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Brief Notes on Nomenclature

Now is probably a good time to deal with the small issues of nomenclature dogging the Watts case. Why is it that some people refer to her as Shanann, others [including this site] as Shan’ann, and some uninformed former drama teachers as Shanna Ann? What’s the correct spelling?

I took my cue from the funeral leaflet. It seems unlikely that Shan’ann’s nearest and dearest would get her name wrong.


So, from September 1 onwards I used this spelling as the convention. I believe the way Shan’ann spelled her name on Facebook was because Facebook often doesn’t recognize unusual names, hyphenated names or names with apostrophes.

The name on her grave also appears to follow the same convention.

Thus the TCRS convention is to use:


To use the conventional spelling [which, incidentally, the lawyers “representing” the Rzucek family have just done, suggests pronouncing her name Shannon. I.e. Shanann = shannon.

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The apostrophe breaks the name into two syllables, with slightly added emphasis on the second instead of the first:

sha -nann sha’nann

As recently as November 14th, media outlets like KDVR were still spelling Shan’ann’s name Shanann and Shannan in the same article!

People magazine, on the other hand, appear to have accepted the apostrophe as a convention.


Is the unborn baby spelled Nico or Niko? If we use the same reasoning as the funeral nomenclature then we ought to go with the former, and yet, I haven’t. So why haven’t I?

I believe the Rzuceks purposefully altered the spelling from Niko to Nico because of the association with Nichol Kessinger. This may be the reason, or it was a spelling error. Either way, the initial spelling for Niko in the media, when the press were referring to Niko’s Law, was Niko with a K.

It’s not clear where Brittney Basher’s petition on to charge Watts with a 4th count of murder [by recognizing the unborn fetus as person in its own right] was a misspelling, and that all the media then cottoned on to the misspelling. It seems unlikely that someone would misspell Nico with a K when it’s conventionally spelled without one.

It also seems unlikely that if the name was misspelled, it would have been corrected immediately. On the other hand, the Rzuceks don’t seem to be avid readers. In any event, the “Niko’s Law” spelling seemed to indicate the spelling at the funeral was to score a point against the killer by misspelling his son’s name, or was a misspelling.

I elected to follow the Niko’s law spelling for reasons that were grounded in reality, but were also in a sense more intuitive than anything else.


Shan’ann spelled Ceecee’s name Cece, so why not spell it the way she wanted it? The reason is because when “e” follows “c” the “e” [when there’s just one] is usually silent. One way to illustrate this convention is with the letter “v”. When “v” is followed by a single “e” it has a “buzz” sound to it, as in the case of “have” and starve”. So no one intending to say “Vee for victory” would spell it “Ve for victory”.

I’ve used the same logic with a word that when spelled out in “practice”, ”
nice” or “rice” doesn’t translate to the “ee” sound.

So in the instance of Celeste’s name, I’ve overridden Shan’ann’s spelling because it seems to be a misspelling. Facebook is full of misspellings, and that doesn’t mean these misspellings should be carried over into journalism and reporting as well.


I’ve taken quite a lot of flack for spelling Deeter with two “e’s” instead of “ie” – that was how both Shan’ann and Frankie spelled it. If the word is written in small caps, we have “dieter”, from someone going on a diet. Removing the “t” it still has the wrong sound. “Die” and “Dee” are completely different. So why not “Deter”, from “Peter”? Because, again, in small caps it’s “deter”, as in a deterrence. English is a funny language isn’t it?

There are a few names based on double “e’s” including “Fleet” and words like “creeper”.

In the same way that I thought Nico might be a type, and Ceecee clearly is, Deeter is also a misspelling. While I would like to be as conscientious in honoring the spelling as it’s supposed to be, and as it was intended, I draw the line at misspelling, and then making a misspelling a convention.

I hope this clears any confusion going forward, but with that said, in a case where there’s  so much uncertainty about how names are spelled, don’t the public deserve a court case to get certainty about everything else?

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  1. fromheretohome

    Just a note… Dieter (pronounced Deeter) is a German name and CeCe (pronounced Ceecee) is a girl’s name of Latin origin, but also commonly used as a nickname for Girls names beginning with the letters ‘Ce’. Names of ‘foreign’ origin aren’t expected to follow the rules of the English language. Thanks a mil for the great coverage.

    • nickvdl

      Good point. The Dutch also change the spelling of Peter to Pieter, but it’s actually pronounced differently. One is aware of this when you’re fluent in both languages. The news media have also been all over the place with the spelling of the dog’s name. And then there’s also the name of the MLM company that’s hyphenated, not Level but Le-Vel.

  2. fromheretohome

    Yes, Dieter is pronounced in very much the same way as the Dutch & Afrikaans ‘Pieter’… I reckon the American media would short-circuit trying to figure out the correct pronunciation for ‘Pieter’.

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