Linguistics tortured my name!

20 07 2011

Over the last while I have realised that my name is not great for universal application.  Since visiting Zambia about 15 years ago, it became clear that Karen is not very usual, and most often the pronunciation was something more like “Colin”.  I sort of became used to it.

When our team served in India it was chaotic!  Of the 4 girls in our team, there was Karin and Karen (both pronounced the same – Car/ yn – with the emphasis on Kar, said like the car you drive.) we also had Carien.  When friends came to visit we had to use adjectives – the tall one, the one with short hair, etc.  It caused a lot of fun for us! (And they struggled with the sounds too).

In South Africa, I had been named “Thandiwe”  – said ‘tand-ee-we)(and sometimes Thandeka) in African circles.  The name means “love” and changes a little from ‘she who is loved’ to ‘she who loves’, with the different use.  This name helped a lot as my English name there was a bit more like Kkorren – o as in port, e as in hen. 

I have struggled with my name in various circles here. Among the American and British expats Karen is fairly common – but pronounced with ‘a’ like cat. Trying to say my name for the Ugandans to write down is very difficult  and I usually write it myself.  The l/r sound switch is made regularly – it usually helps to see a word written to get it right.

At times I am a little slow – like almost 4 months slow.  I have been trying to learn a little of language here, and have been speaking with our driver, Hamid, about places we want to visit over the weekend.  Kibale forest, Kyoga and Kiyembe market… Hamid corrects my pronunciation: These words are said Chibale, Cheeyoga and Cheeyembe. 

If I get it, if my name is read from paper here, it can then be said as “Chollen”.  Gulp.


Don’t even start to explain Scheepers.




One response

21 07 2011
Allan Sutherland

My precious Karen, your name is music to me, your mother”s ears!!!

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