I was just reading a lovely post by Iota at Not Wrong, just Different, a longstanding chronicler of what it's like to be a Brit in America, about name pronunciation, and how children's names can end up as something completely different once you move Stateside.
We had a slightly different problem in the NappyValley household this weekend. Littleboy 1 was invited to a birthday party, along with everyone else in his preschool class - the child's name, on the invitation, was Keval and instinctively I read it as a boy's name. It was also a party in a sports hall with soccer, etc. so I had imagined lots of little boys running about (although in fact, plenty of girls here play soccer too).
So yesterday morning, when I realise that we haven't yet bought a present (oh, super-organised Mummy that I am) I say to Littleboy 1 that I am off to buy something for the boy whose party he is going to. "Whose party is it?" he asked. I tell him. "But, Mummy," he says. "I think that's a little GIRL."
"Are you sure?" I urge him. "You really think it's a little girl who's asked you?"
He then looks confused. "Whose party again?" I repeat the name. "I don't know who that is," he replies vaguely and wandered off. (This is not untypical. I don't know if all four year olds are like this, but he is NOT good with names and often doesn't seem to know his schoolmates are, even if they come up to him and greet him in the playground...)
Still not convinced, I go ahead and buy a slightly boy-ish, but at-a-push unisex present.
We arrive at the party; there are children milling around everywhere. Littleboy 1 still doesn't seem to know who the birthday boy/girl is and although I identify the parents, their kid is already on the sports field. Luckily Littleboy 1, after wandering around vaguely for a while, recognises some other friends, so I leave him to it.
A little later I return to pick up my highly excited son, and finally identify the birthday BOY giving out the going-home presents (CANDY! cries Littleboy 1, sounding as American as they come).
So, when we get home, I say this: "So, you know who Keval is now, do you? Did you sing happy birthday to him?" (At this point I will reveal that I pronounce the name Kee-val, although, as the boy is Indian, I am not at all sure if this is correct...)
"But, Mummy," he replies. "It wasn't his birthday."
Oh. "So whose birthday was it then?"
"It was Kivvel's". (to rhyme with swivel).
So, Kivvel. Clearly a good mate of his. Glad we cleared that one up.