It happens every week, if not every game. And if you've ever watched highlights or listened to the radio the odds are pretty good that you've heard Shan Foster's name mispronounced because if somebody pronounces his name the way it looks they are mispronouncing it.
|Shan Foster has helped make a name for Vandy, not yet himself. (US Presswire)|
But it's pronounced Shane.
Not since Antawn Jamison made us call him something that sounds like An-Twan has college basketball had a star with such a misleading first name, and it all could've been avoided with a simple 'e' on the end of Shan. With a spellcheck, if you will. And this has always bothered me. Or at least baffled me. So with Foster's career winding down I finally took it upon myself to get to the bottom of this modern mystery, to do the kind of investigative journalism that has defined my career and figure out why Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer is one 'e' short of a traditional spelling.
Naturally, I started with the source.
"I don't even know how that came about," Foster said. "I don't know where Shan came from, derived from or whatever. I'll have to ask my mom about that."
At this, I laughed.
All this time I had considered it strange that I write about college basketball and yet did not know the story behind Shan Foster's name, given how it is my job to know about things like this. I know Chase Budinger was a high school volleyball star. And that Darnell Jackson has endured more tragedies than any young person should ever have to endure. And that Kevin Love's uncle is a Beach Boy. But I never knew why Shan was missing an 'e'.
Turns out, he didn't know either. And this was hilarious to me on some level.
But rather than wait on Foster to figure it out and get back in touch, I opted to interrogate his mother on my own. So I got the number, dialed the number, introduced myself to Anita Horne and asked if she knew why I was calling.
"Yes and no," she answered. "Something about his name?"
Yes ma'am, I said.
People keep asking me about Shan's name. If there's a story there I'd love to know it.
"There is no story; I just liked the name Shane," Mrs. Horne said. "But I also like different and unique things."
For instance ...
"I have a sister named Cinnamon," Shan said. "But it is spelled nothing like the spice."
No, it's not. Cinnamon is spelled Senimon.
"It's different," Mrs. Horne said. "But it's spelled exactly how it sounds."
And that's the common thread between all six of Shan's siblings. The names Senimon and Ashanti and Jacobi and Amaria and Alexandria (note the vowels at the end of those last four names) and even John Jr. are all spelled how they sound, and I can appreciate the simplicity.
But in some ways this discovery only made the name Shan more puzzling because Shan isn't spelled conventionally or how it sounds. And I really felt like I was getting nowhere until Mrs. Horne further explained.
"I did not want to spell Shan as if people would say it and say, 'OK, this is how you spell it,'" she said. "So I named him Shan and put an accent mark over the 'a'. The 'a' should be accented. When he was born we used to write things and you could put the accent mark there. But technology has made everything on a computer, and a computer doesn't let you put that accent mark over his 'a' to show that it's a long 'a'."
So there's supposed to be an accent mark? Like on his birth certificate there is an accent mark?
"There absolutely is," Mrs. Horne said. "It's absolutely there."
So Shan Foster is actually Shán Foster. Mystery solved.
But the odds are still slim that this column will ensure no further mispronunciations.
I know that. Foster knows that. His mother knows that.
And she's pretty much OK with it ... at least at this point.
"I used to be like, 'Will somebody please tell these commentators how to pronounce his name!?!'" Mrs. Horne said with a laugh. "But it's been four years. So now we just feel blessed and excited that Shán's having a great season, and we don't really care what they call him anymore."