Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why Gillian?

People pronounce my name wrong a LOT. When I was a kid it really bugged me; now I don't even bother to correct it unless I'm going to spending a lot of time with that person. Of course when I was a kid it seemed like I was the only "Gillian" (or "Jillian") in the world. I could never get the cool keychains or stickers preprinted with my name unless my stepmother brought them back from the UK. Then Gillian Anderson -- she pronounces it with the soft 'G' -- got famous. The upside is that people can usually spell it now. The downside is that even when I introduce myself aloud, which you would think would be unambiguous, people seem to instantly convert the name in their head into its written form, and then return it with the other pronunciation. I'd love to see a functional MRI of that process.

So, how did I wind up with a name that is technically pronounced 'wrong'?

Kim Novak's character in Bell Book & Candle is named Gillian Holroyd. Gillian, not Jillian. My father heard the name and thought if it worked with "Holroyd" it would work with "Horvath," even though one is Irish and the other is Hungarian. He couldn't have known at the time that the name would turn out to be a Velcro one, a handy surprise in a business where anything about you that's memorable can only be a plus.

It's a fun film. Kim Novak's Gillian is modern-day witch. Jack Lemmon is adorable as her brother. The cat is a cat-shaped Familiar named Pyewacket, and I believe he's been a namesake orders of magnitude more often than his mistress. All in all, it's a fine origin from which to hail. Thanks to my Dad, I seem to have been destined from birth to wind up "In Pictures." If not an actual witch.


james ford said...

i wouldn't think jillian because of the 'gill.' i worked with a woman who complained her name was misspelled on a certificate (bonnie) instead of her spelling, 'bonny.' then i thought, "maybe she's spelling it wrong." somehow we generally agree on how words should be spelled (in relation to their meanings) but names... do anything you damn well please. i had a sister-in-law who was "angella" and then got ticked when people mispelled it. maybe if you're parents spelled it right instead of expecting people to read their minds, this wouldn't happen.

so anyway, i googled "bonny" and got 8m hits. i googled "bonnie" and got 57m. her parents spelled it wrong.

Anonymous said...

You posted this on my daughter's birthday. She is Gillian with a soft "G". 60% of people get it right and we have to correct the other 40%. All the Gillian's I knew were soft "G". I never knew girls had a hard "G". It's a beautiful name either way. I grew up having to correct people all the time and as a friend told me - She'll always know when a stranger is calling.

Peace to you.

GH said...

She'll always know when a stranger is calling.

@ Gillian's-Mommy(or Daddy) - I love this perspective! It is true, those close to us know our names, and those who are not close mark themselves immediately.

Anonymous said...

We named our little girl Gillian, with the soft G. It's a beautiful name for a beautiful little girl (turns 1 next week). To me it's a much prettier spelling that with the J. People who pronounce it with the hard G crack me up. We call her Gilly Bear or Gilly Bean.