First, it’s He-LAY-na.
HELEN-a is my preferred mispronounciation.
He-LEE-na makes me cringe.
I have a love-hate relationship with my name, but that’s because it’s apparently the hardest-name-ever-in-the-whole-world to pronounce. I frequently have conversations like this:
“Hi, I’m Helena!”
People get a limited number of corrections to keep things from getting awkward.
My sister has a different problem. People hear “Kerry” just fine but write “Carrie”. My mother, Sarah, gets her h dropped frequently.
Perhaps I should have stuck with my childhood nickname of Lena, devised by my mother when my peers at preschool had issues with polysyllabics.
My mother swears that this issue is not my name, but that people don’t take the time to listen. I know that responding to my own host of name-variants has made me very aware of other people’s names. I ride in like a name-knight to make sure everyone’s name is said correctly.
Correctly or not, He-LAY-na, HELEN-a, and He-LEE-na are all quite rare (at least in my circles). I don’t really know what it feels like to have someone else have “your name”. Any other Helenas in my life have been fleeting (though not solely for that reason). I like knowing that when someone calls “Helena” (or “HELEN-a” or “He-LEE-na”) they are likely calling for me.
I’ve always sworn that my children would have simple, common names. I no longer stand by that promise. Even simple, common names are mispronounced.
Perhaps mispronunciations build character, teach patience, and reward flexibility. I’ll keep telling myself that.