How do you say ‘Nina?’ Nine with an ‘a’

Published 1:15 am Saturday, September 19, 2015

I am never surprised when someone I never met before mispronounces my name. What does surprise me a bit is when I tell them my name and a few seconds later, they call me “Neena.” “No,” I sometimes say. “It is Nina—nine like the number nine with an ‘a’ added at the end. Nina.” With some people it sticks, with others, it never does. After a few times, I just give up.

Years ago in Baldwin County when I was on staff at “The Onlooker,” I met a dear person who worked at one of the other Gulf Coast Media newspapers. Just like most, she addressed me first as “Neena.” I corrected her. Laughing, she said she would call me “Neena-Nina,” to make sure she got it right. Before long, we became great friends. It amused me that she never stopped calling me that.

In my job, I often made many telephone calls. I recall one frustrating day when it seemed I had spent most of my time on the telephone—not chatting, however. I was working on an article that required calling numerous people. It was hard to reach a real person by telephone. After some time punching menu numbers, listening to how important my call was to those for whom I was holding on, and enduring some music I did not ask for, I felt really fortunate when a live person answered.

Everything was still not rosy. Before I could ask my questions, I was quizzed. After revealing everything from my birth date to my grandmother’s maiden name (well, almost), that person redirected me. Again, I had to listen to menus, and the “You are important to us…” replies. I finally got someone who helped me. Thank goodness!

Now, just one more call and I could hang up and begin working on my story. To my delight, after only two menu punches, a live male voice answered. He told me his first name. Then he asked me my name. There has always been confusion about our last name, “Keenam,” which is often mispronounced and written “Keenan.” To be precise, I spelled it for him, emphasizing the last letter “m.” He correctly repeated the spelling. “OK and your first name is Nina.” He pronounced it Neena.

“No,” I answered, “Nina.” He disputed me, “Neena.” My other calls were frustrating enough. Now this person who had not even given me his last name questioned my name. “No. My name is pronounced like nine with an ‘a’ on the end,” I explained.

He laughed. “Where do you live?”


“Well, if you lived in California, it would be Neena.”

He was the only person who actually challenged the pronunciation of my name. I bit my tongue to keep from being rude to him. But then he laughed. So did I. We continued our conversation without further mention of my name.

Maybe that Californian was also having a frustrating day and “Neena” furnished him a laugh.


Nina Keenam is a former reporter.