I don’t hate my name, but it’s not an easy one to live with in the world. I’ve come to expect the looks of confusion and anxiety when people see it written out, and I can imagine what they’re thinking (“Oh. Oh my. All those vowels. Where to begin?”) before I hear their attempts at pronunciation. Confusion-mixed-with-anxiety is not the kind of first impression I want to make — at least, not with people I like.
Distant cousins with the same last name live in my hometown, but they pronounce their name differently (their LaReau is “LaRoo” while ours is “LaRow”) — or perhaps they just never bothered to correct anyone. But their kids went through school just before my sister and I did, and left us a legacy of mispronunciation to clean up. Imagine trying to tell a teacher they’re saying your name wrong, while they insist they’re correct because the OTHER family pronounces it that way. No wonder I have no respect for authority.
The upside to this lifetime of misunderstanding is that it’s made me pay attention to people’s names and make sure I say them right, and it’s given me a fascination with names and pronunciations in general. Sometimes just hearing a word will make me think, “Oh, THAT would be a terrific last name.” And sometimes just hearing a really evocative name will give me an idea for a story. For instance, last year I was watching an episode of American Pickers where Mike and Frank came upon a vintage hotdog puppet. One of them referred to it as a “marionette weiner.” Marionette Weiner?! I mean, if that’s not a gift from the gods, I don’t know what is. (And don’t think you’re going to run off and use that in your story. Trust me, I’ve got this one.)
Sometimes I joke that I became a writer just so I could get my name in print, where everyone would HAVE to learn to say it right. That would be hilarious if it actually worked.Thankfully, the good people at TeachingBooks.net invited me to participate in their handy author name pronunciation guide. I’d like to think this means I’ll never have to deal with this issue again. But as I’ve learned the hard way, in life, there are no guarantees. Which leads me to wonder…
…wouldn’t Noah Guarantee make a great name?
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