My parents named me Colette. Not for any special reason. Not after the writer who I’m sure they never heard of (not being judgmental; just stating a fact). There was no other Colette around, no friend or relative I was named after. I have one other sibling they bestowed with an uncommon name but it was a derivative of our grandfather’s name. So I was their sole kid with a true out-of-the-box name. Which, in the long run, kind of makes sense, although again, it wasn’t anything they planned.
As a kid, I dreamed of being a “Linda” or “Jennifer.” “Colette” was a name I had to grow into but when I did, I was grateful to have an unusual name. Today I think it’s pretty cool.
It’s a name, however, that regularly gets butchered. I’ve been called Colleen, Nicole, Claudette, and even Suzette once last year. In grade school, a classmate once addressed a Valentine card to me as “Clet.” Why trouble yourself with all those pesky extra letters? The pronunciation I despise though, is CAW-lette. It pains me.
When I say it, I pronounce my name with the emphasis on “lette” so it sounds like CuLETTE, not CO-lette. There’s nothing wrong with the latter per se – it’s kind of pretty said that way – it’s just that I say it the way I learned it and the way it flows more easily. Frankly, in childhood, I heard my name barked sternly at me a lot, like so: CuLETTE!!
I don’t know exactly when it happened that my mother switched up her pronunciation and began referring to me awkwardly as CO-lette instead of the way she always said it, the way she taught ME to say it from birth. I was an adult and it kind of freaked me out. There was something very stilted about it, which seemed symbolic almost of our relationship. My own mother didn’t say my name right?? What is THAT?? (A sister unfortunately picked it up, but fortunately called me by a nickname anyway. My head might have blown if multiple blood relatives started mispronouncing my name.)
I’ll tell you one other little family oddity. One of my sisters gave her only child my name but she doesn’t seem to know it. I’ve never even brought up this observation to anyone. Her son is Cole. When she told me the baby’s name and how she and her husband decided on it, she never uttered a word about it being so close to my own. Our relationship was such that I have some confidence she would never have deliberately given her child my name, but I think she accidentally did. Yeah, my family is weird.