When no one can pronounce your baby's name

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My first daughter has a gorgeous name that suits her down to the ground. But I'll admit that when I realised how popular the name was in our neighbourhood I felt a little disappointed. It seemed like every other kid we met shared her name.

While it doesn't matter in the great scheme of things (and it certainly doesn't stop my firstborn being unique!), there was part of me that wished I'd opted for a less common name.

So when it came to naming by second child, I decided to find a name that was a little more unusual.

First I looked to my family tree, then my husband's family tree. There were lots of gorgeous options to choose from, but none of them stood out.

Then I decided to look to my Welsh heritage. Although I've never lived in Wales, frequent trips to visit my grandparents were a big part of my childhood, as were freshly cooked Welsh cakes and the singsong voices of the valley.

I made a short list of Welsh names (for boys and girls, as we didn't know what we were having) and discussed them with my Australian husband.

He vetoed the first name on the list, Sian, immediately. "No one will be able to pronounce it," he said. But there were others he liked, ones he pronounced correctly the first time. We picked two and didn't give it much more thought.

I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and we named her Cerys (pronounced Ker-ris) without hesitation. It means 'love' or 'loved one', and as I soon as I saw her precious little face I knew it was the right name.

It's not a wildly unusual name in the UK, and of course in Wales it is fairly common. There is Cerys Mathews for example, the Welsh singer songwriter (road rage anyone?). And then there's … well, there are bound to be some others.


I didn't anticipate any issues with pronunciation. But as soon as the birth announcement was made it became clear that the traditional Welsh spelling was causing some confusion.

Some thought we had named our daughter "Searris". Others thought she was "Cerise".

I found myself wondering if we'd have been better off with the modern spelling (Kerris), but that would have tethered the Welsh connection.

But despite initial confusion, friends and family soon got their heads around the name. They practiced, and reminded each other that it is a hard C, and soon the confusion was behind us.

There have been some issues with strangers though. I can almost guarantee that any medical appointment involving her name being read to an expectant waiting room would come out an inaudible whisper or confidently mispronounced.

And of course there have been a few people who just couldn't get their tongues round the Welsh pronunciation. Cerys' first swimming teacher, for example, started calling her 'Princess' instead. It wasn't ideal, to say the least.

But I would never change it, just as I would never change my first daughter's more common name. What's in a name? A whole lot of character. 

And for my sweet little Cerys, the pay-off of having an unusual and tricky to pronounce name has been a big dose of confidence.

It takes a lot of guts for a little kid to politely correct an adult, but she has it down pat. "Excuse me, it's actually pronounced Ker-ris, it's Welsh," she says to anyone who calls her Searris, Cerise, or any combination of those sounds.

It is her name and she owns it. It has made her bold.