Double prompts for today’s post

I am taking part in a 30 day writing challenge from Juliet Peay. We are supposed to write and publish our response to a prompt every day for 30 days. So, I’m just going to post here.

Today’s prompt is “What is the meaning behind my name?” I don’t actually know the answer, but i know what it means to me.

And, I’m also following another coach’s writing prompts as well, Jade Fulton, and the prompt from her is “Something quirky about yourself.”

I combined the two prompts for this post.

Me and my name

My name is Nils, as you know. It’s an unusual name here in the States, especially for a person who is not Scandinavian at all. I essentially have no Scandinavian heritage, certainly not in the last four or five generations.

How did I get my name? I was born in Denmark. So, no, I don’t have Danish citizenship, nor could I get it. Unlike the US, Denmark doesn’t have birthright citizenship. Sometimes this seems like bad luck to me, depending on what’s going on in US politics, but to be honest, I’d much rather live where I live in California than in Denmark.

Anyway, my parents happened to be living in Denmark, mostly because my Dad had visited when he was younger, and he’d loved it. And so he took my Mom there soon after they were married, and I was born, and they gave me a Danish name. It’s a souvenir, really.

It’s an unusual name here, but in Denmark and all over Scandinavia it’s an incredibly common name. Kind of like John or Mike here in the US. In fact, I have a record of a Danish folk band, and listed on the cover – amongst the band members, the producers, and the various people they thank, there are five Nilses.

The big problem with a name like Nils is that no one knows how to pronounce it. There’s the real Danish pronunciation, which is like “Nillss” – where the “sss” sound like a hiss, and it otherwise rhymes with “hills”. Although some Scandinavians use more of a “Niels”-like pronunciation, where there’s almost two syllables in the middle with the “ie”. Like we always pronounce Niels Bohr’s name – the famous physicist.

My preferred pronunciation is Nilz, where the “s” is pronounced liked a “z” and it rhymes with “pills.” If you listen to my podcast you can hear how I say it, since I mention my name at least once, usually twice, in every episode.

The one I don’t like, and which is never used in Scandinavia, but which is surprisingly common here, is like the river in Egypt, or Frasier Crane’s brother on Frasier. I don’t even like to say it… “Niles.”

But what I have found out, after many decades with this name and its pronunciation problems, is that even people with normal names, like Katy, have problems with people not being able to pronounce their names. I had a friend named Katy, and she changed her name to Kate because she got called “Kathy” so much. This is crazy to me, but I hear about it all the time.

About the author

Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.

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