Please read this before you name your baby

I have a very boring, common first name. But, thanks to Mom, it has a unique spelling. And it’s been the bain of my existence my entire life.

photo showing personalized license platesWhen I was in grade school, personalized pens, backpacks, and bike license plates were the hot items everyone was bringing to school, and I was completely left out of the fun. (This was back in the dark ages, when the closest thing we had to a computer was a TI-2510. Literally.)

I would look through the racks of keychains, sometimes finding a Lori or a Laurie, but there was no way in hell I was ever going to find Lawri.

I knew that. Yet I was compelled to continue looking, torturing myself, and hoping for a miracle.

True story: When my little brother was about 7 or 8, he went to California to visit our grandparents. As they were doing all the fun tourist stuff and browsing through souvenir shops, he decided he wanted to bring something back for me.

What he chose was a pen from Universal Studios (or maybe it was Movieland Wax Museum?). It was green and white with a sparkly, gold-glitter core, emblazoned with the name PATTI in all caps.

photo of a Universal Studios souvenir mug

Universal Studios must have gotten wind of the Patti pen story. This solves the problem nicely.

It was so sweet of him to think of me (particularly since we mostly beat the crap out of each other when we were together), so I thanked him. But I had to ask him, why Patti? 

“It was the closest thing they had to Lawri,” was his answer. And he was probably right.

When I turned 18, I got a notice from the U.S. government telling me I needed to register for the Selective Service. That still ranks as my number-one, all-time greatest example of misuse of customer data, lack of cross-referencing of customer data, and just plain idiocy. I guess some people do get the connection between Lawrence and Lawri, but don’t stop to think that Lawri is probably actually a girl’s name.

Believe It or Not, I Know How to Spell My Name

Back in the day, if you wanted to get on a store’s mailing list, you had to fill out a form by hand and hand it to a cashier. I’d carefully print my name, making sure not to use my usual printing style, but the more formal, basic style, so there would be no question as to the spelling of my name. Almost invariably, though, the person responsible for keying the information into the database would look at my form and assume either I didn’t know how to spell my own name, or that I had a very strange, W-esque way of writing the letter U, because when I got my catalog, my name would be spelled L-A-U-R-I.

I always wanted to scream, “Hey, data entry person, I really do know how to spell my name, and you see that letter that looks like two Vs stuck together? It isn’t some foreign variation on the letter U. IT’S A W — the letter that comes between V and X in the alphabet!”

It’s should never have surprised me that my name would also be frequently mispronounced. But I’ve never understood why anyone would think a person would be named LOW-ree. Would you pronounce Lawrence as “Lowrance”? Or call Lauren “Lowren?”

And don’t start with the prime rib and seasoning salt. That’s one LOW-ree to how many hundreds of millions of LOR-ees and LAW-rees in the world? There are two hugely popular, viable options for pronouncing my name correctly.
Image of Susan Dey and Shirley Jones in

If you’re not confounded by Julie and July, then this one shouldn’t be puzzling either.

I remember once spelling out my name for someone — L-A-W-R-I — and what the lady wrote down as I spoke was L-A-U-U-R-I (hearing “double u,” instead of “w”).


It’s an annoyance, but I have learned to live with it.

The one thing that actually gets me angry, though, is people assuming I’m legally named Lori or Laurie, and that I changed the spelling of my name willingly, as an expression of my creativity, or to be different. Let it be known from this point forward that I WOULD NEVER, IN A BILLION YEARS, CHOOSE THIS SPELLING FOR MY NAME.

If I were going to change my name — and believe me, I’d have long since done it if I didn’t think the resulting confusion would be equally annoying — I would change it to something spelled normally. Something people could spell and pronounce correctly.

Something I could find printed on a keychain, or a pen in an amusement park souvenir shop.

image of personalized pen with the name (Note: I wouldn’t actually buy a pen like this one, particularly considering there is one grammatical error and one typographical error on the packaging. And I can’t see the back of the package, so who knows what horrors are present there. )


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