MacIver: A pronunciation and spelling guide

My name appears to cause people problems.

I’m normally pretty good at taking this in my stride, but the thing with constant irritations is that there’s very little middle ground between being able to ignore them and being enraged by them. Most of the time I’m all “Hey, it’s fine, everyone gets this wrong” right up until the point where I snap and go “ARGH WHY DOES EVERYONE GET THIS WRONG I HATE ALL OF YOU”.

So here is a guide to not getting it wrong. Note that if you deliberately get it wrong to troll me (hi jonty), I’ll just think you’re bit of a dick and will not be successfully trolled. The annoying thing is that people find this difficult to get right. Most names are easy to get wrong when you’re actively trying.

First thing to note: That’s a capital i, not an lower case L. When written in a sans serif font this may be non-obvious.

This confuses a lot of people. About one time in ten if someone is calling from my bank or similar where they’ll not have seen my name before they say “Hello can I talk to Mr Mackelver please?”.

The second problem with that I is that it’s pronounced ee. If you’re like most people you will be pronouncing my name to sound like the guy from the TV with the paperclips and be saying “Mack-Ivor”. This is, to be honest, fair enough – the Scottish clan we’re descended from do pronounce the name that way.

However, I don’t. I’m not sure when it happened, but for whatever reason our branch of the family do not pronounce the name that way, and haven’t for a few generations (and I have video evidence to prove it. There’s a 1941 movie set in 1840 which uses our pronunciation). [Edit from the future: Apparently it’s a west coast vs east coast of Scotland thing, but I’m not clear on which is which]

A minor irritation is caused by people who omit the a. Mc/Mac are both common prefixes for mac names, so if you encounter one and are not 110% sure how to spell it (and need to spell it) you should probably ask which one it is.

“Ask how to spell names” is especially true in this case given that the person who is talking you may not be able to pronounce it. Which is how I ended up with my name spelled as “Mcgiver” on my P45. This is possibly the single most annoying abuse of my name I have ever encountered. [Edit from the future: I’ve since been referred to as “Dr Mactiv”. I do not know where the T came from.]

I believe this covers all the normal issues. So now you should have no excuse but to get my name right. Your compliance in this matter is appreciated.


Day-vid Rich-ee Mack-ee-verr

PS. It’s DRMacIver. Not DrMacIver. My name is David Ritchie MacIver and I do not (yet) have a PhD.

PPS. My first name is David, not Dave

PPPS. The restaurant who somehow misheard my first name and book us a table under the name of Danger MacIver gets a pass. If you really want to call me Danger MacIver, you can.

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4 thoughts on “MacIver: A pronunciation and spelling guide

  1. Alaric Snell-Pym


    I’ve given up on mine, and just generally rely on people to point their faces at me to know they’re addressing me. However, lots of people at work address me with astounding manglings of “Alaric”, so I just reply to them with horrible manglings of their names.

    “Hey, Al-are-ick?” -> “Yes, Sall-yuh?”

    “Hey, Al-Arick?” -> “Yes, Cra-ig?”

    1. david Post author

      Do I pronounce your name wrong? I’d have assumed those were both valid phonetic spellings of it. Is the problem just that they’re saying them as if they’re sounding out each syllable?

  2. Ian Maxwell

    I admit I did assume you were Mac-Aye-Ver, so I’m glad to see you describe this error as “reasonable.” I’m not sure why you would have to explain to someone more than once how it’s actually pronounced, though.

    The funny thing is that I knew DR were your initials, but I still keep finding myself thinking of you as a Dr. MacIver. I wonder if you can use this association to subtly manipulate HR departments and the like?

    1. david Post author

      For a lot of people I think it’s because I’ve just grown tired of correcting the Mack-Aye-Ver pronunciation so often don’t bother and as a result it takes them a while to figure out that they’re doing it wrong and once it’s been pointed out they find it hard to unlearn the habit. I can’t really fault people for this.

      The thing where I can fault people for is when I introduce myself with my name correctly pronounced and they immediately repeat it back to me as Mack-Aye-Ver. Oh they get such a glaring at.

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