What’s in a Name?

So asks Shakespeare, or, rather, Juliet: “That which we call a rose /  By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Easy to believe if you’re a rose. Not so easy when you name is, say, Bryna.

Most people can’t pronounce or spell my name properly. “Y” as in long “i”; stress on the first syllable. Brī′-na. I get Brina (“i” as in “it”). That doesn’t really bother me–it’s easy to confuse “y” and long “i.” Some people pronounce my name “Bree-na”; again, that’s just “y” confusion. I’ve received mail for Brian (wrong body parts).  Occasionally I’m called Brana. I do have a friend by that name, and people who don’t know either of us are often confused when they meet us both at the same time. Brana and I are somewhat entertained, at least. More often than not, I get Byrna. I don’t know what it is about my name that makes people dyslexic, but something does.

I’m often asked where my name comes from. The more common origin of Bryna is from the Gaelic, as is Brian, meaning “strong” or “of the light.” You don’t see very many Jewish Brynas given Irish names. Granted, my mother almost named me Bridget (really–what was she thinking?). But then while I might have had an Irish name, I wouldn’t be Bryna.

My parents also almost named me Betsy Sue. Given the generation I grew up in, that wouldn’t have been so bad at the time. There was a time when I would have preferred it. By the time I was in junior high school, I hated my name and I hated my parents for choosing it, although that was mostly the fault of boys. During the requisite health education class, they realized that my name rhymed with a certain female body part. It took years to live that down. There’s a reason my children all have “normal,” mainstream names. That and the fact that I hated never being able to find my name in the magnets, keychains, and other name memorabilia for sale at any self-respecting tourist attraction.

Back when Barry and I were trying to figure out what to name our children, we spent a fair amount of time looking through different books of baby names. Of course, I looked up “Bryna.” I also did a little web surfing before I sat down to write this blog post. With respect to Jewish women named Bryna (there are a few of us out there–in fact, the mother of Barry’s close friend Mark is a Bryna)–our name probably comes from the Yiddish for “brown,” brun. Or maybe from brenen, meaning “to burn.” No one knows for sure. It could also be from the Slavic for “protector.”

By now, I’ve gotten used to “Bryna” (and I’ve long since forgiven my mother). In fact, explaining my name makes a good icebreaker at parties, networking events, or job interviews. I tell people I’m a strong, fiery protector with brown hair and eyes. I stand for all of us with unusual names that are forever being misspelled or mispronounced, or left out of the souvenir junkyard.

Someday, I’m going to walk into a store and find a mug or slap bracelet with my name. And when I do, I’m going to buy them all.





6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bryna
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 15:23:46

    Hi I’m Bryna, I’m a friend of your daughters, and you just spoke my life<3


    • brynafischer
      Oct 08, 2011 @ 19:40:34

      Em mentioned she had met “another” Bryna. Glad you appreciated the post!


    • Bryna KRANZLER
      Jun 08, 2012 @ 17:46:09

      Hi Bryna-readers, I’m Bryna (Kranzler), too, and have just started a Facebook group for Brynas wherein we share the origins of our name (Yiddish, Irish/Celtic, Polish, Cherokee…) But I’ve sent out so many Friend invites to Brynas so I could invite them into the group that FB has temporarily barred me from sending out any messages or Friend requests, so if you’re interested, please Friend me and I’ll invite you to join us.


  2. Jon V
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 21:09:24

    Hi Bryna,

    I also can relate to your name struggles… my last name is Visaisouk, pronounced vee-sai-sook, and it always gets mispronounced. Like you, there was a time when I didnt really like my name, but now I have learned to embrace it.

    I work with a new tool for people like you and me with hard to pronounce names, called an ANT or audible name tag. Basically ANTs are icons that pronounce your name for others through emails, digital documents, and websites. I think you may find it beneficial! Our website is http://www.antvibes.com, and we also have a blog called The Mispronounced Name, at http://www.antvibes.com/blog. I would love for you to come and give us a visit!

    Thank you very much for sharing.


  3. My Tech Tutor
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 21:19:41

    I’m a Bryna too. But I call myself Bryna Lee (so people sometimes think I am Mrs. Lee. But my Mom always specified that my first name was Bryna Lee, not just Bryna and Bryna Leah was my “Jewish name” as she put it. Have to tell you that other people throughout my life have had many problems with the pronounciation and spelling of my name but in Israel, they don’t even need me to spell it. בריינה לאה
    Pretty cool. As a grown up, I really love the name and love that it is unique. People may not remember the name correctly, but they remember that it was unusual.


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