I Have A 'Unique' Name -- These Are The Problems You Face As An Adult

Hi everyone! My name is Shona. Yep, Shona.

My mum discovered the name while she was pregnant and reading a book.

Some kick-ass female protagonist, incredible in every way was called Shona, thus this became my name. Well, technically she just read it in a book, I have no idea what the character was actually like -- but that’s what I tell myself.

If you Google the name ‘Shona’ its origins are Scottish -- its meaning: ‘God is gracioust’. And while I am pretty confident no one in my family actually comes from Scotland, nor does my mum have a wee obsession with the country, or God for that matter, that is my name.


Not Shauna. Not Sheena. Not Shonda (although I could get on board with this). Not Sharon. Not Shoooona. Not Shone. Not Shon. Not Shannon. Not Sh. It is Shona.

Shona Hendley. Image: Supplied

And it’s okay, I don’t really care, I actually get it. I was once a teacher and sometimes names can be hard to get right.

When you are presented with names you are not familiar with for the first time, they can be challenging to pronounce or to spell correctly.  In fact, sometimes even when they are familiar, they can still take a considerable amount of concentration to get right -- here’s talking to you Niamh (nee-ev).

While we don’t usually care, after an extended amount of time, nearly 35 years in my case, there are some truths the Niamh’s and the Shona’s of the world know to be true:

1. Introductions involve a specialised process.

The Shonas of the world now perform a similar process whenever they introduce themselves.

“Hi, I am Shona.”

This initial introduction is spoken in an exceptionally clear voice, slightly slower than a usual sentence, all the while watching for that eye twinkle of confusion.

If noticed, it is repeated.

“Sho – na. It’s okay, not everyone has heard it before,” we reassuringly tell the person in an act to not make them feel as potentially stupid/deaf/rude or embarrassed as they already probably do.

We get it, we feel it too.

2. It is second nature to just spell our names after we say them.

This is especially true of phone conversations, particularly when placing an order or contacting any sort of amenity company.


Shona Hendley


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Christmas -- the time of year where family are brought together from far and wide to celebrate the festive season.

Sometimes we even have to go as far as the phonetic alphabet -- S for Sierra, H for Hotel, O for Oscar, N for November, A for Alpha (on occasion with the N turning into N for Nellie from Family Feud).

3. The ordering coffee pseudonym.

After years of doing the old spelling game when ordering my coffee, I wondered what am I doing? Why am I doing this?

I don’t have to be Shona AKA S-H-O-N-A here, I can be anyone!

So, Shona became Sam. Problem solved.

4. People find the need to comment on your name -- A LOT.

“Oh, that’s an unusual name.”

“Why were you called that?”

“Where is that name from?”

“I’ve never met a Shona before.”

“I haven’t seen Shona spelt this way before.”

I have heard many an observation or question about my name, its meaning, origin, heritage, cultural significance, why I was named it, their own personal experience with my name.

Shona with her two daughters. Image: Supplied

It is almost as if an ‘unusual’ name gives people permission to be just a little bit more ‘inquisitive.’ While making me wonder -- do they know the answers to these questions about Sarah? Do they ask?

5. Your name is never on those ‘personalised’ souvenirs.

Personalised items are a luxury that the Niamhs and Shonas do not have (unless in the ‘mother country’).

Not once have I seen 'Shona' on a magnet, keyring, money box, number plate or mug. Not once.

When I was younger I would always look, then turn away feeling disappointed. Now I just walk on past, it’s never going to happen.

6. People you actually know still get it wrong.

While I have admittedly done this myself (although mine was auto-check -- many co-workers still spell my name wrong.

While I am unsure how exactly, given it is not only on my sign off, my signature and in the actual email address itself (plus I have told them) but somehow it still happens.



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While classroom Elves on the Shelf are hiding and paper chains and tinsel adorned decorations are being created, it is also that time of the school year where change is in the air.

So, to all of you with ‘unusual’ names, hyphenated names, names with an ‘extra’ letter, and those with culturally significant names -- while our names may not be on a tourist souvenir number plate, we are at least unique (and better yet, at least our name isn’t Pilot Inspektor).

Featured image: Supplied