February 19, 2005


i once knew a fellow who wasn’t named ryan. not even a little bit. of course most people not named ryan, when asked who they are, say things such as “albert” or “lisa.” some even cut it close with “brian” but they maintain the existence of the “b” in front. this guy, however, was under the mistaken impression that he was different; and unlike the vast multitude of non-ryan individuals he was insistent that “ryan” was, in fact, his name. unfortunately for him though his name, properly pronounced, was “rayon.”

you see rayon, the english language is not at your disposal. simply stringing together a bunch of letters and declaring by fiat that they ought to be pronounced a certain way doesn’t make it so. ryan is an actual proper name with an origin. it’s gaelic. it means “laughing” or "kingly" and, particularly irksome to me, it happens to be my name.

i know that your parents were immigrants. and if r-h-a-y-o-n-n was actually a cambodian name that was pronounced “ryan” i would have absolutely no problem with it. none at all. or, if you wanted to take “ryan” as a nick-name, as many with difficult foreign names often do. either of those things would be fine with me. you’re welcome to use it. the world could use more ryans. and it goes without saying that you can keep whatever exotic spelling of a name pronounced the same way if it’s traditional. but it isn’t. r-h-a-y-o-n-n is just a name you made up. and even that isn’t wrong, if you choose to be rhayonn of your own volition, it’s perfectly acceptable. it’s just that you just can’t say that placing those letters in that order is pronounced in the same way as my genuine, etymologically authentic, not-made-up name. you see my dear rhayonn, ‘r-h-a-y’ can only be said ‘ray.’ it can never be said as ‘ry’ or ‘rye,’ like the bread. and ‘o-n-n’ is, of course, pronounced ‘on.’ so you see, pal, you are ‘rayon,’ as artificial as the fabric which bears your name.

i encountered this character some years ago through a friend's cousin. she did not find it a bit unusual that her swarthy consort had given himself a false moniker with what could generously be described as non-standard pronounciation; and furthermore treated all suggestions to that effect as insults of the highest degree. i never actually heard rhayonn's justifacation for all this, but given what i already know about people who intentionally mispell words, i have a feeling that it is less than satisfactory. strict ryanists such as myself are left to wonder if nothing is sacred.

you do not get to choose what letters mean; it simply isn’t a matter of opinion. being your alleged name does not place it outside the realm of linguistics, and for some such as yourself, the realm of linguistics can be a very cruel place.