What’s in a name?

October 21, 2009 - France

Those of us called “Hannah”, who are from the UK, spend a lot of time saying things like this:

My name’s not “Anna”, it’s “Hannah”, with an “H”

My name’s spelled “Hannah”, with two aitches, one at the end and one at the start

Yes I do know it’s a palindrome, thanks! Yes, please tell me your favourite palindromes. Yes, I have heard the one about the canal and the plan.

I’ve always found it particularly annoying when people manage to send me email to hannah@ … but then start the message “Dear Hanna”, or “Dear Anna”. As for spoken anna-isms, I noted a marked improvement in pronunciation when I moved out of south London, land of the mockney dropped H.

But one adapts, and after 35 years of trying to get people to say my name correctly, I’ve stopped. All it took was a few months in France, and I’m no longer one of those irritating sods who corrects peoples’ pronunciation all the time. The French don’t really do the letter ‘H’, and so in conversation I’ll now answer to Anna.

I’m not sure about giving up on the spelling though. The name plate on my new office door came as a bit of a shock.

My office door

That’s a new spelling on me.


  1. Andy C says:

    Hey Hanahhhhhh,

    It’s all too common I’m afraid – rudeness abound; http://www.iambanksy.co.uk/2009/10/all-in-a-name/


  2. CraigL says:

    At least you weren’t poor Dave Smith third on the sign there.

  3. Jo Komisarczuk says:

    Being Johanna I know how you feel. Hence the reason I became Jo, because I thought it would stop all the constant errors and annoyance for me. Now I find I have to suffer the following:
    oh this is Josephine, who likes to be called Jo Wot?? when did that happen.
    or the Joanne type comments, but the worst of all is the
    so tell me Jo is that short for ….. Add all the derivations you can think of listed at you. then when you tell them no I am a joHanna thy tell me they have never heard of it and I should stick to Jo.

    So enjoy being Annah or force them to change – we have a right to our names!

  4. max says:

    i don’t know the one about the canal and the plan! I didn’t realise you had such trouble – I was always irritated when Katy was spelt Katie, but it didn’t seem to bother her!

  5. carole says:

    As someone whose 2 given names are short versions of other names (Carole Jo), I can empathise. I’ve gone through most of my life with my name misspelled – not helped when I was born and my parents told all their friends “She’s Carole Jo, with an ‘e'”, resulting in all the congratulations cards addressed to ‘Carol Joe’. As I got older and tangled with officialdom, I’ve repeatedly had the paperwork returned to me unprocessed with the comment “please write your full name” scrawled across it. I’ve taken to producing my birth certificate up front every time I think I’ll have to fill in a form, these days.

    At least there’s never been much that could be done to mangle the pronounciation though – although in Germany I did start answering to ‘Carola’.

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