It’s a name that seems normal to me. I’ve had it all my life. It’s unique. It’s an homage to 50% of my ancestry. But no matter how hard anyone tries, no one seems to have any idea how to pronounce it. For most of the general public, this is understandable. It’s not a familiar name. But perhaps the most comical part, is that even myself and members of my own family don’t always seem to get it right either.
If you were to Google the origins of my name, you would find that it is likely the Nordic version of the Celtic name Brighid, which stems from the Celtic words Brig/Briganti meaning “high/mighty or exalted one.” And I really can’t argue with that heritage (I mean look at the picture on the right; I was obviously meant for royalty). What you also find, however; is a slew of other similar names such as Bregitte, Brigette, Bridget/Bridgett/Bridgette, Brigit/Brigitt/Brigitte, and Birgitta, all of which I’ve been called at some point in my life. For others, living a life filled with this kind of name confusion would be bothersome. But I’ve been gifted with a glorious unique name, and I’m used to it.
With a name like Brigitta, you get used to nicknames. The earliest nickname I can remember is attributed to my younger sister, Marisa (and no not Marissa… don’t even get me started on how people butcher her name), who had trouble saying my full name when she was little. Instead, Getta became the norm. Even my own Grandpop, capitalized on the nickname and used it into my adult years. Creative as it was, Getta was confined mainly to my family, and by elementary school, my friends were desperate to come up with their own nickname for me to save them from the embarrassment of having to say my full name. Sometime between third and fourth grade, my friend Emma had coined BG, and it stuck. It stuck so well, that it followed me all the way through college.
Almost accidentally, BG become as much a part of me as Brigitta. BG was easy. It was easier to give people my nickname than try to explain my real name (try going to Starbucks and giving them the name Brigitta and see what happens… they can’t even get BG right). But BG never made the name game any easier for me. The barrage of mispronunciations and name confusions continued with or without a nickname; people were always curious to link the nickname to the real name, and so back to Brigitta it is.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of my lifelong name confusion, is the often assumption that I’m named after a certain character in a very popular musical: Brigitta von Trapp in the Sound of Music. There are many reasons why this is ridiculous to me, but the most obvious is that the character’s name is German. Her name is pronounced (bree-GEE-tah). My name, however; is Norwegian (the pronunciation of said name will be delved into below). Beyond the simple fact that Sound of Music Brigitta and I do not share a common name country of origin, it’s also obvious to anyone that knows my parents that neither of them are super fans of any such movie, nor can either of them (or anyone in my family for that matter) carry a tune to save their lives. But alas, I’ll give all you strangers a pass as only those close to me and my family would know the facts that would lead to the elimination of this name confusion.
Where then, does my name come from you ask? That would actually be from the country of Norway. My mom visited Norway the year before I was born and met a woman with my name. She liked it so much that she kept it in her mental list of possible baby names. I won’t delve into how she almost wasn’t allowed to take me home from the hospital because she hadn’t named me yet (she was so certain I was going to be a boy, that she hadn’t even settled on a possible girl’s name), but eventually she decided on Brigitta (right choice Mom, right choice).
Now back to the pronunciation of my name. I’m sure you’re sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what the correct answer is. But I’m going to have to disappoint you. To the best of my knowledge, the correct way to pronounce my name as it’s spelt is bri-GIT-tah. No one, not even my own mother (yes you Mom, the woman who gave birth to me and gave me my name), says this. Most of us, myself included, instead say some variation of bri-GET-tah or bir-GET-tah, and in my opinion, if you hit either of those you’re golden. Say the name fast enough and the bree/bir part of the name gets a little blurred and it’s hard to tell which version is exactly being said. Just don’t ever pull a move like the name announcers at my UW-Madison graduation, who were apparently “specialized” at pronouncing names, and call me bruschetta. I am part Italian (and do appreciate a tasty bruschetta), but you definitely won’t be invited over for Italian dinner after that.
My name was probably pronounced as it’s spelt sometime in the past (like back when I was a super-sized toddler), but today it’s morphed into something slightly different. And I like that. My family and I have truly made it our own. In the realm of unique names, I really can’t complain. There will always be some laughs and nervous looks when people first meet me and attempt to say my name, but I’ll take that any day over a name no one thinks twice about. There’s a long story behind my name, and I’m never giving that up.
BONUS STORY: The name that no one can spell
My last name is Rongstad. People never seem to have a hard time pronouncing it (and thank god because I don’t think I could handle having two names that people are afraid to speak out-loud), but they do seem to have a very difficult time spelling it. Without even thinking, people automatically go to Wrongstad. Call a doctor’s office or any place that holds records, and even when you spell it out for them, they go directly to the W’s. I really can’t explain it, but after a little laugh, it’s usually a quick jog back to the R’s.
Like my first name, my last name is Norwegian and unique. Recently, however; my dad discovered that we’ve all probably been spelling our last name wrong thanks to either some lazy immigration officer at Castle Garden (the first “Ellis Island”) or our ancestors own desire to Americanize their name. Rognstad appears to be the correct spelling of our fantastic family name, and apparently it’s derived from a real live place in Norway. I have to admit, the supposed real spelling (even just swapping the location of the g and the r) makes our last name just that more badass. But no matter if we spell it Rongstad or Rognstad, we’re still one big happy (part) Norwegian family.