How do you pronounce my name?

A few months ago, if anyone had said I’d be writing a blog on how to pronounce my name, I’d

A few months ago, if anyone had said I’d be writing a blog on how to pronounce my name, I’d have told them they were mad. Only a completely self-absorbed narcissist would think that a subject worthy of a blog. And I’m not one of those. Or am I?!

It’s true that most people mispronounce my surname in a variety of different ways.  But I’ve had decades to get used to it, and it really doesn’t worry me.

So why am I writing this blog? I can answer that question in just two words: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

I recently had the great privilege of meeting the legendary psychologist who, along with Martin Seligman, established the positive psychology movement. Apart from having the most spectacularly un-spell-able surname, even his first name had me stumbling. Was it ‘Me-hale-ee?’ or  ‘Me-high-lee’? Was the ‘y’ silent? Which syllable was emphasized?

In the Speakers’ Lounge at the conference where a number of us congregated, it became clear that I was not alone in my uncertainty. Approaching the great master to shake his hand, most people seemed to either swallow his name, or avoid saying it altogether. Mihaly was unmoved by this. But other people felt awkward. And it occurred to me that being comfortable saying someone else’s name is a necessary first step in developing a relationship.

As it happened, a Buddhist nun gave me the key to his name.  ‘It’s Me-high, Cheeks-send-me-high,’ she told me laughing.  Easy when you know how.

So to cut to the chase, my surname is not any of the favourite mis-pronunciations – ‘Mit-chee,’ ‘Mike-ee,’ or ‘Mick-eye.’  It is, very simply, Mickey.  As in Mouse.

It’s a Scottish name, and Aberdeen is the only city in the world where everyone knows how to both spell and pronounce it because there are so many Michies. To be purist, the Scottish pronunciation has the ‘ch’ part of the name patterning ‘loch.’  But since that’s a sound most English speakers don’t make, and when they do are liable to become phlegm-flecked in the attempt, it’s probably safer just to stick to the Disney version.

That’s all folks!

This blog was originally published here. Sincere thanks to author David Michie (whose books include The Dalai Lama’s Cat, The Art of Purring, as well as the non-fiction bestsellers Buddhism for Busy People and Hurry Up and Meditate, for giving permission to Starts at 60 to share this blog.  If you would like to read more of David’s blogs, click here.

Many of David Michie’s books (including The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Power of Meow and Buddhism for Busy People) are available to purchase from Dymocks in either paperback or eBook formats.

Dymocks Click here_online

  1. I’m glad it’s your name and not mine, there are a lot of names that are difficult to pronounce. However I always give it my best shot which doesn’t always sound right.

  2. My name is not common but certainly not unheard of.
    Because its nine letters long, people automatically want to shorten it. Thing is, I don’t like Phil as a name and neither hear it or relate to it.
    Some people actually get huffy when I object to being called ‘ Phil.’

  3. Off this subject I Know but wanted to comment anyway I loved the book The Dalai Lamas Cat. Also I pronounced the CH But now I know.

  4. Haha I feel your pain Philomena I don’t very often get called Glen but I don’t like it much and people simple can’t pronounce our surname either. We get Drapper all the time

  5. If I come across someone whose name I don’t know how to pronounce, I am upfront and just ask them how do you pronounce your name. I have never found anybody to be upset by it.

    • John Reid  

      My wife’s best friend back in the 1960s, Ngaire-Arna, was a Kiwi lass named Ngaire. I think the one she least liked was Nigger, as she was introduced by an MC one night! I guess you’ve had to run the full gamut through life, as you indicate!

  6. When I was young I had to always spell my whole name and address. I was Elda Mulrine who lived in Claypotts Road Ruchazie 😃

  7. I’ve had a similar problem with my last names, maiden name (last) of Kloosterman it actually was usually pronounced right but spelt wrong, my married (now divorced) name was Stumer and had so many pronunciations it was ridiculous, the silliest being strummer, go figure

  8. My surname is pronounced different to how it should be.when it is pronounced properly puts a smile on my face.also my initials SAB MAIDEN NAME. SAD 1ST MARRIAGE.SAG 2ND MARRIAGE. YES AND I LAUGH TOO.

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