due tomorrow. Being even more in need of sanity breaks (such as this quick blogging break) than usual, I took a nice refreshing walk in the snow yesterday lunchtime to a nearby Safeway. The cashier was new, and unusually chatty as she rang up my sandwich, milk (tea consumption is at an all-time high), fruit smoothie, and chocolate (an essential item). As I handed over my Safeway loyalty card and air miles card, she glanced at the latter and asked, “how do you pronounce your last name?”

“Um, Ennis”, I replied.

She gave me an extremely strange look as she took my cash and handed back my cards.

As I was walking away, putting the cards and change back in my wallet, I noticed that I haven’t yet changed my name on my air miles card. (I’ve been married 3 and a bit years, but hey, some name changes have a higher priority than others).


Asking someone how you pronounce “Dunn” is a bit weird, no?

However, I have to accept that answering with “Ennis” is even weirder.

I should probably avoid that checkout line for a wee while.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in food glorious food, grant wrangling, personal, silliness. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Gaelic names are always the hardest to pronounce

  1. Lisbeth says:

    Haha – priceless! And I’m sure so were both her and your facial expressions ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Lin says:

    Wish I could have been there to see that conversation unfolding. Plus, the look on your face when you found out why this was even stranger than you thought ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. KJHaxton says:

    Our students are always trying to come up with a combined name for me and R – combining half of Haxton and Darton pretty much leads to the same name either way! They’re most disappointed when they figure that out.

  4. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Lisbeth & Lin, yeah, I did a Homer Simpson-esque “D’OH!” face when I realised!

    KJ, no Haxdar?!

    The merging of Dunn and Ennis into Dennis was discussed, but seeing as I already hate being called Cathy, it would have been waaaay too tempting for people to call me Cathy Dennis, so it was never a serious possibility!

  5. Beth Snow says:

    Yesterday, for the first time EVER, a cashier asked how to pronounce my last name. And she wasn’t even kidding. I was bewildered. “Um, Snow?”

  6. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    HA! Was this at Safeway? Maybe it’s a new policy.

  7. Beth Snow says:

    I can’t remember if it was at Safeway or Save-On. They are both so similar that I constantly mix them up.

  8. ricardipus says:

    Baffling. I once had a British Airways clerk page me with “Mister Vint-le”, as though my surname were German.

    (I will here avoid devolving into a protracted discussion of Saxon origins, &c.)

    That’s the only time it’s ever happened. Uncommon surname, sure, but it doesn’t seem to pose most people with pronunciation problems. Spelling, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

  9. chall says:

    haha ๐Ÿ™‚ awesome! Guess you could pronounce it as “done”, right?

    The gaelic is fairly rough on the edges (as is Swedish according to Southern drawl rules too ^^) I’m not expecting much nowadays with either of my names ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Ricardipus, I will call you Herr Vintle from now on.

    Chall, done and Dunn are pronounced the same, at least in my accent! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, I bet you get multiple questions and variations on spelling and pronunciation!

  11. Amelie says:

    A cashier asked me about pronouncing my first name recently, but I’m a foreigner here, so that’s not too surprising. The spelling of my last name is incredible (it is not compatible with Spanish at all).
    And when I order coffee it usually ends up labeled wrong — my favorite was “Emilio”. Seriously.

  12. Mike says:

    My surname in German was pronounced “Vofler” – it’s Fowler. In Finland and Spain it’s pronounced “{quizzically raised eyebrow}”

  13. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Emilio and Vofler – awesome!

  14. Frank says:

    Cath – I thought your last name was Vwxynot?

  15. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Yes, but it’s pronounced Ennis.

  16. Silver Fox says:

    Last comment FTW! (Yours, I mean, not this one.)

  17. Cath@VWXYNot? says:


  18. Brian Enright says:

    Actually, this is a question. I was interseted in the history of my last name and what I found completely confounded me. My name is a christianized version of MacIonnrachraigh…..phew………Now,….does anyone out there know how to pronounce it? Using the Gaelic pronunciation is a bit intimidating but historically correct nontheless. I would be overjoyed to know how to pronounce this in the old Gaelic tongue. If there is anyone out there that has the knowledge and the Gaelic spirit in a large enough quantity to pronounce this name you will have my undying respect. Thank you! (send to

  19. Pingback: Bragging Rights Central: new archive post | VWXYNot?

  20. Ennis Araujo says:

    Miss. Ennis
    Nice to meet you
    My fist name is Ennis. I was born in Brazil,
    And believe me several times a day I said to spell my name.
    “Really?! What is your name really?”
    So I say
    “plural’s N ” Literally

Comments are closed.