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Friday, February 11, 2011

It's Pronounced Just Like It's Spelled

The weekend loometh, people. We stand here, on the precipice of the chasm of Free Time, a delightful region occupied by the very young, the unemployed, and the retired.

You know. The Leisure Class.

If only there was a way to know what lies ahead of us…

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

That’s right! Step right up and observe the future as told by my iPod. Set on “shuffle” and played on my Friday-morning commute, the songs and their artists tell us what to expect.

Shhh. Let’s listen:

Run Through the Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Black Thumbnail by Kings of Leon
Black Soul Choir by 16 Horsepower
I Can’t Explain by The Who
Freedom by Ritchie Havens
All Alone by Gorillaz
Bitch by The Rolling Stones

What's it mean? I leave that to the professionals, although I will definitely pay heed to that first song and stay out of Southeast Asia.

Which makes me think... While I would like to leave actual surnames out of this, for now, I do feel it necessary to point out to you that my last name is a Scrabble dream.

We’re talkin’ big points, baby!

In other words, my last name can beat up your last name.

My last name, a hyphenated monstrosity created by the marriage of two people from the end of the alphabet, looks like a Dutch/Czechoslavakian nightmare, something hurled, drunkenly, as a curse.

Perhaps with a tasty hand gesture thrown in, just for color.

This post, by the way, has no redeeming social, spiritual, or economic value. But does it have to? I mean, I’m so relevant most of the time…


Why is it necessary that I bring up the fact that my last name is a consonant freak-out?

I don’t know where you’re from, but every public school I went to had a fascination, it seems, with making us sit in class alphabetically. Hence, with a surname starting with “Z”, I sat in the far corner of the room, sometimes the very last seat, with the Ws and Vs and Ys.

And you know how strange those people are.

Or is it only in the U.S. that the end of the alphabet seems out of place? Throw a “v” or a “z” in a word and suddenly the unwashed amongst us get flustered.

“Where you from?”


“No, I mean before that.”


“No, I mean where do your people come from?”

Ah. Now I see what you’re driving at. You want to know where I got a name that starts with “Z”. Because it’s funny or something. Ha ha.

Two jobs ago, I supervised the receptionist in a medium-sized office in a rather rural suburb. When we had visitors to the office, it was her job to put the little white letters on the big black “welcome” board. You know: The People’s Credit Union and Coin-Operated Laundry Welcomes So-and-So.

Just before I left there, she let me know that she could not fill in the “welcome board” for the next day’s visitor because “it would be obscene”.


“His name is obscene.”

His name?

Leo Fuchs.

I had to explain to this person that people’s names are not obscene, they are their names.

She said, and I quote, “Well, if I get in trouble I’ll tell them it was your idea.”

Yeah. You do that.

You know, I will sneak a French fry off your plate, I will take a 90-minute lunch and call it an hour, and I will dance with your husband if he asks; but of all the things I may do, I will never make fun of your name, no matter what it is.

But if I land on triple word score, I will kick your ass.


Elizabeth said...

I am always impressed on Fridays to learn the music that our ipods have in common. Perhaps we should get them together for a play date. I think they would become fast friends.

Pearl said...

Elizabeth, how cool! We can go to the park once it warms up and share playlists. :-)

Jeannie said...

I have a perfectly ordinary last name now. It is Irish. Probably the most common Irish name and identifies many an Irish pub. And yet, you would think it was a difficult name because telemarketers and tech help from Indian simply can not pronounce it correctly. I think it would garner about a 6 in Scrabble.

Simply Suthern said...

Curious, Can you even spell your name on the scrabble board with the standard letter set it comes with?

I have a boring name. Sat in the middle of the room. When they broke the class into halves split somewhere between the K L M or N's sometimes I was up sometimes I was down.

Just call me middle of the road.

Sarah said...

Solidarity from a "W" surname (or was until I married a man who share a last name with a famous MN weatherman)!

Sometimes I'm glad the long hard-to-pronounce and easily made fun of name is gone. Othertimes I wish I could have made my husband take MY last name, since all of this generation's W's are girls and the name will die out now.

Tom said...

Very funny post Pearl. That reminds me of Seinfeld doing standup on Letterman years ago. He was trying to spell an immigrant taxi drivers name and said there were no vowels and it included the symbol for Boron.

I'm also reminded about an old SNL skit where Nicholas cage is super sensitive about the name his wife wants to give their newborn. In the end we learn his last name was Asswipe, pronounced Asweepay.

Pearl said...

Jeannie, my best friend's last name is also an Irish staple. I love the Irish!

Simply, I think so! Hmm. Yes. But I could never get it done in just seven letters. :-)

Sarah *raising fist in air*, my sister at the back of the room. The "W"s could always go either way, frankly. It's the "Y"s and "Z"s that got weird, dont' you think? Hmm. A famous MN weather man? Bud Kraeling?! :-) OOh, wait. Paul Douglas?! It's Paul Douglas, isn't it?!

Tom, hadn't heard the Seinfeld one. Very funny!
And poor little Asswipe! Probably grow up to hand out with Shithead (pronounced "Shi-thade").

Glen said...

that's easy for you to say my surname is Stubbywilly

Symdaddy said...

At the risk of being rude ... not my style at all ... when you say your name, does it sound like the last beer you drank is chasing your curry and marmalade pizza back up your throat and dragging your breakfast with it?

In Germany, a very old name from waaaaaay back is Fick. In modern day German it is still in use by some families (others have changed it) even though Fick has long since taken another meaning entirely ... exactly the same meaning, in point of fact, that your receptionist thought would be obscene on her 'welcome board'.

Gary Baker said...

I'm not telling you what my last name is.


Sue said...

My maiden name was at the forefront of the alphabet...I ALWAYS occupied the seat closest to the teacher...farthest from the W's, Y's, and Z's such as yourself.

However. Said maiden name was comprised of nine letters, four syllables, and never failed to elicit a few mispronunciations and questions as to who "my people" were.

So I suppose I had the best of both worlds, so to speak? I dunno. I WILL say that I was mildly relieved to marry a man with a monosyllabic last name smack dab in the middle of the alphabet. Sweet anonymity.

Dr. Cynicism said...

Ahhhh... you just continue to wow me Pearl. You have now given me a new vocab term for friday afternoons: "the precipice of the chasm of Free Time." LOVE IT.

Pat Tillett said...

Oh crap! I'm going back through the names in my past. I used to have a friend named Richard Head! Of course he hated it when people shortened it to just Dick... Interesting and funny, but not much for scrabble!
A great and funny post Pearl!

Anonymous said...

Having grown up as a 'Z' girl, and HATED every minute of it...I was very relieved to marry a man with a lovely D name.

Susan in the Boonies said...

And while we're on the topic of names that are at the end of the alphabet, I married into one, and while I'm delighted with my husband, his name positioning at the end of the alphabet is rarely of benefit to me. At least, however, since I took his name, I now no longer have to spell my last name every. freaking. time. I say it, which, I really like. But wouldn't you have thought that I'd have the good sense to not name my blog in such a way that it ALWAYS comes up at the end of anyone's blog list who happens to follow me?

I'm thinking about changing it to A A A A Wild Life in the Woods.

And then people will feel sorry for me because I stutter.

But maybe that will get me more readers.

I could be happy with sympathy clicks.

I could!

Leenie said...

Last time I checked it was against the rules to use proper nouns in regulation Scrabble. But I would change the rules just so you could use that name on a triple word score to see how many points you could rack up.

Good karma for a weekend without coffin nails.

Eva Gallant said...

Great post, Pearl. My maiden name started with P, and as a result, I was always seated next to two boys whose names started with P. We were great friends! I had a crush on one for a while; ended up going to my senior prom with the other. Saw them both at my 47th high school reunion last summer. Awesome.

The Jules said...

I had to sit in the hall.

Yours sincerely

Jules Zzzchwanzawgkkusly-Featherbottom.

(Pronounced just as it's spelled)

Hutch said...

I grew up a Ball. Combining that with the teacherly last name first, first name last, I have heard enough "Ball, Mary" "OK!" jokes to last me a lifetime. Since then I have married twice to find a better name and just given up.

jLow said...

My Anglo-cized French maiden name was rarely, if ever, pronounced correctly.

"You Americans, you butcher the French language." - Phoebe Buffay

Flea said...

Normal last names here. And I'm so glad you won't be making fun of my first name. That would make me cry.

becca said...

love the playlist

Sausage Fingers said...

Might explain why Zinedine Zidane was so a-heady of his time...

Shannon said...

I can't believe Fuch is a real last name. That's almost as bad as Focker...oh wait, I don't make fun of people's last names either...

jenny_o said...

Great everything today: title, topic, post - and love the comments too. A+++ :)

Bossy Betty said...

I have a real name that is easily made fun of--both my first and my last--and so I appreciate your kindness!

Belle said...

I can see why you would never make fun of anyone else's name. It must be tiring to have to keep explaining yours.
Having the name Belle growning up was a little embarassing. Of course there were lots of nicknames like Ding Dong etc. I finally felt my name was more normal when Disney made the movie, Beauty and the Beast.

SeaD said...

Having just received mail from you Pearl, I can vouch for your very unique last name.
I once knew a Native American with a sad last name. While I don't recall the spelling, it was pronounced Sacashit. True story.

a Broad said...

Ahh, I never thought about the difficulties that a last name might bring .. having had enough of my own with the first name.
Candice .... Candy ... well, need I say more ?
My last name was cool, my grandfather was Somebody - but no one cared ... it was my name that supplied their giggles for the day .. jerks..

Grant said...

I know someone who works with a lady named Judy Lover. Her husband's name is Richard, but he goes by Dick. And the jokes just write themselves.

Jhon Baker said...

Having a common surname is a blessing and a curse if you are intending to be in the public eye. Unless you want to run for office then a name like Baker is perfect - name recognition is where that is at -

Gigi said...

Ah, Pearl! Something else we have in common! Back in the day before I married that man with an unpronounceable Italian name, my surname started with a Y. I would have been right there with you at the end of the line. I'm sure we would have had a great time.

The Retired One said...

Hey, with my Finnish descent...I have more vowels than Vanna White....Haara..count them...three a's...
I get called Hair-a alot but it is pronounced Haara like Ha-rah. And my oldest daughter didn't like the punishment enough...she married a guy also of Finnish descent and the beginning of her last name begins with Hii. Gheesh. You think she would have LEARNED.

mapstew said...

Also having received mail from you I can also vouch for your most excellent surname!

(A very popular Irish name for girls is Aoife, (pronounced 'eefa') almost all the vowels!

Have a lovely weekend! :¬)


On My Soapbox said...

In elementary school, I was almost always at the end of the line. Not only did I have a last name toward the end of the alphabet, I was also the shortest. Fortunately, I was able to make up for it in other ways. :-)

Sandra said...

And well you should!
I saddled my kids with a hyphenated monstrosity of a name. I make fun of them all the time. I figure it's character building...ok, I'm kidding, I don't do that, but I feel like it, especially since the last part of the name belongs to my ex! :)

Tempo said...

I of the long name starting with 'W' salute you! Oh, the suffering, the humiliation, the waiting!

River said...

My maiden name is of Polish descent, 10 letters, 9 consonants with one vowel right at the end. I had to spell it at least once a day FOREVER and try to convince people of the pronunciation.

@Syndaddy; I was born in Germany, my maternal grandmother was a Fick, born 1904,as were her parents, born 1863 and 1859,and her paternal grandparents, birthdates unknown.

Andrew Green said...

Now THAT'S a respectable classic rock playlist!

Rebecca G said...

Yeah, names. Turns out, I married UP. Coolest thing... moving from S to C! Woohoo, front of the room. Finally!

WrathofDawn said...

You can imagine the fun I've had with Dawn over the years. Don, Dawne, Dawnn, Dawnne, Donna... you get the picture. My last name is a common, five-letter English name that is also the name of a trade and yet I have to spell it EVERY FREAKIN' TIME. What's up with that? But it puts me in the middle of the alphabet so that was never an issue.

imtsmom said...

My name starts with "A" and ends with "Z". But nobody seems to notice. Or, maybe they just don't care?... Our daughter married a Polish guy and our grandkids last name is 13 letters long. We had to learn a little rhyme to pronounce it correctly!