Cat name orthography
August 8, 2018 5:10 PM   Subscribe

After being called many names (Elvis, Little Mr. Kitty, Li'l Earl Grey, etc) that never stuck, our cat has finally had his permanent name bestowed, a nonsense word that is pronounced like 'Kinky' but with hard Gs in lieu of Ks. Help me spell this name and avoid endless gif/jif misunderstandings!

A four-year-old child is responsible for this and she has not been moved to call him anything else over the past several months, so I'm afraid 'Give him a real name' is right out.
posted by palindromic to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by juliapangolin at 5:12 PM on August 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yes, as juliapangolin says, but also with the second K to Gh, and the double e to prevent "guy", so:

posted by at at 5:14 PM on August 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

Well, by rule you get a soft G after e, i, and y, so this is going to be challenging.

Ghinghy, perhaps?
posted by zug at 5:15 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Wouldn't "Ginkgee" really be pronounced very similarly? People will see that and think "ginkgo" and that will get you both hard "g"s.
posted by praemunire at 5:19 PM on August 8, 2018 [16 favorites]

Guinguee? Guitar has the hard g with an i sound.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:27 PM on August 8, 2018

Ghin-ghee the cat. (Many people will be familiar with ghee, the hyphen will help with separating the n from the g thus limiting the readings that sound like ginger.)

Upon preview, Margalo Epps is totally right with the guitar idea. Guin-ghee.
posted by Mizu at 5:28 PM on August 8, 2018

I think people are putting in the in because it’s in kinky. But with a g, it could be pronounced with a short i or people could even think of gin or ginger.

I’m wondering if geengy would be better. But then that looks like gee, doesn’t it? Maybe gheengy. From my posting of this, I think you’re in for autocorrect hell no matter what.
posted by FencingGal at 5:29 PM on August 8, 2018

gui as in guitar.

posted by kindall at 5:33 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Any chance that the four year old would allow his formal name to be Ginkgo, with Ginkgy as his nickname? Benefit of being a real word that at least some people will know how to pronounce when they see it written out.
posted by Stacey at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2018 [26 favorites]

posted by phunniemee at 5:41 PM on August 8, 2018

I'd just go with Gingy. Our cat's called Eero, open to all sorts of mis-spellings and pronunciations if you're not familiar with them, but...honestly, people don't write my cat's name that often, so I'd go with whichever name looks best.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:42 PM on August 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

posted by slateyness at 5:44 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:55 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ginkgo full name, Ginkgy nickname.
posted by limeonaire at 5:59 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gginghee (yes, 3 gs)
posted by STFUDonnie at 6:20 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's not a perfect match for the pronunciation, but my first thought was "Genki," like the Japanese word genki 元気. Based on the meaning, it seems like a good name for a kitty! ... I tried to find a good dictionary definition, but all I got was this wiktionary entry, which notes that it can be a proper name for males and may be spelled several ways (元貴, 玄気, 源気).
posted by mustard seeds at 6:21 PM on August 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

We also gave our cat an easier to spell “official” name after about 15 (yes, 15) years of mispronunciation. It really makes that part of life easier. Ginkgo is a nice compromise. Otherwise I’d spell it as Ging-ghee.
posted by bleep at 6:23 PM on August 8, 2018

posted by bricoleur at 6:57 PM on August 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Just a data point: I would pronounce any of the "gu" options as "gw ", guitar nonwithstanding
posted by donnagirl at 7:32 PM on August 8, 2018 [18 favorites]

Going from /ˈkɪŋ.ki/ to /ˈgɪŋ.gi/ is ... hard, as all these conflicting suggestions illustrate :) I'm with everyone who's suggested Ginkgo, especially with those strong green eyes.

If that's not gonna work, seconding Mizu's suggestion of Ghin-Ghee, specifically with the hyphen because to me, the second "gh" in "Ghinghee" without a hyphen is ambiguous enough to me to plausibly be an "f" (coughing, roughly).

Guin - makes me think of Guinan ("GUY-nen") because of the n, then "Guinevere" ("Gwin"), or possibly GUI ("gooey"). To get the "guitar" pronunciation from "Guin," you'd have to explain it to me.
Ggin - "jeen" because "appoggiatura," "arpeggio," "leggiero" (musical terms, all soft g, blame the Italians) whereas I had to google to find English words with "ggi" in them ("doggish" with the hard g).
Gin - "jin"
Ghin - the least ambiguous option for the first syllable /ˈgɪŋ/ to me.
-Ghee - makes me think of the ingredient, least ambiguous option for the second syllable /gi/ to me.

On preview, I also like bricoleur's suggestion of Ghenghis.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:56 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by mono blanco at 8:06 PM on August 8, 2018

Gingko is similar. I'd go with something like Gkin'kgi and tell people it's Klingon.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ghinghee has been the closest for me.
The gui ones make me think “gwih” or “gwee.” Like Guido.

I think Ghengi is close enough to Ghengis to work.

But honestly, most people will probably not see it in print before they hear you say it. Unless you’re planning on having a cat Instagram page or something.
posted by greermahoney at 9:32 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Grin Gree in writing and tell them the r’s are silent.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:52 PM on August 8, 2018

I think it really depends on where you are going with this. If you are aiming for kitty fame and fortune with kitty's own youtube, instagram, and line of branded coffee mugs you need to be aiming for both cute and pronounceable. Ghengi, Genki, Ghengis. And of course you'll want to check domain name availability and existing copyrights.

If you just want the vets office to say the name without your four year old getting upset they said it wrong, you have a lot more latitude. Consider putting a dash in the middle to clearly delineate the syllables.

Avoid the "gui" things, even looking at the explanation that it was supposed to be like guitar I was thinking at first it was some kind of specialized guitar I'd never heard of or something. And having to explain how it's pronounced like the gui in guitar kind of ruins the whole point of not needing to explain how to pronounce it. Yes, more gifted with language people, I'm sure you are thinking it's obvious, but not everything that is obvious to you is obvious to others.
posted by yohko at 9:57 PM on August 8, 2018


(just kidding, but you can point people to ghoti to help them understand how your problem is not necessarily simple..)
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:02 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think Ghinghee is your best bet, but unfortunately it is not foolproof. Source: I live in the Bay Area and a lot of people think Ghirardelli Square begins with a soft 'g' (it does not).
posted by aws17576 at 11:12 PM on August 8, 2018

In case you didn't know, Gink is the name of Dorrie's cat in the Dorrie series by Patricia Coombs. I have always pronounced it like ginkgo without the O. I think it will be close enough to ginkgo that people will make the association and say it correctly if you spell it Ginkgy or Ginkgee.
posted by soelo at 7:47 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the photo. Just want to add that that's a really handsome cat, and you're a good amateur cat photographer.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I vote for Gyngee
posted by nkknkk at 10:33 AM on August 9, 2018

I was going to mention Dorrie's cat Gink! I loved those books when I was a kid and very happily named a little black cat Gink when I was a bit older. I know your guy is grey and white, but they're sweet books and it's an established cat name so it may make sense for you.
posted by kate blank at 10:39 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ginkgo, especially with those strong green eyes.

To add some alternative name meanings:
The photo reminded me of Ginko, the main character from the wonderful series Mushi-shi, who has for in-story reasons gray/white hair and a green eye. The "gin" in ginkgo (and maybe Ginko?) stands for "silver" in Japanese.

Perhaps ironically, "ginkgo" is already a bit of a misspelling (see the section on Naming) and is pronounced kinda like Ginko anyway...
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you are going to stick with Gingy rather than the alternative names suggested, you could think of your audience's linguistic backgrounds and choose the one that would work for the most people. Just going off of the responses so far, the "gui" works if following French spelling rules, the "ghi" for Italian, etc. But there's probably no spelling that would land right with everyone...

I'd think that "Ghin-ghee" would most effectively convey the hard g's, but my mind intones it as two separate words, making it not flow nicely...

Gginghee (yes, 3 gs)
I'd just go with Gingy

Compromise: Gginggy
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2018

“Genghis” is pronounced with a soft G sound, and I would certainly assume “Gingy” was short for “Ginger” if I read it in the wild.

My vote goes for Gingko (Gingky to his friends), or Genki (which means healthy or cheerful, if that suits him). As a last resort, if he’s regal and likes butter, you could call him King Ghee.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:36 PM on August 9, 2018

Ginghy like gingham and dinghy.
posted by Night_owl at 3:32 AM on August 10, 2018

Ghinghee it is! Thanks everyone!
posted by palindromic at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2018

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