Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kennedy = Kinnedy?

When I was a student, I studied abroad in Ireland with a bunch of students from across the USA. One gentleman, was from Tennessee. We were sitting in class, and he leaned over and asked me for a "pin." So, I took the safety pin out of my ear (ok, this was the early 1990s) and gave it to him, apologizing that it was the only one I had. Everyone laughed at me. What he had wanted was a "pen." However, in my northeastern dialect, "pin" and "pen" are distinctly different, as are "Don" and "Dawn" and "cot" and "caught."

So here's my dilemma... Every year I take the long list of names the Social Security Administration publishes and group them by spelling. Everyone can agree that Trisha and Tricia are the same name, as are Hailey and Hayley. I have long accepted that, though John and Jon are technically different names (John being a name on its own and Jon being a short form of Jonathan originally), I group them together because they sound the same. Alyssa and Alisa don't necessarily sound the same, but I group them together because of a continuum of names like Alysa, Allysa, Allissa etc. that could be pronounced like /ah LISS a/ or /ah LEE sa/. Like it or not, this is how I justify things. I'm sure if I took 10 different people and had them do this, they'd come up with 10 different things. Heck, I change things from year to year. Miah, Miya, Miyah-- are these Mia or Maya? Lately I've been grouping them with Mia, just because Mia is more popular, though they totally LOOK like Maya to me.

Which brings me to the pin/pen dialect thing. Here are the offending names:


I've lumped Serinity/Seryniti with Serenity, just because there's no such thing as "serinity."

I've been putting Kennedy and Kynnedi together for the same reason; there's no other name Kynnedi.

Mackenzie and McKinsey are a little more problematic, though. Kinsey is a separate surname. Though Kinsey is a surname of English origin, the name McKinsey appears in the USA (though it's not listed in my Irish or Scottish surname dictionaries; it's probably a variant of Mackenzie/McKenzie.).

It would be convenient if all the "i" spelling names were more popular in states where the predominant dialect does not distinguish between "pen/pin." Here's a chart nicked from Wikipedia:

Sometimes this works. For example, Kynnedi is most popular in Texas, and also shows up in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. However, there were also a significant number of Kynnedis born in Michigan and a few in Ohio. Kinsey/McKinsey are all over the map.

What would YOU do?

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