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November 2, 2013

Names, vanity, and honor: some stuff that doesn’t matter very much, and one thing that does
Posted by Patrick at 01:44 PM *

One thing’s certain about having a surname that’s easy to misspell and easy to misparse: It does push you in the direction of humility, by constantly reminding you that you’re not actually particularly well-known or that big a deal. In small ways, like the fact that I’m alphabetized under H in the list of program participants at the World Fantasy Con I’m currently attending in Brighton, England. And in moments of greater exposure and personal glory as well. For instance, this is what appeared on the big-screen monitors in the hall, and on the live UStream internet feed, while I was accepting the Hugo Award in the long-form editor category at this year’s Worldcon in San Antonio:

PNH accepting award, subtitled with chyron reading 'Patrick Neilsen Hayden'.

Here’s another example. A couple of days ago, Publishers Weekly announced its 2013 “Best Books” list, and I was delighted to discover that my and David Hartwell’s anthology Twenty-First Century Science Fiction was one of the six SF&F titles so honored. This delight was almost entirely unaffected by clicking through to the spot on PW’s site announcing this fact:

PW web page giving the anthology's editors as 'David G. Hartwell and Patrick N. Hayden'.

As I wailed to a friendly contact at PW—someone not at all responsible for this—“Would PW refer to ‘Gordon V. Gelder’? I think not.” So, okay, it’s being fixed. As Jim Macdonald would say, nobody died, nobody even lost a limb. And yet.

Here’s the best, and it’s been going on for weeks. Twenty-First Century Science Fiction was licensed for British publication by the excellent Constable & Robinson. Their edition will release on November 21, so it’s been available for pre-order on Amazon UK for a while. Here are the two different ways Amazon UK has been giving my name:

Paper edition: edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayward. Kindle edition, even more excitingly edited by David G. Hayden and Patrick Nielsen Hartwell.

Needless to say, while I have some older anthologies for sale on Amazon UK, you’ll never be able to find them by clicking on Patrick Nielsen Hayward or his distant cousin Patrick Nielsen Hartwell. (And the less said about David G. Hayden, the better.) From what I gather, trying to figure out what’s causing this has given our Robinson editor—a lovely man with the fabulous name of Duncan Proudfoot, who I met just today here at World Fantasy Con—several new grey hairs over the last few weeks. And I sympathize. The rickety systems by which modern publishers propagate data to the big retailers are a source of endless problems, and it can be amazingly difficult to diagnose and correct even the simplest errors. Similar stuff has happened to my Tor projects on occasion. So no great blame to the folks at C&R, or at Amazon UK for that matter.

But it does sting one’s vanity a little. When I got the news about our book being selected as one of Publishers Weekly’s best books of 2013, I wanted to post a link to that page. But I didn’t, because on some level I think I didn’t want to broadcast the message that the trade journal of my industry obviously doesn’t have any idea who I am or what my name is. It’s kind of…lowering, an old word that I think could be usefully revived.

To circle back to the top of this post, this is why I’m such a prod about the way we conduct our ceremonies in the SF and fantasy field. Slides and programs should be proofread by multiple sets of eyes and the spellings of names confirmed against authoritative sources whenever possible. And, critically, the award presenters should be required to make sure in advance that they know how to pronounce the names of all the finalists and winners.

I’m actually not nobody—I have some standing in this field, I’ve been around some decades and done some stuff, so really, I can view stuff like the mangled chyron at this year’s Hugo ceremony with only slightly exasperated equanimity. (Besides, my name’s spelled right on the actual Hugo.) But I imagine a new writer, someone with a hard-to-spell or hard-to-pronounce name. To her astonishment, one of her stories is a finalist for (let’s say) the Hugo Award for Best Novelette. The award is being presented by J. Arthur Famouspro. She’s in the audience with (let’s say) three of her closest friends and her father. Famouspro reads off the other nominees fluidly, but then stumbles on her name, taking three tries to get it all out. In that moment the message of the event changes from “Our daughter/friend is doing so well, one of her stories was a finalist for a major award!” to “Our daughter/friend is such small fry that J. Arthur Famouspro obviously never heard of her until this moment and couldn’t be bothered to learn in advance how to say her name.” And that’s not how to honor people. Really it’s not.

Comments on Names, vanity, and honor: some stuff that doesn't matter very much, and one thing that does:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 02:36 PM:

As someone who is not well known, and whose name is frequently mangled, I sympathise. I've just had my first volume of poetry published. Much to my chagrin, I discovered it was listed on Amazon as by one "Fragano Legister". Never heard of the fellow. I did get it fixed.

#3 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 02:51 PM:

Here's where I mention that Writer GoH Larry Niven had his name misspelled in the Dragon*Con program booklet this year. Somewhat to my surprise, I wound up being the person who informed him of that fact.

#4 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 03:01 PM:

Well, that sucks... it's depressing to have to wonder whether the perpetrator 'knew' he or she was right and never considered checking, or just couldn't be bothered checking.

Proponents of authority control systems would probably suggest that tagging names with VIAF records or something similar would go a long way to preventing this sort of thing. So long as you link correctly, to a record that's actually correct. Programmers' and taggers' false beliefs about names are a bigger problem than having One More Database can solve.

#5 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 03:35 PM:

I have an incredibly common name--which is mispronounced all the time, even by people who've been working with me for years, in a small way (dropping the T from Johnston) that nevertheless drives me insane. Should I ever publish I suppose I will have to get over it, as it'll happen more often than I'd like to think.

But I'm a nobody. That famous people's names are so commonly mispronounced, misspelled, and otherwise mangled is mindboggling, especially on something like a Hugo ceremony.

#6 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 03:41 PM:

Nielsen Hayward?

I wonder if Susan Hayward and Sterling Hayden ever were in a movie together.

#7 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 03:56 PM:

Well, VIAF doesn't actually give you the preferred form; it just gives a unified grouping of what various national authorities consider the preferred form. So for Patrick we see that the US gets it right, but Canada, the Netherlands, and ISNI(!) get it wrong. (I notice that the Netherlands gets it wrong for me as well, possibly because they copied from the US' Library of Congress before the form there got corrected.)

National authorities will often correct their entries if you write to them with the correct information. (At least, the Library of Congress changed their parsing of my name, which follows the same pattern as Patrick's, when I emailed them.) ISNI appears to get most of their name information from Bowker, which I gather gets most of its data from publishers; so I suspect that the right person in Patrick's firm would know how to set that one straight.

#8 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:03 PM:

For what it's worth, I never heard of VIAF, and really have no idea how much actual real-world effect it has. It does sound like one of those ambitious metadata projects destined to become a Failed Dream.

#9 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:18 PM:

I've had people get in arguments with me about how my own name is pronounced. It's amazing to me the amount of gall that takes.

That said, I have a weird name for this culture and I gave up years ago expecting people to pronounce it correctly. I'm kind of surprised when people do (I have a pronunciation guide on my resume and business cards, even, for all the good that does). It must be much harder to be right on the edge, where people think they know how to say your name, where it's not obvious immediately that they need to pay attention to it.

#10 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:18 PM:

I feel like I should have heard of VIAF, as a librarian, but I've been out of the cataloging specialty for a while. Interesting that the Bibliotheque National has the most complete record for me.

My previous dean pronounced my first name as Jeannette the entire time I worked for him. Seems a small thing, but it really does tell you something about a boss.

#11 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:21 PM:

The humorist George Mikes was resigned to people pronouncing his surname to rhyme with "bikes". Then one day a lady came into the place where he was working at the time - which, from memory, was a library - and correctly pronounced it Mi-KESH. He ended up marrying her.

I can kind of understand that. My name is nowhere near so obscure, but I do have one of those surnames with a Mc that is pronounced very definitely MAC, because it is the syllable that is emphasised. (Think McIntosh or McIntyre. That kind of name.) I'd say at least 70% of people mangle it when meeting me for the first time.

#12 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:27 PM:

“Our daughter/friend is such small fry that J. Arthur Famouspro obviously never heard of her until this moment and couldn’t be bothered to learn in advance how to say her name."

This has always kind of boggled me. I've gotten the distinct impression that the Hugo presenters are reading their cards cold. Is there not a rehearsal for the ceremony?

Doing a better job at name pronunciation is as simple as going up to the five people whose names you need to not mangle and asking them how they would like their names pronounced. Even if the delivery wasn't subsequently 100% perfect -- which it's never going to be -- it would at least give the impression that the presenter had made some effort, which appears currently lacking.

#13 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom is Dancing With Gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:32 PM:

I don't think VIAF is well-known outside of library geekdom, but in the library domain it's quite useful. It's run by OCLC, the organization that runs WorldCat, the world's largest union catalog, so it's not just a programmer's pipe dream.

Its main use, in my experience, is to establish correspondences between names for the same things in different national systems (and also between those national systems and Wikipedia), so that it's easier to share library records and make links across national boundaries.

I use it, for instance, to help support a system that makes links between Wikipedia and local library catalogs (and my own online book catalog). I've also seen other libraries use it to help make it easier to find an author (or editor) under various forms of his or her name, especially when that name has non-Roman-alphabet renderings that local catalogs might not otherwise support.

#14 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 04:50 PM:

I'm not gnomed; I accidentally put in the wrong name in the input form. Sorry about that.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:04 PM:

Serge Broom #6: You'd want a film involving Susan Hayward, Sterling Hayden, and Leslie Nielsen.

#16 ::: iliadawry ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:23 PM:

I go by Cassie. The coffee place near my house refuses to acknowledge this name exists; they call me Casey, Kathy, or (once) Linda. Cassie isn't my given name -- I switched to going by it in small part because it's easier to spell and pronounce than said given name. WAUGH.

#17 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:24 PM:

“Our daughter/friend is such small fry that J. Arthur Famouspro obviously never heard of her until this moment and couldn’t be bothered to learn in advance how to say her name."

Well I don't know, I bet I've read lots of authors over the years that I had absolutely no idea on how to pronounce their name.
That said, I wasn't trying to pronounce those names at an awards ceremony either.

#18 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:34 PM:

Would you believe that that book has been in my basket at for weeks, and I never notices that it said Hayward?

#19 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:39 PM:

Bryan @ 17: that's a point. I didn't know how to pronounce Ursula Le Guin's surname until I asked someone whether it was as in "guinea" or as in "penguin". I was informed that it was the latter, I trust correctly.

#20 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:40 PM:

Fragano @ 15... And with Leslie Howard. Soundtrack by Haydn.

#21 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 05:59 PM:

In my case, it's the first name that usually gets misspelled.

But I've certainly spent enough time telling people "M-a-c-small d-o-n-a-l-d" that I can sympathize. I think Jim Macdonald and I have had to send back the first batch of printed checks from every bank we've ever opened an account at, and we've learned to check the typeset galleys of our novels very carefully.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 06:33 PM:

I've seen Evans misspelled, as one of the several variants that exist.

On the other hand, the way it's commonly pronounced now isn't how it was being pronounced two centuries ago, when it was much closer to the original in pronunciation (long E - it would have been an I in Wales). I learned that by reading baptisms by a German minister, who spelled it as he heard it.

#23 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 06:54 PM:

This reminds me of the trouble my husband and I had when working out of town one summer. We mailed our paychecks to the bank. Despite the fact that every check was accompanied by one of our official deposit slips with the magnetic numbers on the bottom, several of them were deposited in someone else's account.

When we got back to town and went in to straighten it all out, we were told that we "should be careful how we signed our name" -- how this was relevant I have never understood, since usually the signature is not looked at carefully if at all.

Printed check, printed deposit slip, magnetic number, but they still made the mistake (several times) and it was still our fault. Apparently, the problem was that they didn't believe there was any such name as the one we were using, and had used the whole time we had the account.

#24 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:03 PM:

Older, #23: That strikes me as less to do with the oddities of anybody's name, and more to do with somebody being determined to avoid admitting that they screwed up.

#25 ::: TrishB ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:11 PM:

Janet Brennan Croft @10 Yes, the name thing certainly tells you something about the boss. After my assignment as a PM to a rather large internal company initiative, the SVP of HR repeatedly referred to me as "Pat" on the kickoff call. Two hours later, I was amazed to receive a call from him apologizing for the mix up - which he then followed up with am email to the team. Don't knew who spoke to him, but it was refeshing to see such a little thing taken seriously in a 5000 person corporate division. Not surprisingly, he was an effective project sponsor.

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:15 PM:

Right here in this forum, I have had folks address me as Stephen or Stephan even though my name is *right there.*

#27 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:18 PM:

#17, #19: I tell PhD students that a session chair at a scientific conference has two duties

- Pronounce the speakers' names correctly (achievable *only* by *asking* them how to do it beforehand)
- Get them off the podium when their time is up

Obviously some compromises are involved in both: if the chair is an English monoglot and the speaker is called Xu, I don't expect a voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative, but "shoe" rather than "zoo" or "kazoo" seems minimal courtesy. Unless, of course, the speaker has chosen to anglicise the pronunciation to 'zoo', which is why you need to ask.

#28 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:20 PM:

Mongoose @11, my husband once had a roommate whose surname was "McAuliff". Pronounced "mac-AWW-liff". It became a sure-fire telemarketer identifier. "Is Mr. MICK-ah-liff there?" A small thing, but the difference in emphasis made the name sound very different indeed.

(My own surname was pronounced differently by my father (and hence his daughters) than his brothers (and their children) pronounced it. Different initial vowel sound. I gather that in the Old Country the name would be pronounced somewhere between the two ways.

#29 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:24 PM:

iliadawry @16, speaking as a fellow Cassy (with a y, not an ie, but I've pretty much given up on that fight) I feel your pain. I tell people it's pronounced "like Cathy but without the lisp."

They usually laugh. And sometimes that's enough of a mnemonic they actually get it right. Feel free to steal the phrase if you think it'll help.

#30 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Cassy @ 28: that brings to mind a Scottish football commentator on BBC Radio 5 Live. The BBC are normally very good about names, but this particular chap, infamously, couldn't pronounce the name of a Russian who played for (I think) Rangers at the time. His name was Mikhailichenko. The commentator kept calling him "McKillichenko".

#31 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:44 PM:

My last name is Hitchcock, which despite the claims of fake-genealogy services has been stable for some time. There was a period of 20-30 years when anybody trying to spell it (after getting if from me orally) left out at least one of the 'c's -- but somehow in the last 10-20 years everybody has heard of the director (even though he died in 1980 and doesn't seem memorable -- far more subtle than today's films). So I can't complain about a mishandled name now, but I can sympathize with those who do.

wrt the question about rehearsal: I suspect every director has their own standards of preparation. My wife and I were asked to be the stair assistants in 2003 when someone heard that we'd brought formalwear to help with the Hugo Losers Party, but we weren't asked to do any advance prep and we got the impression that we wouldn't have been asked if somebody hadn't suddenly realized "Oh, X is getting an award and is getting on in years; we should have someone ready to help him."
I don't remember making my director rehearse when I ran Functions in 1980, but the standards were a little lower back then -- and individual presenters were less common than an emcee who covered everything.
I suppose this is one of the problems with having the management different every year -- but I suspect there's nobody qualified who would want the job year after year.

#32 ::: CHip has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 07:45 PM:

and is wondering whether aitch you gee oh is gnomebait....

#33 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 08:04 PM:

I'd just like to apologize to Right There Jones if I've ever misspelled their name here.

You know who gets my name wrong all the time?
I speak to them in Danish, tell them my name is Bryan, and they insist on calling me Brian.
Very irritating.

#34 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 08:18 PM:

Bryan @32, I'm curious; in my dialect "Brian" and "Bryan" sound exactly the same. (Like "Kathy" and "Cathy" or "Shawn" and "Sean".) What is the difference to Danes?

#35 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 08:31 PM:

I've got a fairly common name, and I've seen it spelled many different ways:

Cheryle, Sheryl, Charell, Sharel... and lots more. The one that really gets me, though? "Cherly". Or "Sherly".

My name ends with an "L" sound. Why would people think it's appropriate to stick a Y after that?

#36 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 08:35 PM:

At one of my old addresses I used to get telemarketing calls: "Is that Mrs RODrigooz?"

The previous tenant's name was Rodriguez.

#37 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 08:40 PM:

Cheryl@34: perhaps English adverbs mean that y-l-[space] gets 'corrected' by the fingers to the far commoner sequence l-y-[space].

#38 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 09:04 PM:

I think this has been linked here before, but it's relevant again:

A Name Is A Name (My Name Is Carla).

#39 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 10:25 PM:

Janet @10: Your boss may have been a jerk anyway, but it's possible he really thought "Janet" was supposed to be pronounced "Jan-ette," with the accent on the second syllable. The family of my husband's aunt Janet, born in Kentucky in the 1910's, pronounced her name that way her entire life, and I was taken aback the first time I saw it spelled.

#40 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 10:32 PM:

“Famouspro” is, of course, pronounced “fan-shaw”.

#41 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 10:36 PM:

On a couple of occasions in my life, I've heard amusing second-hand stories about some person boasting(?!) about being a close friend of mine while simultaneously referring to me as 'Heather Rose". (As if it were Mary Sue or Elisabeth Ann or the like.) It's been boggling both because I never go by just "Heather Rose" and because I find it peculiar that anyone would try to impress someone by claiming to be a close friend of mine.

#42 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 10:59 PM:

#30 ::: Mongoose

The BBC habitually pronounces Maryland (a state in the US) as Mar-ee-land when it should be Mer-rih-land.

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 11:17 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @41: There's a similar shibboleth for Quinn Yarbro, who never goes by Chelsea and often finds people who claim to be her friend referring to her that way.

#44 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2013, 11:28 PM:

I have never once in my life met someone who can pronounce my first name correctly in their initial go.

And then, once they've been taught the correct pronunciation, they get it right four or five times before they start pronouncing it wrong again. While not a new name, it's suitably rare that most people won't ever meet someone who has it; it has enough similarity to Geneva, however, that people are pre-programmed to mangle it horribly.

(The way it usually goes is, I say "And I'm (myname)."
"Oh. That's. Very unusual!"
" can call me Gen, if it's easier."
"It is!"

I was 28 before anyone ever asked me "What do you *want* to be called?" which is, invariably, my entire first name...)

#45 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 12:00 AM:

People mispronounce my first name by leaving off the last two syllables.

Mongoose 11: Or McInerney, a name familiar to many here.

The "neutral ground" bar in the Dresden books by Jim Butcher is called McAnally's. I expect Butcher is thinking MAC-uh-nally...unfortunately my brain persists in saying mic-ANAL-ly.

Ibid. 30: The BBC are normally very good about names

Hmm, can't agree there, not when Maria identifies herself as muh-REE-uh and they insist on calling her muh-RYE-uh. They pronounced Sarajevo ser-uh-JAY-voh too.

RP is actually a severe impediment to getting names right. IIUC they aren't ALLOWED to pronounce things correctly if the correct pronunciation conflicts with the "correct" RP pronunciation. I haven't yet heard them pronounce Houston (the city) and Houston (the NYC street) the same, but I bet they will.

Avram 40: "Featherstone Haugh? BoSh!"

Tom 43: And Samuel R. Delany, who is never called Sam. No, he's called Chip (not to be mistaken for CHip).

#46 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 12:36 AM:

Xopher @45, “last two syllables”? But “zo-fer” is only two syllables long!

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:21 AM:

My surname contains a phoneme that doesn't exist in the local language where I live. Dutch just doesn't have a "th" at all, and very few Dutch people master the sound when they learn English. Its absence is a tell, alongside unvoicing the "d" at the end of words. Which they also do to my surname.

But it's one thing to call me "Abi Sudderlant". I am totally used to that; indeed, that's how I pronounce it on the phone before I spell it out. (That way my interlocutor knows what achievable pronunciation I prefer.)

It would be quite another to commit that to writing, or say "Abi Zuiderlander" or something.

#48 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:23 AM:

Xopher, now I'm intrigued: what are the pronunciation differences between Houston (the city) and Houston (the NYC street)? I'd say "HYOO-ston" for both, but am Canadian and never been to either.

#49 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:33 AM:

HOUSE-tun street.

hyOOS-tun, Texas.

* * *
In the late 70s or so there was an advertisement for Greenwich Savings Bank. My parents were amazed and disgusted when spokeswomen pronounced it "GREEN-witch."

Please . . . its "Grennij!"

#50 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:33 AM:

Nenya: the street, if I understand correctly as a non-New Yorker, is pronounced HOW-ston.

#51 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:35 AM:

Nenya #47

The city is pronounced as you think it is (though typically with a Texan accent). The street is /ˈhaʊstən/ or how-stən

This reminds me of the comet.
Of all the meteors in the sky there's none like Comet Halley
We see it with the naked eye, but this time rather poorly

#52 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:06 AM:

Fragano @ 1

... Did I miss an announcement in the open thread? Apologies and congratulations!

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:19 AM:

One good thing about Justin Timberlake: his fame has meant that I no longer have to spell my last name for strangers. I just say "like Justin."

I can't count the number of times "lake" has been turned into "ly." Barry Goldwater's receptionist in his Senate office in DC turned the name into "Kimberly" on the pass she gave me to get into the Visitors Gallery.

#54 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:50 AM:

Patrick - I was not on the proofreading team for San Antonio this year but I can assure you that for every worldcon for which I am on the proofreading team, the spelling for your name and Teresa's is specifically noted in the style sheet.

Stefan @26 I often have the same experience. People responding to an email message or post that spells my name correctly still manage to address the comment to "Janet" rather than "Janice."

Tom @43 I once heard someone introduce Orson Scott Card as "My good friend Orson" whereas even many of us who are not his good friends know that he goes by Scott.

#55 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 03:08 AM:

My last name has people exclaiming "that's a lovely surname!" while they cheerfully mangle it in writing by splitting it into two words, or transposing two letters (the -gracia part becomes -garcia), or replacing the c with a t or a z.
It's particularly charming when colleagues do it in published texts that they conveniently forget to send over for a final check.

#56 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 03:38 AM:

Stewart. Stuart. Steward. Steuart (the French had ahold of the name at some points, and didn't use W, thus Guillaume / Guillermo as variants on my first name.) I didn't choose the name, one of my ancestors had it as a title (means roughly house-manager, and "sty" can be anything from a king's house to a pig's), or maybe it wasn't actually one of my ancestors, just the landlord of one of them, since the locals mostly used patronymics before the invaders came. (I should probably know whether there's a difference between Mac-somebody and Fitz-somebody?)

Standardized spelling was pretty much optional among the classes who could read and write at all, and a bunch of generations of my ancestors were farmers who might or might not have been literate. I'll settle for an initial ST, and around here if it gets pronounced "Estuart" that'll do also (because apparently Spanish, or at least Mexican-Californian Spanish, doesn't deal well with initial "st", just as English doesn't deal well with initial "x".)

But I still get grumpy about people who call me on the phone and ask "Hi, William - is this William?" as if they're trying to be familiar when they're not. Usually they're bureaucrats with a good reason to call, rather than just cold-calling sales people, but it'd be nice if they kept track of what name I go by, and the fact that they're asking indicates that they haven't done so, so it's not a good sign.

#57 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:27 AM:

In at least one official publication, the 1997 Texas Worldcon contrived to list its guest of honour as Michael Moocock.

#58 ::: iliadawry ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:35 AM:

Cassy B @29: Oh, I like that. I may indeed use that one. I usually roll my eyes and say "that'll do."

I suppose technically my name is also pronounced "mewwwwwww" on a regular basis, but the speaker is a cat, so I can forgive her. Otherwise she might seek new staff.

#59 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:50 AM:

In my last job, I once had to do some work for someone in another section whose surname was O'Cathain. I'd seen her name on paper plenty of times, but never heard it pronounced, so when I went to talk to her about the work, I asked, "How do you pronounce your name, by the way? Is it O-CA-han?"

She was absolutely delighted that I'd made an educated attempt. "Not quite, but that's a very good try. It's O-ca-HAWN."

Ah, the joy of Irish names. One day I swear I'm going to get them completely worked out.

#60 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:59 AM:

Oh, and Xopher @ 45: I have exactly the same problem with the name "McEvilly".

#61 ::: Arthur Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 06:08 AM:

That Hugo thing happened to me the first time I was on the ballot. The Famous Pro was Terry Carr, who sent me an apology not too long after.

#62 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 06:35 AM:

Debra Doyle @21: I share your first name, and oh I'm fed up of saying "Debra; that's D - E - B - R - A" - by which time they've already written the (erroneous) "O" so they stop writing and look confused, and when I add "no 'O', no 'H'; the short form of Debra" they then ask me to spell it again...

Stefan @26: apologies if I've ever done that to you.

JaniceG @54: I get that too in reply to emails: where my name is in the email address, and I type my first name in, AND it's in the automatic signature. And they STILL reply, "Dear Deborah" (and only one person has ever sent a follow-up e-mail apologising for getting it wrong).

As for what I want to be called, why oh why do people bother to ASK "do you prefer Debra or Debbie?" when they're going to call you Debbie (or sometimes Deb or Debs) even when you clearly reply that you prefer "Debra".

#63 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 06:49 AM:

Me and my name, with comments from other people talking about their names.

#64 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:14 AM:

So what you're saying is that the Planetarium isn't named for you?

Years ago, at a summer camp (actually, at the Duke Young Writers Camp, where I wrote some dreadful teenage sci-fi), there was a plethora of Kathryns, who were all so happy to find other people with their spelling. I try never to assume with any reasonably common name that it's spelled like I assume (of course, I grew up in NYC in the '70s/'80s, so "Graig Nettles" was a name I saw a lot).

For me, for some bizarre reason, it's my first name -- I get called Alan and Andy all the time, and occasionally something odder (Steve Brust, at his recent Boston signing, thought I was a Tom). My last name gets its shares of misspellings (Lipton's a common one), but usually by vendors/telemarketers who glance briefly at it and fill in what they assume will be there (that might account for the Andy/Alan stuff, too; four letters beginning with A).

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:15 AM:

Arthur, #61: Terry Carr was a class act.

Nancy, #63: I'm pretty sure I've mangled your last name more than once. I now have it on my internal "be sure to check" list.

#66 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 07:22 AM:

JaniceG, #54: The heck of it is, TNH and I have said repeatedly that either or both of us will proofread Hugo-ceremony material for any Worldcon, with pretty much any amount of notice. Perhaps it's time to start repeating this again.

That said, I'm fairly sure no amount of proofreading would have fixed that chyron in San Antonio, because I'm fairly sure that the chyrons of the winners were keyboarded in backstage at the last minute. I'm guessing this to be the case because there was an open, unobstructed double-width doorway between the pre-Hugo reception space and the auditorium's backstage area, and about twenty minutes before we nominees were summoned to file into the hall from the party, I happened to be leaning on one end of that open doorway and could see a woman in evening dress, someone I didn't recognize, standing up typing into a laptop that was awkwardly placed on a high shelf amidst a bunch of other equipment. She looked stressed-out and, from what I could see of her hands, she was clearly typing short strings followed by frequent returns. I couldn't see the screen, and I certainly wasn't going to transgress into working backstage space to spy on her or anyone else, but I remember thinking to myself "I'll bet she's entering the names of the winners."

#67 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 08:12 AM:

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Thanks very much.

#68 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 08:24 AM:

dcb@62: As for what I want to be called, why oh why do people bother to ASK "do you prefer Debra or Debbie?" when they're going to call you Debbie (or sometimes Deb or Debs) even when you clearly reply that you prefer "Debra".

Oh, yeah. The gratuitous nicknamers. I haven't been "Debbie" since I was 8 years old, when I stood in the kitchen of my family's house one day and told my parents that I wasn't "Debbie", I was "Debra." Bless them both, they heard me and got the message. It may have helped that my father was christened "Lauren" but went by "Larry" from the first day he got far enough away from home to have a say in it, and nobody in my mother's life called her "Millie" who wasn't a blood relation.

There's a reason why I mostly go by "Doyle" (or by my old SCA name, when I'm among people who knew me at the time.)

#69 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 08:51 AM:

People tend to mispronounce the first two syllables of my last name.

They tend to want to say Eye-Key, when the correct pronunciation of those syllables is Eee-Kay.

(I sometimes note that the vowels are pronounced the same way as they are in Spanish.)

#70 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:09 AM:

When I presented a Hugo at LACon, I spent a solid ten minutes muttering "Paolo Bacigalupi, Paolo Bacigalupi, Paolo Bacigalupi..." so that I wouldn't end up doing this.

But I still end up consistently spelling it Bacigalupe. Argh.

I get my comeuppance in the form of an endless stream of "Corey"s.

#71 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:31 AM:

I'm suddenly reminded of the Mary Tyler Moore episode where Murray bet Ted that Ted would mispronounce on the air the family name of some prominent visitor for Japan. Ted pronounced the name correctly multiple times off the air then mispronounced it on camera.

(Just after Murray makes the bet)

Mary: I thought you weren't supposed to gamble.
Murray: This isn't gambling.

#72 ::: Carla Newenglander ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:06 AM:

Dave Harmon @38: Thank you so much for posting the link to Carla Ulbrich's video! I get called Carol or Clara frequently, it's often spelled "Karla," and I even get mail addressed to "Carl A.".

I don't mind when they do it the first time, but when they keep making the mistake after I politely correct them, it's aggravating. Many years ago, when I had a summer job as a hotel desk clerk on Cape Cod, one patron called me "Carmella" (in her accent, it sounded like "Caw_MEL-ah") for her entire month-long stay. I gave up correcting her after about the fourth attempt...

#73 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:35 AM:

So back in, um, 1980? My god. So I was in lower Manhattan and a character--a genuine character some of you might have heard of, an absurd and annoying individual about whom my only unmixed feeling is gladness I haven't seen him in decades--showed up with a group at three am. I'd been told to let him in but not past the entryway, so there we sat, the door open to a busy street, half a dozen in the foyer. Drinking, smoking, as the Beastie Boys might say.

Among the group was a woman named Gigi who seemed both very taken with this character and far too good for him. For the only time in my life, I tried successfully to take someone's date away from him. No, she said, as the group moved on around dawn. I'll see you later. No, go on. Or words to that effect. And then we went up to the loft area where I slept that summer and went to sleep. We didn't have sex and I was immensely satisfied nonetheless.

When we woke, we had a nice, slow, intimate morning and a very pleasant talk. I never saw her again. I was sad about that, but not as sad as I might have been, because during that talk I learned her name was not Gigi but Jean.

#74 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:05 AM:

I used to work in a call centre involving ongoing cases (car warranties), and I'd been there long enough that my job was to take over existing cases from folks who'd been fired, or who had left or were on vacation (the latter wasn't overly common; the turnover rate was pretty high, with median employment after training being measured in weeks). This meant calling folks who occasionally hadn't heard from us in much longer than they should have had to wait, with no guarantee that the previous agent had even spelled their name correctly on the casefile. I had one name with a very high consonant-to-vowel ratio which was not a name I'd come across before, and was not easily-sounded out in any phonetics I knew (I can work out English and Romance languages; this wasn't those). I called my manager over and asked her how she'd pronounce it. She gazed at it a while, brow furrowed in conversation, and then said, decisively, "Sir." and left me to it.

I wound up calling, asking for the first name (which was one that I knew how to pronounce), and then saying "I can think of a few ways to pronounce your last name. Which do you prefer?", which seemed politer than admitting I had no clue.

(I'm sensitive to name-spellings. "Emily" seems very simple until your parents opt to migrate to a francophone location. Émilie, Amélie, Émelie, Aimée... Emma-Leah on one memorable occasion. At the call centre, I got called everything from Melanie to Bailey to Angelina.)

#75 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:12 AM:

One branch of the Canadian side of our family uses yet a third pronunciation of "Houston": HOO-ston.

"Houston" is also the name of the public school closest to where we now live. We weren't sure at first which to use of the three pronunciations we were familiar with.

#76 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:28 AM:

I would say that the problem is not the appearance of being uncaring of those not in the Group but the actuality of it. It doesn't take many incidents for the Group to get that reputation among the Outgroup.

My rule for those who genuinely cannot learn proper pronunciations-- substitute teachers, Special Olympics announcers-- is that you cannot show in any way that the name is difficult to pronounce. Mangle it, but don't do the tough-name voice. Do not let the audience, who may not know the name either, know that you have trouble. It's better to get the name wrong quickly than to tell everyone in the room than the name is freakish and so is the person it applies to.

#77 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:34 AM:

Mongoose @ #19: That is correct. (I went to school with her nephew.)

In other news from my part of the world, one of Georgia's 159 counties is Houston (pronounced HOW-stun). We also boast the cities of Cairo (KAY-ro), Albany (ALL-benny) and Berlin (BER-lun).

#78 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:40 AM:

My first name gives people all kinds of grief. Those who hear it are convinced it is Therese, Teresa (all hail our hostess), or Dolores (for the record: dah-REESE). Those who see it are convinced it is Darcie.

But I was clever! When I had a daughter I gave her a classic name, with an easy-to-spell nickname! She is named Margaret and goes by Meg... but now everyone thinks her given name must be "Megan." ::headdesk::

(Additional note: my son goes by his full name, Robert, and doesn't have this problem at all.)

#79 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:44 AM:

After way too many years of getting the written version of my name mangled as "Joanne", "Joan", or the occasional "Janet" or "Janelle", I switched over to saying "Jo" when asked for my name at one of those fast food places where they need a name instead of a number. (Think Green Mermaid.) This all being on the theory that if I hear some other name, I'll always be suffering the twitch of "is that me? or is it for somebody else?"

So what usually happens? Order-taker, looking right at extremely female-presenting me, writes down "Joe". With something like 70% consistency. Oh, well, at least nobody's come up with a way to mispronounce "Joe". Yet.

#80 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 12:07 PM:

I feel your...well, maybe not pain, but exasperated irritation.

I have too many Es in my first name. I have too few Bs in my last name. I am so often Madeline (rather than Madeleine) Robbins (rather than Robins) that I often don't bother correcting people, because what the hell is in a name, anyway? And the various changes that can be rung by inverting vowels or replacing them (I particularly liked a bill that came in to Medeleine, which made me sound rather like a drug cartel) is not worth stressing over, is it.

But the worst (in our household) was when Danny was up for the Emmy. The nice Emmy people send you a card on which you must give a phonetic rendering of your name, so that the announcers will get it right in the unlikely event, etc. And to their credit, when he won, both the announcer and the award itself had it right (the award had the title of the documentary itself wrong, but that was an Excel glitch, and another story). But the presenter, after reading out the names of his two co-workers from the project, squinted at the teleprompter and there, on TV for God and His mother to see, read out "Danny Ca-Ca-CaVAHco?"

Which is why, every time anyone in the family sees the actress Jorja Fox on TV, we yell "CACCAVO!" at the screen. Sigh.

#81 ::: Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 12:14 PM:

Joining the crowd of difficult-to-spell names here. I may have inflicted mine on myself: I added Vejdemo from my wife when we married.

In addition to spelling being horrible -- Comcast spent a long time billing me as "Michael Zedemo" in spite of having a decent readable spelling on the paperwork I handed in.

Another issue I keep running into is that of people insisting to know how my name would be pronounced in Swedish. I have long since given up on being happy with an attempted Swedish pronunciation, and give my name as "Michael" in spoken English (or spoken German for that matter) -- but invariable people want to know how to do it "right".

And their attempts invariably sound like either Mikhail or Miguel. Neither of which makes me particularly happy.

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 12:48 PM:

I thought I had problems, given that I have an unusual first name. My wife, however, has me beat. Especially since she hyphenated her surname to mine when we got married. People consistently misspell "Ofterdinger-Ledgister" in a variety of creative ways. I was particularly struck by "Ofteroingel" which has a rather Jewish-Catholic fusion effect.

However, the number of ways a simple, straightforward name like "Gail" can be misspelt ("Gai", "Gayle", "Gayl", "Gale") really surprised me. And I've had people who've known me for more than a dozen years who can't get my name right.

#83 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:44 PM:

My wife's last name is Bulman. One "l". The "l" sometimes gets doubled, or the name mutated to "Bowman" or the like.

A coworker married a woman whose last name is "Bohlmann". The two names have different but similar pronunciations (and likely similar mutations).

#84 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 01:51 PM:

Way back when I did filing for the Inland Revenue non-hyphenated double surnames were always alphabetised by the last part, so Nielsen Hayden would indeed go under H. If it were hyphenated it would go under N.

Perhaps this is a British/American difference?

#85 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Tangentially related: my dad used to be one of the directors of a small but quite successful company, and every so often they'd get a mailing from some other company with a letter sent to every member of the board (presumably in the hope that at least one of them would take notice). One day, they got such a mailing from a company in America. There was one letter addressed to each of the directors... and one addressed to "Mr M A Oxon".

We laughed.

#86 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Ms M A Cantab was not on the board?

#87 ::: Arwel ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 02:35 PM:

Joann @#79, oh I feel for you! I always use a completely made-up name like "Dave" in that sort of circumstance, as hardly anyone in England has ever heard my name before, and they never hear it properly - I've been called Alan, Arnold, Arthur.... Even when I pronounce it properly, AR-wel with a rolled r, I'm inevitably addressed as "ah well", and people seem to have an irresistible temptation to add an extra "l" on the end, which as anyone who knows Welsh place names should realise is pronounced very differently from single-l!

You'd never think five letters could be mispronounced so often. I foresee my brothers' grandchildren will have some problems when they grow up too, they're Jac, Hana, and Tomos, though at least they're not far off from the English equivalents.

#88 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 03:32 PM:

I, of course, have pretty much an identical/opposite problem to Patrick (First name, e before i, never on the Hugo ballot*).

Fragano @82 My Mum's name is Gay. It's surprising the number of people who are sure she's actually Gayle or Gail.

* Patrick @66 I wonder if, as a Hugo nominee, organisers would prefer not to have you proofread ceremony materials (just because it might not look good)

#89 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 03:48 PM:

Fragano @ 86: no, and it was telling that they'd assumed everyone was "Mr". (They were, as it happened. I believe something has been done about that since.)

Arwel @ 87: but haven't people heard of the conductor Owain Arwel Hughes? He was regular Thursday night viewing when I was in my late teens, although I can't recall the name of the programme. He was quite young and used to conduct with a good deal of enthusiasm, so he'd start off the performance looking impeccable, and by the end his hair would be sticking out in all directions, his bow tie swivelled at an angle and his shirt threatening to come untucked. Good conductor, mind.

#90 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:14 PM:

Neil W, #88: If correctly organized, there's nothing about proofreading the Hugo-ceremony materials that tells you who won. We've done it on multiple occasions when one or the other of us was a finalist.

#91 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:15 PM:

Well, yes, but we thought he was Owen Arwell Hughs. :-)

(Actually, I hadn't heard of Owain Arwel Hughes, but he sounds adorable.)

#92 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:16 PM:

Neil W.@88: Actually the name you bear is how I remember our esteemed hosts' spelling: "if it looks like the name, it's the wrong way around." (This sticks better than "I before E" -- which, to digress, was the title of the art book by comic book artist Sam Kieth.)

#93 ::: Deirdre Saoirse Moen ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 04:17 PM:

Of all the lessons I learned at Clarion, the most vivid moment is when we went out for food one night. Patrick sat across from me and said, "You have three names, all of them difficult to spell."

For that reason, I decided to use the pen name of D. S. Moen.

Like the Nielsen Haydens, I have a compound surname with a non-breaking space. During my first marriage, I hyphenated my surname (Saoirse-Savino) and everyone felt obligated to try to pronounce Saoirse. It was painful, though it's become less so over time.

Even though my blog is called "Sounds Like Weird," very few people get that it's a pronunciation tip for both Deirdre and Saoirse.

#94 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:05 PM:

There's a reason my husband and I BOTH changed our surnames when we married. Both of us had relatively difficult names; mine was regularly mispronounced Heineken (It's a fairly common Finnish surname), and his was a Mennonite (low German) surname that's easy to mispronounce if you aren't part of or familiar with that local community. (He once got an award from an archery club addressed to Mr. Stubby, which amused us as it meant someone had to have known how to properly pronounce it... and probably read it out to someone else typing who didn't know it.)

He flipped his middle and last names and I took the new last name. This has confused people who see his middle name, know it as a last name, and thus fill out his paperwork in the original order. At least one person did catch this, though.

I get Leonora or Lenore or especially Leona all the time (I've had the letter happen here, but then, we have a Lenore who also posts), but at least my current surname I can pretty safely say, "The usual spelling" and trust that they'll get it right. At least if they say Eleanore, I don't mind, but the other ones grate.

One of my best friends admits that she still *thinks* of me as "Nora" even though I have begged her never to call me that and she has stopped saying it aloud. The proper way to shorten my name is "Gwen" (my SCA name).

I also have a friend who recently got published under the penname Leona Carver, and when she signed my copy of her book, she noted in brackets after her signature that she *almost* wrote my name in place of her own.

#95 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 05:26 PM:

My brother is Richard. He has never been called either 'Rich' or, especially, 'Dick', even inside the family.

#96 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 06:55 PM:

Bill Stewart @ 56: That's a shibboleth (in the original meaning used above by Tom W, rather than the somewhat inverted meaning it has now). I and at least one acquaintance with a non-commonest nickname find it very useful to distinguish fakes pretending they know us from people who actually do; sounds like you could at least use it for people who may try to talk down to you.

PNH @ 66: As someone who had glancing contact with a number of areas, I am not surprised by that story. Not even much depressed, as it means some of my private screaming fits may not have been just me.
One useful lesson from that convention: "Lea Farr" is two syllables, not three.

Lila @ 77: I hadn't realized those pronunciations had multiplied; I knew of "Kayro" IL and "Berlun" in northern New England. I wonder how many such alterations there are in North America....

Chris @ 84: So rich-Andrew's taxes are filed under Webber instead of Lloyd? One would be amused to know whether they ever pulled that on Ursula Vaughan Williams; from the number of organizations I've seen her mentioned in, I get the impression she was a ... vigorous ... personality.

Fragano @ 86: augh.

#97 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 08:22 PM:

Any time anyone wants me back doing montages, etc. for Worldcons, let me know.

However, in the future it would help if it was realized that no one had done the "In Memory Of" montage more than three hours before show time.

#98 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 08:58 PM:

CHip @96: You can add North Versailles (verSAILS) to your collection -- it's a suburb of Pittsburgh.

The funny thing about the dean mispronouncing my name was that my colleagues would very pointedly say my name correctly subsequently in the meeting -- and he'd still do it, every single time. He was South Korean, and I presume it was the lingering French influence.

#99 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:00 PM:

Nenya 48: Others have now given you the correct pronunciations for the street and city. Should you ever visit NYC, you will be able to pronounce that street correctly (and be able to find Soho, which is the areas SOuth of HOuston Street). If you do, you should also be aware that we shorten the pronunciation of "Avenue of the Americas" so that it is pronounced "Sixth Avenue."

Mongoose 59: Ah, the joy of Irish names. One day I swear I'm going to get them completely worked out.

I know, right? But there ARE rules to them...not that they help with the stress. You at least got the 'th' right. The 'i' before the last letter of a word, especially an 'n', makes it slender (palatalized), which is often the realization of the genitive case. My last name (no, Avram, not 'Halftongue', my legal last name) comes from Ir. 'chatain', which is genitive of 'catan' (as in Settlers of! no, I'm lying), which is...I forget what you call an ending that means "the great." Augmentative? ...of 'cat', which is Irish for cat. So my last name means "of the great cat."

dcb 62: Good grief! I do NOT understand why people can't just take how you introduce yourself and use that as your damn name! Salespeople are always shortening my name, which simply serves to remind me every time they do it that they are NOT friends of mine but want me to think they are; it's like saying "and I'm a liar and a sneak, by the way" in every sentence.

Or maybe it's a weird kind of privilege, in a way. Guys named Mark or Jim or John may think one syllable is all a first name needs, and see no reason they should pronounce more than one of anyone else's, so they call Patrick Pat and me Chris.

That still doesn't explain calling you Debbie, though. I don't know how you keep yourself from slapping them. Assuming you do.

Chris 84: Perhaps this is a British/American difference?

Yeah, it's related to that Received Pronunciation thing. The British ruling class don't actually care what YOU think your name is; they'll decide which part of your name is real, by gum.

Mongoose 89: I'm not getting the "M A Oxon"/"M A Cantab" thing. Maybe I'm stupid.

Deirdre 93: I've known a number of people with names spelled like your first name. Most of them were DEER-druh, but one was DEER-drie (as in "if I must drie this dreary weird"). For Saoirse, I'd say the 'ao' is the true vowel in the first syllable, so the first 's' is broad, and the rest of the consonants slender, and say something like SEER-shuh, but with a backed EE. Is that close?

#100 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:03 PM:

Re #98: And yet, Duquesne is still pronounced du-KANE.

#101 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:08 PM:

Xopher: Master of Arts, Oxford and Master of Arts, Cambridge, respectively. (From Latin Oxoniensis and Cantabrigensis--sp?)

#102 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:22 PM:

'I didn't know how to pronounce Ursula Le Guin's surname until I asked someone whether it was as in "guinea" or as in "penguin". I was informed that it was the latter, I trust correctly.'

damn, I always thought it was pronounced Gune like Dune with a G instead of a D. That way also sounds sort of like a fancy Goon.

#103 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:28 PM:

'I'm curious; in my dialect "Brian" and "Bryan" sound exactly the same. (Like "Kathy" and "Cathy" or "Shawn" and "Sean".) What is the difference to Danes?'

Brian is the danish spelling, and the pronunciation is Bree-en
Due to how one pronounces the y sound in Danish the correct pronunciation would be sort of like brue-en, but only two people have ever done that as it is sort of being a wise-ass.

#104 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:48 PM:

But my grandmother's uncle DuQuesne was pronounced with three syllables and the 's' (nickname: Ques).

#105 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:58 PM:

Upon being introduced to me, 90% of people, within five minutes, address me as Etsy. I am not a website! And there are the spellings: Este (that's not how English orthography works), Esti (I can see that I guess), Estee (is not pronounced like my name), and, memorably, on multiple occasions at That One Coffee Chain, SD.

So now I tell the coffee people "Rowan" which at least feels reasonable to have to spell for them.

#106 ::: estelendur is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 09:59 PM:

Probably for including the name of a website which is not my name. I can offer the gnomes some eggplant-tomato pasta from dinner.

#107 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:21 PM:

Lila 101: Ohhhh.

Rats, I AM stupid. But thanks.

#108 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:26 PM:


Lake Buena Vista, Florida (byoo-na viss-ta)

El Dorado, Arkansas (el doe-ray-doe)

#109 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:27 PM:

Xopher: oh, you are not.

I even invoked you under my breath at choir rehearsal today (as in "O Xopher defend me!" when the rehearsal leader told us to pronounce "excelsis" "like eggshells!").

#110 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:50 PM:

Patrick (#24) I believe that if our name had not been unusual, as in "not usually seen in these parts", rather than as in "really weird and hard to figure out from the spelling", the bank would hardly have dared to make *any* excuse. It would have been all "So sorry Ms [Brown]." As it was, because it was an unusual name, they felt perfectly justified in a) making the mistake, and b) blowing me off.

Sorry, I should have made that part plainer. I haven't wanted to mention the actual name, because I am no longer married to that person, and ... y'know, I'd as soon he had forgotten me entirely.

It was a name that people had the most surprising difficulty with, considering that it is absolutely phonetically correct in English.

#111 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 10:54 PM:

Bryan 103: I once heard an American man say to his Finnish wife, as he exited an elevator, something that sounded like "Gohhdbüeh."

It was a joke between them. It's how a Finn would read the word 'goodbye'.

#112 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:06 PM:

I'm still boggled at the guy who persisted in calling my friend Sandra, "Sandy", in spite of multiple polite corrections. When she finally got fed up enough to tell him rudely, "Actually, my name is SandRA", he actually had the gall to answer: "But I call you Sandy." When she told him, "No, you don't", he made that sound, you know? Sort of a loud tsk followed by a huff of breath, like she was being so unreasonable?

How dare she wish to be called by her own name, after all?

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:06 PM:

Lamesa, Texas (laMEEssa)
Neodesha, Kansas (neeohda-SHAY)
Port Hueneme, California (Why-nee-me)

#114 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:07 PM:

Lila 108: Seriously? I'm honored. Of course, director's privilege, but...well, I probably would have tried to speak to the rehearsal leader (or the director, if they're different people) afterward and explain the correct (Church Latin) pronunciation.

I had occasion recently to explain to my own choir director that the pronunciation guide in the music he'd given us was incorrect. In this case it had to do with certain Russian words that end in '-его'—transliterating them with '-yego' is dubious at best, but saying they should be pronounced that way is Just Plain Wrong, as they're actually pronounced '-yevo'.

#115 ::: Xopher Halftongue visits Gnome, Galaska (silent Gs in both) ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Probably for Cyrillic characters. Well, at least they don't cause an outright error.

#116 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:19 PM:

Cheryl 111: Tempting to address him as "Gorbag" from then on ("yes, but I call you Gorbag"). But if he was that thick, it probably wouldn't have had any positive impact. I assume Sandra had no choice but to associate with this dumbass?

I can't wrap my mind around what these people (and IME they're almost all men) are thinking. Do they honestly believe they have been given the task of naming all things, like Adam? Or do they just think it's somehow friendly to make up their own private name for people they meet and use it?

I think there's certainly a power dynamic, real or attempted, involved there. It's a way of one-downing someone to say "I get to call you by a name that's not the one you've clearly stated you prefer, so that puts me above you in the hierarchy." If the dumbass wasn't actually above Sandra in a hierarchy, he was just being a jackhole. If he was above her in a hierarchy, he was being a jackhole tyrant.

Either way, seven ankle kicks with hard-toed boots to him.

#117 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:24 PM:

I think my personal winner for name mangling was the Christmas that my father-in-law of 18 years gave individual Christmas cards to the whole family, and got the names wrong on every single one. Aran for Aaron, Syndi for Cindy, and even with the grandchild with the same name as him, Robby for Robbie.

Mind you, not only had he known me for two decades and his grandkids all their lives, he had been living in the house with us for a year. It was rather impressive.

#118 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:26 PM:

Chip @96, re, shibboleths: I work for a company whose owner was named Charles. He went by "Chuck." He *hated* "Charlie". I was the receptionist. It was a sure-fire shibboleth that when anyone asked for "Charlie", especially if they insisted he was expecting their call, that they were telemarketers trying to sell him something.

Xopher @ 106, you're not stupid; I didn't know either. I kinda guessed that "M. A. Oxon" might be a Master of Arts from Oxford, but "M. A. Cantab" defeated me and made me second-guess my Oxford assumption.

#119 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2013, 11:27 PM:

CHip@96 - yes, it does function as a shibboleth, though I'd been thinking of that term more for how Abi's name gets pronounced Sudderlant.

#120 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:42 AM:

@114 Xopher Halftongue

Tempting to address him as "Gorbag" from then on ("yes, but I call you Gorbag"). But if he was that thick, it probably wouldn't have had any positive impact. I assume Sandra had no choice but to associate with this dumbass?

It was work, so yeah, not much choice about associating with him. Otherwise, I would have taken to addressing him as "Asshole".

He was one of those guys who was completely oblivious to the fact that no one liked him, and if it had ever been pointed out, would never have understood why.

#121 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:58 AM:

Cheryl #111, Xopher #99:

Personally, I'm grateful for idiots calling people by unwanted nicknames. It's a form of warning signal; it tells you that you want to get away from this person as quickly as possible, and that whatever they're asking you, you want no part of it. Kind of like the salivary foam which is a side effect of late-stage rabies; it warns you to stay away.

Re: name spelling, I was at a swim meet in high school in which the organizers not only managed to spell my name incorrectly (which I was used to), but incorrectly four different ways, for each of the four events I was in.

Also, I think it's time for Things Programmers Don't Know About Names:

#122 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:04 AM:

Re: Houston and Houston--ah, Houston as in "house"! Which come to think of it makes more sense to me than the other pronunciation, except that I'd heard the Texan Houston earlier. Funny thing.

My primary association with "Oxoniensis" is that it's the username of the estimable individual who runs a fanfiction erotica festival each year on Livejournal/Dreamwidth. Had no idea it was related to Oxford in the slightest. Hah.

Legal first name one of those Hebrew Bible names that's not very common, but has several variants which are. No one spells it right. I have at least two shorter forms I use, one for work and one for friends. Who uses which one tells me where I met them. And Nenya feels more real a name to me half the time anyway, like the people here with SCA names.

#123 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:42 AM:

"Things Programmers Don't Know About Names"

Well, I suspect after reading that (not knowing the provenance of all the rules of what is not known) is that the person who wrote it came from a culture, or at any rate believes, that a person's name can be whatever they want it to be, this is not necessarily the case in many cultures.

#124 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:48 AM:

personally I think Sandy and Gorbag sounds like a cute couple. I would watch that show.

#125 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:51 AM:

Xopher @99 see Cheryl @111: Unfortunately that's pretty much what happes to me - I make the correction, they ignore it. If I persist in correcting, I'm seen as being unreasonable, making a big fuss out of nothing, being over-sensitive, etc. etc. It's... frustrating.

Xopher, Cassy B.: I can put "MA (Cantab)", among the alphabet salad after my name, but it's perfectly reasonable for you not to know about it (and I usually don't bother with the (Cantab) part**). It's sometimes considered polite to specify the (Oxon) or (Cantab) because you graduate BA (Hons) (Cambridge and Oxford don't give BSc, even in science subjects), then if you live a further three years, pay a small fee and go to another graduation ceremony (good excuse to see everyone, three years on), your degree gets converted to the MA*. That is, it's really a BA; you haven't actually got a Masters degree (I do have a couple of other higher degrees, however).

*If you don't take the MA, some people are going to assume it's 'cos you did so badly in finals that you only got an Ordinary degree, not even a Third Class Honours degree.

** I'm "MA VetMB" so anyone who knows UK veterinary degrees will know its's Cambridge anyway, so adding the (Cantab) looks pretentious.

#126 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:52 AM:

The whole problem with Neilsen is I don't think I've ever seen it spelled that way before, and as far as the relative fame of Neilsen vs. Nielsen

#127 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 04:41 AM:

I've seen things like that Kindle edition mangle before: it's the result of multiple authors being listed in a single author field. At some point in the process, it would have been "Hartwell, David G., Hayden, Patrick Nielsen", and from there Mr Nielsen Hayden disappears and Mr Hartwell gains three extra middle names and a few left-over commas. (That it was "Hayden, Patrick Nielsen" and not "Nielsen Hayden, Patrick" is, however, a different problem.)

Parts of this thread have reminded me of Chris Cwej, a recurring character in some of the Doctor Who spin-off novels. On his first appearance, there is a conversation between him and his new colleague about how his surname is pronounced: she has made an effort to learn the proper pronunciation instead of just assuming it's pronounced "Kwedge" -- which leaves him in the position of explaining that in his case he actually does pronounce it Kwedge, because for him that's less painful than vainly attempting to correct nearly everyone he ever meets.

(I have a commonly-mangled surname, as you might guess from the fact that I generally don't give the internet an opportunity to mangle it unless I have to, but I don't have any amusing anecdotes about it. I do have an anecdote about the most implausible way I've seen my brother's name misspelled, but I doubt it would work without me telling you what my brother's name is.)

#128 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:04 AM:

Bryan @ #121:

Cultures, plural. And if a name that is perfectly correct according to one such culture is rejected or mangled by a program written by a person from a different culture, with equally firm but different rules about how a person should be named, would you say that wasn't a problem?

#129 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:46 AM:

Bryan @ #121 (take two):

Saying that many cultures have rules that restrict what a name might be doesn't help as much as you might think.

Many of the issues raised by the list relate to the assumption that a system need only be able to handle one culture's naming rules. (I particularly like rule #39.)

Others relate to the programmer not even being sufficiently attentive to their own culture's rules. (Consider the example that kicks the whole thing off, of Mr Graham-Cumming whose name sometimes falls foul of systems that don't believe in hyphens. He also mentions, in the linked blogpost, having encountered systems that don't believe a surname can have a capital C in the middle.)

There's plenty of trouble for a programmer to get into without going anywhere near the question of whether "a person's name can be whatever they want it to be".

#130 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:15 AM:

Avram #40: And here I thought it was pronounced "Rank".

#131 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:31 AM:

Janet Brennan Croft #98: There's also Versailles (Vur-SALES), Kentucky, not far from Lexington.

#132 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:33 AM:

Paul A. @ 126 ....
There's plenty of trouble for a programmer to get into without going anywhere near the question of whether "a person's name can be whatever they want it to be".

Indeedy. I use 'Fook Yu' as an example of a perfectly reasonable set of chinese names that read like they've been made up to many US minds.

#133 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:13 AM:

Xopher @ 99: So my last name means "of the great cat." What a great name to have!

Lila @ 108: I even invoked you under my breath at choir rehearsal today (as in "O Xopher defend me!" when the rehearsal leader told us to pronounce "excelsis" "like eggshells!"). *boggle* I think I'd need defending too, in those circumstances. On the other hand, I now have a mental picture of Gloria picking her way through a litter of eggshells, so it's not all bad.

Cheryl @ 111/Xopher @ 114: seconding "Gorbag". Who the devil does he think he is?

Cassy @ 116: a good friend of mine is called Charles. Always Charles. (You don't hear "Chuck" over here. One of those cultural things.) If anyone refers to him as "Charlie", I know they're either joking or pretending to know him better than they do.

Cheryl @ 118: He was one of those guys who was completely oblivious to the fact that no one liked him, and if it had ever been pointed out, would never have understood why. Oh my. I know that type.

While we're on the subject of names, I do not like complete strangers first-naming me. I realise this is a little old-fashioned and possibly British, but it's how I function. Similarly, I think it's disrespectful to first-name tradespeople and so on, although a lot of shop assistants and customer service assistants these days have badges showing just their first names. If this happens, I just don't call them anything.

#134 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:31 AM:

Cheryl (111)/Xopher (114): A (very sexist*) college classmate named John insisted on calling me Mary instead of Mary Aileen. Until the day I very pointedly said, "My name's not 'Mary', Jack." After that, he got it right.

This is the same classmate who persisted in referring to the head of the math department as Mrs. G--- instead of Dr. G--- or Professor G---. Women didn't deserve the courtesy, you see.

Mongoose (130): I do not like complete strangers first-naming me. I realise this is a little old-fashioned and possibly British, but it's how I function. Similarly, I think it's disrespectful to first-name tradespeople and so on

Oh, yes! I'm American, and I agree with this 100%, at least in a professional context (mine or theirs). Meeting someone at a convention is an entirely different kettle of greeps.

I very nearly mistyped my own name--twice--in writing this comment.

#135 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:53 AM:

Mongoose, I'm an American and I completely agree about being firstnamed by strangers. It was a factor in giving up my membership in AARP (all their emails started off "Lila, blah blah blah" and my immediate reaction was always "Who the hell are you to be calling me by my first name??").

OTOH, it can get much worse. A lot of people under 40 think it's cute to call their customers/clients/patients over 50 "young lady" (my husband says he gets "young man" occasionally too). I have not yet been tried beyond endurance by this, but it could happen. (As it did when the OB-GYN nurse looked at my 9-months-pregnant, 192-lb. body and exclaimed "Look at that little tummy!" I neither used obscenity nor laid a hand on her, but by the time I finished she was white and shaking. I did ask her boss to convey my apologies, once I'd calmed down.)

#136 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:13 AM:

dcb @123: Strictly speaking the MA time is measured from matriculation, not after getting the BA, and you can convert a non-Honours BA to an MA. The former matters if your BA is non-honours because of failing the "in consecutive years" requirement for the exams.

#137 ::: Wyn ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:37 AM:

I'm one of the many (more than I thought) cursed with a difficult name. Bronwyn is uncommon enough that I have little canned spiels about: (1) how to spell it, including other valid-but-not-mine versions, (2) common mispellings, (3) pronunciation and common pitfalls, and (4) origin (Welsh) including the 2-sentence summary of the myth. My last name is easy to spell and pronounce, but rare, so people trip on it too, and another [Lastname] is almost certainly a distant relative. If I am ever involved in naming a child, I'm going to push for something a bit uncommon (I grew up with 3 Jennifers per classroom), but still easy to spell and pronounce. At least something with a definitive example to point at.

If anyone here is familiar with how Welsh people pronounce Bronwyn, I'd like to know. I could have been giving people the wrong pronunciation my entire life! I have never met another real live Bronwyn, though I am told they exist. I've never been to Wales, and my family is British/Scotts/French Canadian mongrel, so there's probably some Welsh in there somewhere, but not recently. My mother just likes Welsh names -- my sister has one too.

I only recently came up with a nickname that doesn't suck (Wyn), after decades of rejecting attempts at "Bronnie", "Brawny", and "Brownie". I haven't made the nickname the default option yet, since I haven't changed jobs and social circles recently. I'm not going to complicate life for anyone who's already learned how to pronounce and spell my full name already by changing it on them...

#138 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:06 AM:

"And if a name that is perfectly correct according to one such culture is rejected or mangled by a program written by a person from a different culture"

certainly but in myths programmers believe about programs they also think that all programs must handle all cultures. If your program is something that has to handle all cultures then it follows that naming validation should be as lax as possible.

And actually a lot of those rules are also not necessarily rules that programmers believe about names, because most programmers don't care, but rather programmers that DBAs believe about names especially DBAs who wrote some system 10-15 years ago that has not been rewritten yet because of the expenses involved. :)

#139 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:28 AM:

I'm starting to think that a person could be named "Jane Doe" and still not be immune to name problems -- there's always going to be somebody who thinks it ought to be spelled "Jayne Dow" or something like that.

I think I've been gratuitously-"Debbied" more often by women than men, over the years. This may be a regional thing; southern culture is big on nicknames, to the extent that not using one (if a common one is known for a particular name) can be regarded as standoffish, or signalling a lack of desire for friendly relations. I've been known to offer up "Deb" as an alternative for people I otherwise like (or don't mind, anyhow) who are clearly uncomfortable with formal-firstname address; and "Doyle" (which is in fact my preference) also works for those who are of what one might call the post-X-Files generation.

#140 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:46 AM:

My mother's name was Katherine. Not Kathy or Kitty or Kay or Kate or Katie. Nor was it Catharine or Kathryn or any of the dozen other possible spellings.

So she made a real effort to find a name for me that had no nicknames and few alternate spellings. What she failed to consider was mishearings. Linda is the most common, but I get Brenda surprisingly often. Glenna and even Brenna. Perhaps the most interesting was in middle school when my best friend was Belinda. We became BUH-linda and GUH-linda.

#141 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:11 PM:

On imposed renaming in an informal manner, there's an ObMontyPython on this (I believe from the first episode of series One): see the whole sketch at

Ross: Yes, Ted, Edward, anything!

Interviewer: Splendid, splendid. Incidentally, do call me Tom, I don't want you playing around with any of this 'Thomas' nonsense! Ha ha ha ha! Now where were we? Ah yes. Eddie-baby, when you first started in the...

Ross: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I don't like being called 'Eddie-baby'.

Interviewer: I'm sorry?

Ross: I don't like being called 'Eddie-baby'.

#142 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:17 PM:

re 121/125: I don't feel we have to rehash the "names and computers" thread, but somewhere along the line the point of supplying names to a computer form is so that, somewhere along the line, they can be used. Programmers are prone to adding validations which they've just made up, but on the other hand insisting that a form in the USA accept Cyrillic (or worse, Arabic or some far Eastern character set, er, writing system) is just not going to succeed.

Which brings me to the following complaint: who at Burger King was the genius who replaced giving each order a number with asking customers for a name to call out when their order is ready? Numbers are clear, easy, straightforward, requiting no data entry; names, well, yeah. Even perfectly common names, like mine, get misunderstood, garbled, what-have-you. I'm almost to the point of changing my restaurant name to "Bob".

As to the following exchange, the caller got points for at least using an honorific, but still, something was missing:

I answer the phone: "Mr. Williamson?"

"May I ask who's calling?"

"Actually I we would like to speak to Miss Williamson."

"May I ask who's calling?"

"Oh, it's a courtesy call."

"Look, if you won't tell me who it is who is calling, I'm unwilling to let you talk to her."

Silence. I hang up.

#143 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:19 PM:

Debra Doyle @ #136: you are correct. Medicare, for example, does not like surnames less than five letters long. We had a heck of a time with this once, with one of our patients who had a 4-letter surname, and a quite common one at that.

#144 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:33 PM:

Lila (140): Oboy. I should ask my parents how they're dealing with that one. Our last name is only four letters.

C. Wingate (139): When I ask "Who's calling, please?" most callers just assume I'm me and start addressing me by name. Truncated first name, in most cases. Have they never heard of roommates? Or other situations where the woman who picks up the phone might not be the woman they're looking for? And yes, if they can't identify themselves after I've asked twice (I usually give them twice), I hang up.

#145 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:35 PM:

As usual, I'll start by saying that I hate my (universally used) nickname so much that I go by Mycroft everywhere I can.

I've pulled (at work, with clients) the "I'm not Mary, Jack" line. IT IS NOT MY NAME; if, after repeated corrections, you still don't care, then I don't care what your name is. I'm quite happy to go farther than "Jack" - I'll call them something totally different (Jimmy, if their name's John, or something like that).

I also stop answering. If you ask a question, nobody responds. Sometimes that works (I realize that for women, the "no response" can cause other issues, and frequently means something other than "you asked someone else a question, she can answer").

Of course, there was my first job, where day 2 I said "Please, anything but ." "Okay, Jim." - and it stuck. So I'll answer to Jim, but probably look at you funny to see if I recognize you from mumble years.

I also have a last name like Debra's first. And I spell it, and I watch them write it - wrong. And fix it - wrong.

On pronounciations - there's a Kitchener, ON, pronounced "Berlin" (especially by descendants of Those Battalions). And a Legal, AB, that I only got the right pronunciation when I entered it, and saw the "Bienvenue à Legal" sign. Oops.

On the "things programmers/DBAs think about names" - as was argued in the comments, it's not that you can't code your system to not allow certain naming issues; it's that you need to consider them and whether they're important to your system before coding out people.

And because I have such a thing about my name, for those mistakes I have made (and have apologized for) and those I will make, I pray forgiveness. And when I do make them, I will ask forgiveness of the person as well.

#146 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:47 PM:

At the Canadian university where I once taught, the chairman of the biology department was one Arthur Houston. Pronounced "HOO-ston".

#147 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 12:49 PM:

Mary Aileen, I don't know if it's something patients themselves are likely to run into; it came up for us in coding for reimbursement. But I think it might come into some of the self-service web forms.

#148 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:29 PM:

What are they going to do when they run into two-letter names, like Vo and Ng?

#149 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:33 PM:

Either "Vo (space space space)" or "Ng000". Or in some contexts, "Vo(1st 3 letters of firstname)".

Not that that's confusing AT ALL.

#150 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 01:56 PM:

Alan Braggins @133: You're right, of course. Mea Culpa. I didn't know about the "consecutive years" thing (it wasn't ever relevant to me or anyone I knew). I do know about the "time from matriculation", and I used to say it like that, but I've had too many people ask me what "matriculation" is, so now I've got sloppy about the explanation.

#151 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 02:33 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #42:

They are probably stealing the pronounciation from the Maryland in eastern London that is named after the state.

Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson @ #81:

Ahahaha. Haha. Try to teach an Anglophone how to pronounce "Ingvar". I dare you. I have, essentially, given up hope. It is *so* simple, simply stress the first syllable, do not pause between the first and second (the "ng" is the same sound as the last part of "bong" and slides seamlessly into the "v") and for extra bonus points, the second syllable is subtly rising.

Simple, eh? Let's not even get to the part where any anglophone who has seen my full legal name gets my name completely wrong (yes, there is a name that starts with G that is positionally before "Ingvar", but my first (semantically speaking) name is "Ingvar", the person they are addressing has been dead for 30 years).

#152 ::: Arwel ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:00 PM:

Wyn @#134 As someone who only spoke Welsh until he started school, I'd pronounce your name "Bronwin" with the two syllables equally strong, and said quickly. Though I must confess to some confusion at your gender - the commonest form of the name is Bronwen, with Gwyn and Gwen being the male and female forms of "white"/"pale", and the dropping of the "g" being an example of the mutations that makes Welsh such fun for learners and people looking up entries in dictionaries! Gwyn and Wyn are perfectly valid male names in themselves (my eldest brother was a Gwyn).

#153 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:07 PM:

C. Wingate @139
I use my middle name (the simple, common "Grant") as my restaurant name (and ordering takeways by phone), which causes the occasional odd look from acquaintances.
Once, many years ago, a group of us went to Pizza Hut, where they asked for a name for the table. We looked at each other, mentally rejected the various names that we knew we would end up having to spell, and someone said 'Smith'!

#154 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:15 PM:

ErrolC @149: In college, a friend with a fairly unusual name habitually gave "Bond, James Bond" as his name for things like restaurant reservations, because no one ever had to ask how to spell it.

#155 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:20 PM:

ErrolC: Three friends and I did a similar thing once; we were asked for a name, looked at each other, rejected my name and two of the others, and all said simultaneously, "Knight."

As I think I've mentioned before, my last name is such that, when I'm asked for it, I say it and then automatically begin spelling it.

#156 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 03:43 PM:

ErrolC @ 149... I recently read about the time someone went to Starbucks, placed his order, and jokingly said his name was Spartacus. Of course, when the order was ready, and the employee said that this was for Spartacus, there was a brief silence then another older man said:

"*I'm* Spartacus."

#157 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 04:07 PM:

I have an extremely common first name, which apparently is completely inaudible in fast food franchises, possibly because it has no hard consonants.

#158 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 04:22 PM:

Lila (144): Makes sense. I think they would have mentioned it if they'd run into the problem themselves.
I had a roommate in grad school who gave her name as 'Village' when ordering pizza, because 'Villeponteaux' caused too much trouble.

#159 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 04:24 PM:

Ayse@9: I've had people get in arguments with me about how my own name is pronounced. It's amazing to me the amount of gall that takes.

And yet, I am never going to pronounce 'Dafydd' as 'David'. I'm Welsh. I know the rules of Welsh pronunciation. Anyone who pronounces 'Dafydd' as 'David' is taking the piss.

#160 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 04:59 PM:

I know salespeople (including at executive levels) are in some places *taught* to use first names if possible because it's "more intimate". I personally think it falls solidly into the same category as salespeople who call you by your Surname in EVERY sentence. Both are more alienating to the majority of people I know.

I don't know if someone out there is teaching salespeople to try for nicknames, but I doubt it: I think that's its own special kind of jerkdom. And I have seen it mostly from males in business situations, but in women as often in casual circumstances.

The biggest advantage of the SCA and people choosing new names is that people get TRAINED by it both to ask for a preferred name instead of assuming, and to not blink *as much* at a less standard name. (Although people are still surprised that my name isn't Gwendolyn or Guinevere or Gwynlliant, just Gwen, they also get over it faster.)

Wyn @ 134:

One of my best friends is Branwen*, also a valid spelling. (And when it got turned to Brannie she embraced it fine, preferring that to the very idea of Winnie. De gustibus...)

The A tends to be a more elongated sound, not far from the one in Brawn but a bit higher in the mouth (I have no idea if that's linguistically correct, it's how it feels to me). I think the O is a bit more like the English would expect if there's any difference at all.

The end is pronounced like Win most of the time even by Welsh speakers AFAIK (I have studied Welsh though years ago, but never been in Wales), even though it should be Won if it has a Y (and the "en" is as in Gwen, which Brannie uses.)

She also keeps the spelling of hers firm by noting that Bran is the word for raven, where bron is usually breast. (Wen/wyn is white, as Arwel noted above). And as she puts it, she doesn't like to advertise.

(NB: so far as I can tell, the name is understood under both spellings to be about birds not bosoms, but people remember....)

* It's her SCA name. Her birth family, coworkers, and her spouse, who met her via work, are the only people to use her legal name. This caused some confusion in a friend who knew her as Branwen only and thus was wondering why her then-boyfriend was talking about dating H**** instead...

In fact, there's another story there. When she was born, her mom suggested Branwen, and her father nixed it on the basis that everyone would call her Winnie. So they went with the second name suggested. So when she came home from the SCA meeting saying she'd picked Branwen, her mother fell over laughing.

And another: I met someone whose legal name was Branwyn but used her middle name because she hated her first name.

#161 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Nevada, Iowa "nuh-VAY-duh"
Tripoli, Iowa "truh-POH-luh"
Berlin, Wisconsin "BUR-lin" (just like in "Logdriver's Waltz")

Our daughter has a name in the top twenty that has a large number of nicknames. She likes the one that her grandmothers chose on the day she was born. She doesn't answer to the others. Clearly, they aren't speaking to her.

Our son has a first and middle name (each in the top hundred for men) that when combined and squinted at funny can be taken for a woman's name in the top fifty. Again, an easy way to weed out the strangers.

My husband and children have a last name different than mine. I do respond to Mrs. Hislastname. I also respond politely to the classmates of my children who call me Mrs. Mangledlastname or Mrs. Child'sfirstname'smom. They're trying. But when we get someone wanting to speak with my husband or children under my last name? "Sorry, doesn't live here."

#162 ::: Wyn ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:19 PM:

Arwel @ 148: Yay, I am saying my own name more or less correctly! I'm a woman, and I had never heard that Gwyn would be male and Gwen would be female. I occasionally get someone wondering which gender I am; I had always ascribed that to it being a rare name that doesn't have the common "girl" signifiers. Maybe there were one or two Welsh speakers in there somewhere.

Lenora Rose @ 156: The spellings I have heard/seen were these: Bronwyn, Branwen, Branwyn, Bronwen. I've always seen them listed together in name books, with no indication of different meanings (or genders) for different spellings. The meaning given was always white breasted, nothing about ravens. I have an as-yet-unused comeback for Winnie, which is that "Winnie is my grandmother; I'm Wyn." I actually do have a step-grandmother named that. My middle name never suited me -- I always felt it belonged to my godmother, not me.

I have sometimes wanted to change my name, but never knew what I would want to change it *to*. Maybe one day the name I ought to have will show up, or I'll get reconciled.

#163 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:22 PM:

Playing catch-up after a weekend on the road...

Stefan, #26: If I ever misspelled your name, I apologize. I know I've done that at least once with someone else, just because I was posting in a hurry and didn't look back to check, and got a polite remonstrance from her SO about it. Because my own name has multiple spellings, I am normally very conscientious about this, and I was mortified.

Dave H., #38: I linked that the last time a weird-names issue came up (and I had to poke Carla to put it up on YouTube in the first place). Now other people are remembering it. My work here is done. :-)

Nancy, #42: That's an archaic pronunciation over here as well, as we all learned from "1776". Apparently the Brits never gave it up.

Bill, #56: whether there's a difference between Mac-somebody and Fitz-somebody

ISTR learning that the "Fitz-" prefix meant "born on the wrong side of the blankets" -- that is to say, an acknowledged bastard. But looking at that now, it sounds like a spook etymology, so I am quite prepared to be told as much.

Debra, #68: Gratuitous nicknamers -- my father was one of those. My first cat was named Genevieve, and he never did get it thru his head that she wasn't "Jenny", no matter how many times I told him. I'm glad that my own first name is only 1 syllable -- there wasn't anything he could do to that.

Mongoose, #89: I haven't heard of the gentleman you mention, but your description reminds me of my friend Franz Krager, who is also a conductor of the "very energetic" variety.

David G., #92: That's an excellent mnemonic, and I'll be stealing it, thank you.

Lenora Rose, #92: I also used the get-out-of-name-free card provided by my marriage to ditch my birth name (long story, and one I've told here before), and didn't take it back after the divorce either. I find that for some reason, misspellings of names that I have chosen for myself bother me less than misspellings of names given to me by someone else. Perhaps it's the feeling of "when you chose that name, you also chose everything that comes with it" that makes it easier for me to deal with.

Xopher, #99: Guys named Mark or Jim or John may think one syllable is all a first name needs

But note that Jim may be just as cheesed off by their refusal to call him James...

Mary Aileen, #131: I don't generally object too much to being casually first-named; what does bug the hell out of me is the Southern tendency to use "honey", "sweetie", or other such endearments instead of a name, and I will say, "You don't know me well enough to call me that." But there is a style of first-naming that does put my back up. I don't know how to describe it, but it reads very clearly as an attempt to claim intimacy that doesn't exist, and it sets every nerve in my body on edge.

C. Wingate, #139: My now-ex and I used to use his SCA surname for restaurant waiting lists. It was long but perfectly straightforward, and even if they mangled it over the PA, it was going to be recognizable what they were mangling it from.

Also, my response to that conversation would have been, "If you're not willing to identify yourself, then you have no legitimate reason to be calling here." That puts the onus on the caller to Do The Right Thing rather than arrogating to yourself the right to screen calls for other people in your household.

ErrolC, #149: I was once in a largish SCA group (in garb) that invaded a restaurant. Whoever gave the name to the hostess had both smarts and a sense of humor, because when our turn came up, the announcement was, "Strange, party of 20, your table is ready!"

#164 ::: Wyn ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:26 PM:

Laura @ 157: Is it just me, or do names undergo the equivalent of euphemism creep? That is, someone names a girl some name that is originally a male name, like Evelyn or Taylor or Ashley or Jordan. It gains at least some popularity. Some decades later, it is much less common to find any males recently named _____ because now it's seen as a girl's name.

If this is a real thing, then it says something about how we think of girls, or at least how we think of the possibility of mistaking a boy for a girl...

#165 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 05:43 PM:

Stefan Jones @26: Right here in this forum, I have had folks address me as Stephen or Stephan even though my name is *right there.*

This would be why I nearly always use copy-and-paste, when addressing a comment. I was instructed at an early age that getting the spelling of someone's name right is an important display of respect. That, and I've found that meat-based memory is unreliable, even for the five seconds it takes to click from the thread to the comment box.

#166 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 06:18 PM:

Wyn@160: I'm not Laura (Hi, Laura!), but yes, in general, often with surnames used as first names. Shirley is an obvious example. Charlotte Bronte's heroine was supposed to have an incredibly masculine name. Unfortunately CB couldn't possibly have predicted Shirley Temple, who made the name ineluctably girly.

There are exceptions; Cecil (not Cecily, not Cecilia) was used for women for a time, but is now seen as entirely a man's name (though not used much any longer). I have read at least one Victorian novel that features two characters named Cecil, one male and one female, and a short story in which an aunt finds out to her enormous surprise that the visiting nibling is a niece, not a nephew, named Cecil.

#167 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 06:19 PM:

Wyn: The one that gets me is "Sidney". Apparently that's a girl's name now?

One that has thoroughly made the switch is "Leslie". "Robin" seems to be remaining fairly unisex, though.

#168 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 06:29 PM:

I get especially testy about the spelling of my name at work . . . because there is a Stephan. (And there was a Stephen.)

Stephan works, or worked, on the same projects / products I do, but more directly with customers. On several occasions I've found myself pulled into meetings (physically) or roped into conference calls because of mistaken identification. Kind of an "Actor's Nightmare" situation.

And then there was the insurance agent setting up homeowner's and liability coverage for me who just couldn't get it right . . . when she was dealing with me at "!"

I fully expect to someday be denied entrance to the Space Ark because of a careless ticket agent. I and a few thousand unusually named people will mill around the end of the ramp, watching the giant craft take off as the dark star blots out the stars.

#169 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:08 PM:

I get called Mary Ellen a lot, usually by people who've heard my name but not seen it. The written form often gets turned into Mary Ann, or Mary Alice. Then there was the teacher who persisted in spelling it Mary Eileen even though I'd been turning in papers with the correct spelling all year.

#170 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:22 PM:

Programmers have myths about names, and the people giving instructions to programmers have myths too. I was caught in the middle of an argument about whether people who entered names like JOHN WILLIAMS DO are osteopathic physicians of English* descent or just fully-assimilated Vietnamese-Americans without a degree.

* Yes, I know it's Welsh.

** Since I am talking about work stuff, obligatory disclaimer goes here.

#171 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 165... The written form often gets turned into Mary Ann

You hang out a lot with the Professor?

#172 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 07:45 PM:

Wyn @ 160

The "-ly" names* have moved from masculine to feminine in the last century or so; an elderly gentleman, a lifelong member of our parish, died this summer; his name was Beverly.

My name, on the other hand, has been predominantly but not universally masculine at least since my grandparents were children. (Sam--usually short for Samuel for men and Samantha for women, but not always. My name is NOT Samuel, it's Sam--that was a deliberate choice on my parents' part with which I'm quite happy.)

*Beverly, Shirley, Lesley

#173 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:11 PM:

Where I used to work, there was a pretty strict ID convention: first initial + up to 7 characters of last name, with collisions resolved by replacing the last two characters with digits. Sometimes two wasn't enough; there was at least a JSMIT114.

There weren't supposed to be any exceptions. I remember having to jump through what I thought was an unreasonable number of hoops to allow Carolyn Unter to have out-of-pattern ID! I was successful, thank heavens.

Josh 119: I'm confused by #40. Are there really people who don't have names? Ever? Or are we just talking about the fact that there are very young people who haven't been named yet, and are called "the baby" until they are?

In fact, I'm a bit gobsmacked by #35. Where does that come from? In what culture do people not have names when they're five years old? And how do they deal with it? (Maybe what I'd count is different...I think a patronymic (or matronymic*) could count as a name until the person does something to acquire a personal name.)

Mongoose 130: (You don't hear "Chuck" over here. One of those cultural things.)

A possibly-apocryphal story I heard: when Charles and Diana were first married, an American lifted his glass in an English pub to propose the following toast: "Up Chuck and Di!"

Glaring ensued, but allegedly they couldn't quite put their fingers on what was wrong with that.

Mary Aileen 131: I misnamed you once, I believe. You corrected me, and I think I've gotten it right ever since. I first-name people in ML comments if they use a first and last name; if someone came on here using "Dr. Smith" I would call them "Dr. Smith" (unless I was annoyed by what they said, in which case I'd call them "Dr."). It will always be my intention to call you by your correct first name, I promise.

This is the same classmate who persisted in referring to the head of the math department as Mrs. G--- instead of Dr. G--- or Professor G---. Women didn't deserve the courtesy, you see.

Reprehensible. Calling him Jack leaves off one syllable of his right name, doesn't it?

I understand that in the US military, everyone gets called by ALL the titles they're entitled to (well, in a formal context). A relative of a friend was therefore known as "Major Doctor Mrs. Captain [lastname]." I don't think husbands get any consideration out of their wives' titles, and now that there are same-sex military marriages (including the first West Point marriage of two men!) there could be issues. Hopefully they will resolve this by simply abolishing addressing women with rank by any rank or title other than their own.

Lee 159: But note that Jim may be just as cheesed off by their refusal to call him James...

Indeed. Guys named James seldom have the problem, even though that's one syllable.

*IIUC if you say "mac Muire" in Ireland they know just who you mean.

#174 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:23 PM:

#159 ::: Lee

On second thought, I think the correct pronunciation is something like Mar-ih-lind, not Mer-rih-land. The middle of the word seems to have some subtle unstressed sounds that I'm having a little trouble being sure how to spell. It might be Mar-rill-ind.

#175 ::: Alexander Kosoris ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 08:40 PM:

Even people who I know and work with on a regular basis have troubles pronouncing and spelling my last name, so I'm in for a treat if I'm ever in such a situation.

#176 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:09 PM:

Most of you will already have guessed how people who have my correct name right in front of them usually mis-spell it. It's happened in a recent thread here.

I sometimes point out that my father's middle name was Noel (it really was).

J Homes.

#177 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:11 PM:

Serge (167): Considering there are three professors in my immediate family...

#178 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 09:32 PM:

re 170: There isn't A correct pronunciation of my home state because different parts of the state have conspicuously different accents. However, the center is generally "Mair-il-lund" withe "-il-" reduced to as close to nothing as desired. "Murlun" is also common. Baltimore ("Bawlumer") is particularly noted for hashing up words, so you go to see the draffs in Droodle Park and the city sits at the mouth of the Putapsicoe River (spelled Patapsco).

#179 ::: k8 ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:22 PM:

My parents were going to name me Aja*, but then decided I'd end up spelling my name all my life, so they named me Katherine and called me Kate. Of course, with the prevalence of Kathryns, Catherines, Cathryns, Cates and Caits in the world (not to mention the variations: Kat, Kathleen/Cathleen, Katie/Catie/Katy etc) and the fact that I'm genderqueer and dress/appear rather butch/masculine, I've ended up spelling my name most of my life anyway. Of course, Kate (etc) is common enough that I tend to spell it k8 most places to differentiate it from the million billion other Kates I associate with.

I also usually have to spell my last name, which is fairly common (if similar to several other common last names), although I can also throw out a 'like the TV show' if the person i'm talking to is old enough. That one doesn't really work with most of the under-30 crowd, though.

And my mom's name is Debbie; she gets really crabby when people try to make her a Deborah, as that's not her name.

Xopher @169: My ex used to work at the IT help desk at the large State University. Email addresses there started at first initial and last name, then moved on through several iterations (first and middle initial and last name, last name and beginning of first name, etc), but letters only - no numbers. The most memorable email address that I was aware of him getting to change (which, again, is something they only usually did in very rare cases) was the poor girl whose first name started with 'Me' and last name was Cummings; thanks to a common surname and a large population of people with email addresses, her username ended up 'cumminme.'

He got that one changed post-haste.

*We named the dog Aja instead. I'm still weirdly bitter about that.

#180 ::: k8 is among the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:24 PM:

I'm guessing that the rather porn-like username I made the mistake of spelling out got me in trouble. My apologies (and feel free to edit if it's inappropriate). I have some Ale-8 in the fridge if you'd like?

#181 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 10:25 PM:

Xopher @169, A relative of a friend was therefore known as "Major Doctor Mrs. Captain [lastname]." I'm reminded of the story I was told some years ago by a friend of mine who is a Navy commander's wife; she related it with considerable glee. Seems there was a women-only luncheon at the Naval Officer's Club. At the conclusion, a rather stuffy admiral's wife* announced that the attendees should leave in order of rank. "Certainly, ma'am," said the female ensign, and left first, to the admiral's wife's dismay and embarrassment... because the ensign held rank in her own right, and not by marriage, and she therefore ranked the admiral's wife. (The commander's wife noted that the admiral's wife wasn't used to female officers. "Served her right," my friend said.)

*the wife was stuffy; I don't know anything about the demeanor of the admiral

#182 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:27 PM:

Lila #140: I have a three-letter surname...

I chose to omit part of my name thinking "Soon Lee" would be easy to say & spell, but still encounter people think it should be more exotic, and so attempt an unusual spelling or pronunciation. Sometimes you can't win.

For marketing purposes, which is tangentially what the original post is about, a winemaker I know maintains that a wine's popularity is related to its ease of pronunciation. Gewurztraminer is given as an example of a variety that would do better if it rolled off the tongue more easily. Contrast that with a wine that has become increasingly popular in recent years at least partly because it's a lot easier to order a glass of "Groo-Vee" than a Grüner Veltliner.

#183 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:32 PM:

Xopher, #169: ObSF -- in Stopping at Slowyear there is a culture described in which children are not named until their first birthday, except that this world's orbit around its sun is so large that it take about 5 Earth years to complete. But this is because there is a form of spongiform encephalopathy endemic to the planet; if you can survive one planetary year without succumbing to it, you are presumed to be immune and will have a normal lifespan, and people don't allow themselves to get attached to children who have something like a one-in-three chance of dying young.

I would expect that if there were Earth cultures with a similar custom, it would be for a similar reason.

#184 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2013, 11:44 PM:

As C. Wingate says, pronunciation of Maryland is very location-dependent. The Eastern Shore is more of a mumbled Tidewater accent, and tends to pronounce it more like "mur ih lun" than like "Marilyn".

#185 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:17 AM:

Wyn @ 160

Is it just me, or do names undergo the equivalent of euphemism creep? That is, someone names a girl some name that is originally a male name, like Evelyn or Taylor or Ashley or Jordan. It gains at least some popularity. Some decades later, it is much less common to find any males recently named _____ because now it's seen as a girl's name.

Oh, that's definitely A Thing, at least in U.S. naming patterns. It's on my list of topics for "maybe some day I'll write a blog post on this" based on data from the SSA database. Examples of names where female usage has driven out male usage over the course of the 20th century include: Beverly, Blair, Carmen, Carol, Dana, Gail, Kelsey, Lacy, Lauren, Leigh, Leslie, Lindsay/Lindsey, Loren, Lynn, Meredith, Robin, Sandy, Shelby, Shirley, Stacey/Stacy, Sydney, Tracey/Tracy, Vivian, Whitney.

Still in progress are: Aubrey, Avery, Courtney, Dominique, Kelly, Mackenzie, Madison, Morgan, Shannon, Sidney, Tayler/Taylor (but Tyler is holding out as male).

But it isn't universal. Female Adrians never got enough of a toe-hold to drive the change. Despite serious competition, male Camerons still lead as do male Dakotas. Casey has marched fairly evenly in popularity between the two sexes as has Jessie. Christian is still overwhelmingly male despite regular female use. The Devan/Devin/Devon/Devyn group is fairly unisex but male use is more popular and doesn't seem to be slipping. Jordan may eventually resolve toward women, but the trend isn't yet clear. Noel successfully fought off the women as did Terry. Payton/Peyton are still running relatively equal as is Riley, while Ryan is holding out as predominantly male despite a challenge. Skylar/Skyler are running neck and neck but the women are starting to gain. Female Addisons may eventually drive out male ones but there's a long way to go.

And sometimes the raw data hides cultural forces that resist the shift. One suspects that male Angels occur primarily in Hispanic families and are less likely to be driven off by Anglo female Angels. Similarly, male use of Ali is driven by different forces than female use.

Note that these statements aren't meant to be absolute: "disappearance" from use in this case means falling out of the top 1000 most popular names for the gender. And this is looking at specific spellings for the most part, rather than spelling-groups. As I say, some day I may do something a bit more rigorous with the data.

#186 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:49 AM:

@155 I'm Welsh. I know the rules of Welsh pronunciation.

The people who have argued with me about my name's pronunciation have invariably not only not been Turkish but have not even had the first idea of the rules of Turkish pronunciation, which is considerably easier than Welsh for the record, if anybody is keeping one. Those are the ones who seem to have enormous gall to me.

On the other hand, after reading this thread, perhaps I should be glad nobody has ever been able to come up with a glib little nickname for me. All I get are weird misspellings and pronunciations, and those are entirely predictable.

Also, I'm going to go gibber in a corner a bit about pronouncing "Dafydd" like "David." I have met a "Dayvyd" but I think that was more Creative Spelling than anything else.

#187 ::: John D. Berry ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 02:23 AM:

Dear Mr. Haywain:

While your correspondents go off into the rolling fields of pronunciation, I am reminded of an entirely different name conundrum: the way Amazon consistently and apparently deliberately lists everyone with a credit on a book (author, editor, introducer, prefacer, forewordist) as a co-author, and files the book under all of their names equally. Since this seems to be an intentional flattening of the usual hierarchy of credit, I wonder if I should be lobbying for the names of book designers and indexers to be given equal weight.

#188 ::: Mezzanine ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 03:46 AM:

My name is Maryanne. I developed the nickname of "Mez" in self-defense, after far too many years of people saying "Oh, you don't have a nickname? Well, I'll call you Mary."

I also am frequently asked for my mother's name, to which my response is always "Valerie, don't call her Val."

#189 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 07:26 AM:

Lee @ #178, I read an article recently about the transition in Brazil from an extremely high mortality rate in the '70s to a much lower one in the '90s. Some interesting points there about attachment/nonattachment in the face of the probable death of the child.

#190 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 08:56 AM:

re 179: "Wingate" itself is not stable in pronunciation. There's the obvious one, and then there's "Win-git" as heard over most of the south.

re 157: There seems to be a rule that foreign city names develop some conspicuous pronunciation change when they become US town names. There are "Berlin"s all over the US, and I've never found one that wasn't pronounced "BER-lin".

And then there's this booby trap on the UMCP campus: Taliaferro Hall. Amusingly, one of the profs in the music department when I was there had his last name pronounced the same way (but spelled phonetically): Z. Edmund Toliver. (Z was for Zelotes, of course.)

#191 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:06 AM:

Xopher Halftongue @ #169:

The post's comment thread includes several examples relating to #40. Some are indeed youngsters for whom namelessness is presumably temporary, but not all.

#192 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:25 AM:

#180 ::: Heather Rose Jones

Also Marion/Marian

John Wayne was christened Marion. The women I know of (much younger) with that name use "his" spelling.

#193 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:33 AM:

"Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault (September 6, 1893 – July 27, 1958) was an American military aviator best known for his leadership of the American "Flying Tigers" and the Chinese air force in World War II..."

...and 1993's TV series "Space Rangers" had Linda Hunt as Cmdr Claire Chennault.

#194 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:41 AM:

Joy Morton, of Morton Salt, founded the Morton Arboretum. I've never heard of another male Joy.

#195 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:03 AM:

Lila @ 108: what was the conductor's overall intent? I've just done a Liszt setting of the Credo that was \supposed/ to be in German Latin, but at least one person in close earshot wasn't following.

Cheryl @ 111: "No, you don't" was excessively polite, but I suppose "And I call you <expletive>" would have been too extreme; the suggestion of "Gorbag" has a certain something to it.

Mary Aileen @ 131: an excellent solution when the person is thin-skulled enough for it to penetrate, and smooth enough that they can't take offense. Back when it might have been funny (>30 years ago) a coworker insisted on calling me "Chipster"; addressing her as "Janey-girl" was probably overkill (not to mention dangerous in Cambridge MA), but satisfying.

C. Wingate @ 139: I wouldn't assume that originated with Burger Thing, but it's way too common now; I suspect that some psych(otic) marketroid thought names were "friendlier" than numbers (and might even argue that was why Hilltop Steak House (which used numbers to handle their once-gigantic crowds) went under -- ignoring, e.g., the low food quality.)

Xopher @ 169, re C. Unter: it sounds like your system didn't have a strict discriminator. The MA unemployment system wouldn't let me use my own last name as ID; the human I finally got through to went all mealy-mouthed about explaining that it didn't allow Certain Words even as internal strings.

Cassy B. @ 176: lovely story!

"D. S. Moen" (belatedly): have you been reading long enough to have known of S. P. Somtow under his own name, Somtow Sucharitkul? IIRC the name change was (~as yours) for a different subgenre.

Bill Stewart @ 179: that's close to my memory, despite my being born just outside NW DC. I don't know how much that is time-based or time-lost (born 1953, left first in 1964 and last in 1973)

I'm surprised to hear that Brits use such a bright vowel when they've given us so many mumbled names; e.g., I read 50 years ago that "Marylebone" was pronounced "marrerbn".

#196 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:26 AM:

Carol @ 192

Also Marion/Marian. John Wayne was christened Marion. The women I know of (much younger) with that name use "his" spelling.

That name doesn't quite follow the same pattern as the male use of Marion/Marian (under the "top 1000 listings" analysis) was always rare and anecdotal rather than an established pattern. Another interesting feature of Marion/Marian is that the name started out way back when as female (a diminutive of Mary, although Marian has alternate origins from Latin "Marian-us/-a" or as a spelling variant for Mary-Ann) and entered male use by way of becoming a surname. As a general rule, in US usage surnames enter the given name pool primarily via male use (often as a way of preserving/honoring maternal male ancestors). So Marion is hardly the only etymologically-female name that evolved at two steps removed into a masculine given name. But in the case of Marion it had continued in fairly regular use as a female given name, making the foray into male territory a bit more fore-doomed than usual.

#197 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:27 AM:

CHip: not the conductor, just the leader of the sectional rehearsal. Her intent was, that's how she thinks you're supposed to pronounce it, as she's given the same instruction every time we've sung that phrase, including this year's Vivaldi Gloria and the chorus of "Angels We Have Heard On High".

(I'm the child of a choir director/author of a sightreading text and an English teacher/voice teacher. I have a mediocre voice, though I sightread well. My standards for choral music are higher than my ability. Unlike Groucho Marx, however, I'm willing to put up with being in a club that will have me as a member.)

#198 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:37 AM:

CHip @ 195: Brits and Americans characteristically mumble different things. We do indeed have some weird contractions in both personal and place names (not only "Marylebone", which is usually "marribn", but it depends exactly where you come from, but also delights such as Cholmondeley (Chumley) and Marjoribanks (Marchbanks)). On the other hand, we pronounce the t and d distinctly in the middle of words like "metal" and "medal", so they sound different over here, whereas in the States they sound the same. This is why you never get a Brit writing things like "congradulations", which is a common American spelling error. (We've got our own set. They're different.)

In common with most Brits, I always used to hear the consonant used by Americans in such words as D, but I was fascinated a few years ago to discover it isn't. It's a fun thing called the alveolar tap, which is technically a kind of R, but can sound like either an R or a D depending on context. It's regularly used in most Indian languages, which is why you get alternative transcriptions of the same word as "karahi" and "kadai". (I have one. It's a round-bottomed pan, usually made of cast iron.)

Of course, if you're from Sheffield and you speak the local dialect, you may very well pronounce these consonants in a different way again, though I hear it less and less these days, so I suspect it is dying out. Some Sheffield people mutate T and D in the middle of words to K and G respectively, so you hear things like "miggle" for "middle" and "hospickle" for "hospital". This can even occur after N; I was once very confused by someone who said "angling" for "handling".

#199 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:40 AM:

I came up with the name Xopher by regular substitution (parallel to Xmas), as most people here probably realize. But I started using it because first-name fields usually didn't accommodate eleven characters. Better to be Xopher than Christop.

Heather 185: I knew a guy named Clare in college.

This sounds like a linguistics (or language politics?) paper to me. Link to it here when you write it, please?

Paul 191: I read the whole thread, and I don't recall anyone who had no name at all. I'll look through it, but if you could give me some idea of the kind of thing you're counting (other than temporary namelessness of the very young), that would be helpful.

CHip 195: Since people's IDs were generated by the system (mod being specifically altered by us), they didn't have a "dirty word checker" on IDs. You need one of those iff you're letting people create their own IDs.

#200 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:59 AM:

C. Wingate @190: I've read in multiple sources that Taliaferro/Toliver is a bit of a shiboleth/class indicator in certain parts of the south.

The explanation is that Taliaferro has always been pronounced (in the US at least) Toliver, and has always traditionally been spelled Taliaferro. But things happen over time.


If you spell your name "Toliver" and pronounce it "Toliver", your family went through a period of poverty and illiteracy and lost the continuity of how the name was written.

If you spell your name "Taliaferro" and pronounce it "Toliver", your family is an old, respectable one that did not have an illiterate period.

If you spell your name "Taliaferro" and pronounce it "Taliaferro", you are most likely a carpetbagger, con artist, or disreputable person putting on airs.

I don't know what it would mean if you spelled it "Toliver" and pronounced it "Taliaferro".

How accurate this is, I don't know.

#201 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 12:31 PM:

'Broom' really is spelled "Bruttenholm', according to Mike Mignola.

#202 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 12:37 PM:

Heather Rose Jones #185: One of my teachers in graduate school was the political theorist Tracy B. Strong. Very definitely male:

#203 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 12:39 PM:

Serge Broom #201: I thought it was spelt "Plantagenet".

#204 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 12:48 PM:

Fragano @ 203... I thought it was spelt "Plantagenet"

That's correct, but it's pronounced 'Plume'.

#205 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 12:50 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @ #185: [Arthur] Evelyn [St. John] Waugh was (briefly) married to Evelyn Gardner. Their friends referred to them as "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn". Waugh's name was pronounced "Evil-lin"; I've not been able to find out whether Gardner's was "Evve-lin".

St. John was almost certainly pronounced "Sinjon", though.

#206 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 12:53 PM:

Serge, Fragano: Not "Throatwarbler Mangrove"?

#207 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Theophylact @ 206... Isn't that how Audrey Tautou's family name really is spelled?

#208 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:04 PM:

Theophylact @ 205... Waugh's name was pronounced "Evil-lin"

Waugh's "Masters of the Universe"?

#209 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:06 PM:

subthread on titles, women, etc.

Back in the early 1970s I had a summer high school internship for a few weeks at Goddard Space Flight Center, where I worked for Dr. Jaylee Mead, a woman astrophysicist. Her husband, Dr. Gilbert Mead, also worked at Goddard. In conversation with someone, I mentioned that I was working for Dr. Mead. He asked a few more questions, then said, "Oh! You're working for Mrs. Dr. Mead!" The disambiguation still amuses me, though less than it did before I understood about unmarked states. Because he, of course, wasn't "Mr. Dr. Mead."

#210 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:23 PM:

Lila, #189: Yikes. And also, wow -- I was struck by the observation that a government-run safety net has developed a much larger middle class, which in turn is now developing a strong call for government accountability. The parallels to be drawn I will leave as an exercise for the student.

Mongoose, #198: Normally I wince at "congradulations", but there is one circumstance under which I find it acceptable -- when referring to the occasion of an actual graduation, it becomes a pun. And whether intentionally so or not, I will view it that way.

#211 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:28 PM:

Re #200, Taliaferro is also the name of one of Georgia's 159 counties. It's pronounced "Tolliver", but the NOAA weather radio robot still has trouble with it (it says TAHL AH VAR, equal emphasis on all syllables).

I think they finally taught it not to pronounce 'Oglethorpe' "OLL jah-thorp", though.

#212 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:30 PM:

The name 'Tolliver' brings back fond memories of Maupin's "Tales of the City".

#213 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:40 PM:

Our GPS once sent us into howls of laughter. We were going to an address on Tanglebriar, and the GPS voice pronounced it "Tan-GLEH-bree-ar".

This past weekend, we were experimenting with the Google Maps verbal-directions feature on the new smartphone, and discovered a different howler. The event site is on Chicon Street in Austin, which is in a Latino neighborhood and therefore pronounced "shi-KOHN". We, due to decades of fannish conditioning, can't help thinking of it as "CHI-con" like the Worldcon. But the Google voice told us to turn left on "Chicken Street" and we nearly missed the turn because we were laughing so hard!

#214 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:55 PM:

I, too, am firmly of the opinion that the caller's name comes first. You don't get to ask for somebody without identifying yourself.

"This is just a courtesy call."
"The common rules of courtesy include identifying yourself on the phone."

And this is as someone who is very protective of his name, and worked market research outbound calling. Yes, the name I gave was not the one on my driver's license; however, it was consistent and known (to my supervisors). Were there to be a complaint, they would know who it was. Note: all of this was required by the company; but I would have done it anyway.

I will use my first name for restaurants et al, but I will also check to ensure they wrote it down correctly and not the nickname. I don't remember the last time they wrote down "Jean-Paul" and "Jean" (or "Gene" or "Paul") was announced. (as usual, that is not necessarily my name). I am finding that Mycroft is more commonly useable in the last couple of years. I can't imagine why.

#215 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 01:59 PM:

Some of you here know the MacGregors, Loren and Lauren (frequently referred to verbally as "the Lorens" or "the Laurens"; that's seldom written, for the obvious reason of ambiguous spelling).

And I went to high school with a Tolliver. Have had a good male friend named Dana, currently deal with a man named Gwyn fairly regularly, and certainly know several others with gender-ambiguous names. My, the memories!

#216 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 02:38 PM:

re 200: acto Wikipedia (which seems to have decent sourcing on this) "Taliaferro" is itself an early Virginia mangling of the Italian "Tagliaferro". As to the class thesis, I can only reply that Herr Professor Doktor Toliver is a huge bear of a black bass who was born to sing Sarastro as well as every bass role in the Ring. But he's from Long Island, not the tidewater.

#217 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 03:24 PM:

Arwel @87: My failure mode for that one (in writing at least) would be "Arwen." (Yes, I do know someone with that name—given by her parents, even.)

#218 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 03:25 PM:

On the phone with a local business. The person is named Francesca. Even though I told her my name, she's been calling me Chris. Tempted to call her Frankie, but I think I won't.

#219 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 04:02 PM:

C. Wingate, #216: Yes, a fine voice indeed he has!

#220 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Re: GPS and names -- Columbus has a river named "Olentangy." Like "Peachtree" in Atlanta, there are several streets with the river's name.

The one with hotels, restaurants, a hospital, a cemetery, and a nursing home on it is "Olentangy River Road." Within ten minutes drive of that street also exist Olentangy Avenue and Olentangy Boulevard. The latter two are both in residential neighborhoods.

Woe betide the tour bus operator who puts just "Olentangy" in his GPS, only to find himself inching the bus between parked cars because there is little if any off-street parking on Olentangy Avenue. Or the hearse driver doing the same only to tour my neighborhood (with a string of mourners' cars behind him) on their way to Olentangy Boulevard.

#221 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 04:04 PM:

I tried to find one of the highway signs along US 78 but failed. I'll simply link to the map. Note the Star Wars reference.

#222 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 05:10 PM:

Xopher @218 - Franchesca I taught went by Chesca amongst her friends. Using that would be equally bad, but slightly odder. Not that I'm suggesting anything.

#223 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 06:29 PM:

Carol Kimball@192, my mother's name is spelled Marion. She was born before Mayor Barry and before John Wayne appeared in a movie under that name (he'd been credited as Duke Morrison once, and otherwise uncredited.)

Xopher@199, my father and grandfather were Clare, as is my middle name. Mail to my parents' house often had the names misspelled and/or with incorrect gender labels. (Technically his title was "Dr.", but his comment about that was that most of his coworkers were also PhDs, so the only people who got addressed by title were medical doctors or people who'd gotten their degree recently enough they were still sticky about it. My other grandfather was a professor of French, back before humanities professors were all expected to have doctorates, so the title "Dr." had higher precedence than "Professor", unlike in the sciences.)

#224 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 07:16 PM:

Lee #183: I would expect that if there were Earth cultures with a similar custom, it would be for a similar reason.

There are (or at least were), and it is. (I'd heard about it happening in Africa and Asia) The modern decline in infant mortality is why that's rare these days.

#225 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 08:08 PM:

I'm skeptical of that "children aren't named until they're 5" thing. That's what people say about the European Middle Ages, and it just isn't true--there's a lot of evidence that children were mourned just as much as they are today. Hearing about it happening in Africa and Asia seems like a really convenient way to say "oh THOSE people aren't like US, because THEY don't love their children."

#226 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Er, by which I mean that it's a Just-So Story and needs a good fact-checking, not that anybody here is secretly a white supremacist. I apologize for my unskillful writing.

#227 ::: séain Gutridge ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 08:26 PM:

In the third grade, my reading teacher butchered my last name to Guttheridge. She managed to combine all three common misspellings of it.

#228 ::: D. Eppstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 09:09 PM:

@Xopher 199: Several people listed in appear to have no names at all, or to have had no names when found, in some cases as adults.

#229 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:07 PM:

But they get names as soon as they start interacting with society, right? Certainly by the time they're in computer systems. So "people have names" is still a good operational assumption for the programmers to make.

#230 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 10:53 PM:

Xopher @229, yes, nameless people (unidentified corpses, etc) are usually *assigned* a standard name (John/Jane Doe in America, usually) for purposes of recordkeeping. I have to assume this is done outside the US as well, if with different standard "we-don't-know-who-this-is" names.

(I sometimes wonder how many John Does and Jane Does actually exist. And what their parents were thinking...)

#231 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2013, 11:15 PM:

#230 Cassy B.

I listened to an interesting case of this on This American Life episode #505. A man who was caught after decades of living under another man's identity and is now incarcerated as "John Doe" because he still refuses to admit his real identity. Probably because if he did he would be deported as an attempted murderer who stole another man's identity while in the county illegally. So he is John Doe for now.

#232 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 12:01 AM:

There are "Berlin"s all over the US, and I've never found one that wasn't pronounced "BER-lin".

Berlin, Wisconsin used to be pronounced Ber-LIN. During WWI it was proposed to change the name to Strong's Landing, after the original settlement. The town secretary pointed out that he had just ordered a large quantity of stationery that said "Berlin" on it. Result: they changed the pronunciation instead.

#233 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:22 AM:

#145 Mycroft W, #170 Allan Beatty:

Allan hits it on the head here: what the "programmers" article is talking about isn't bad code, it's bad specifications. One of the things which infuriates me, personally, is that thanks to ever-improving software tools it's become childlishly easy to accept any arbitrary unicode string as a name. The restrictions placed to prevent "invalid" names are wholly artificial and actually take considerable additional code to enforce. For no good reason; I will tell you from experience that they do NOT prevent bad data entry. A lot of this is done because managers and programming books are mired in a past in which everything was ASCII, computers had tiny memories, and we pretended that every user was a suburban Anglo of European descent.

This is similar to the thing on webforms in which they force you, via error messages, to type your phone number with specific punctuation. Even though those error messages require *more* code than it would take to simply have the program format you phone number for you (the latter being about one short line). "We can't have people entering misformatted phone numbers. Put an error message there." Pure PHB.

#173 Xopher:

The list isn't mine, and I'm not an anthropologist (although I play one on TV). However, that blog has a number of examples in the comments. Closer to (my) home, Orthodox Jewish babies aren't named until they're 8 days old. Really.

#234 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:03 AM:

Tom@5: Have had a good male friend named Dana, currently deal with a man named Gwyn fairly regularly, and certainly know several others with gender-ambiguous names.

FYI 'Gwyn' isn't gender-ambiguous in Wales. It's always a male name. I wonder if it's become gender-ambiguous in the US because of the female name 'Gwen' and that in some parts of the US the two would be pronounced almost identically?

#235 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:08 AM:

Some of my friends didn't name their child for more than three weeks due to a combination of being very busy with baby and non-baby related stuff, as well as general indecisiveness. Which is why I wrote a congratulations card with a poem with began "Welcome to the world [Insert Name Here]". Fortunately eventual first + surname was five syllables so it didn't require too much work to rewrite it for the naming card.

#236 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:27 AM:

TexAnne #225: I was unclear, the Earthly versions I'd heard about were only waiting one Earth year or thereabouts.

Not naming a human child until well past the point when they're actually partaking in conversations, would be downright abusive.

#237 ::: Oil-upon-the-waters ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 09:14 AM:

Dave Harmon@236
From the opening to Dirty Dancing:

...when everyone still called me "Baby", and it didn't occur to me to mind.


#238 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 09:37 AM:

Cassy B @230, ISTR reading an article in the New York Times a few years ago about the plight of real people with the name "John Doe"; this may or may not be it. (That one is mostly about a Korean immigrant who Anglicized his name from "Jang Do" without realizing the ramifications, which avoids the "What were his parents thinking?" question.)

#239 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 09:44 AM:

TexAnne @225/Dave Harmon @236--I've been doing some reading about the family of Louis XV recently--they took a while to formally name their children, but the daughters (he had quite a few) were designated as Madame the Fourth (sounds better in French) and so on until their names were announced. I did get the impression that they had nursery nicknames though, because not only were the children human, so were their nannies, and while listing a child as title + number for formal court communications might work, it doesn't hold up for personal communications, especially of the caring for small children variety.

#240 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 09:54 AM:

Gender ambiguity was once bolder. My son James is named after my great uncle James Wingate, and my wife's great aunt, James Ross.

#241 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:17 AM:

Rob Hansen @234: Some people with the given name Guinevere may spell the diminutive that way (where I worked, variant spellings were a given). They're probably not Welsh.

#242 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 11:00 AM:

The idea of someone growing up without a name would be rather problematic and reminded me - nerd that I am - of the original "Sar Trek"...

"Well, we can't keep referring to her as 'she' as if she weren't here."
"Do you have any ideas?"
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to call her Gem."
"Gem, Doctor?"
"Well, that's better than 'Hey, you'."

#243 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 11:37 AM:

I got through school and a half-dozen jobs with a misspelled Social Security card, but when I got a local government job a few years back they took issue with the fact that the spelling on my driver's license didn't match the spelling on my Social Security card, and told me I had to get it sorted out before they'd cut a paycheck. The email they sent about it informed me that if I wanted to change my name I'd have to go through the "proper legal procedures," which I found both galling and presumptuous.

I went down to the Social Security office, explained the situation, handed over my driver's license and birth certificate, and the guy went off to print me a new card. He came back and handed it to me, smiling at a job well done, and I had to point out that the new one was misspelled in the same way as the old one.

And then there was the time that someone informed me that I was spelling my name wrong, which prompted me to ask if they were sure they wanted to argue with my birth certificate.

#244 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 11:50 AM:

Having run into men, in the course of researching family tree, with given names like Ethel (middle name Homer, which is what he was called), I've started to think that almost any name will fit either gender.

#245 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 12:19 PM:

Did you know that the real name of actor Gregory Peck was Gregory Eldred Peck?
For some reason he *hated* his middle name.

#246 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 12:42 PM:

This is just more proof for my controversial theory that Gregory Peck was a visitor from an alternate universe of High Fantasy moral uprightness.

#247 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 01:30 PM:

Bryan @ 246... Or his character does have moral uprightness, but he has to deal with bratty rulers named Joffrey.

#248 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:00 PM:

For some idiot reason, my last name is slightly misspelled on our house deed (and on none of the associated documents). We've had the house since 1985, and have refinanced at least four times, but when I took out a home equity loan this year, someone finally noticed (I certainly never had) and I had to sign every document "[Praenomen] [misspelled Cognomen] aka [Praenomen Cognomen]". Aaargh.

#249 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:02 PM:

Gnomed for unknown reasons (possibly too many square brackets). Have some dried mangoes.

[The words 'equity loan' did the trick. Spammers are forever offering 'em. -- Coris Icclie, Duty Gnome]

#250 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:07 PM:

I would suggest that it's not just bad specifications, but also *no* specifications that are handled "badly" for that application by the John Brown, B.A.Sc. that codes it, or designs the functional spec. Or, the DBA that codes the backend database (especially the "you have three names (one of which could be blank) space-separated, with a family name, and it's last." types).

Or, as I'm sure is frequently the case, the DBA that coded the backend database 20 years ago when the first thing that ties into it was written - you know, in middle whitebread America, rather than the multinational corporation it now serves, headquartered in culturally diverse America,...

Or worse (and I've seen this as well), the backend itself (Yes, I'm looking at you Novell) has limitations that must carry forward into the application, unless you can get off the backend - and that is the kind of "we have a project to remove [antiquated system] from our world next year" project that always seems to be "next year".

The front end is stuck doing stupid things because they don't have control over the data, just the input.

Not that I'm disagreeing with anyone about "the problem doesn't originate at the programmer". No. Nor am I disagreeing with "some of these are too unlikely for *the application I'm writing* to have to deal with". But it's like becoming less *ist (in fact, this is an example of being *ist) - first you have to go from unthinking to thinking; then you are able to make a choice of what to do - and then you must, whether or not the specifications are good, bad or not there.

For instance, it's likely only one application in 10 thousand that needs to deal with "the person has no name" - but that doesn't mean the programmer of that 10 thousandth application gets a pass for not allowing it, even if it wasn't specified as a use case. And the only way these things get caught is if people coding the 100 in 10 thousand applications where it's not an obvious "no, that's a case we don't have to deal with", or where "okay, we don't have to deal with 'no names', but we do need to deal with 'no name yet', or 'there's a chance that we'll have to enter the name of someone with only personal names', or..." applies, think about other cases until they get to "clearly no".

#251 ::: Mycroft W lives with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Me too - probably for comma splicing far beyond the call of duty.

#252 ::: James V ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:28 PM:

I dodged a bullet on my new job. They had another employee with the surname "Veitch" so management already knew how to spell and pronounce it.

I've had a competition with my father over the most egregious misspelling or mispronunciation. An employee at a grocery offered well wishes to a "Mr Vee-Tech." Too late. My father had been called that before.

#253 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:43 PM:

people with patronymics (or, possibly, matronymics), so their names don't 'match' the name(s) of their parents. (One of my nephews had to adopt a family name so the state would know what to put on his daughter's birth certificate.)

#254 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 02:51 PM:

"Marie-Joseph" was a not uncommon name in Quebec. It could be used for either male or female persons.

Les Québecois(e) used to have a lot of double names - all the Jeans I used to know! Jean-Jacques, Jean-François, Jean-Georges...

They seem to be falling out of favour.

#255 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:01 PM:

James, #252: My first stab at pronouncing it would be "vetch" like the flowering plant. How far off am I?

#256 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:09 PM:

Oh, that "François" reminded me: systems that won't accept accents in names. Argh!

There's a significant difference in pronunciation between Francois and François, or Helene and Hélène, and it falls very much into the "that's not my name" category for people hearing it.

Or that Facebook won't let my cousin use her actual last name because it happens to also be a noun. They asked her to send them an image of her Social Security card or driver's license to prove that it was really her name (she doesn't drive and is Canadian, we don't have SSNs). Never mind that searching on that last name in the white pages for just the state of CA gets 10+ pages of hits...

Facebook says that this is to protect their policy of allowing real names only.

She ended up creating an account with a fake last name.

#257 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:10 PM:

Cheryl @ 254... And let's not forget Jean-Luc. (I wonder if the NCC-1701-D put the last nail into that name's coffin.)

#258 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:18 PM:

@257 Serge Broom

And let's not forget Jean-Luc.

Ah! Now how could I have left him off my list?

#259 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:18 PM:

My son wasn't named for a couple of weeks. All the hospital paperwork was done with Boy Lastname. I subsequently got a telephone call ASKING for "Boy." The lady at the hospital apparently didn't look at the birth date.

Oh, and we also got a more sensible phone call about what name to put on the permanent record. My husband covered the receiver and called out "Love? Are we going with [firstname middlename], or what?"

We called him "Sir" in the meantime. Long after he had a name and was able to grab things, his sisters could be heard saying things like "Sir! Sir! You're pulling my hair, Sir!"

#260 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:18 PM:

I think the feminine version is Marie-Josephe. (Sorry, my S-I-L's stepfather is one-quarter Quebeçois. I've seen a lot of names.)

#261 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:24 PM:

While we're on about cross-gender names, over the years I've known a female Kevin, two female Michaels, IIRC, and a female Patrick. All were from Irish-American families, suggesting it's not so very uncommon there.

I've wondered if the causal chain went something like, "My first-born is going to be named Kevin, after [me|my father|my uncle], no matter what!" "It's a girl. "NO MATTER WHAT!"

#262 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 03:48 PM:

@260 P J Evans

I think the feminine version is Marie-Josephe. (Sorry, my S-I-L's stepfather is one-quarter Quebeçois. I've seen a lot of names.)

Goodness. I wouldn't want to argue with your sister-in-law's stepfather's one quarter.

#263 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 05:13 PM:

The many hyphenated Quebecois Jeans put me in mind of something that happened a few years ago. I was driving my parents' ancient minivan, and all the registration/insurance paperwork was still in their name -- and then it got stolen. The insurance company got a little tripped up by the fact that the van was being driven by somebody who was not visibly related to the person listed on the insurance paperwork (different last names). Meanwhile my mother was out of the country and my dad was halfway around the world.

The insurance guy said, "Well, do you know your dad's middle name?"

"Um?" I said.

"It's weird," the insurance guy said.

"Oh! It's Pierre-Paul!" I said, while silently fuming at his name being called 'weird.' (Yes, my dad's Quebecois. He was also the president of the atheist club at his Catholic high school, so I guess the double-barreled Biblical middle name didn't work too well.)

I feel sure I could have arrived at it eventually just by cycling through all the possible double-barreled Biblical French names.

#264 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 05:17 PM:

Well, he's named John Joseph. Nothing at all French about that name, not at all, nosirree. [snicker]

#265 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 05:25 PM:

@264 P J Evans

Well, he's named John Joseph. Nothing at all French about that name, not at all, nosirree. [snicker]


There are, nevertheless, women named Marie-Joseph. No E.

#266 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:19 PM:

My kids went increasingly long times before getting their names. The first, at least overnight. The second was a few days. The third, two and a half weeks, and running past the time when notices of birth were supposed to be submitted to the county. The midwife was holding it, hoping for a name.

Three years later when dealing with the local hospital, he's still named Baby Boy [lastname].

My wife wanted easily nicknamed names, where there was one clear, easy nickname, and one full name. Somehow we wound up with middle names that are all good, but not great, scrabble words. (no x or z, but w,j,v are all represented).

One thing we hadn't considered is what a 2.5 year old would do to the youngest's name. So, his nickname, instead of being a short somewhat common one syllable name, is most of the rest of his name.

#267 ::: eric is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 06:20 PM:

For abuse of sentence structure, most likely.

#268 ::: D. Eppstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:10 PM:

Cheryl #256: I know a German woman named Anne (pronounced in the German way with two syllables) who reacts in the same "that's not my name" way to Anna. Unfortunately many Americans are incapable of hearing or pronouncing the difference...

#269 ::: James V ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Lee @255: That's the most common mispronunciation. Long "e". The most common misspelling and alternate spelling is "Veach."

#270 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:37 PM:

At the conference I just attended different session chairs used different formats when announcing the names of the paper presenters. I think the two most common were first name-last name and honorific-last name.

One session chair simply used the first name for all four presenters. I do not know whether the fact that one presenter had the last name Paszkiewicz and another presenter had the last name Schoua-Glusberg had anything to do with this.

#271 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 07:53 PM:

James V: Out of curiosity, are you any relation to the comics writer and artist Rick Veitch?

#272 ::: James V ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 08:01 PM:

David @270: No, though we probably come from the same Veitch that came arrived on North America however long ago.

#273 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 08:32 PM:

Oh, and P J Evans @260, I forgot: it's Québécois, not "Quebeçois", which would be pronounced, more or less, "kuh buh swah", and is not a word.

Why, yes, I do like my demonym spelled correctly. It's part of my identity, just like my name.

#274 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 08:43 PM:

I feel a little diffident about bringing this up, but I did have a great-uncle Egbert. Honest.

#275 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 08:43 PM:

I feel a little diffident about bringing this up, but I did have a great-uncle Egbert. Honest.

#276 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 08:43 PM:

Mycroft W #250: Actually, I'd go more general -- a lot of the issue is evolutionary constraints on the process of making programs.
* Programming as a field started out with drastic limits on memory and code size, which produced embedded assumptions that we're still running into.
* This was aggravated by the point that for the first few decades the "client base" was mostly limited to American, then European names. Also, the few folks who weren't using Latin characters were likely customers or clients of customers who had little choice but to suck up and deal with whatever "the computer" demanded.
* That said, name handling is a Hard Problem. As that "list of falsehoods" post never quite says (though I think some of the comments do), it's potentially an impossible problem, especially if you're trying to use names as primary identifiers for people.
* There's always a cost to more programming and programmer-training time. Programs aren't built de novo anymore, rather much of the code comes from libraries and other components. Learning to use these is non-trivial, as is learning to use the New Improved Version. Old components (including OS components) can still hamstring modern programs.
* Fixing old programs properly costs time and money up front... and can make your "fixed" program incompatible with the stuff it used to interoperate with (more stuff to fix). And that assumes that the program is getting re-specced and re-written, rather than a compatibility layer wrapped around something moldy. (Microsoft, I'm looking at you.)

It's all very well for us to sit here saying that it oughta be done already, but try telling that to a programmer or team who's been told "it has to be out by Thursday or else". As with most evolutionary processes, programming/development in practice tends to "satisfice" rather than optimize, because trying to get it perfect means missing deadlines and opportunities.

#277 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 08:57 PM:

I'll try to remember that. I get used to pasting characters, too. (And yes, I do put that first é in - most of the time.)

#278 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 09:04 PM:

Various above on Quebecois names: I worked with Pierre Pierre Blais. I have no idea how that name came about. It sounds rather Barrayarran.

#279 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 09:55 PM:

@276 P J Evans

I'll try to remember that. I get used to pasting characters, too. (And yes, I do put that first é in - most of the time.)

I didn't so much mind the missing aigus. If you're not used to typing accents, you probably don't have a french keyboard or know the alt-codes or html-codes off by heart. It would have been no big.

It was the cédille that gave me the wig.

#280 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:13 PM:

I have the character map pinned to the start menu. At least then, if I know what I'm looking for, I know where to find it. It's still missing some that it needs, IMO.

#281 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:52 PM:

James, #268: That's a relief -- at least I wasn't missing it being 2 syllables, or the "ch" being soft, or something like that. And now that I know, I'll keep that pronunciation in mind.

#282 ::: Nadya Duke ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 10:56 PM:

I have a highly mangleable first name - when a nurse steps out to the waiting room, looks down at their clipboard and pauses, I just stand up.

When I married I took my husband's name as my last name but continued to actively use my maiden name as my middle name. Well meaning people kept trying to merge them and I started to threaten to change my name to "three words, no hyphen."

#283 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2013, 11:15 PM:

In college, I got tired of using the alt codes to type accents and such in Spanish papers after a professor showed us how to switch the keyboard. I can't find all the punctuation I want-- I was praised for being able to write in Spanish, but it's English-flavored writing in Spanish rather than having the same punctuation conventions-- but it is so much faster and easier, especially for someone who generally types clean.

It's also how I relearned qwerty after switching to Dvorak.

#284 ::: Phlop ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 01:44 AM:

Fragano #274/5: Hah - I have a Great Aunt Fanny.

#285 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:05 AM:

re 276: The fact of what to DO with the name also plays into this. If what you're going to do is produce plain text emails, excluding diacriticals isn't out of the question. Among other things, the software I write at the office puts names in documents which are put on paper; diacriticals and perhaps even Greek and Cyrillic could be handled "properly", but Hebrew and Arabic cannot, and I for one would wonder about coming to my doctor's office and finding a wall license with the name written in Hangul. Reproducing names "perfectly" is of importance for historians, not necessarily for day-to-day work, where some degree of cooperation is necessary: to the question "what am I going to call you" the response has to be something people can actually say/write if it is to be taken seriously.

#286 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 07:47 AM:

#233 ::: Josh Berkus

I hate name fields that won't take spaces. This means I have to sign in as NancyLebovitz in some places, and Nancy Lebovitz in others.


Faint memory: I think there are cultures which don't give a child their real name till fairly late, they use a nickname before that.

Seeing Like a State's author has a background of studying enforced name requirements (like being required to have a last name). IIRC, he says that some fraction of what looks like tyranny is a side effect of governments wanting to maintain control but having limited information handling ability, so they do things to make people easier to keep track of.

He also studied restrictions on nomadism.

#287 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 11:02 AM:

Xopher Halftongue @ #199:

I didn't mean to suggest that anybody participating in the thread had no name. (At least one commenter claimed to, but I doubt their sincerity.)

But the second comment in the thread is someone asking for examples, and the third comment is the post's author providing some. Other commenters also answered the request, in this comment and this one.

#288 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 01:58 PM:

On names changing over time: the Baby Name Voyager is a wonderful interactive graphic/time sink for exploring this, based on US Census data going back to the 1800s.

C. Wingate@285: Yes, exactly. It's trivial to write new software that takes a single long Unicode string for a name, but nearly any use of that name short of "display the entire name exactly as is" will impose constraints. Those constraints will almost certainly be incorrect for someone's name, and if you have to do two or more things with the name then the constraints may well be contradictory. Nevertheless, not wanting to make the perfect the enemy of the not-a-complete-mess, it's not hard to do way better than the average here.

#289 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 02:12 PM:

For the purposes of written records, I wonder if something like the following would cover most issues:

Your Complete Name:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

How you wish to be alphabetized:
Nielsen Hayden, Patrick

How you prefer to be addressed formally:
Mr. Nielsen Hayden

How you prefer to be addressed informally:

This leaves aside the whole issue of languages, character sets, and pronunciation. But for text-based record-keeping, it might do? I'm curious what this would leave out.

#290 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 02:15 PM:

programming thread, riffing off of C. Wingate @285 to the question "what am I going to call you" the response has to be something people can actually say/write if it is to be taken seriously.

My apologies if somebody said this already, but a large part of the reason to have rules on names going into the database is for reproducibility. Presumably you will at some point want to look up something about that person, or add additional information about something, and you need to be able to find the correct record, and that's helped by ways to tell typos and other errors from intentional differences.

#291 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 02:21 PM:

To my @289 maybe I would add:



This one grates on me. If I leave it blank, it defaults to Mr. While I can now often choose a title that doesn't declare a marital status, there is still no currently-available variant (that's not an earned title, like Prof or Dr.) that doesn't force me to declare a gender.

#292 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 02:24 PM:

I had a lot of fun naming characters in The Christmas Mutiny out of my own family's history: Major Cook, Private Wible, Mlle. Rapier, &c. Nobody but family are going to get the joke, but it did give me a handy pool of ehtnically diverse names to draw upon.
Right now, I'm working on something where the characters are all named Gaines, Feldstein, Kurtzman, &c., wondering how many people will get that joke....

#293 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 02:28 PM:

John M Burt @ 292... Mad Magazine...

#294 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 03:04 PM:

dotless ı: interesting. The page you linked shows that my name had a huge surge in popularity in 2009. Wonder if some soap opera had a character named Lila?

#295 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 03:17 PM:

Jacque @ 291: ah, but there is! There is Mx, which is slowly but surely becoming accepted, at least in this country. (My bank, which is one of the larger ones, is one of the bodies which recognises it. I'm not sure if I can get it put on my passport yet, but then it's not up for renewal just yet, and besides I doubt I'll be travelling abroad for quite a while.)

There is disagreement on how to pronounce it. I personally favour "Mix". It seems appropriate.

#296 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 03:24 PM:

Mongoose (295): 'Mx' is an elegant solution, but I've never ever seen it on a form, either print or online. And yes, the pronunciation should definitely be 'Mix'.


Jacque (291): I've never noticed the 'defaults to Mr.' problem if I leave it blank, but maybe I just haven't been paying attention.

#297 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 03:53 PM:

Jacque @291, the "title as proxy for gender" annoys me too - and I do have a doctorate, but since the real purpose of that field usually seems to be "tell us your gender so we can target advertising", "Dr." is frequently not an option.

#298 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Mary Aileen @296: It may, in part, be a function of my potentially-gender-ambiguous name, given that one of the popular misspellings is "Jacques."

#299 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:05 PM:

Jacque @291, lorax @297: Yeah, I have a doctorate as well, and I make use of that "Dr" whevever possible (but as you say, sometimes they don't give the option, like on the budget airlines).

And then I go to a conference in continental Europe and the hotel staff INSIST on calling me "Mrs" - despite it clearly saying "Dr" on all my paperwork, and however often I correct them. And I'm told it's a courtesy, and I should be grateful. Well, no. I earned the right to be called "Dr", they wouldn't downgrade anyone male from "Dr" to "Mr", and anyway Mrs [My Last Name] is incorrect because that's not my husband's last name. We are sometimes "Mr and Mrs [His Last Name]" for social stuff, and I'm fine with that, so long as it's not "Mr and Mrs [His First Name][His Last Name]". Sometimes he gets called "Mr [My Last Name]" and he's amused by that.

#300 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:05 PM:

lorax @297: Speaking of targeted advertising, seems to have got it into its computation-plus-sensor-cluster that I'm an expecting or new mom, because three quarters of the ads they serve up to me are for diapers or pediatric otc medications and what not. I am bemused. If this is a sample of the accuracy of their data-mining, I'm surprised they're able to stay in business at all.

#301 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:09 PM:

dcb @299: I'm told it's a courtesy, and I should be grateful.

Have you inquired whether it still qualifies as a courtesy if it offends you, and you are further offended when they ignore your explicit requests, and are not, in fact, grateful? Or do they just get huffy?

#302 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 04:24 PM:

Jacque@300: Amazon is targeting me with a 32000 piece puzzle _everywhere_ today, because I followed a link from the boingy site.

I dislike how looking at something implies continuing interest.

#303 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 05:26 PM:

Jacque @301: Maybe if I spoke e.g. German sufficiently to explain it in their language it would be different. But I don't. And I'm not willing to get the hotel staff annoyed with me.

#304 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 05:36 PM:

eric @302: I dislike how looking at something implies continuing interest.

Amazon also has the problem of "oh, I see you bought one book on subject X! How about these four hundred other books on the same subject!"

It's as if the people maintaining their recommendations engine have never heard of carefully reviewing the books available on a subject and choosing the one you want. While sure, sometimes I want an exhaustive collection, if I buy a book on honey bee genetics I am unlikely to need Beekeeping for Dummies, as one example among many.

Also, the book recommendations you get if you buy toilet paper from them are either evidence of some very bad business decision-making, or a demographic detail of US online toilet-paper buyers that I did not know about before.

Hrm, slightly off topic. Bringing it back around, United Airlines insists that my first name is Aysejms. That'd be my first name, the first letter of the middle name on my ID, and Ms. We've corrected them on the subject before, and it worked for one trip (fortunately an overseas trip to the Middle East, where they do care if the name on your ticket matches the name on your passport), but I noticed it was back on a recent trip cross-country. One of the perils of a name that to most Americans is just a jumble of letters, or of some outstandingly bad coding in their booking software.

#305 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:02 PM:

Jacque @ 298... one of the popular misspellings is "Jacques."

It's a misspelling?

#306 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:25 PM:

Serge: I look at you over my glasses.

#307 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:32 PM:

Jacque @ 306... Is this where I do my impersonation of lumberjack Blacque Jacque Shellacque? :-)

#308 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:39 PM:

Serge, do you ever stop doing your impersonation of lumberjack Blacque Jacque Shellacque?

#309 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:43 PM:

Xopher @ 308... Well, sometimes I do an impersonation of Pepe le Pew's impersonation of Charles Boyer.

#310 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 06:50 PM:

eric, #302: I have a Google search tab up at the moment for something I intend to order soon, so every site with targeted advertising is currently showing me variations on that item.

And yes, after I had searched for red hi-top sneakers to go with my Nanny Ogg costume, it took ages for the ads to stop presenting me with more of those.

Serge, #305: For our Jacque, it certainly is!

#311 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 07:20 PM:

Eric@302, Ayse@304
It's worse if you look at something twice+. I read Scalzi's Human Division serial many months ago, buying it chapter-by-13-chapters. Amazon has yet to recommend a non-Scalzi book ever since, even for books where they know I've read book one and should likely like book two.

#312 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 08:02 PM:

eric #302: Let alone if any of your searches involve, or even turned up, NSFW material -- good luck getting that out of the results for Every Damn Search you do thereafter. "No, I just wanted to find out what that word meant. I do not want further information, much less pictorial examples, included in my next query, on astrophysical oddities."

#313 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 08:05 PM:

There are also cultures that bestow a name only after a person accomplishes some remarkable feat. Before that, an adult is addressed by job title. (I don't remember how children are denominated.)

#314 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 10:21 PM:

Xopher @ #308, I LOL'ed and woke up the cat.

This morning, Amazon emailed me and told me I might like the book I am currently reading for Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind). That was kind of creepy.

#315 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 11:08 PM:

Ayse @304, Amazon is convinced I want books on all sorts of subjects that I have absolutely no interest in, because, hey, I buy books as gifts for friends. Who'd'a thunk it. <wry>

#316 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2013, 11:45 PM:

If I'm going to go browsing at the South American River, I don't log in. That way, they have a much harder time tracking me.

#317 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 01:06 AM:

P J Evans @316 -- whether you log in or not, they can track your browser with their cookie, which probably lasts for 30 days, unless you clear cookies. They can't link you up with your previous browsing sessions (if you clear cookies or have more than 30 days between sessions) unless you log in. But they have multiple ways of tracking you.

In particular, if you ever click through from an email, they link your browser to the email address, and hey presto!

Browsing in a new incognito window and clearing cookies afterwards is probably the best way.

#318 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 02:55 AM:

And as my husband has noticed, if you buy book four in a series, they keep offering you books 1,2 and 3, because hey, there's no way you would have already got those.

#319 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:49 AM:

Ayse@304 - My wife's birth certificate says "Laurie". When she was ~12, her father changed his name (he'd already anglicized it), so while she was changing her last name she changed the first name to "Laura" and dropped the middle name she'd never liked either. California followed the common-law practice that you can use any name you want as long as it's not for fraud, so there wasn't any court paperwork required. (Also it was socially common practice for anybody in show business to change their name, preferably to a name not already registered with SAG or AFTRA.) Many years later, her purse got stolen, with her passport in it, and since it was post 9/11, the Post Office was picky about all names on all paperwork having to match all other names on all previous paperwork, so her passport now says "Laurie". She took my last name when we got married, so using her maiden name as middle name kept the old middle name from coming back, but it still means that if we travel internationally, the airline tickets need to match the passport.

We've also found that the DMV is now picky about names also; somebody we talked to had trouble getting them to accept the name change after they got married without a trail of paper because her maiden name didn't match her birth certificate.

#320 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:51 AM:

Re gender ambiguity in names: I used to work with a man named Anne. It's not an uncommon male name in the Netherlands. He got endless trouble going to the US, since it's simply not conceivable as a male name there. Fortunately, he's Dutch, and just loomed and blunted his way through.

- o0o -

Heather Rose Jones @185:
It's on my list of topics for "maybe some day I'll write a blog post on this" based on data from the SSA database.

I'd read the heck out of that article.

- o0o -

Lila @189:
Parheliated. It's a good article. Thanks.

- o0o -

Re: callers identifying the Netherlands, the standard way phone calls start is, literally translated:

Answerer: Hello. With [name]
Caller: Hello. With [name], [organization, where appropriate]. [content]

It's possible to answer the phone without using your name, but it's very, very rude for the caller not to give theirs.

- o0o -

eric @266:
One thing we hadn't considered is what a 2.5 year old would do to the youngest's name. So, his nickname, instead of being a short somewhat common one syllable name, is most of the rest of his name.

When I was pregnant with my second child, we knew what we wanted for a middle name (Chenoweth. It's a family surname that I've always liked. Note that it can be spelled a kasquillion ways.), but absent further information, we weren't sure what we wanted for a first name. So the tummy-name was Chenoweth, or Chen.

When Fiona was born, we started using her name. But her not-quite-three year old brother took a while to get it right, and spent some time calling her "Chenoweth Fiona", or "Che-Fiona", or "Chuffiona". So she's still Chuff or the Chuffer from time to time. (But not, as Martin started calling her for a while before I stopped him, "Chunks".)

- o0o -

And one addition to the names thing: what happens when your last name is Test?

My flights to and from the southwest this summer for our family vacation were mysteriously canceled. I spent 1.5 hours on the phone last night and tonight with Travelocity and USAirways trying to figure out what happened. Turns out... my flight was canceled because they thought it was one of their internal tests of the ticketing system. I am now back on my flights but I am in the computer with the last name XTEST. I have been advised to appear at the airport early in case I run into trouble due to the fact that my name on the ticket will not match my name on my ID. This is driving me completely bananas.
#321 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 04:09 AM:

Back when I lived in New Jersey we knew a family who were refugees from Vietnam, and were ethnic Hakka Chinese. They used at least three different naming conventions - in Chinese they were "family-name personal-names", in English they were American-first-name Chinese-family-name, and in Vietnamese they had names like "eldest son", "second daughter", etc.; I don't know if they also had personal names in Vietnamese. The dad and kids' family names were Le, but the mom's family name was Ly, which confused a few extra bureaucrats (it's a different name, just similar, and the woman keeps her family name after the marriage.) And "American-first-name" isn't necessarily Anglo; one of the kids decided to be Tony, because he thought it was a cool name, and yo, it's New Jersey.

They also confused people because they'd first stayed with a family from Georgia until they got their own place, so the kids had deep rural Southern accents, and then moved to an African-American neighborhood, which in our area was a mostly Southern accent rather than New Yorkish, calmer but still reinforcing the Georgianess. The parents were pretty isolated; there weren't a lot of Vietnamese people in the area, and the only other Hakka speakers were their cousin, and the mom spoke a bit of Mandarin but most of the local Chinese people spoke Cantonese, so they mainly depended on the kids to translate English for them.

#322 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 07:01 AM:

Cassy B. @ 315: it's tedious, and it may even be more tedious since the last time I looked it up (years ago), but there is a way to get Amazon to stop considering purchases as something to base recommendations on. You have to sign in at amazon and hover over "Your Account" (below "Hello $FirstName") and in that list that pops up go to "Your recommendations." Then find something being recommended for bad reasons, click on "Why recommended?" and check one or both of "This was a gift" and "Don't use for recommendations."

I tried going the more direct route--going through order history to designate past orders as gifts/not to base suggestions on--but couldn't find a way to do it. (That doesn't mean that there can't be one, just that I didn't find it.)

#323 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 09:43 AM:

All this talk about the vagaries of the Great South American River reminds me that it can also work the other way. My friend the Star Tenor has made a lot of recordings, and I've bought several of them at various points, but when I'm in a position to buy one I now go elsewhere. This is because the Great South American River takes no notice of the fact that I always search for him by name, along with the disambiguation "tenor" because he has a very similar name to another musician in a different genre. Instead, it recommends all kinds of other strange stuff, including "recording, outside the genre I mostly buy, which features one of the other soloists on the recording I bought".

I suspect they don't have a clue about classical music in general, let alone baroque/early music.

#324 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 10:28 AM:

Thanks, Johnofjack @322. Now I have to decide whether I should like having a dozen false trails about me left on the Great South American River, or whether it's too annoying to get those ridiculous recommendations....

But it's good to have options.

#325 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 11:16 AM:

Mongoose noted while travelling the Great South American River:

I suspect they don't have a clue about classical music in general, let alone baroque/early music.

This moose suspects that from their point of view it isn't baroque so they won't fix it.

Their recommendations for this moose vary from the bizarre to the ridiculous (and back again).

#326 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Ayse #304: "Also, the book recommendations you get if you buy toilet paper from them are either evidence of some very bad business decision-making, or a demographic detail of US online toilet-paper buyers that I did not know about before."

Okay, that one is much too intriguing to pass up.

#327 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 12:09 PM:

Serge Broom #307:

No relation to the actor Taurean Blacque Jacque Shellacque?

#328 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 12:41 PM:

dcb, #318: In the past, I've been able to take a book off the recommendations list by clicking on it and then checking either "I own it" or "not interested". Given that they're almost as bad as the Book of Face about changing user interfaces with no notice, that may not be an option any more.

#329 ::: Arwel ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Jacque @291. I'm cursed with having to work with a computer system that only offers "Mr", "Mrs, "Ms", "Miss", "Dr", "Rev", "Prof" and blank. It's a nightmare trying to get the damned thing to accept military officers, knights, and aristocrats (who tend to get huffy if you call them Mister or Mrs rather than Lord, Lady, Viscount, or the Duke or Duchess of Somewhere)!

Another thing I've noticed is that quite a few younger people are officially known by what used to be a diminutive, e.g. they were registered as "Chris" rather than "Christopher", which can sometimes cause awkwardness.

#330 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 01:28 PM:

Moose @ 325: really, the problem is they just can't get a Handel on it, so I always have to go Bach to square one.

#331 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:05 PM:

Mongoose 330: That's why I've mostly stopped Chopin there. The Liszt they present is never useful.

#332 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 03:16 PM:

Xopher @ 331: if only you knew how many times you've helped to rescue an awful day. *grin*

#333 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 05:06 PM:

Xopher @ #331

They're not really a very good Stockhausen anyway.

#334 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 05:35 PM:

These puns are beyond Compère. I Machaut them to my musical friends.

#335 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Is it safe for me to stop Haydn now?

#336 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 07:31 PM:

Yeah, come on out, if you can Handel it.

#337 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2013, 08:19 PM:

Fragano @326: Okay, that one is much too intriguing to pass up.

Romance novels. Lots and lots of romance novels. Emphasis on kind of rapey ones, which are the kind I don't generally read, though I buy romance novels off-Amazon, anyway. From what I know of the how the engine works, I assume there's actually a demographic correlation.

Also, there is a more direct way to remove a bought item from your recommending engine: Your Amazon (link in the top left), "Improve Your Recommendations" : it shoes you everything you've ever bought and lets you rate it or mark it to not be used for recommendations. This is how I clear out that strange toilet paper thing on a regular basis.

#338 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 01:25 AM:

Just when you thought it was safe to get Bach on the interwebs....

#339 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 01:59 AM:

I only buy from Amazon if I can't find a book anywhere else. This usually means a novella that was only published on Amazon. There was a also an scholarly book that I wouldn't normally read, but a relative wrote it. That combination produced rather bizarre recommendations, but after going through a few pages clicking "not interested" or "I own it", I did get a few recommendations that were plausible—but they were still in the minority.

This reminds me of the summertime, when I buy fruit, vegetables, eggs and cheese from the farmers' market. Anyone looking at my purchases at the grocery store would be think I subsist entirely on soda, pasta, and ... kitty litter?

#340 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 02:14 AM:

Otter @290:

That's the excuse, yes. However, speaking as a database engineer who frequently has to clean up bad data for clients, forcing people to enter names into forms that don't fit their real names has the opposite effect; when you make people rearrange and abbreviate, they tend to do it in inconsistent ways. And sometimes they enter garbage deliberately because they're pissed off that you mangled their name.

dcb @299:

Actually, you're still a "Mrs." even if you don't share your husband's last name. I looked it up in Emily Post. Not that that has any bearing on really being a "Dr.".

the rest:

I order a LOT of stuff from The Largest River In The World, but oddly none of it is books.

#341 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 05:41 AM:

I'm sure the pun thread will eventually un-Ravel.

#342 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 06:38 AM:

Lord, you guys are Messiaen about here.

#343 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 07:45 AM:

I'm sorry, I'm about to become Part of the problem.

#344 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 11:13 AM:

Will we never get Orff* this terrible pun-chain?

*A German composer who wrote his most famous work to please the Third Reich†, and disowned his previous published work, which didn't conform to Third Reich music laws.

†An American Jewish composer who wrote an incredibly eloquent piece about that same era, in American and in Europe.

#345 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Shortly after our firstborn arrived, my then wife and I were astonished to receive in the post an advertising missive addressed to "Mrs Roger Ledgister". "When did he get married?" I enquired, "and why didn't he tell us?"

#346 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Shortly after our firstborn arrived, my then wife and I were astonished to receive in the post an advertising missive addressed to "Mrs Roger Ledgister". "When did he get married?" I enquired, "and why didn't he tell us?"

#347 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 02:36 PM:

You will *note* that i didn't contribute a musical pun to this.

#348 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 08:30 PM:

re: "please note"
Oh, Serge, give it a rest.

#349 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 09:38 PM:

Serge, #347: But I thought puns were your forte...

#350 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 09:45 PM:

Hey, give Serge a break. Everyone has days when they feel a little flat.

#351 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 10:00 PM:

Are you saying it's only natural, Carrie? It's not the measure of a man, to be sure, nor an indication of the scale of his concerns. Definitely shouldn't be a bar to professional life, though I'm sure it's been used as a slur many times. Serge is a dynamic person who really hasn't made a mezzo his life.

#352 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 10:06 PM:

I am very suspicious of the tenor of this discussion. It seems to me that violins could break out at any moment.

#353 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2013, 11:15 PM:

Fragano, I AM the tenor of this discussion.

#354 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 03:46 AM:

This exchange is rapidly heading off a clef. I treble at the consequences.

#355 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 06:55 AM:

I'm not one to harp on this but if there's an outbreak of violins I will get straight on the horn to the police.

#356 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 06:57 AM:

I'm sure there's a way to guitar-round the prohibition on violins. Sometimes it's a viol necessity in this bass and wicked world.

#357 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:08 AM:

I was going to join in again as soon as I hopped out of the sackbut I couldn't think of anything at that point.

#358 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:14 AM:

Oh, abi, chalumeau down all opposition?

#359 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:18 AM:

TexAnne @ # 358

Only if she has a Chicago piano.

#360 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:35 AM:

That kind of thing is not really my forte.

#361 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 08:39 AM:

I was going to enter this thread earlier, but Debussy never arrives on time in Britten.

#362 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 11:11 AM:

Still no musical pun from me... I thought it wiser to pipe down.

#363 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 11:19 AM:

I know what you mean. If they don't come organically, I'm generally not key-ne to force puns either.

#364 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 12:05 PM:


Always a sound policy.

#365 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 01:12 PM:

OK, I started this. Should I make amends by trying to chorale all these puns? Or should I simply admit defeat and go back to translating Petrarch andante?

At least I'm not posting from Paris. It would be embarrassing if I got MetroGnomed.

#366 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 02:13 PM:

If we start on singers, we'll all be bard from contributing.

#367 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 05:57 PM:

piccolo number to start?

#368 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 06:42 PM:

This orchestra thread is becoming the pit.

#369 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 07:29 PM:

Someone will have to call an alto this.

#370 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2013, 09:01 PM:

Pun, two, three, four, I de-clarinet war!

#371 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 03:45 AM:

Just dropping a note to say that readin' dis chord of this thread has given me a bright start to the day.

#372 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 03:49 AM:

Was going to chime in but can't think of anything just now.

#373 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 05:26 AM:

Perhaps we need a warning cymbal for musical puns?

#374 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 09:37 AM:

If this doesn't stop we'll all be drummed off of the board.

#375 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 09:37 AM:

My mind needs a tune-up; it's so discordant from stress* right now that I can't participate in this pun session.

*I'm moving. Next week. The new apartment is great, but right now I need to PACK ALL THE THINGS!!

#376 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 10:41 AM:

I'm Bizet today, so must stave off participation.

#377 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 11:54 AM:

I'm pretty certain that more musical puns will be Carmen along.

#378 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 06:15 PM:

Yeah, if you're inclined to bet on how many there will be, I wouldn't piccolo number. But after a while we'll start to eighth these things, and give them no quarter. Trill be interesting.

#379 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 06:36 PM:

..._ This moose will take the fifth, and nobody got hit with a stave.

#380 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2013, 10:53 PM:

I'd hate to Telemann or woman not to pun, so I'll just rest here Fauré little while.

#381 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Gee, that's a mess of puns -- and I see nobody said to eff off and clean the mess up? Is everyone too busy being cleffer?

#382 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 06:24 PM:

Nobody here is crotchety. nor do they have to remember to breve, he said with a semiquaver.

#383 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:13 PM:

I was talking with a high school student yesterday who said that he played the piano, mostly for fun these days. His repetoire right now consists of Chopin, Chopin, Chopin, and Chopin, but he's making a little Liszt of other things he might like to play.

[Everything up through "... and Chopin" is true and accurately reporting my conversation...]

#384 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:25 PM:

"We'll do it in three-part harmony, Captain. There'll be no treble at all!"

#385 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2013, 07:33 PM:

Serge Broom @307: Aw, dam!

#386 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 08:55 AM:

Lila @ 77

Another one for the list: Milan TN, pronounced MY-lun.

The funny thing is, I never had thought of it as being spelled just like the city in Italy until I tried googling it 5 minutes ago. (And I used to work there.)

#387 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 09:22 AM:

SamChevre @ 386: I can still remember the little "pop!" in my head when I realised that "entrance" (way in) and "entrance" (captivate) looked exactly the same on paper. It wasn't that I hadn't seen them both written down; I had. I was an enthusiastic and omnivorous reader right from the start. But I'd always been so carried along by the context that I never noticed the identical spelling, even though I knew perfectly well how to spell both words.

#388 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 07:09 PM:

There's also a Milan (pronounced the same way) in New Hampshire.

#389 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2013, 07:17 PM:

Re #s 386, 388: And one in Georgia too! Only about 35 miles from where I grew up.

#390 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 01:14 AM:

And in Illinois, site of the Quad Cities airport. Which four cities comprise the Quad Cities depends on which side of the Mississippi you're on.

#391 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 08:36 AM:

The Quad Cities? That's easy: Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, and Coal Valley. None of them having odd pronunciations.

#392 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2013, 12:02 PM:

Josh Berkus @340: Emily Post is an institution now. Big business! From their site: "One other thought about honorific titles: If you're unsure of how to address someone with a doctorate, follow this general rule of thumb. It's better to "Dr." a person who would rather be referred to as "Mr." or Mrs." than to do the reverse."

dcb is only 'Mrs' if she wants to be called so. But then, this would be true no matter what Emily Post or her heirs assert.

#394 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 10:00 PM:

It would be nice if the NJ license database was as up-to-date as the 1980s, when at least some states had gotten beyond those limitations. It sounds like they're trying to use dBaseII, ferGhussake.

#395 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2013, 10:01 PM:

C. 393: That's ridiculous. But they're wrong about one thing: New Jersey wouldn't turn into Newjersey, but New J.

#396 ::: Aquila1nz ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 03:27 PM:

Meanwhile Air Canada is getting some heat because they won't recognise someone as family for transferring tickets unless they have the same surname:

#397 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 03:44 PM:

AFAIK, it was legal in Quebec for women to keep their own names, and it's done a lot in the US.
Haven't they met that before?

#398 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 04:03 PM:

@397 P J Evans

AFAIK, it was legal in Quebec for women to keep their own names, and it's done a lot in the US.
Haven't they met that before?

Legal? It's required. I have no idea what Air Canada thinks it's on about. I've never heard of this before, and I'm almost sure if it had happened here it would have made the news.

#399 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 04:07 PM:

Cheryl, I've only met pre-20th century records in Québec. It actually makes more sense than the whole name-change-on-marriage thing. (Genealogy takes you places you never expected.)

#400 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 04:21 PM:

Re people going years with no personal name, Olympic skier Picabo Street's family immigrated to the US when she was 7. At that point she was called, in the family, "little one" (in the relevant language). The US government acted a first name. Being 7, she was consulted, and chose Picabo, which is the name of the town she grew up in. I have no idea what the got of her country of birth called her -- probably a longish number.

Predictably, her grade school classmates decided her name was pronounced "peeka-boo" and she didn't object, so it stuck.

Coverage of this in NBC's human interest segments was the first time my mind was blown by contemplating someone "without" a name.

#401 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 04:26 PM:

Acted? No. Wanted. Am trying out new tablet keyboard, have not yet retrained self to spot all DYACs.

#402 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2013, 06:47 PM:

@400 Elliott Mason

Re people going years with no personal name, Olympic skier Picabo Street's family immigrated to the US when she was 7

I think you may have heard a story that received some edits during its travels; Picabo Street was born in Idaho.

#403 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:29 AM:

Huh. I thought it was Ms. Street; it was definitely some Olympian skiing for the US in ... The early 90s?

#404 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:34 AM:

Huh. I thought it was Ms. Street; it was definitely some Olympian skiing for the US in ... The early 90s?

#405 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 03:53 AM:

@403 Elliott Mason

Huh. I thought it was Ms. Street; it was definitely some Olympian skiing for the US in ... The early 90s?

Oh, it's not all wrong, just sort of mangled. Ms. Street was indeed known as 'baby girl' or 'little girl' for the first 3 years of her life. Apparently, the intention was that she would be able to pick her own name; however, her father needed to go to Mexico for work, so Baby Girl needed a passport. That's when the name Picabo was chosen. It is indeed the name of a town near where she was born in Idaho. How much influence her 3-year-old self had on picking the name, I could not say.

(Why does my brain find useless trivia sticky? Seriously. I could have been using that space for long division)

#406 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2014, 11:44 AM:

I was wondering if the Air Canada nonsense was also subject to the inverse failure; permitting a transfer to any one with the same last name without checking.

#407 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2015, 07:02 PM:

you know, I always actually thought the Guin in Le Guin was pronounced Gune.

Or maybe if you had a midwestern accent and were talking quickly like Legume.

#408 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2015, 07:06 PM:

huh, returning here after a long time I hadn't realized I had already posted my long held opinion on how to pronounce Le Guin.

ANYWAY I've decided now that it is pronounced like Ewan. That's much better.

#409 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2015, 07:36 PM:

If we're talking about Ursula LeGuin, I went to high school with her nephew. It's pronounced "Leh Gwinn".

#410 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2015, 11:11 PM:

This seems like a good place to mention that when I met Nnedi Okorafor at Detcon1, I took the opportunity to ask how she pronounces her first name. She says that the two "n"s are pronounced as one, so (my gloss) it sounds like the English name Neddy.

This is the sort of thing one wants to get right when recommending a writer to someone else.

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