Laura has a five-month-old daughter named Lijsbeth, which is a traditional Dutch spelling of the name Lisbet, and is pronounced LEES-bet.
Few people have been able to pronounce Lijsbeth’s name, and even her Australian grandparents haven’t been able to learn to say it properly. Laura is getting heartily sick of having to correct people all the time, and feels bad for her daughter that nobody knows how to say her name – especially as Lijsbeth’s big sister has a very simple, straightforward name (for example, Katie). She has started telling people to just call Lijsbeth by the nickname Bessie, even though Laura doesn’t particularly care for this name.
Since her daughter was born, Laura has learned from a Dutch cousin that the spelling Lijsbeth is considered so old-fashioned in the Netherlands that even Dutch people would have trouble pronouncing it.
Laura is starting to think it might be a good idea to officially change the spelling of her daughter’s name, probably to Lisbet (said the same way as Lijsbeth), although she’s not completely sure. She still wants her baby girl to have a Dutch name with Dutch pronunciation, like Lisbet, but she’s worried it won’t be said properly.
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This is the first time someone has written in to the blog having already named their baby, but not completely satisfied with the results.
I think that if you want to change the spelling of your daughter’s name, then you’ve got good reasons for wanting to do so. In just five months you’ve already run into issues, and if you’re fed up with constantly correcting people after this brief period, you have to remember that Lijsbeth has a lifetime of it ahead of her.
Not only that, but you’ve also discovered that her Dutch name, chosen to honour her heritage, would be a curiosity and a stumbling block even in the Netherlands. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to use the modern Dutch spelling instead.
I think Lisbet is much simpler to spell than Lijsbeth, but I’m not sure it would solve the pronunciation issues, because they are said exactly the same way. I don’t actually think LEES-bet is that hard to say, once you’ve learned how, but explaining it to everyone is probably a pain.
Luckily, you only have to register the spelling of a baby’s name, not its pronunciation, so I would just concentrate on the spelling for now, and worry about pronunciation later. Changing the spelling might make it easier for people to understand; you may become more relaxed about people’s attempts to say the name correctly; it’s possible that in time you will decide to compromise on how the name is said. I would just put that issue to one side for now and see what happens.
I think your idea of using a nickname for everyday use is a brilliant one, but what a shame you don’t like your daughter’s nickname. Is there something else you could use instead? Lisa, Leesie, Libby, Libsy, Lili, Lilbet, Itsy, Issy, Betty, Betsy, Bitsy, Bibi, Biddie, Birdie …. ?
As your daughter gets older, she will probably develop her own ideas about how she’d like her name to be pronounced, and what nickname she would prefer. Our names do often evolve and change with us, and she may come home from kinder one day and announce that her nickname is Lissy, because that’s what all the other kids call her.
The good news is that it is relatively easy to officially change your child’s name (or its spelling) before it is 12 months old. My understanding is that in the first year, it’s not considered a legal name change, but simply an amendment to the birth certificate. That means that whatever the original name was, it will simply be wiped from the records as if it had never existed.
Each state and territory has different rules, but in some states it is free, and in others you will have to pay a nominal administrative fee. Just like registering the name for the first time, both parents must sign the certificate at Births, Deaths and Marriages, and once you have the new birth certificate, you’ll have to change her details with Medicare, Centrelink, the doctor’s office, and anywhere else that has her name in their database. A bit of paperwork to fill in, but that’s about it.
You may also want to send a mass e-mail to everyone you know, briefly explaining you’ve changed the spelling of your daughter’s name to something simpler, but that the pronunciation will stay the same. This could also be an opportunity to let them know that a nickname of your choice can be used instead.
It is important that you are absolutely sure that you want to do this, that you know exactly which spelling you want to use, and that both parents are completely on board with it. It’s really something you don’t want to delay either, so I would get on to it as soon as you know what you want to do.
Good luck Laura, I’m sure you will be able to come up with a solution that makes life easier for you, and ultimately for your little girl as well. Write in again if you still feel unsure about it, or run into further issues down the track.
NOTE: In the end, Laura decided her daughter’s name didn’t need to be changed.
POLL RESULTS: Just over half of respondents voted that the baby’s name be changed to Lisbet. Nearly 18% voted for the spelling to be unchanged.
(Image from Embroidery Library)