Dear Bewildering Number of Ways to Spell “Brittany,”

At the start of every semester I scan the student rosters. Sure enough, there you are. If my classes were hip-hop tracks, you’d be the James Brown drum sample. There were three of you in my 10 am class last fall. This past spring I had two in my 9 am class and one each in my three evening classes. That’s a total of eight girls named Brittany with only one spelled that way. The rest are Brittney, Britany, Brittanny, Britney, Britani, Brittny, and Britanni. That doesn’t include the remaining odd few I’ve encountered (I’m looking at you, Brittaneigh). Basically, any arrangement of vowels and letter N after “Brit” allows you into the club.

Why you, Brittany? There are a lot of monikers I could reconfigure — give me a K and I can go to town with Courtney. But for some reason you’re the one all the Gen-X parents flocked to while naming their daughters back when Winona Ryder could open a film. Now you’re all in college, crammed into freshman Core classes, eager for the next assignment. Everybody in the Brittany cabal seems to be polite, dutiful, and willing to work hard. None of you has ever tried wheedling a higher grade from me or complained to the dean whenever I drop the f-bomb while lecturing about plagiarism. I rarely give anything below a B to any of you so there appears to be a good work ethic within Brittanyville.

A confession: I used to try and guess your ethnicity before classes started. I figured Britney would be white and Brittani African-American only to discover I was way off. Then Asian and Latina Brit girls began enrolling, which muddled the mix to the point I gave up guessing. I also used to intentionally call your name aloud in class just to watch your heads spin in homonym confusion wondering who I was addressing. I stopped after one of you said to me with a straight face, “I’m not Britney, I’m Britannni.”

Today I can’t tell any of you apart, regardless of your demographic. Of the three I had last fall — Britany, Britanny and Britani — one was short and Latina, one was tall and blonde, and the third was Kenyan with amazing extensions. Sorry, you still all look alike to me. I hope that doesn’t make me sound racist.

Why don’t you all get together and form a sorority? Phi Beta Brittany, or whatever mash-up of Greek letters you prefer. You can wear little pins that show you’re part of a group that celebrates all things Brit. All I ask is that you not roll your eyes whenever I misspell your name on a grading rubric. Because as far as I can tell, that’s impossible.

Tom Reynolds