Jun 15, 2019

How to pronounce my name

My name is Sean McPherson, and I have an often mispronounced name. I wanted to take the opportunity for all those curious the history and pronunciation of my first and last names, and handle.

tl;dr My name is pronounced “Shon Mick·Fur·sen” and my handle is “Shon Mick·Pea”

Sean

Sean is an Irish counterpart to the English name John and the French name Jean. They all come from the Hebrew name Yohanan which means “God is gracious.”

Irish names in general are difficult for English-speakers to read, because the letters represent different phonemes, or sounds. To resolve this, Sean is often Anglicized as the more English phonetic “Shaun” or “Shawn.”

I pronounce Sean as “Shon.” This is the most common pronunciation, though you may have the good pleasure of coming across a “Seen” in your life. I’ve been told that there is a pronunciation of Sean that is closer to the English “Shane”, but I’ve never met one.

If you know a “Shon” spelled Sean in your life, please do pronounce the name appropriately. Chances are they, like me, have had their name mispronounced many times in their life, both accidentally and deliberately, and chafe at the sound of “Seen.”

Mispronuncations to avoid

  • “Seen”
  • “Say-on”
  • “See-an”

McPherson

McPherson is a version of the Scottish surname Macpherson. In the original Scots Gaelic, the name is rendered Mac a’ Phearsain and means “son of the parson.”

Macpherson is the name of a clan that hails from the Scottish Highlands. From there, the Macphersons spread throughout the British Isles, to the Americas, Australia, and the rest of the world.

Said with a Scottish accent, Macpherson is approximately pronounced “Mack·Fair·sen.” I’ve learned from Scots that there is no major distinction between “Mac” and “Mc” names; it’s largely a family or individual decision.

I pronounce McPherson as “Mick·Fur·sen.” In my experience, this is less common than a “Mick·Fear·sen” pronunciation. However, I feel my version is a) closer to the Scottish pronunciation, and b) more phonetic in American English. There are members of my own family who disagree and prefer “Fear” to “Fur.”

Mispronuncations to avoid

  • “Mick·Fear·sen”
  • “Mick·Person”

McP

Scottish and Irish surnames beginning with Mac/Mc are often abbreviated with the first letter after the prefix. For example, the name “McDonald” could be shortened to “McD.”

When reading one of the abbreviated names, the pronunciation is preserved for the prefix, but the letter is read by its name. “McD” would be read as “Mick·Dee” and not “Em·See·Dee” nor “Mick·Duh.”

I pronounce McP as “Mick·Pea.” My surname is unique in that the first letter after the prefix, p, is not pronounced in the full version. Despite this, I am still a McP along with all the McPattersons, and McPartlands of the world.

This article was originally posted on SeanMcP.com, which you now know is read “Shon Mick·Pea Dot Com.”

Mispronuncations to avoid

  • “Em·See·Pea”
  • “Mick·Puh”

To each their own

You may come across another Sean McPherson who pronounces his name differently than I do; and that’s okay. It is our reasonable responsibility to learn and use the correct pronunciation of our neighbor’s name to the best of our ability.

Prov. 18:10 (SDG)

An illustration of Sean McPherson's face

My name is Sean McPherson, and I'm a software developer and educator living in Atlanta, GA.

I write about React, JavaScript, accessibility, user experience, and occassionally some other topics.