So it’s not just me then?

This can run and run. Barely a week after my moan about Mariella Frostrup’s mangling of Scandinavian names, I have already had at least two facebook discussions on related topics.

I have continued my attempts at phonetic writing, when I don’t know what the other party is capable of understanding. (Sorry. I don’t mean that you are idiots. Just that there is a need to adapt for those who are not language students.)

Aminatta Forna

Anyway, that’s not what I was going to blog about. I happened upon this piece by Aminatta Forna in the Guardian. I know exactly what she means, even if my name as many of you know is somewhat simpler (=common). I even know what Aminatta looks like. Not sure how to pronounce her name, but in my thoughts I go mostly Italian. Which is probably wrong.

Whenever I read anything American, be it fact or fiction, I’m always taken aback by the sheer number of ‘difficult’ names and have wondered how they cope. According to Aminatta they have a working system of asking people to spell their names out.

It’s an excellent solution, and necessary, but one I avoid as much as possible. Once someone gets started on a-m-i-n-a-t-t-a my mind goes blank, and I only catch half of it and not necessarily in the right order. I can spell things out to people, but have difficulty if on the receiving end. I don’t suppose I could ask you to spell using the Swedish alphabet?

Whatever. My surname causes panic in Sweden where people are quite capable of saying ‘miles’, but opt for something that would rhyme with ‘millis’ for my name. But that’s OK. They are foreign. So why can’t people in ‘British’ call centres get it right?

And Swedes know for a fact that Ian rhymes with Brian. It must. Just look at it!

Aminatta would like her New Year cards to bear her name, correctly spelled. We have just received yet another card to ‘Dave’. There is no such person here. Anyone less Dave-like than the Resident IT Consultant you’d have to search for millis for. Why assume that you can use pet names for people you don’t know well enough to know that it’s not what they are called?

I’m so fussy that I would struggle to call a man Dave unless that’s the first version I hear.

And I’m aware that my name sounds the same, whether or not you add an ‘e’ at the end. But in writing it doesn’t feel like me if the ‘e’ is present. People are always adding the unwanted ‘e’. My neighbour three doors down complains that people are always removing her ‘e’. Never happy, are we?

I’m always pleased when people remember. And I’m astounded when those I barely know (or who barely know me) actually do recall the with-or-without issue. Steve Cole is one such person. Many remember the issue, but not which way it goes.

If you meet someone, don’t you at least try and listen to see how they say their name? To the best of my knowledge it’s not Meg Rose-off. And Debi Gliori has a silent ‘g’. Before meeting Rick Riordan I went to his website. He has a place where you can hear him pronounce Riordan. It’s quite easy once you know it’s not said ‘the other way’.

I’d be grateful (yes, I would, actually) if people could write in and correct all my own mistakes. I’ll compile a list.

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10 responses to “So it’s not just me then?

  1. Strange, but the resident IT consultant at the bookshop I work in is called Dave (and no, it would never be David.). Maybe you’ve been getting his mail.

  2. You should try being GERAS….almost no one says it properly: with a hard G and to rhyme EXACTLY with ‘terrace’ …but I don’t mind. As long, I tell people, as you can find it in a library or bookshop, that’s fine! And Adele gives certain people trouble too. There are those who put the emphasis firmly on the A…instead of on the E….again, I don’t much mind. But I can see the Ian/Brian thing being annoying!

  3. Siaana, I’ll send the card over straight away. And your ‘name’ on other blogs I used to read initially as ‘sea nag’. Maritime horse…

    Adellee, (sorry, couldn’t resist – you do have two ‘es’), I think I have Geras right, and I believe I have it from hearing you say it. But the French way, especially when you say it, is very charming. The only issue I have with your parents over your very lovely name is the time it takes to type the è.

    As for short forms of names, I always feel I’m taking a liberty calling Mr Geras Norm. Norman feels more proper, somehow. But I’m working on the Norm business.

    Rhyming names with wellknown words is good. Terrace. Must remember that if anyone gets difficult. Philip Ardagh goes round telling people he rhymes with ‘hit me harder’. Always memorable.

  4. When we moved to Britain twenty years ago, my son and I agreed that we would call him Andrew instead of Andreas while we were staying there. Not for everybody else´s sake, but for his. He´d rather have a proper, English name than listening to people maltreating his Danish one.

  5. Son’s new university lecturer insisted on his group changing their dreadfully foreign names to more Swedish versions. Son, being his mother’s child, had very strong opinions about this.

    I go with my original name in the old place and the Anglo pronunciation over here.

  6. My full name is Cheterele, and as much as I love it, I have given up using it its so much of a headache. But neither can people pronounce or spell Che. I alays tell them its like Che Guevara and then they look at me funny, imagining me as a gun toting Communist (or my mother at least). But what really infuritates me is when people ask me to spell it as they write out name tags and as I speak they write S.h.e.a or S.h.e. If you are not going to listen, why ask?!

  7. havealittletalk

    More often than you might expect, the first thing I have to get straight with English correspondents is that I am not a man. In the US, Laurie is a female name. (Question: is it in Scotland? I’m thinking of Annie Laurie — or is Laurie her last name, like Hugh Laurie?)

    But here is what is really strange. My parents mispronounced my name. It wasn’t until I lived in the South that I heard it correctly. I grew up hearing Lorry (a popular name at the time where I lived — Miami — was Lori). But it should be more like Law-rie. . . .Umm, right?

  8. OK, are you Lorry or Lawrie? Make your mind up.

    I’m very happy with Che, with or without the guns. Wear a beret! If it’s the spelling, then it must be me getting it wrong.

  9. havealittletalk

    Oh, I prefer Law-rie, if that’s the right way to say it.

    But while I’m at it, what’s up with Ralph? How on earth can Ralph be said like waif only with an R and not like Alf. Here it sounds like something cats say. I couldn’t figure out who this Raif Fiennes character was that people were going on about for longest time.

  10. Hate to say it but in the U.S. people mess up names and spellings all of the time. I have sent flowers and booked plane reservations for friends for years, and names are always misheard, mispronounced, misspelled, and even with mine, which is fairly simple.
    I like Andreas much more than Andrew. It’s interesting and not boring.
    Aminatta Forna is a beautiful name. It should be appreciated.
    Gosh, the beauty of all of these names and nationalities over here in the states; it’s one of the things I like so much here living in a big city, the cosmopolitanness of it all. But then again some people want everyone to look alike and have names like Smith and Jones. Boring! It’s a globalized world and getting more so every day, so enjoy it is my motto.

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