Ilse is a four-letter word

Ilse word

You know how if you say your name over and over again it starts to sound weird? I have the same thing with my name except it happens after the first time. For those who don’t know anyone called Ilse and for those of you who do but have never been confident enough to say it out loud, it is pronounced ‘Ill-sir’. ‘I am Ilse’ and ‘I am ill sir’  sound the same and can cause some confusion.

According to ONS data, only 13 babies were named Ilse in England between 1996 and 2015 so usually I am the first Ilse people have met. My Mum is from Belgium where the name is more common. The name has irked a fair few substitute teachers in my time and they have likewise irked me. Attempts at pronunciations have included ‘Lisa’, ‘Isla’, ‘Isle’, ‘Elsie’, ‘Elsa’ and ‘Ilsie’ (kind of cute, I must admit).

Occasionally I have wished for a simpler name. When I was ten, I thought about sending in a picture to Blue Peter saying my name was Lisa because I knew they wouldn’t be able to pronounce Ilse. This fear was based on previous media experience when my mum phoned in to the local radio station to request a Spice Girls song for me. Or was it for a girl called ‘Isle’? I’ll never be sure.

Another kind of annoying thing about my name is how it looks in sans serif fonts. Ilse. The capital ‘I’ looks too much like the lower case ‘L’ so it looks more like a barcode than a name. Spell checks will also usually add a squiggly line to alert me to a probable spelling mistake. The rudeness.

I like my name now though. It gets more positive reactions from people since Frozen. Ilse bares just enough resemblance to Elsa for me to share some of her icy glory. I can say my name proudly whenever I introduce myself to someone new which is just as well because I usually have to do it several times.

Have some fun with the ONS baby name data here.

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