Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tadhg Mahal

If the name Tadhg weren't complicated enough, my pronunciation of it is wrong.

My parents gave me the name Tadhg with a short E pronunciation (so that it sounds like Teg -- or, "leg with a T," as I've often explained it to people). It turns out, though, that in Ireland they pronounce the name with a long I (like "tiger" without the "-er"). I think we can all agree the Irish pronunciation is a little cooler.

I used to hate my name. When I was little and first making friends, I resented my parents for burdening me with it. You don't want that kind of baggage as a kid. You want to be named Jason and have a Super Nintendo. The fewer ways you stand out as different, the better. An unreadable keyboard smash of a name isn't doing you any favors.

My grade school misspelled my name in the yearbook the first two years I was enrolled there. There is a lumber company in the Philadelphia area called Tague ("leg with T") Lumber, and I guess they assumed (pretty understandably) there couldn't possibly be two different spellings for that ludicrous name. Thus Baby Me became: Tague Ferry. Now, I want to make it clear right now that I'm not at all sensitive about my name and people's struggles with it. It's a crazy name, and I promise I do not care, take no offense, none of that. Still, the lack of effort put forth by the public in its attempts at spelling Tadhg correctly is -- it must be said -- kind of stunning. 

When confronted with the weirdness of the spelling and pronunciation of my name, a shocking percentage of people shrug, throw up their hands, and decide, apparently, "Welp, never getting that right." I have friends I've known FOR YEARS who spell it wrong. I have e-mail exchanges with people (like, with my name in the Sender line) where they spell it wrong. The silent D, the bizarre inversion of the usual GH construction, the A where an E (or I) should be -- the average human has too many song lyrics and Police Academy quotes taking up the brainspace this information would require. So, generally speaking, people either avoid spelling it altogether, spell it Tadgh and hope for the best, or, failing all that, they spell it incredibly wrong (like TASZJDGDG) as a joke. A strange and select few even spell it "Tag," almost as if their brain refuses to accept the existence of the real name -- like a conservative father who insists on calling his son's boyfriend his "friend" because that's the only way it makes sense to him.

Ever take an AP test you were so ill-prepared for you just drew pictures all over the pages? That's how people spell Tadhg.

As for the pronunciation -- well, everyone calls me Ted at first. This is at least partially my fault -- I don't enunciate well, and no matter how hard I try it always seems to come out sounding like "Ted." And, even if it doesn't, most people assume they must have misheard me, given that Ted is a name, and Teg, you know, isn't. My bus driver in high school called me Ted on the first day of school. I corrected him. It didn't stick. Because I was shy, and already 0-1 on correcting him, I decided not to press the issue. He called me Ted for four years.

There is a boldness when it comes to the pronunciation, too, that is occasionally stunning. I've had multiple teachers, taking roll on the first day of class, reach my name on the list and confidently blurt out, "TAJ?" -- like that half-court shot has any chance of dropping. It was brave enough in college, where few of the people in class knew me or the correct pronunciation of Tadhg. It was another level of courageous in high school, where the whole room was familiar not just with my name but with the hilarious tradition of teachers botching it. Half of the time (to the disappointment of my classmates) the teacher would admit defeat and ask me how to say it. The other half…

Teacher: ...TAJ?

Class: [checks out for the entire year]

My chemistry teacher junior year not only swung for the fences on Day 1 and whiffed, he suffered some kind of amnesia afterward and CONTINUED calling me Taj. My class then entered into a conspiracy of silence and allowed him to blow it the entire year. I generally disliked there being any lingering confusion over my name (especially after the awkwardness of the Ted/bus driver situation) but in this case it worked to my benefit. This teacher knew he taught a difficult and boring class, so would call on kids unexpectedly throughout the hour to keep us on our toes. He clearly wasn't sure if Taj was the right guess though, so he shied away from calling on me when he could. For every three times a classmate was put on the spot, I was targeted probably once. 

Aside from that, most people, after the initial clarification, get the pronunciation right. There are subtle distinctions, though. I would say it goes:

70% say: Teg

20% say: Tayg (with a long A)

10% say: Tag

I am fine with all of these. I am the least fine with Tag, if only because "Tag" is a different name, and because it seems like it's harder to say. Tayg, on the other hand, I love. I don't know why, and I can't totally suss out the chicken/egg thing, but I find I really like the people who employ this pronunciation. Whenever someone calls me Tayg (as my friends Dave and Kevin do, just off the top of my head) my heart swells a bit. Can't explain it. The people who call me Teg, since that is my name, are also aces in my book.

Like I said when I was young I hated my name. But I love it now. Absolutely, 100%. It's weird, it's cool, it's a conversation piece. It's everything my dad used to assure me it was. Worth noting: I grew up my entire life under the impression that Tadhg meant "poet." But, according to

The commonly accepted meaning of Tadhg is "poet"[3] or "storyteller". An alternative derivation from the Celtic *tazg(j)o-, meaning "badger", has also been proposed.

The hell? Oh yeah, my name means "waterfall." But it might also mean RABIES. Irish is a fucked language.

I leave you with this helpful tip for the next time you are struggling to spell Tadhg: Just remember that it begins TA, ends G, and in between, the D and H stand back to back like the stars of a romantic comedy. 

¡Ay! ¡Mi corazon!

No comments:

Post a Comment