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Posted on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Meanings of misspellings remain curiously obsure

By Dear Abby


I'm writing to respond to the letter from the mother of the 12-year-old boy whose grandmother can't spell his name right. ("His Name Is Joe!"; Jan. 4). The same thing happened to my husband. His grandmother spells his name with a C instead of a K. I have always put K on our cards and letters to her, but I think at her age she's stuck in her habit.

Once she sent my husband a beautiful silver money clip for which she had spent several hundred dollars. She had it engraved with the wrong initials -- including the C. She's such a sweet, lovely woman that, at that point, I insisted he never make reference to the correct spelling of his name again. Engraved items can rarely be returned, and I knew how hurt she'd be knowing she had spelled his name wrong. He called and thanked her profusely for such a generous gift, and we've never brought up the matter since. -- ANNE IN TEXAS


Thank you for writing. I guessed that the grandmother might not have been pleased with the name the boy had been given. Other readers also had hunches about why the grandmother would continue to misspell it. Their comments:


I suspect that Grandma doesn't like that particular spelling of the child's name. These days people have come up with unusual spellings for common names. Instead of Rebecca, you have Rebekka. For Ashley, you have Ashlee, Ashleigh and Ashli. Karen can now be Caryn or Caren. This makes it especially difficult for anyone with an unusually spelled name. You can bet that no one will get it right. So I imagine this is Grandma's way of expressing her disapproval of the spelling of the child's name. -- ONLY THE SPELLING HAS BEEN CHANGED


My sweet grandmother misspelled my name every time she wrote to us. She had only a third-grade education, lived in a home with no electricity, raised four girls alone after her husband died and continued to maintain the family farm.

She wrote with a pencil that was sharpened with a knife and spelled my name -- Karen -- the way it sounded to her, "Kron." I was never insulted. I always laughed about the fact that it looked as if my name were that of a cave person.

Of course, I knew she loved me unconditionally. Maybe that is why "HNIJ" seems to have a problem with her son's grandmother. Could it be she feels Grandma doesn't show enough love to the boy? -- CAVE WOMAN KRON


Rather than suggest that Grandma doesn't like the child's name, it may be she's like my mother. Mom has a hearing problem and can't make out sounds, which is why she constantly misspells her grandson's name. -- JOYCE IN KENTUCKY


I made the same mistake with my granddaughter's name -- for 10 years. No one told me her name ended with an "i" and not a "y." Boy, was I ever embarrassed. The misspelling was not deliberate, and I sure wish someone would have pointed out my error sooner. -- JUST UNINFORMED IN ALABAMA


My late mother and my father-in-law both misspelled my children's names. Mom even took liberties with my name after I was married. I don't think either one was sending me a message. They just weren't familiar with the particular spelling.

"HNIJ" should give Grandma a framed photo of her grandson with his name (and date of birth, maybe) on a label at the bottom. Seeing his name daily may be all the woman needs to learn the correct spelling. -- BEEN THERE, TOO

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)