Hi Duana!

I'm a product of the Whole Language movement, which means I cannot spell! Syntax, diction, even diagramming sentences is my jam, but I can't tell you the number of times I have screamed in frustration at a crossword puzzle, only to have my husband point out that I have the right word, it's just spelled wrong.

But, spelling is hard! Especially since we love the name Djuna. We started at Jane, passed by June, took a turn at Gemma, and then there was Djuna Barnes's wonderful book Nightwood sitting on the shelf, and I became obsessed.

So here's my question: is it going to be less of a headache to just spell it Juna? I actually expect a lot of people to like the name Djuna when they hear it. After all, it basically sounds like you Emma-ed the name June. But, I am concerned that it will get a wide range of side-eyes when it appears on paper.

My husband says, "F-ck that--it's spelled Djuna, let's name her Djuna."* 

And, I want to agree. I feel like Juna with a J is a little bit of a cop-out. But, here is my list of reservations:

-Anticipated parent disapproval (both his side and mine)
-People having no clue what to do with that silent "D" (I wouldn't!)
-The Southern Mother Shade ("Bless your heart, what an interesting name.")
-My husband's last name is not easy either

To this final point, it would be one thing if her last name was going to be Smith, but it won't. It's actually a French-Canadian name. But, we don't live in Canada. We live in the Southeast US, and my husband always has to tell people how to spell and pronounce his last name.

Should we avoid giving her two names with tricky spellings? Is Juna with a J more clean and simple than Djuna with a D? Or is my spelling anxiety just getting in the way?

Thank you for reading this!


*You probably already know this, but Djuna Barnes's name was made up by her family, so who's to say how it's "supposed" to be spelled, right? Sneaking suspicion Barnes Sr. would have been pro Whole Language...


Whooooooaaaa is this question ever right up my alley. I discovered Djuna Barnes pretty late in the game, as in not until university. Maybe it’s not that late, but because I’m a narcissist, I immediately saw the name on the book and thought, ‘Hey it’s almost my name! Who is this woman? I should care!’

Obviously Djuna is nowhere near to my name in actuality – but this has not stopped well-read types from looking at my name when printed, and mentally transposing D-U-A_N_A to ‘Djuna’.  

Sure, Jan. 

Nonetheless, I’ve been in love with this name for a while, but I haven’t had a lot of hope that people would use it! As you accurately point out, a lot of people are put off by the silent (or almost silent?) ‘D’ at the front, and I guess I understand that. After all, how many times have you heard actor Djimon Hounsou refered to as ‘Digimon’? 


The fact that the name is surprising is what makes it cool! Unusual and exciting! I think you already know that ‘Juna’ isn’t nearly as charming when it’s written, and that people who are going to ‘bless your heart’ about it aren’t going to be seeing the silent ‘D’ that often anyway. 

That is, if there are people in your life who are going to try to end-around you and call her Junie, there’s not a lot you can do about that. But the silent letter at the front doesn’t mitigate that at all, and does make it interesting. 

Which leads us to baby Djuna’s surname. I get that you say it’s not ‘easy’, but I confess, fully in my own bias here, that I think that makes Djuna more appropriate, not less. That is, even though Djuna Barnes had, by all accounts, a ‘recognizable’ English name, I get a lot of people who feel the opposite way from you – that they would like to choose a less common name like Paloma or Kaito or etc, but feel like they can’t make it work with their Jones-and-Smith style surnames. Consider that having a ‘not easy’ surname, in your estimation, may actually make people more inclined to notice the difference in Djuna’s first name and respect it, as opposed to automatically mishearing Janie, or Jana, or whatever. 

With the caveat that I have absolutely no idea how to diagram a sentence and only knew it was a thing from that one illustration in ‘Little Town On The Prairie’, I wholeheartedly endorse the use of Djuna, in its original form. 

Let us know! 

PS – Where the ‘correct’ spelling of made-up names is concerned, I think we tend to go with where they were first created as the official source. Jonathan Swift made up ‘Vanessa’ and Shakespeare has ‘Jessica’ and ‘Miranda’ and ‘Imogen’ to his credit, among others, so I’m inclined to say once it’s in print, that spelling is basically under copyright. Thoughts?