As I think I have mentioned before, I’m very intrigued by names. There’s just something about them. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Billy Shakes had a lot to say about a lot of things. So did Gene Roddenberry, which brings me to my current point.
There is a character in Roddenberry’s Star Trek the Next Generation named Data (Brent Spiner). Data is an android (robot appearing like a human). He’s sort of comparable to Spock from Star Trek (the original series), but arguably more dynamic as he is on a quest to become more human.
At anyrate, in one episode (I’m not sure which, if anyone knows please comment), Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) refers to Data as [dæta] as opposed to [deita] as he is normally called. Data, in response, corrects Pulaski who then frustratedly says “what’s the difference?” To which Data replies, “One is my name, the other is not.”
So… both pronunciations of the word ‘data’ are accepted, and the character Data certainly is named after the word, roughly meaning ‘information’. But why then is it correct to pronounce Data’s name one way and incorrect the other?
Indeed many people are very defensive about their pronunciation of normal words, but even those that aren’t are usually quick to correct people’s mispronunciation of their own name. It seems to me that names mean much more to us than other words, and we would expect that to be the case. You probably have more memories associated with ‘Alex’ than you do with ‘memorize’. And when we hear someone mispronounce something we have a lot of thoughts, memories, and feelings about it seems much more wrong then if it were any other word being pronounced differently than the way we pronounce it.
Moreover, though there may be numerous acceptable pronunciations of a common word, each proper name deserves it’s own individual pronunciation. Although there are generalizations someone named Maera in one place might pronounce her name [Maira] and another Maera might pronounce her name [Mæra], but certainly both are correct in the case of the individual.
Hmm… just musing.