An Exotic Among Common: What It’s Really Like to Live With an Unusual Name

If you were to go into a gift shop and see a rack advertising name tags or magnets, you are never going to see my name.

E.I.D.H.N.E (Credit: Bobby O’Rinn)

Eidhne.

E.I.D.H.N.E

An unusual name with a very unusual spelling. To this day, I still am not sure how my mother and father decided on this name for their eldest daughter. Maybe it came from one of the nine Saint Eidhnes. (maybe the one who was Saint Colmcille’s mother). Or maybe it came from my mother’s never-ending love and fascination for the Irish language.

But even Eidhne is not really common amongst Irish names. The most popular Irish names for girls are Aoife, Sarah, Ciara and Niamh. I’ve never known any other Eidhne. I know that there is the amazing Irish singer and the spelling of her actual name ‘Eithne’ bears a very strong resemblence to my own, but to me, it doesn’t count.

Having a name like mine, meant I already stood out among the crowd no matter where I went. As a shy child, I found it very embarassing. In primary school, it wasn’t too bad, being so young, nobody really questioned my name, the strange spelling or the correct way to pronounce it. I think it was because I had my mum at the time and she was the one who saved me from questions.

But as I grew into a teenager, I had to learn how to stand on my own in regards to my name. I remember starting in secondary school, when every teacher would call registration. They would come to my name, pause and struggle with the pronunciation, until eventually, I had to speak up and say it correctly. I still remember the burning feeling I would get in my cheeks whenever that happened.

Hearing people pronounce my name wrong really began to get on my nerves, particularly when they would follow it up by saying ‘Oh, like the singer?’. It took every ounce of patience inside of me not to lose my temper with people like that. For years, I stayed right away from any of poor Enya’s music because of that. I was very unfair to her as a teenager; I realise now that it wasn’t our fault that we had such unusual names that nobody could pronounce correctly!

It was also very annoying to go shopping and see name labels, tags and little figurines, with all sorts of different names on display. No matter where I went, no matter how much I searched, I would never find anything with my name on it. I felt a bit left out because of that!

There were times when I wondered what it would be like if I had a different name. A normal name. Well, ‘normal’ in my eyes anyway!

I think that was why I found such comfort in Jacqueline Wilson’s books. It was a relief to read her stories and find people with names as crazy as my own. Her book, Cookie really touched me; I felt so much sympathy for the main character, Beauty, a girl who is constantly teased and bullied because of her name. By the end of the story, she finds a new friend who also has an unusual name, Princess and they end up forming their own Unusual Name Club. That was really opened my eyes and realised, that it’s okay to have an unusual name.

As a matter of fact, I have realised that I’m very lucky to have the name that I have. When I hear of celebrities having children and the names that they give, I think to myself ‘Thank God, I don’t have a name like that!’ I used to think Eidhne was a ridiculous name – but that was before I heard what a certain rapper and reality star had named their kids!

The funny thing about having an unusual name with a strange pronunciation, is that it can be such an ice-breaker when meeting new people. A couple of years back, I was invited to a friend’s wedding in Carlisle. Myself and two other friends were travelling together and attended the ceremony. The wedding was beautiful and we had a wonderful time at the reception. But beforehand, the three of us were a little bit nervous, because aside from the bride, we didn’t know anybody at the wedding.

But we needn’t have worried. We arrived at the reception, and soon people were being shown where we would sit for dinner. Every place setting had a little name card. I was sitting down at my place when the man sitting beside me took one look at my name card and said ‘Right, how do you pronounce that?’. And from there, myself and my friends were there, chatting away to all of the guests at our table, laughing at their stories. Honestly, if it had not been for my name, I think the three of us would have just sat there like sour lemons the whole night, too shy to say anything! So my name certainly helped us to have such a fantastic night!

While growing up, I hated having to live with such a strange name, I now feel proud to know that I do stand out from the crowd. I think it’s good that I have a name that doesn’t appear on the figurines and labels that are sold in the shops. It shows that my name is different. One of a kind.

Now, I say my name with a lot of pride – but I think I’ll be more kinder to my own children when it comes to choosing their names!

At a wedding in Carlisle. From left to right: Emily Edwards, Georgina Pearce, Elina Luukanan, Eidhne Gallagher (Credit: Melissa Adams)

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