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Day 910: What’s In A Name?

The naming of Editor B‘s daughter got me thinking about the somewhat noteworthy history surrounding my own moniker. As if Maitri isn’t hard enough on the western tongue (and I hate it when some cluelessly insist on calling me May-tree after I’ve just introduced myself as My-tree), the parentals also handed me a mouthful of a last name. It’s not Czselezxnikovzsrky and doesn’t involve diphthongs and digraphs, but somehow eludes most American tongues. The name on each side of the hyphen is simple enough to pronounce and indeed loans itself to one new last name when put together. Also, it’s alright that I don’t have the same last name as my parents. Really.

So, I wonder, “How many times in her lifetime will P have to say this?”

Yes, I know that my last name is not the same as my mother’s is not the same as my father’s is not the same as my brother’s is not the same as any other family member’s. And, no, for the last time, the first part of it is not my middle name, but thanks for informing me. What part of a dual-last-name juxtaposition, a concept invented by the west, do you not understand?

There are days when I’d gladly be Jane Smith or Rita Patel, but what fun would that be? My parents and heritage are hella cool and I did a lot of work 11 years ago to get that hyphen legally accepted. That’s right, use the brain, sound out the letters and lose those dumb Hooked On Phonics lessons to say my name. Say it! This is also why I’ve held out on changing my last name to that of D’s, although we’ve decided that our kids will have his last name. My cousins often coax us to change both of our last names to V-R-E after which they will refer to us as the Hyphen-Hyphens. Very funny.

Pregnancy hormones wafting through the New Orleans blogosphere. Don’t start knitting me any eSocks, though. It’s not happening any time soon.

12 comments… add one
  • Editor B February 23, 2008, 9:18 AM

    Yeah, you pretty much said it all, except I think people will also tend to call her “Perstephanie.”

    I should note that legally speaking the girl’s last name is a hyphenated one for now. We fully intend to have it changed to Everpax just as soon as we can get down to City Hall. It has to be done this way. I got some pointers from a certain legal-minded blond blogger.

  • Pistolette February 23, 2008, 9:34 AM

    Hell, people can’t even say MY name, and it’s fairly common. I don’t know why it’s so hard to say “Andrea”. It’s like ‘Andre’ with an ‘a’ on the end. Ahn-DRAY-uh. Gods I hate the yat version: ANNN-dree-uhhh! *puke*

    Sad thing is, I’m burdening my daughter with a cajun name so impossible to pronounce, that my woes will pale in comparison ;-)

  • liprap February 23, 2008, 12:44 PM

    A name like “Leigh” seems so simple until the outside world gets a hold of it. Physician’s assistants in doctors offices mangle it as “lay” or “lie”, thinking it’s gotta be French or something (it’s not). A friend of mine still uses the “i before e” rule when spelling it, something that DOES NOT apply. And the ultimate torture is when you can’t find the name on any mass-produced personalized swag such as mugs, keychains, cheesy bicycle license plates, stickers, and lunchbags that were carried by every other first-grader in the school. Aaaaagh!!!

    Oh, well.

  • Aloisius February 23, 2008, 4:15 PM

    My-Tree and Ann-Dray-Uh,

    It begs the question if you both have been dealing with the issue your entire lives, perhaps it is time to accept that people will sometimes mispronounce it and move on. Particular My-Tree who admits in this blog that the name is difficult for most Westerners to pronounce correctly. Remember, you ladies are the ones with tossed-up names, it’s your burden! Whoa! Hey!

    With love and sincerity,


  • Maitri February 23, 2008, 4:28 PM

    The name isn’t difficult to pronounce by all Westerners, just the lazy ones who depend on phonics all the time. It is especially irritating when I introduce myself as My-tree and they respond, “Hello, May-tree.” Where did that come from? There isn’t even a written name for them to parse at that point, so I don’t get it.

    As long as we’re giving life lessons and such, I don’t think begging the question means what you think it means. ;-)

  • Dagoberto February 23, 2008, 5:48 PM

    “The name isn’t difficult to pronounce by all Westerners, just the lazy ones who depend on phonics all the time.”

    Ah, but I DO know a hasty generalization when I see it!

    Anyway, just sayin’, if you are waiting for other folks to come around, you are going to be waiting forever. However, just by altering your response to it, you won’t have to hate it ever again.

  • Maitri February 23, 2008, 5:52 PM

    It’s not a hasty generalization. Most Americans are taught to read using phonics. So, for them Mai is pronounced May and not My. In their world, there is no other pronunciation for Mai. They have told me as much. Then, I ask them why they pronounce Maibock and Mai-tai correctly, i.e. not phonetically, and they stare at me with a “Duh, that’s alcohol” look.

    My name isn’t May-tree, it’s My-tree and I’m not going to let people mangle it, especially when they know otherwise.

    At any rate, back to Persephone. Her public demands more pictures!

  • youngshin February 29, 2008, 10:51 AM

    “just the lazy ones who depend on phonics all the time…”

    Are you in fact trying to discredit phonics here? The name “Maitri” does indeed have a diphthong: “ai”, i.e., a combination of a strong vowel (a) and strong vowel(i). The use of phonics correctly matches your pronunciation of the name. Even the basic Hooked on Phonics series, however nefarious, teaches diphthongs.

    Learning to read and speak an alphabetized language is easy and fun for the motivated. You learn the keys, then you may play the music. The process takes no “expert” guidance. What is wrong with using phonics? What would you propose instead?

  • youngshin February 29, 2008, 11:08 AM

    Correction: “i” is the weak vowel in the “ai” diphthong.

  • Maitri March 3, 2008, 4:49 PM

    youngshin: There are those, who learned English while growing up in America, who tell me that according to the way they were taught phonics, “Mai” is pronounced May and not My. That’s what I was going by. Regardless of phonics and the mechanics of “proper” pronunciation, I pronounce a name how its owner taught me to say it. It’s only polite.

  • youngshin March 6, 2008, 10:16 AM

    Thanks for the reply, Maitri. You raise an interesting point about name ownership. Is your name in fact your property? And what type of property is it? Would it be intellectual?

    In many jurisdictions, the given name at birth is a matter of public record (this is mandated by law in Germany and France, for example). Therefore, it cannot be considered IP in those jurisdictions.

    In the past, the spelling of names is often assumed to be a deliberate action by a family or individual. However, in reality, the official clerk would write down the name on the basis of how it was spoken, or how it was heard.

  • Maitri March 6, 2008, 3:30 PM

    youngshin: I used the word “owner” only to refer to a person with a certain name. Intellectual property, in my opinion, should not extend to names because there are many with the same name. While I understand that, for example, McDonald’s wishes to maintain its good name (pardon the pun), they should not be able to sue someone who opens a business under that same name. Given as how I’m a supporter of the public domain, trademarking names is not my cup of tea.

    Don’t even get me started on how Disney took the name Winnie The Pooh out of the public domain, copyrighted it and sent a cease and desist letter to someone I know whose name is Pooh and owned and operated a bar under the same name. Thanks to Disney’s lawyers, the bar’s name has been changed to Poh’s.

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