How to say my name

Posted on July 17, 2006, under general.

Despite living in a predominantly English-speaking country, between my forename and my surname I have a pain of name for people to pronounce, even for Irish people. I don’t really get hung up about how its pronounced, it’s not a big deal, but enough people keep asking that I might aswell put something online just to make it clear.

The 3 C's

O.k., firstly, my forename, which is all anyone should ever need to call me by. It’s definitely not Colin. Colin is a fine name, for fine people, like … well … Colin, but it’s not my name. Calling me Colin is likely only ever to cause confusion, and after years of working with Colin, I’m hardwired to completely ignore any attempt to address me by it.

My name is “Colm”. There are three ways to pronnounce this name, two of which are common. The uncommon one is the same as the name “Callum”, it’s written as kælm̩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and sounds like this. That’s also definitely not my name.

The most common form is written as “kɒlm̩” in the IPA, and sounds like this. My parents say my name this way, so you’re in good company if that’s how it comes out, and I’ll certainly answer to it – but it’s not how most people say my name.

As I’m awkward, and went to an Irish-speaking school, most people use the Irish form of my name, and it’s what I prefer. And it sounds like kʌlm̩. I don’t take offence if it doesn’t come out like that though.

My surname is a whole other problem, as there are multiple valid ways to pronounce it, and even I don’t pronounce it the same way each time. Pretty much any vague mumble will do just fine for that part.

Many thanks to Nóirín for the IPA and the recordings. Oh, and cue the series of “oh I know what I like to call you” comments.

6 Replies to "How to say my name"


conall  on July 17, 2006

I vote we all just refer to you as “what’s his name” or “that guy”… :)


Kae Verens  on July 18, 2006

I agree with Colin. ;-)


ponsfrilus  on July 18, 2006

So, what about MacCárthaigh XD


Colm McCaffery  on July 20, 2006

Hi Colm, just had a trawl and came to your site – wanted to say “Thank you” as an English person with Irish parents who gave me a name that has been abused through the years – Colin I am not ! but I found your thoughts and the soundbites a great help – i normally just tell people to “Think of Nelsons” as they can get their toungue around column which is often the closest their likely to get :)
Go well


siobhan.doyle  on August 3, 2006

Do people really have that much trouble with you name? Hmm…. Hope you got my mail re: Colaite’s unofficial reunion. Stay well :)


Colm McCaffery  on August 14, 2006

Yep I do – didnt get your email tho, not sure where you sent it – ta for the thought

Leave a Comment