That’s Not My Name: How You Really Pronounce ‘Ari’

September 24, 2018

Did you know we’ve all been pronouncing Ariana Grande’s last name wrong? I didn’t until about a week ago when the Internet informed me that yes, I have in fact been accenting the ‘a’ and the ‘e’ incorrectly — it’s Gran-dee according to her grandfather. More to the point, can we talk about how people have been pronouncing my name wrong my whole life and Ariana Grande’s popularity is the worst thing that could happen to me?

Truth be told, my name is a conundrum, and it has been long before Ariana Grande became a household name and “Into You” became my secret jam. Compounded with my terror of drawing attention to myself in elementary school, my very passive aggressive nature in high school, and my exhaustion with correcting people as a grown adult, my first name has become the stuff of enigma.

Is it pronounced this way or that way? They ask. WHO KNOWS.

Well, I know, and I’ve let people pronounce it wrong my whole life. If you’re a regular on my blog who doesn’t know me in person, you’ve DEFINITELY been pronouncing my name wrong. So buckle up. It’s time to set the record straight on what name I really go by.  

I was born on July 16th, 1992 to a man who was born at the cusp of Beatlemania and a woman whose hair icon may well have been Anni-Frid Lyngstad. By the time I had both little feet in the world in the early 90s, each of my parents still had one of theirs stuck in the late 80s. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that they took inspiration for my name — the defining word of my existence — from Alphaville, gods of puffy-haired proms and sticky teenage nostalgia.


I was named after track five of Alphaville’s third album, The Breathtaking Blue. The song opens with a yawning deep note reminiscent of the Lucasfilm THX movie trailer — I like to think that’s the sound the universe made when I came barreling out of the womb. After a bit of drums and guitar, Marian Gold sings, “Driving down the streets, listening to the radio. What do you get: Ariana.” This, coincidentally, was what my parents were doing when they got the idea for my name.

The Ariana of “Ariana” is an It Girl. She’s in newspapers, she’s on the silver screen, “she’s got chic, she’s got class, she’s got style.” Here’s this girl’s rap sheet (a badly cropped version):

alphaville lyric Basically, my mom and dad lovingly named me after the fictional equivalent of impossible standards for women, never suspecting that their Ariana’s spin on chique, class, and style would one day equate to binge watching obscure European thrillers in unwashed sweat pants and hocking snot rockets from her nose during long bicycle rides, but I digress.

The pronunciation of my name comes not from the verses but the chorus of “Ariana” and the bridge near the end. Marion Gold himself cannot consistently pronounce the name in his own song, which is telling. Listen here:

My name is Arianna. There’s no exotic roll on my ‘r. There’s no “aw” in the third syllable. You don’t start my name like it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Think of the word “airy” then think of the name “Anna.” That’s how you pronounce my name: airyanna. If you’re thinking this is a Saoirse Ronan of names, you are not wrong.

I love my name. My name and I, however, have been through the jaws of phonetic and social anxiety hell. When I was a kid, no one would say my name right the first time, and since talking to people was one of my biggest phobias, they were none the wiser. I let them call me Arena and Adrianna and “arrr-ee” like the little pushover I was. Subsequently, that annoying Ting Tings song in the late 2000s was my ANTHEM. Then I got older and more vocal about correcting my name. 

Enter Phase II.

“How do you pronounce your name?”
“It’s air-ee-anna.”
“That makes no sense.”

I didn’t make the rules, sis. I was a frickin’ baby.

So your nickname’s pronounced air-ee? It sounds like you have gas. You should just go by Anna.”

Gee, I’ve never heard that one before. Sure, let me just erase FIFTEEN YEARS OF PAVLOVIAN CONDITIONING TO GO BY A NICKNAME I HATE, CHAD.

Needless to say, being open about the pronunciation of my name led to its own pains, so I kind of just stopped because it was a hassle. As an adult, I’ve largely let mispronunciations slide because it’s whatever, right?

No. It’s my name, dangit, and I want people to say it right. I want you to say it right. 

So welcome to my blog, I go by /air-ee/. If you can’t stomach the gap between phonetics and actual pronunciation just yet, pretend “I go by Ari” is me being ironic.

Thanks for reading, Ariannamaniacs.

As it is a Monday, check out some tunes I’m loving recently (#musicmonday):

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