It's easy to spell and pronounce in Cyrillic.
August 1, 2013 6:36 AM   Subscribe

So, dad made a career-motivated, discrimination-avoiding last name change as a very young 1st generation American in the 40s (for the change, think Jon Stewart ditching, "Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz"). Now, after a great deal of thought (and family support) I plan to take back the old surname.

I'm at a career change transition point (and will keep the old surname as a middle name) so don't anticipate too much complication with the switchover. However, I'm having a tough time debating what spelling to use.

The original--which is a proud name full of heritage back in the old country, so I have no desire to modify it) contains a letter/sound that does not have an equivalent in the Roman alphabet; it is transliterated into the Latin alphabet abroad into a character that also doesn't exist here.

Let's say the most accurate transliteration (used on a family tree, by most natives of that country who end up here and in western Europe, and in one of the federal records I found) is, "Zbrjyuskij." But if you're not expecting people to make soft palate sounds and are not concerned with accuracy, many translate it as "Brewski." There are millions of "Brewski"s online, but very few "Zbrjyuskij"'s. My first name is very common, my new middle name/old surname is not eye-wateringly ethnic either by US standards.

Am I a masochist for considering Zbrjyuskij, or am I a half-assed hypocrite for considering Brewski? Possibly relevant: I am an ambitious person (but not in sales, PR, or showbiz) with no gender privilege or current class/soclal privilege to float by on.
posted by blue suede stockings to Human Relations (51 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you considered using a standardized Romanization scheme?
posted by Jahaza at 6:46 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh yes, you are masochistic, in the extreme.

Go with the easy spelling, if you really feel the need to change your name.

I hyphenated my last name when I got married. Took my VERY Jewish last name and paired it with one of the 15 last names prevalent in KY, and now it's a nightmare.

You'll be asked to spell it. Repeatedly. You won't get your mail. Your email will never get to you. Your reservations will disappear.

Don't go with the Zbrjyuskij, you won't be sorry.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:46 AM on August 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have an incredibly unique surname also. So unique that all of the [surnames] in my country belong to my family, and any creep could find me with a quick google search. I personally find it a hassle, since I'd rather be anonymous online personally.

The constant mispronunciation is kind of fun. Sometimes people get it right!

Depends on what you do whether you'd want to be a Brewski (Hey Blue Suede, wanna brewski? i.e. beer) for the rest of your life. I think THAT would get old.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I a masochist for considering Zbrjyuskij

A little bit. You will never again interact with a stranger who is not from...Poland?...who can pronounce your last name correctly. You will constantly have people mangle your last name, or stop and ask you how to pronounce that? Where's that from? Wow, that sure is a mouthful! I bet you get this a lot, don't you? I would have said Zeebroogyooskiige!... It will likely get old, fast. It may still be worth it for you.

am I a half-assed hypocrite for considering Brewski?

You're not a hypocrite. You'd be preserving the sound of your family name without inflicting daily hassle on yourself. There's nothing wrong with that. But don't feel that you need to make it easier on others - people are more and more used to dealing with non-Anglo names, and too bad for them if it's a mouthful.

Your email will never get to you.

This is an important point that I hadn't considered.
posted by Dasein at 6:49 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Have you considered using a standardized Romanization scheme?

I have studied that very table. And it contains a letter/sound that does not have an equivalent in the Roman alphabet; it is transliterated into the Latin alphabet abroad into a character that also doesn't exist here.
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:50 AM on August 1, 2013


If you are translating a Cyrillic name into Roman letters, you are already modifying it from its "proud heritage in the old country" because you are using a different alphabet. For a rather famous example, writing "Yeltsin" is a modification of Е́льцин. There is no "ь" equivalent in the Roman alphabet (just as your name contains a non-English equivalent letter), and I do not think that it is some sort of sellout to use "Yeltsin" to romanize "Е́льцин".

The purpose of transliteration is to convey, as best as is possible or practicable, the sounds of the original term into the target language. Go with Brewski. (I assume "Brewski" is not the actual name but just an example you are providing)

You can get better answers if you tell us where "here" is or at least what the two languages in question are, but I think I have pretty much covered it.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Could you give us a more precise account of the real, original pronunciation? Perhaps link to a Cyrillic depiction, or spell it out somehow? IPA?

My first impulse is to go ahead and add a syllable to the beginning, something like "Zebryuski" - Brewski is too pop-culture beer-reference, I think. Consider your children (sons and daughters).
posted by amtho at 6:52 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: [it's not actually Brewski. This is the letter/sound in question. I love the look of the transliteration that came over on the boat (and in letters family have received from the old country; I think about people from Asia and Africa who aren't power-washing "difficult" names anymore, but I also think of how even I stumble a bit in typing it out quickly right now, as I'm trying to road test it in private.]
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:56 AM on August 1, 2013


My only objection to 'Brewski' is that too many people will consider that a joke --- hey, have a brewski! --- and, on finding out you chose that name, will not take you seriously in any profession. 'Zbrjyuskij' may be too much of a mouthful, though, as well as a spelling nightmare; isn't there any middle ground you could take between the two? Especially since that's also just a transliteration of the original.
Bruwski
Bruski
Zbrewski
Zbrusky

Remember, in the US, the law never defines how a name is pronounced, just how it's spelled, which is why I've got relatives living in Worcester Mass. (pronounced 'Wooster').
posted by easily confused at 6:56 AM on August 1, 2013


Guys, I think Zbrjyuskij/Brewski is an analogy, since there is exactly one Google hit for Zbrjyuskij ... this thread.
posted by Jahaza at 6:57 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: My only objection to 'Brewski' is that too many people will consider that a joke

It's not Brewski or any other Simpsons-like joke--that was an example striving for anonymity. See here.
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:58 AM on August 1, 2013


If there is an area you have in mind where you would like to spend most of your life, it might be worthwhile to consider which is more prevalent there. I did most of my growing up in an area where there were a lot of descendants of Polish immigrants, so more people were used to the more complicated Roman-alphabet spellings, and didn't stumble over the pronunciations so much. Where I live now, that would probably be more of an issue. Of course, in this day and age people move more, so you can't predict with 100% accuracy, but it's something to think about.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:58 AM on August 1, 2013


And make damn sure whatever you change your name to is not also a word in a middle eastern language. Flying will become a nightmare.

You'd think that wouldn't be possible with Slavic languages, but it is.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:59 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia article says it's transliterated as "dj" when "đ" is not available. I'd go with that. (Notably, this is done for Novak Djokovic.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:04 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: And make damn sure whatever you change your name to is not also a word in a middle eastern language. Flying will become a nightmare.

You'd think that wouldn't be possible with Slavic languages, but it is.


Based on looks alone, I already get the "random" TSA massage plus explosives swab even after the full body scan, because light-brown people of indeterminate ethnicity are mysterious and terrifying. I was wondering if making the name change would make my ethnicity more clear (not just at the airport--and not at all a motivating factor either way), but after the Boston attacks I'm not sure that would help any more.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:05 AM on August 1, 2013


And it contains a letter/sound that does not have an equivalent in the Roman alphabet

Me too. The transliteration of my last name is an approximation that is "close enough." Look at it this way--all languages have sounds that cannot be 100% equivalently rendered into English or the Roman alphabet, so every transliteration is a compromise. Some of the subtleties get lost, but you want to capture the spirit. IMHO, "Brewski" loses too much. Find some kind of middle ground.
posted by deanc at 7:06 AM on August 1, 2013


Essentially everyone I've met it corresponded with has misspelled or mispronounced my last name, but really, it hasn't been the end of the world.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:12 AM on August 1, 2013


The Wikipedia article says it's transliterated "dj" when "đ" is not available.

Yes, this is very common among Serbian Americans. What may be helpful is to look into how other people who were born and live in your family's ancestral country do it with this last name. While a lot of people who emigrated in the late 19th/early 20th century from your family's home country probably changed the name significantly to simplify it, I am sure that there are lots of people in various professions who have this last name in the US and abroad who use a more loyal Romanization. Scour around to see how they did it.
posted by deanc at 7:13 AM on August 1, 2013


Zeberdyuski

You can use "Zebrd@" for e-mail, or some other nickname-like handle.
posted by amtho at 7:16 AM on August 1, 2013


Response by poster: The Wikipedia article says it's transliterated "dj" when "đ" is not available.

Yes, this is very common among Serbian Americans. What may be helpful is to look into how other people who were born and live in your family's ancestral country do it with this last name. While a lot of people who emigrated in the late 19th/early 20th century from your family's home country probably changed the name significantly to simplify it, I am sure that there are lots of people in various professions who have this last name in the US and abroad who use a more loyal Romanization. Scour around to see how they did it.


Correct. What's giving me pause is that the name has two of these fine friends, for a double-hit of "dj" (and potential brow-furrowing or misspelling) unless it is swapped out for a "g" (my family did both once they got here at the turn of the last century). The more loyal romanization is predominantly folks born in the Balkans--which means it is done here, and why it was initially tempting. I'm more wondering about the logistical headache/memorability/"othering" factor--which makes me feel a bit guilty given why I'm proud to reclaim it.

Perhaps I could split the difference and use one "dj" and one "g"? Or we could all get keyboards that do the semi-strikethrough-D, which is rather badass.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2013


"Đ" is generally rendered as "G" if the name was originally a western loan-word. So "Karađorđe" is sometimes rendered as "Karageorge" instead of "Karadjordje" because Đ was used to transliterate "G" when the name "George" was imported from the west.

I'm more wondering about the logistical headache/memorability/"othering" factor-

Not an issue, IMHO, but then I have always lived in coastal cities with large immigrant communities and 2nd and 3rd generation communities that have closely maintained their identities. Some of this hinges on the relative difficulty/gratuitousness of the transliteration. For example "Zbigniew Brzezinski" is complicated and "foreign" but ultimately graspable. In "Zbrjyuskij", the j's seem gratuitous and could probably be dropped.
posted by deanc at 7:38 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somewhat recently I had some conversations about two people whose names started 'Dj'. (One had 'dj' twice.) Americans ranged from 'I have no idea how to say this name and feel awkward trying' to 'I can make an analogy with Novak Djokovic and feel okay winging it'. In other words, I think you're talking about a name that would maybe feel a bit masochistic if your current surname doesn't ever raise eyebrows, but not particularly bad in the realm of 'difficult' surnames.

I am an ambitious person (but not in sales, PR, or showbiz) with no gender privilege or current class/soclal privilege to float by on.

I do actually wonder if some of your father's concerns of 70 years ago still hold, though not to the same extent, obviously. People say weird shit to me sometimes that seems rooted in perceiving my name as foreign. It's not that common, but it's often enough that I wonder about it sometimes.

(My surname screams Hungary. Most people will not know that. I periodically have to explain to people from Central Europe that I'm not Hungarian (by birth or descent), which has resulted in some disappointed Hungarians, but isn't a big burden.)
posted by hoyland at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can you use "Dj" or "Dzh" for the first occurance then "g" or "j" for the second occurance and add some vowels to separate? So for your example instead of Zbrjyuskij could you do Djebrejuskij. I feel like translated Cyrillic words mess with my english brain cause theres too many consonants too close together to get a thought about the sound thath has any fluidity to it. More vowels in there helps with the eyeball - to - imagined sound translation.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that much of a bother to have to spell your last name every time. I always have to and I don't mind. I just start spelling it before people even ask. Maybe it is because it's always been my name and it would bother me more if I'd changed it.

So I'm just saying, in general I wouldn't worry too much about having to spell your name for people. In the grand scheme of daily annoyances it's pretty low.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I married into a very unique name. We're the only 4 people in our entire city with that name. I really actually like it. I have to spell it all the time, people can't pronounce it, but I rather enjoy not being one of the five bajillion "Millers" around.

I say go for it.
posted by cooker girl at 8:19 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


My husband and I have contemplated going back to the original spelling of our last name, but the presence of umlauts, while ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY AWESOME, dissuaded us from doing it.
posted by Lucinda at 8:46 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd also add that our name as it stands requires us to spell it every single time we give it to someone.
posted by Lucinda at 8:47 AM on August 1, 2013


My birth name is Irish and is pronounced exactly as it looks, and people still had trouble pronouncing and spelling it. I married into what I thought was a simpler surname (prominent male Biblical name + "son") and I still get asked to spell it all the damn time. I think pronunciation is the more salient concern. Perhaps in your email signature, you could include a line like "Jane Zbrjyuskij, pronounced Brewski." At restaurants, just use "Miller, party of four."
posted by desjardins at 8:54 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


As someone who can pronounce "Zbrjyuskij" -- I'd say it is very masochistic. I have a good friend who has never gotten her last name pronounced correctly -- except by me and other friends with roots in the old country. She ended up accepting the most common mispronunciation as her surname -- a move that was not happy-making, just practical.

I'd go with the Anglicised version. It would be less maddening.
posted by Lescha at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2013


I grew up in an area with a pretty significant population of Polish descent (there's still excellent polish butchers in Fall River and Pawtucket) - it was common to have a teachers and friends with utterly unspellable last names, and it was OK. (Ms. Kryczk - Kreeshack - was particularly tough, and I'm certain I'm still not getting it right.)

Just be used to those of non-polish descent mangling the spelling and pronunciation, and learn to tolerate anglophones fudging and using their best guesses. People are used to dealing a wide variety of names different than the ones they grew up pronouncing, especially as the influx of Indian, Iranian, Arabic and Southeast Asian immigrants has increased in recent years.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2013


I'm Serbian and my last name is Miljkovic. People here in the US are regularly confused when I spell it, but it's not a big deal, there are many thousands of difficult names out there and it's just a part of life. When I became a citizen I had the opportunity to modify it and I didn't bother. I doubt a lot of people even do that any more.

If your name is Djordjevic or similar I would keep that.
posted by Dragonness at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a one syllable, anglicized once-German last name. There appear to be two families with this name -- my extended family, and a British family as it is also an old, all but unused name that goes back centuries.

I have to spell my name all the time. People get it wrong all the time. It's totally English-sounding. It doesn't have any weird consonant clusters or vowels or anything at all that is not very standard English. It's intensely annoying and has caused the occasional problem.

However, if you want to choose this, why not?

That said, I would not use different letters for the same sound because that's just begging for issues. You'll get g twice, or dj twice, or they'll show up in the wrong order. Or you'll have people using gdj or djg each time.
posted by jeather at 9:15 AM on August 1, 2013


Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the wonderful replies (and food for thought) so far. It's a decision I need to make fairly soon.

FYI, this (great) previously describes some of what's giving me pause, as someone just starting out on a new job market with no more than average connections or advantage.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2013


Response by poster: I mean, there's already this strike against anyone with an unmistakably female first name, right (and a career changer on top of it)? Curse you, post-2008 economy.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:24 AM on August 1, 2013


I have an Irish last name that is easy to say, and easy to spell. But it's not phonetic in English so people get both wrong continuously. I usually don't bother to use my surname in introductions but I otherwise don't mind the issue.

However, if you're not used to this sort of thing it can be quite tiresome.
posted by plonkee at 10:20 AM on August 1, 2013


My husband is from the Croatian part of the former Yugoslovia. His last name has two letters that are also not in English, the "ch" sound of c-with-an-accent-above. He has to spell his name every single time he gives it to someone, as do our kids. I now understand why John Malkovich spells his name as he does, and why Karl Malden(ovic) dropped the last part of his name. However, his first name is even more Croatia-centric, and is spelled with an "s" that is pronounced "sh". He just pronounces his name and spells it, and has never considered changing the spelling. But he's highly skilled in a very technical specialty and his employers and clients find the uniqueness of his name a kick - it puts them in a sort of in-crowd to know him and how to pronounce his name correctly. Kind of like Zbigniew Brzezinski's pals probably feel.

On the email issue, years ago he got a very irritated email from someone who said HIS name was husband'sfirstname and HE deserved the email address of husband'sfirstname@comcast.net. He warned him that he needed to give it up immediately and threatened dire consequences at appropriating this unique email address. My husband responded in blistering Serbo-Croatian and that was that. So you could actually have a unique and advantageous email address . . .
posted by citygirl at 10:27 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


FYI, this (great) previously describes some of what's giving me pause, as someone just starting out on a new job market with no more than average connections or advantage.

I stand by my comment from that thread.

My full name screams Ethnic McEthnicman, and it's never been a professional impediment, as far as I can tell. Maybe if I were moving to Kansas in the 1930s and trying to make a living as a bank manager and get a country club membership, I'd feel differently.
posted by deanc at 10:42 AM on August 1, 2013


I used to have a last name, while not uncommon, was easily pronounceable and now have a last name that is also not common nor uncommon (though like maiden name, not a Jones, Smith, or Allen). Either way, even Romanized, people cannot generally pronounce it nor my unique, though often seen, first name.

With that said, do what pleases you, and just be prepared to not care when people cannot pronounce it and always be ready to spell it out without being cued. If you have that attitude, you should be fine.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 10:56 AM on August 1, 2013



You'll be asked to spell it. Repeatedly. You won't get your mail. Your email will never get to you. Your reservations will disappear.


I have a lot of feels about this topic, because I have an ethnic Indian last name (which is really not that hard, but whatever) and it means something really specific about where my family is from and exactly which people I descended from, which is epic cool. But yeah. I have to spell it every time, and sometimes when I pick up prescriptions they'll say they don't have it, and I'll be like "check under 'E' or something" (last name starts with A). I'm often called "[My first name] I-can't-pronounce-this" which, yea thanks for that.

Like I said though, it's nowhere near as "hard" as Zbrjyuskij and has a lot of phonetic similarities to American English, and people still get all "I can't." So I'd go with Brewski.

(personally I try my damndest to understand people's last names because I know how it feels).
posted by sweetkid at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


My family name is very difficult to spell and pronounce, identifiably ethnic in ways that can be problematic on paper, and was already misspelled in the "my ancestors showed up at Ellis Island and the person wrote it down as best they could" kind of way.

I absolutely loved that name, but the first thing I did when I got married was take my husband's simple name. This decision wasn't political for me at all; my first name is not spelled in a standard way and I found it exhausting to spell/explain my names over and over again. It started in grade school with roll call, got worse in high school and college when you have a new roll call for every class, and stayed hard as a professional. The place I work now has a very long name and spelling my 30-character professional email address over the phone was all but impossible. Being called in a waiting room meant waiting for somebody to say "Juli Thhh......" and trailing off, and forget ordering pizza or making reservations.

Less important, but worth mentioning: even the most well-spoken people slaughtered my last name out loud at first glance. There was one time in my life when a stranger pronounced it correctly upon first read, and it turned out he knew my dad. Totally understandable, but sometimes people didn't even try, and I mean, it was my name! And it's quite pretty when you get it right. For me, it was hard to hear it ruined again and again.

Clearly, I have some baggage here, so I think you are a masochist for considering any spelling that the average US speaker won't be able to get.
posted by juliplease at 11:37 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


CONS:
- the vast majority of people you meet will not be able to pronounce your name
- an unfortunately large number of people will assume that you are a 1st gen immigrant and some will treat you with a wide array of inherent prejudices about your ethnicity and about immigrants in general
- people will constantly, constantly comment on your name; if you decide to share the fact that you chose to change it to the more non-american spelling you will end up explaining/defending yourself constantly
- you will probably have to resort to military alphabet spelling when on the phone

PROS:
- it's your name, fuck the haters. seriously.
posted by elizardbits at 12:35 PM on August 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


The pros and cons have been well laid out here. It will be a major, major hassle, and you will be constantly spelling, re-spelling, explaining and re-explaining. It will get old very fast. From a practical standpoint, yes, you are a masochist. On the other hand, your heritage is something to be proud of, and reclaiming your ethnic name is kind of badass. From that standpoint, you'd be a bit heroic.

I have a nearly unpronounceable name. I hate the practical aspects of using it. On the other hand, it's beautiful and meaningful. (But for the record, I did the opposite thing.)
posted by epanalepsis at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


- an unfortunately large number of people will assume that you are a 1st gen immigrant and some will treat you with a wide array of inherent prejudices about your ethnicity and about immigrants in general

Yes. I just had someone be super incredulous with me that I was born in the US because he "had never heard of this last name."

Like why would...
posted by sweetkid at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the "cons" are highly regional. I can't imagine you'd face much social awkwardness and prejudice from a Slavic surname if you were applying for a job in Chicago. I live in Washington, DC, and the last time someone assumed something about my upbringing based on my ethnic background, it was the assumption that I grew up going to lots of embassy events and dealing with foreign dignitaries (my grandparents were farmers came to the US to work in a factory). I just take it as a given that people ask, "What kind of name is that?" If that kind of thing seriously bothers you, then don't do it, but it sounds like a lot of concerns are about what might happen, not what does happen.

It is such second nature to know that I have to spell my last name that I barely even notice it as an inconvenience. It's just one of those things you have to do.
posted by deanc at 1:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Become famous enough and you will force everyone to spell and pronounce your name correctly. But one shot notoriety doen't do it, witness the public struggling with "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev."
posted by bad grammar at 1:08 PM on August 1, 2013


The 'Dj' issue isn't so terrible. And I think your instinct to try one 'dj' and one 'g' is a good one, depending on potential mispronunciations. I'd make a list of all the permutations of the romanized name and see which will be pronounced and spelled the easiest. (+/- an extra 'h' at the end of the name if it ends in a 'vic'.)

Djordjevic
Djorjevic
Djorgevic
Geordjevic
Georjevic
Georgevic
Jordjevic
Jorgevic
Jorjevic
or a fully romanized, but easy to pronounce hyphenate like George-Evich

For my money, the 'Georgevic/Georgevich/George-Evich' triad is the best.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:46 PM on August 1, 2013


I have a long, Polish name that my grandfather changed to a more English spelling, so, a la Stan Wojciehowicz, it really is spelled "just like it sounds." I have never not had to spell my name for someone, and I usually use that to be more friendly, where appropriate (like "I'm a first name type of gal!" stuff).

Having to spell or correct pronunciation just really has never bothered me.
posted by Pax at 2:49 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


And, living in major cities all my life, no one has ever appeared to use my name against me in any prejudicial way.
posted by Pax at 2:54 PM on August 1, 2013


I think it's great to take the name, but I would spell it in a way that it makes sense phonetically to English speakers (i.e. "Brewski"). I say this as a person with two easy to pronounce but difficult to spell names. Man, I am sure tired of spelling my name out loud. Even if I do it military style ("That's B as in bacon, R as in Richard, E as in Edward...") people STILL misspell both names. I even considered changing my name from "Tatjana Zbrjyuskij" to "Tatiana Brewski" because I dislike spelling the name so much. YMMV
posted by feets at 3:21 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an Italian last name that is not pronounced phonetically in English (thanks for nothing, grandfather who anglicized it), and the older I get, the less annoyed I am about having to spell it for people. I think this is because over time I've learned a number of tricks to speed up the process. Like, I'll pronounce it and add, "That's with a C." (Pause while the person looks under S anyhow.) "With a C."

On the phone my last name has become "I'll spell it for you...." (Some people insist that I just say it because they know all the last names and then we're back to "No, with a C.")

People often confuse the middle consonant, so now it's, "With a C, vowel, consonant as in _______, etc."

(Repeat etc because there's a double consonant in there that is just mind-blowing for some people, especially when it's followed by a vowel.)

Maybe it helps that the difficulty people had with our last name was always a family joke when I was growing up, so it felt more like being in an exclusive club than an ancestral punishment. I think you should choose the name that makes you feel like you're in an exclusive club.

(Honestly, it bugs me more that I also always have to spell my first name, which is 100% Standard English but has at least four possible spellings, and that's not including the potential variations in capitalization because it's a compound name. My parents didn't really think through the whole assimilation thing.)
posted by camyram at 8:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a quite common first name and last name, which have both been spelled at least 5 or 6 different ways by people. A couple folks have even argued with me on how my name is spelled, as if I might not know. They've been pronounced a few ways as well...my first name is even a common English word in addition to being a common name so this borders on the absurd.

I have a friend whose last name is Smith...I've seen people misspell it AND mispronounce it. Seriously. This has actually happened here - not abroad.

I share this to say that you should use whatever name means the most to you. People will mangle even the simplest of names so why not let your name be something meaningful? You'd still have to spell the shortened/simplified version all the time too. I can almost guarantee that.
posted by 3fluffies at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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