Happy birthday to Zach Galifianakis, who turns forty-four on this blessed day. Now there’s a guy with a complicated name, know what I mean? Like I get that it’s his birthday and all, but Zach knows what he did. Or what his parents did, rather. Any time I want to write about his antics, I have to look up whether he’s a Zack or a Zac or a Zach or even the rare breed of Zak who lives exclusively in The Bachelorette mansion and does shots of flavored vodka off his fellow bros. And don’t even get me started on his last name.
I realize that I don’t really have a leg to stand on, because my last name comes from a Welsh goddess (and / or a Fleetwood Mac song, depending on how fancy I’m feeling that day), but all I have a preponderance of is ‘N’s. Sure, the vowels are a little funky, but ultimately it’s spelled very similarly to how it sounds — RHIANNON. I don’t know. I’m biased, but I think that’s doable, right?
But GALIFIANAKIS? Look at all those sneaky letters hiding around in there! The stealthiest one is the ‘I’ hiding after the ‘F’, but they all get points, because this is a lot for my intelligence to handle. If I was spelling it the way it sounded, it’d be Galliffinnackus, which is nowhere near correct, so this one took a lot of memorizing. But I did it, okay? Because today is Zach’s birthday, and I’m a respectful human being. Simplifying it to the way my brain wants to spell it would be easier, yes, but less attractive to the eye. And also insulting to a man just as complex as his last name, y’know? Anyone with a beard that dense deserves a few secret vowels in his name, if you ask me.
I’m also being informed that if I spelled his name the way I wanted to, everyone would think I was a stupidhead. But that’s another story. We’ll worry about that later. In the meantime, let’s take a moment in honor of Zach’s special day to celebrate all the complicated names out there and the complicated celebrities who bear them. (And get me to a Hooked On Phonics class or something, while we’re at it.)
1. Zach Galifianakis
The way I wanna spell it: Zack Galliffinnackus
We’ve already discussed our dear boy Zach, but I just want to reiterate that I owe it to his beard and his peculiar (and hilarious) brand of stand-up comedy to figure out all the vowels lurking between those unfamiliar Greek consonants.
2. Saoirse Ronan
The way I wanna spell it: Seersha Ronan
Ah, you devilish Irish names! Putting three vowels in a row and asking me to pronounce them as a whole different vowel that’s not even present? Ice cold, Ronan. Ice cold. But she deserves a name this complicated, because she starred in Atonement when she was thirteen years old. If you’re famous before age fifteen, you can have all the vowels you want.
3. Scarlett Johansson
The way I wanna spell it: Scarlet Johansen
Two ‘T’s, one ‘N’, two ‘S’s. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, you guys, and I have to look it up every. time. But I can’t get too mad about it, because when you have as measured a reaction to your nude photos leaking as Scarlett did, you pretty much earn street cred for the rest of your natural born days. You can even throw another ‘N’ in there if you want. Or take one out. It’s up to you, Scarlett. You deserve it.
4. Matthew McConaughey
The way I wanna spell it: Matthew Mickonnahey
The whole two ‘C’s thing is a little too much for my morning brain to handle, and again I see you trying to trip me up with the mystery vowels, Matthew. But I can forgive you, because your first name is so easy for me to manage, and you’ve been really branching out into meatier roles, so you’re legit enough to get your name looked up on a daily basis. Or even memorized, if I’m feeling industrious.
5. Michelle Pfieffer
The way I wanna spell it: Michelle Fieffur
A ‘P’ followed by an ‘F’ will never make sense to me, but when you follow that up with two more ‘F’s and a baffling combination of ‘I’s and ‘E’s, I might as well go back to bed. BUT you’re way more attractive at age fifty-five than I am now, at age twenty-six, so you get to tell me what to do always, for the rest of my life. And if that includes looking up your name, so be it.
6. Arnold Schwarzenegger
The way I wanna spell it: Arnold Schwartzenayger
I am an intelligent person, and I have a diploma from a university, but I truly believe I will never master this one. How is there no ‘T’ in it? And only one ‘A’? I always think I have it, and I’m always wrong. But, like, he was the Terminator and the Governator, so what do I have to complain about, y’know?
7. Quvenzhané Wallis
The way I wanna spell it: Little Q. Just kidding! That’s just how all the news outlets did pronounce it during Oscar season last year.
But honestly, even knowing the pronunciation, I have no idea how I’d guess it was spelled. Wikipedia suggest Kwuh-VEN-zhuh-nay. Sure. But again, this girl was the youngest ever Best Supporting Actress nominee for Beasts Of The Southern Wild, so I think I can go out of my way to copy-and-paste her name from IMDb to make sure I get that little dash above the E.
8. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
The way I wanna spell it: Nickollage Coster-Waldow
This post has just become me proving my ignorance about non-American names, at this point. This is embarrassing. But I’m not familiar with Danish names, so I have no idea how to spell Nikolaj! I’m sorry! But, he’s one half of my favorite duo in Game Of Thrones, so I think I can make it happen.
9. Cara Delevingne
The way I wanna spell it: Kara Delevennyay
Girl that is an extra N. That is a flat-out extra letter in the middle of your name. What are you trying to do to me? But as much as I grumble every time I have to Google you, if Harry Styles thinks that extra ‘N’ is worth learning how to place, then so do I.
10. M. Night Shyamalan
The way I wanna spell it: Emnite Shamalan
I’ll acknowledge that this one isn’t actually all that difficult, but as M. Night becomes less and less relevant, I become more and more annoyed about trying to remember where that Y goes. And honestly, why are you going by your first initial and then an unrelated word? This is confusing to me. But I’ll give you half a free pass for The Sixth Sense, and another for She’s All That.
11. Chiwetel Ejiofor
The way I wanna spell it: Choowitel Eh-gee-oh-for
Again, I am ignorant. This is my fault. I am rude — but this name consistently stymies me. 12 Years A Slave is getting a ton of Oscar buzz, though, so I only have a few months to pull it together.
12. Joe Manganiello
The way I wanna spell it: Joe Mangunnello
Aren’t we getting a little over-ambitious with the vowels again? We’re not even saying some of those, so why are they skulking around in there? Guyyyyyys! But I got to see Joe strip in Magic Mike, so I guess he’s earned himself some time off from my whining.
13. Chloë Sevigny
The way I wanna spell it: Chloe Sevaynee
As someone who is not well-versed in the keyboard arts, you should know that any time any little dots or dashes show themselves above a letter in a name, I have to literally copy and paste it from somewhere on the internet. But Chlo-chlo (see how I avoided that, there?) is more fashionable than I shall ever be, so I’ll let it slide.
14. Shia LaBeouf
The way I wanna spell it: Shaya TheBeef
We can all acknowledge that Shia’s name means ‘the beef’, right? And that he has beefs with other actors, namely Alec Baldwin? So why am I still looking up the order of the French vowels in this name? I get more irritated by it with every new inch he grows out in that scraggly neckbeard.
15. Mia Wasikowska
The way I wanna spell it: Mia Vasheekoffskuh
When you spell it like that you make me look like a bigtime idiot because I pronounce it wrong, Mia! I’m a silly old American! I say what I see! And your Polish name is to smart for my stupid head! But you are lovely and talented, so I will do my bestest to rectify this error in my ways.
Moral of the story after all this? I AM LAZY AND STUPID AND I’M SORRY YOU’RE ALL BEAUTIFUL CREATURES WITH GLORIOUS NAMES AND I REGRET EVERYTHING!