Thursday, June 19, 2014

What's not in a name?

Do you murder names and surnames? Not your own, someone else's. It's bad enough when you misspell or mispronounce a name, it's far worse when you do that to a surname, and smear the good family name. No matter how tongue-twisting a name is, it can and should be spelt or said correctly. All it requires is a little tact, a little patience, and a little sensitivity.

Writing or pronouncing a name wrongly can be hurtful though most people at the receiving end won't say anything or show they’re annoyed. They'll grit their teeth and bear it quietly, and damn you to hell.

I speak from considerable experience as would nearly everyone on my father's side. So far we've survived through it and, no doubt, future generations too will. I've seen and heard at least six fantastic variations of my surname and none of those match up. The mutilated forms are all I hear mostly so much so that sometimes I wonder if one of those might not actually be my family name. At such times I take out my birth certificate but what difference will it make if people don't know how to pronounce it.

Conversely, less than ten people have uttered my surname correctly during twenty-eight years of my life as a career journalist. I tip my hat to these thoughtful people.

In my opinion, wrong name-calling is worse than failing to remember a name. There, at least, you’re keeping mum and not opening your mouth and putting your platypus foot in it.

So what prompts one to butcher another’s name? I’m assuming its plain ignorance and indifference. While the first denotes one’s failure to get facts right, the second smacks of callousness and an I-couldn’t-care-less attitude, which is sadly but increasingly becoming the social template of the 21st century.

There is a solution but I wouldn’t wager my good family name upon it. Next time you want to call out to me, a simple “Hey you!” will do. Just keep the finger down. I can't promise that I won't turn around and glower at you.


  1. I've been subvocalizing your name as "TREE-cahn-nahd" close do I get?

  2. My husband's last name, which I share, is never spelled or pronounced right, and I have a litany when I'm on the phone with a stranger where I spell it out. As for myself, once I have heard a name pronounced, I write it down with my own phonetic sort of spelling so I can refer to it. I find the Icelandic authors and characters to be particularly difficult, especially when I heard them pronounced in different ways. I think it is discourteous, and just plain lazy, not to try and say a name right.