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December 18, 2012

Nobody can spell “Nielsen.” Nobody.
Posted by Patrick at 09:24 PM * 144 comments

Because Making Light hasn’t featured enough pointless whining about our name lately.

“Nielson.” Then “Nielsen.” Then “Nielson.” Then “Nielsen.” Obviously this was completely invisible to Slate’s production staff. I’m impressed that we didn’t get “Neilson” into the mix.

(“Nielsen” is, by the way, correct when you’re talking about the TV ratings people and when you’re talking about Nielsen Haydens.)

I give up. We’re moving to Lubbock and changing our last name to Fred.

Comments on Nobody can spell "Nielsen." Nobody.:
#1 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:46 PM:

Hey, I live in Texas, and my fellow citizens excel at mangling names. It'll be spelled "Phred" and pronounced "Ferd."

#2 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:50 PM:

I'm not sure any state containing billboards for "It's pfun in Pflugerville!" is the place to go for people being able to spell words properly.

#3 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:57 PM:

Texas was a haven for Europeans fleeing the aftermath of the Revolutions of '48. Mostly Germans and Austrians, but also Scandinavians and Slavs. I suspect you could find a nice small town in the Hill Country where Nielsens and Haydens have been living cheek by jowl for over 160 years.

#4 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 09:58 PM:

I liked Richard Basehart's Admiral Nielsen on "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".

#5 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 10:00 PM:

"As streaming and DVRs have upended traditional Nielson TV ratings, the viewership measurement company has found a strategic new ally: Twitter."

Oh, goodie. As if we didn't have enough comment spam for Twitter already.

#6 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:31 PM:

Does this mean Teresa's going to open a hardware store?

#7 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:48 PM:

Not Lubbock! I spent a week in Lubbock one day. It's a full day's travel from anywhere.

There are plenty of pleasant places in Texas. I'd recommend Houston personally, although you might find Austin more picturesque.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2012, 11:59 PM:

It's only a couple of hours from Clovis, New Mexico. And it has a real airport, with scheduled flights. (I recommend Southwest. You don't have to go through Denver or DFW.)

#9 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:26 AM:

I'm regularly referred to as "Stephen" or "Stephan" by folks who have the correct spelling of my name at the top of comment posts.

I wouldn't be so verklempt about it, but at work, there is a Stephan and there was a Stephen, and we all have similar enough duties and expertises, so we'd get each other's email and forwarded phone calls and meeting invites.

#10 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:37 AM:

Lee #7:
While Houston has many positive features (I'm going to spend a few months there a year from now), I would have thought you might find X more picturesque would be plausible not just for X=Austin but for almost any other value of X.

#11 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:41 AM:

Define "picturesque"?

Incidentally, the Houston Symphony recently performed a symphony by Danish composer Carl Nielsen. I was wondering whether he was any relation.

#12 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:20 AM:

After going from a medium-obscure maiden name to an extremely common and easy-to-spell married name, I was startled to discover that approximately the same percentage of people misspelled my name in each iteration. The only difference was that my shorter, easier last name was misspelled only one way (by adding an 'S'), while the more difficult name was misspelled in any number of imaginative ways.

I came to the tentative hypothesis that the world divided into the people who paid attention to other people's names and how to spell them, and the people who didn't, and that the latter would misspell even simple names much of the time, while the former would usually get it right, unless the name or the circumstances were extremely difficult.

This is still theoretical, but it was much bolstered by the Christmas when my father-in-law, who definitely falls into the "doesn't pay attention" category managed to misspell the names on all of the Christmas cards he gave out to family that year - including mine (I'd only been his daughter-in-law for 18 years), and his grandson - who has the same name as his grandfather! It was an impressive demonstration.

#13 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 02:07 AM:

All I know of Lubbock comes from the introduction to a song from one of my favourite singers, Nanci Griffith:

"Most of my mother’s family came from way out in west Texas in a little town called Lockney, which is somewhere close to Lubbock, but not too close to Lubbock, nobody likes to be too close to Lubbock"

I trust her, so I'm with Lee #7

#14 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 02:22 AM:

That error would make way more sense if it were misspelled (or spelled differently) only in the link, but as it is I guess it's just spell check with no thinking. Alas.

Me, I know very well that if I only listen to a name, I will inevitably get it wrong right that very moment. I suck at spelling when when listening to people. It's kind of a very specialized hearing problem. (They spell it, I stumble and say, "Pottier?" quizzically, and they say, patiently, "Potter," and I say, "Oh! That makes more sense!") Given as I am in local media, this results in my asking people for their card and not even bothering to ask them how to spell their name unless I have no other choice.

Anyway. So. I pay attention, I just can't absorb. But I do try!

#15 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:18 AM:

I'm not helped by working on Neilson St! I do regularly have to think about the spelling of the town of Blenheim - at least I know it's German.

My first name is regularly misspelled by people confusing the double consonant.

#16 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:50 AM:

The first job I had when I needed to answer phones, I was having trouble understanding a caller's name to take a message. After having asked for a repeat a couple of times, I resorted to asking, "Could you spell that for me, please?" And - in understandably exasperated tones - they spelled something like "J-O-N-E-S."

#17 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:09 AM:

McAuley Macauley Macaulay Macawley McCauley McCawley MacCauley McGawley McAuliffe etc. etc.

Ken MacLeod is usually spelled either KEN MACLEOD or ken macleod on his covers, but I've seen at least one edition where they used Ken Macleod (I don't know if he noticed).

#18 ::: Joerg R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:02 AM:

ErrolC at #15
Actually, Blenheim is not German. It is a English, um, adaptation of the German town name Blindheim, where the 1704 battle was fought. Just like Leghorn or Mailand.

#19 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:32 AM:

Lubbock? Are you hoping to be abducted by aliens?

My last name is variously misspelled Hattin (which is a battle in the Crusades), Hatten, or (by New Yorkers) Hattan.

#20 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 07:10 AM:

I give up. We’re moving to Lubbock and changing our last name to Fred.

Go into business selling needles.

Xopher @19 ...(by New Yorkers) Hattan.

Well of course. As you will undoubtedly be introduced as "This is my man, Hattan".

#21 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 07:57 AM:

Whine, whine, whine, PNH. When I was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention pledged to McGovern (ah! those were heady days!) they spelled all three of my names wrong: Jan Yolan Semple. I always knew when they'd sold their lists.


#22 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 07:59 AM:

Now if only they'd run an article about the music of Harry Nilsson.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 08:31 AM:

With a little bit of (bad) luck you'd find a place in Texas populated by Nielsons and Haydons who'd welcome you as long-lost Couzens.

#24 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 08:37 AM:

janeyolen #21: Having had more mail than I can shake a stick at addressed to "Fragona", "Fregona"*, "Fregano", and someone named "Ledgiste" I understand completely. Not to mention, in addition, the many travails of my wife, who among other things, is apparently named "Ofteroingel", you have my deepest sympathy.

* A distinguished, and I use that word advisedly, former colleague appears to think (12 years after first meeting me) that this is my name. How it is actually spelt is visible to him on his Facebook page every single bloody day.

#25 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 09:06 AM:

No one misspells "Broomhead." No one. But many people have trouble believing that it is a name. I gave up being firm about the "Ann" when one of my best friends in high school informed me that she felt that "Anne" suited me better, and that was how she was going to spell it.

My husband's name is so difficult that everyone buckles down and spells it right. Pronouncing it is a different matter. ("Szczesuil" is SEZ-you-ill, to rhyme with schedule.)

#26 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 09:41 AM:

At least all those spelling sound vaguesly like your name.

I have a colleague with the last name Colquhoun (kuh-HOON).

(I've always thought of that as a Caribbean name, but it's apparently originally Scottish.)

#27 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 09:55 AM:

Meachem Mecham Mechem Meechem Meecham

And that's just from people I have worked with for 20 years, who see my name spelled correctly on every email they get from me. I have corrected the spelling in some very kind book acknowledgements.

Being as how I am a terrible speller myself, I am tolerant. (I do not have the spelling gene. If I spell it correctly, it is because I have memorized it consciously. I think the spellchecker is the greatest invention of the 20th century.)

But variant spellings in the same paragraph is a bit sloppy of Slate.

#28 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 10:25 AM:

Bass, Boss, Buff. I'm sure there have been others, but those are the most common. I think people just don't believe in the last name Buss.

And then there's the variants on my middle name. If I'm lucky, it just gets spelled Eileen. More often, it's turned into Ellen or Alice.

I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. I'm terrible at hearing and writing down things (not just names) that are spelled out to me. Especially over the phone.

#29 ::: Stan Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 10:25 AM:

#2 Fade Manley - Hey, don't be dissin' the 'ville.

#30 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 10:26 AM:

I'm sorry, Teresa & Patrick Luxury Yacht.

#31 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 10:27 AM:

Apparently my first name is impossible both to spell (Leila, Lilah, Lilla) and to pronounce (Leela, Lily, Lil, Lilla, Lisa).

My maiden name, though it is not uncommon, has a much more common spelling/pronunciation variant, to the extent that the ability to spell and pronounce it correctly pretty much guarantees that you are either a close relative or a very close personal friend. (Even my parents' students mostly misspelled and mispronounced it.)

My married surname is also frequently misspelled and mispronounced, though it is neither rare nor deceptively spelled.

Oh well. At least I can tell instantly if the person on the phone actually knows us or not.

#32 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 11:08 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 11... Danish composer Carl Nielsen. I was wondering whether he was any relation

Every once in a while, our TV's classical music channel plays pieces featuring oboeist John de Lancie, spelled correctly probably because he IS the father of Q.

#33 ::: Michael Pullmann ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 11:35 AM:

I don't know who decided that proofreading wasn't necessary in Internet journalism, but I'd like to give them a good smacking.

#34 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:26 PM:

Ann Scheller. People want to lop a letter off my first name and add to my last.

#35 ::: vee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:29 PM:

OtterB @ 16-- I have been the exasperated speller, but for a different reason. I can spell my last name slowly (there are only three letters!) but a surprising number of people will STILL mentally swap the first and second letters.

I've become friends with someone with the exact same name as me, who happened to also be approximately my age and the same occupation and formerly working in the same city. We commiserated.

#36 ::: ACW ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:33 PM:

I am a Wechsler, (pronounced weck-slur) and I get the spellings Wexler, Weschler, Welcher, Welscher, and Webster(?), and all the variations of pronunciation that can be imagined, including one old gentleman from a Jewish charity who won my heart by saying VEKH-sler with perfect Yiddish vowels and a crisp uvular final r.

My great-grandfather could have avoided all this, as many of his relatives did, by giving his name as "Wexler" at Ellis Island, but he stood by his principles.

The thing that happens most often with telephone solicitors is that they get as far as "Weh..." and then they panic. There's a 200 ms pause, and then a blurt composed of every consonant known to linguistics, with a question intonation. It's kind of adorable, actually. Makes me feel like my name is Wechthulhu.

#37 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:44 PM:

We’re moving to Lubbock and changing our last name to Fred.

Don't do it! My last name is a familiar 4-letter woman's name. If I had a dollar for every time someone mistook my last name for my first name, or misspelled my last name, I'd have a nice little nest egg. I guarantee, trust me on this, your new name will be just as mangled as the old one (Freed, Freid, Fredd, Frede) plus you, Patrick, will have the fun of being called Fred by people who believe it to be your first name.

Might happen to Teresa as well.

#38 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 12:54 PM:

My last name is extremely uncommon--like, as far as I know there are a total of a couple hundred people who have it, and few of them live in the US--and has a gotcha in the first three letters; "sch" for /S/, because although it's not German it's spelled as if it were. People tend to stumble over it, and oddly the most common issue is adding an L where there isn't one. As Lila says, at least it's easy to tell if the person I'm talking to knows me.

I've gotten to the point where I just spell it. I tell people my name and launch immediately into "ess-see-aitch..."

#39 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:16 PM:

vee #34: ...and returning one another's misdirected mail? ;-)

ACW #35: Makes me feel like my name is Wechthulhu.

LOL! "He whose name cannot be Pronounced"...

#40 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:23 PM:

Joerg R. @18

The bit that is spelt funny is German! :-)
It also helps that it is in the province of Marlborough. Nelson is next door.

Lizzy L @36
My middle name is short, easily spelt, and common as both a first and last name. I often give it when ordering takeaways and the like.

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:25 PM:

Carrie S @37:
I've gotten to the point where I just spell it. I tell people my name and launch immediately into "ess-see-aitch..."

We used to joke that our colleague Iain McCorquodale's surname was actually "McCorquodaledoyouwantmetospellthat?".

#42 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:45 PM:

You would be surprised how many ways there are to mis-spell "Stross". I've taken to giving it over the phone using the international aviation alphabet, just to reduce the correspondence addressed to messrs. Stress and Stroff.

#43 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:51 PM:

abi, yeah, I got to the point where I just didn't bother asking anymore since they always said "yes". :)

Charlie, I've gotten remarkably poor results with the aviation alphabet (though I am using the 70s US Army version my dad taught me, which probably doesn't help). I can say "ess as in sierra", but just "sierra" usually leads to confused silence and/or wordsalad on the resulting correspondence.

#44 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:55 PM:

I heard a coworker spelling her name out, once. Sue Jones. That's easier than John Smith, for FSM's sake!

I wish I knew what kind of mistakes they were likely to make. Soo Joegnez? Tsu Geonnes?

#45 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 01:56 PM:

My father got so much mail to the wrong name that it became his nickname -- Luis S Kemnitzer --> Lois Skomiter. We all called him Skomiter for years.

When I teach in a classroom I use my name as a phonics lesson, because it is pronounced in the most normal way that any names are in English orthography, and yet people are intimidated about it. It is so corny that the kids can't possibly keep a straight face through it: and yet it is true and useful information (teachers who don't understand how useful it is for the students to think you are kind of corny and harmless are missing a thing).

#46 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 02:02 PM:


Judging from my family-member-named-Sue's experience, Sioux Jones is a real possibility.

#47 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 02:21 PM:

For the love of all that's Texan, don't move to Lubbock.

As, in another, lesser universe, King Arthur exclaimed: "'Tis a shitty place!"

#48 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 02:31 PM:

Whitmore occasionally gets misspelled, but not that often -- usually with the H missing or with extra letters added (I give those to the undeserving poor: consonants to Hawaiians, vowels to eastern Europeans). I did have a professor at UC Berkeley named George Sensabaugh -- he put up address labels with his name misspelled outside his office. The one which spelled his last name "Sensabagel" he labeled "Sensahumor">

#49 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 03:18 PM:

Jaque and Jacques are the most common misspellings, though I recently was addressed as Jaqui.

Copy/paste is, along with penicillin and the transistor, a miracle of modern technology, IMnpHO.

At least the gender ambiguity is a plus.

My "c" really wants to go walkies. My dad had to take my birth certificate back to the hospital the next day and have it inserted. Impressive piece of work, given that was back in the days of actual typewriters. Even knowing it's there, I can't see the erasure.

Used to be, I was the only Jacque (or even Jackie) around. But the name has become much more common in the last ten-fifteen years. Problem is, I don't have the reflexes to deal with people who are Jacque who are not me. "What?—oh." ::grumble::

Also, my spelling used to be absolutely unique, even though it's a simple truncation of Jacqueline. But I've actually seen it (and other "artistic" variations) on other people fairly commonly lately.

But I thank the ghods my mom prevailed and prevented my dad from naming me Scheherazade. (He really loved the Rimsky Korsakov piece, apparently.) The double-whammy would have been that, not only would I be unable to spell it to this day (thank you, Google, and see above re copy/paste), but also the most common name in my age-group was "Sherry."

#50 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 03:30 PM:

Jacque #48: My "c" really wants to go walkies.

So take it out for a P! :-)

I've just gotten Harman, Herman, and occasionally Harmond. Not unreasonable for a Northeast accent and mild speech defects. And only the truly careless manage to misspell "David".

#51 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 03:37 PM:

Nangleator @ 43: My last name is a common, one-syllable English word. Yet if I don't spell it, people mishear and misspell it in all kinds of weird ways. (And no, I don't have a particularly strong accent.) I therefore have sympathy for all the Sue Joneses of the world who spell their names.

#52 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:16 PM:

Craft, Cross, Crost. And I always tell them to look under Brennan if I'm not under Croft. Or Brenner, Brannen, Branner...

#53 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:23 PM:

I used to be the only Lucy for miles except for Lucy Haesler, who was a venerable old activist.

Now there's a lot of Lucys, but they're all dogs, which is annoyiong at the dog park.

#54 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:26 PM:

When I was a teenager, I generally had to spell out both my names, my street name, and suburb.

And then there was the confusion with the postal address. People on the city fringe (and rural areas) are familiar with a line of "R.D.$NUM" (Rural Delivery runs based in a town) in a postal address, but the townies get right confused.

#55 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:54 PM:

No-one can spell 'Barebones', Not even my son, apparently. Or 'Praisegod' for that matter. 'Presaged Bourbons.' 'Peasecod Broadband.'

And those that can spell it can't pronounce it, of course. (I can understand how people misspell Caroline's surname, since people often take mine to be a homophone of hers, which it isn't.)

There's also this.

#56 ::: Catherine Winters ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 04:54 PM:

"Winters--with an 's'" works for everyone except my partner, who thinks that ought to be "Swinters".

#57 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:05 PM:

I have that most unusual of last names, a Czech name with extra vowels in it. (Perhaps my ancestors were vowel hoarders?) And no diacriticals, though my grandmother did have a caron over the s in her name. Not that anybody ever pronounced the š at all, she was Libby, not Libuše. (Which I was told was pronounced "Li-BUSH-ka", but I'm pretty sure that's actually a diminuative. I don't actually know how to pronounce Libuše properly.)

Anyone who's ever dined on soup should be able to pronounce my last name, but there's always, always, an intimidated pause before strangers begin it. (It doesn't help that my cousins pronounce it soak-up. Either they eat soap, or they should go into the paper towel biz.)

For places that ask for your name to call out when they're ready, I've given up and generally say "Kelly". It's what they'll write down anyway.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:17 PM:

vee, #35: Egad. That could have turned into a nightmare of misdirected communications!

My ex's name is Tom B___. For a while there was also a Tommy B___ in the phone book. Tommy B___ was a plumber, and we'd get calls in the evening from people looking for someone to fix their toilet. A fair number of them appeared to be of the "any form of the same name is identical" persuasion, and could not be convinced that Tom B___ and Tommy B___ were not the same person. The mere fact that I could tell them, "My husband is Tom B___, and he's a medical technician. You want Tommy B___, the plumber," was taken as proof, PROOF I tell you! that I was deliberately and maliciously lying to them. For a while I could get rid of them by giving them Tommy B___'s phone number -- but then he retired or moved away or something, and that didn't work any more. There were times when we had to unplug the phone to get people to stop harassing us.

ACW, #36: Believe me, I sympathize (although I must admit that on a cold reading, my first attempt would use the German "sch" sound). But also, "Wechthulhu" made me laugh like a loon.

Nangleator, #44: Susan J'onzz.

Lucy, #45: I am convinced that a lot of people are effectively just lazy about anything that looks "furrin". You would be amazed how many people have looked at my kumihimo disc, which has the word spelled out in large letters right there on the face, and stumbled their way thru a pronunciation that doesn't even vaguely resemble it. And then they don't get it right even when I tell them. Reading disability I can sympathize with, but that plus a tin ear can't be all that common.

#59 ::: puddle ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:39 PM:

Married --Douglass
Name change (legal) --Julie
Married--Li--then *very* quickly, "That's L I, that's all, no more." Otherwise, they start to write L E and go with either Lee, or Leigh and ruin the form. In person, sometimes I add, "It's Chinese." And get a look of disbelief, as I'm very blond and blued eyed (Larsen).

Next time, going for Smythe. . . .

#60 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 05:53 PM:

My last name is short (two syllables, seven letters), easy to spell, and uncommon. If you find someone in the phone book (do such still exist?) with that name, it's almost certainly a relative (or ex-relative). Nevertheless, it gets misspelled all the time, usually by changing the "a" to an "e" (because my brother puts the stress on the first syllable) or by inserting an "h" before the "a" (because I put nearly equal stress on both).

#61 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:08 PM:

I am reminded of the P.G. Wodehouse character Psmith. The 'P' is silent, of course.

#62 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:15 PM:

Getting back to the original post, the really surprising thing is not that 'Nielsen' is misspelled in that article, but that it doesn't have a consistent spelling.

Of course, I'm the one who wrote a paper in college on Herodotus's Histories and spelled his name Herodatus* throughout. When I got it back, the professor had underlined the offending vowel in red--every single time. There were a lot of them.

*I doublechecked the correct spelling just now, to make sure I wasn't reversing them again.

#63 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:16 PM:

Nangleator @44 - In my time in a call centre I came across a Jon Smith and a John Smythe amongst customers.

Also one of my bosses there would pass on documents addressed to me from other departments, with my name spelt correctly on them, and scrawl NIEL in big letters on it to pass it on to me.

#64 ::: ACW ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:19 PM:

Lee #58: It's a weird phenomenon. The German spelling of the 'sh' sound, SCH, is not even present in my name. I can only surmise that people look at my CHS but somehow see SCH.

The trouble is, the name "Weschler" does exist. (Lawrence Weschler is the most illustrious bearer I know of.) I can't account for it etymologically: I know of no German or Yiddish verb "wescheln". Perhaps this surname was created at Ellis Island.

#65 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 06:58 PM:

Dave Harmon @50: I've just gotten Harman, Herman

A friend's last name is Herrmann. I remember the spelling by pronouncing both Rs and both Ns. She smiles indulgently. I don't think she thinks I'm being quite a wildly funny as I do.

#66 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 07:25 PM:

Mary Aileen @62: That's rather reassuring to hear, given how much trouble I've had spelling Euripides correctly this semester. In my Greek class. Which is on nothing but Euripides.

#67 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 07:59 PM:

My first name -- Leva -- is not particularly hard to spell, but people they have to hear it right first. Both vowels are short.

I worked in a call center for fifteen years (not, generally, as a CSR, but everyone took calls when it got busy). Off the top of my head, I frequently got called Lisa, Lava, Linda, Leah, Leza, Leyva, Lana, Lena, and Leather. Leather was actually one of the more common things people would call me.

(My standing line (to coworkers, not customers) was that I didn't get paid enough to be "Leather" on the phone and the 1-900 number wasn't working yet.)

I think I learned to spell my name when introduced to someone by the time I was about two.

#68 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 08:19 PM:

My given name is Theresa. Yes, with the "h", please.

#69 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Timberley. Kimberley (that's the way Barry Goldwater's Senate office spelled it back in 1966 or 1967). I even saw Timbersnake once on a piece of junk mail addressed to me at my office. My colleagues from that job have called me "Snake" ever since.

The real name is the same as that Justin kid. Ever since N'Sync got big I've had it much easier. "No, no relation, but the name is spelled the same way."

I still get SteVen instead of the correct StePHen, but tant pis. I've given up on that ever changing.

#70 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 09:23 PM:

Mary Aileen @61 I am reminded of the P.G. Wodehouse character Psmith.

Also of Tintin's nemeses, the identical twin detectives Thompson and Thomson

#71 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 09:49 PM:

Cally @57: what a coincidence. I actually do know how to pronounce Libuše properly (I have been unsuccessfully poking at learninng Czech off and on for five years. So far I pronounce things pretty well and I can say a handful of phrases and I can have a completely hilarious and unfruitful conversation on a street in Prague. I did have one shopkeeper say "Why didn't you just say you speak English to start with?" Czechs do not mince their words, though their language minces my brain)

#72 ::: David Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 10:25 PM:

Back in '66 the Army decided that I was Davis Kuzminski. How they managed to mangle the first name is unknown to me, but I had to produce a birth certificate to get my military records straightened out. At least they got the last name correct though the sergeants usually called out "Alphabet" and expected me to answer.

#73 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 11:24 PM:

I expect you all already know how people misspell my name. I normally blame Conan Doyle, but a local TV presenter must also bear some blame.

When I married, my wife already had a forst name that people often misspelled (because she has French version rather than, say, the Irish). Now she has our family name as well.

A little puzzle, easily solved by anyone who uses the Times crossword to time their soft-boiled eggs. What is my father's middle name? This post does contain all the information you need, if you include this sentence.

J Homes.

#74 ::: J Homes is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 11:27 PM:

No idea why. There is an office party on the other side of the floor, that I can raid for offerings.

[A spacing problem. Three blanks in a row draws the attention of the gnomes. -- JDM]

#75 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2012, 11:32 PM:

David K., #72: See, that's another example of what I mean when I say some people are just lazy. There is nothing hard about your name if someone is just willing to focus on it for 1.5 seconds, but your sergeants couldn't be arsed to do that.

#76 ::: Tamlyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 02:45 AM:

People tend not to spell my name wrong the first time because they don't even try even though it's exactly as it sounds. It's been a while since I've had the automatic, "That's an... interesting name," response though (and the pause defines whether they mean weird/stupid or actually interesting very effectively). I guess there are more unusual names around now. It was put on a new school's database as Tamyln for a while, which made for some very confused teachers.

People who see my name on a regular basis will often spell it Tamalyn or Tamlin. Or they shorten it to Tam, then wonder why I correct them. Though I did have a teacher (myths and symbols among other things) who always pronounces it very distinctly as Tam Lin. That one I don't mind from him.

If anyone of my siblings is ordering pizza, it gets put in the nearest available name that's not one of ours.

#77 ::: Adel ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:04 AM:

Wow, how timely is this?

My name is the feminization of the river that makes the border of Israel and Palestine, where Jesus was baptized.* Just add an A, and you've got me. I used to loathe it, and truncated it to a cute little nickname, until some blind guy that flew the Enterprise stole it, and misspelled it to boot. Anyway.

The list of misspellings and mispronunciations over the years is long and sordid, but the Christmas card I received just a few hours ago from a coworker nearly takes the cake.* It was a lovely card from her family, and it was made out to "George Anna." Two words, both properly capitalized. George Anna.

Even her manager had to stare at it for a few minutes until she figured it out.

I won't even start on my last name, save that it's Italian and rhymes with spaghetti, but not nearly as tricky to spell. And STILL people butcher it.

*The winner of the Butchering My Name Award goes to the drug-awareness robot named Punchy (think Rosie from the Jetsons, with the apron exchanged for a pair of punching gloves) who decided my name was Georgette.

[Using your twitter link as your URL is, unfortunately, a pattern that spammers tend to do — Idumea Cowper O'Leary, Duty Gnome]

#78 ::: Adel has been gnomed! ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:07 AM:

It is a pleasure to make your subterranean acquaintance. I have leftover holiday cookies, and some slivers of marshmallow-topped devil's food cake to share...

(Too many spaces? Too long?)

#79 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:02 AM:

Adel #77: Heh -- my abovementioned stepbrother was also sharing the birthday cake with his stepdaughter¹, who's got the same name sans final A. We were all glad that her name wasn't mangled, because being 15 and moody, she likely wouldn't have taken it half as well.

¹ Different step, natch.

#80 ::: Dick Gregory ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:28 AM:

I have a friend called Ilsa, who used to complain that her name would be spelled Ilse, Ulsa, Ailsa, anything but the right way. It's actually spelled "Ilsa" in Casablanca (see the note she leaves for Rick at the station), but that didn't stop the Halliwell's Film Guide still giving it as "Ilse" last I checked.

#81 ::: J.D. Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:56 AM:

I feel your pain. No one ever spells my last name right, either. What really blows my mind is that there's a substantial cohort of people who can't PRONOUNCE it.

#82 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 08:07 AM:

If anyone of my siblings is ordering pizza, it gets put in the nearest available name that's not one of ours.

Back in the day, there were four of us going into a restaurant; it was busy, so the hostess asked for a name to put on the list. The four of us looked at each other and quickly went over the options: Papernick, Tapolow, my extremely uncommon surname...and in unision, all four of us said, "Knight".

#83 ::: David Hemming ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 08:17 AM:

My surname gets an S on the end about 50% of the time, I can't imagine why... It also loses an "m" occasionally, which I suspect is just illiteracy in action.

It's being called Hemmingway that really boggles me. That's some serious not-paying-attention.

I read the local paper online for stories about my local team. Back when we were managed by Tony Mowbray I would regularly see articles that included his name a dozen times, where the comments called him Mowbry, Mowbury, Mobray...

#84 ::: Sandra Bond ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 08:27 AM:

Practically nobody can misspell Bond, which I suppose makes up for all the "007" jokes I have to endure (if I had a dollar for every one of those, I could afford to buy a Beretta like his, and shoot the next person who made one...) but it's astonishing how many people manage to misspell "Sandra" as "Sarah". I once spent eight hours in A&E because of that one. Coulda bled to death, like.

#85 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 09:03 AM:

re 21: Someone connected to the University of Maryland Episcopal chaplaincy let my name out on a mailing list which is as far as I can tell the only case where my chosen nickname has escaped into the wild. I can tell it had to be them because I get that name only on an extremely narrowly focused group of fund-raising letters to which they are my only possible connection.

And yes, unless we're talking someone who knows about Orde, I routinely spell out "Wingate". People "fix" the etymology and hallucinate a "d" in it, and because of the vainglory of residential developers I also have to defend the first syllable from being ornamented with a "y" instead of its rightful "i".

#86 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 09:14 AM:

C. Wingate @85:

Oh, the hallucinated "d". The street I live on starts with Gran- but not with Grand-, and even when I spell it out and finish by emphasizing "No D", people still put one in half the time.

#87 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 12:05 PM:

But you all whinge so beautifully. All I get are occasional flips of the "le" in my last name to the original spelling (a few generations back) of "el." My husband and children have a much more common (in the U.S.) last name, and so we do reservations and scheduling of folks to do plumbing, etc. with my last name. I'm very fortunate - I get the occasional myname-hisname or myname hisname conflation, and he gets the occasional letter addressed to hisfirstname mylastname, but those are rare, and corrections stay corrected, these days. Even places we donate money to, as well as our credit union and the utilities recognize that we are a family with two separate last names. It's changed a lot in the last 25 years.

#88 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 12:26 PM:

Tamlyn @76: Tam Lin.

The "Tam" part always reminds me of Elfquest. For some reason, "Tamlyn" seems like an SFF name, to me. Can't pull out a specific reference, but it feels like there is one.

J.D. Rhoades @81: people who can't PRONOUNCE it.

I would go with the plural of "road"?

#89 ::: Adel ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 12:30 PM:

Dave Harmon @79

I can't ever remember a birthday cake with my name on it; if there was one, I bet my mother hand-piped it on.

As to your young step-lady, I understand where she's coming from. It took my school system til my senior year to get my name spelled right, and only on my diploma.

But at least, these days, she can find those nifty keychains and wall plaques and t-shirts at vacation spots with her name on it. The name's become more popular in the last generation or two, and unisex to boot. Did I ever get anything like that as a kid? Noooo. A bigger thorn in my side than I ever let on. Also, I'm startled every time I hear my name belonging to anyone else.

So what did I do, when I had my own daughter?

I named her after Pryderi's mother (and not after that blasted Fleetwood Mac song).. and it's STILL a more popular name in her generation, than mine was, ever.

#90 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 12:41 PM:

Jacque#88: "Tam Lin" (Wikipedia lists several other spellings and variants) is an elven-themed ballad.

Adel #89: besides generally increased interest in the mythology thanks to Wicca, that song did popularize it.

#91 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 01:08 PM:

I've found that 'David' seems to be nearly impossible to misspell (though @72 says he's seen it), as is 'Dave'. My last name tends to get misspaced or miscapitalized far more than misspelt, as noted in the other thread - I think I've seen Delanay and Deloney but am not, by this time in my life, sure. Mispronounced, yes, the most common being "DELL uh nee?".

I once saw my brother misspell his name. While copying it from one sheet of paper to another. My misspellings are generally typos, whether fingernail-produced or not; I'm just happy that the old typing tests that instructed one not to use the backspace key have faded away (especially since by the time I was taking them, they were on COMPUTERS with perfectly-good delete keys AND the test didn't actually penalize for using it).

I've also run into the "words people can't spell right" thing - what's coming to mind for me is 'hara-kiri', which is not spelled harikari, right?


#92 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 02:21 PM:

I've got so used to people mishearing my surname, on the telephone, that I now automatically say "Bourne, that's "B" for Bertie - oh - yew..." Because I've got really fed up of being misfilled under "V" (Vaughn).

#93 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 02:26 PM:

dcb, these days can't you just say "like the Identity" or something?

#94 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:04 PM:

Xopher, #93: I sometimes tell people that my last name is "Billings, like Montana." I am not entirely surprised that this gets a lot of blank looks.

The most common butchering I get is Billingsley -- generally from people who are old enough to remember June Billingsley on Leave it to Beaver. David Hemming-who-gets-called-Hemmingway, the same kind of "free association to a similarly-named celebrity" thing is probably what's going on there.

#95 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:14 PM:

A lot of people never quite trusted the "I before E except after C or when sounded like A as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh'" rule, especially since names like "Neil" break it.

So stick to using just one vowel throughout: Nilsin.

No confusing dipthongs. Nice pseudoetymology: sinless.

Well, that's cleared up. Happy to hlep.

#96 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:26 PM:

My stepbrothers, and I and my sisters, have unusual but easy to pronounce Italian last names--that just happen to be identical but for two swapped vowels. (Imagine that half the Brady bunch had the last name of Bryda. Yes, really.)

I felt really bad for the newspaper reporter who once took a family picture then got completely lost in the sea of children with slightly different names. I think they just guessed, in the end, as the accuracy was about 50%.

#97 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 03:57 PM:

Lee (94): I live on Quebec Road, and I must pronounce it funny or something, because people always say, "How do you spell that? C-o-?" I've taken to telling them, "It's 'Quebec', like Canada." Some of them get it then, others not until I actually spell it, or start to.

#98 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 04:03 PM:

Yes. There are reasons I AND my husband opted to change to the surname Patrick. Mine was a Finnish name that often got tangled up with a German beer, and when it wasn't people usually picked the wrong consonant to double. There was also the memorable time in grade 5 or 6 when the school secretary announced over the PA, "Would Lenora Hey - Hi - would _Lenora_ please come to the office?" (She was also right that there were no other people of that first name.) My husband's was a Mennonite (low German) name that's relatively common in this area, and often correctly spelled/said by locals, but not people from elsewhere. It's also not the most intuitive to pronounce. I also didn't like either the spelling or sound, where I at least liked those about my original name.

So we got rid of both. Colin swapped his middle and surnames (Which only causes confusion on the rare occasion he needs all his names on a form, where we have to watch for people who automatically put the one that looks like a surname in the surname place.) There's a lot less hassle.

I still have to spell my first name, often, but I'm attached to it and consider it worth the occasional hassle. The funny thing is, apparently it's the number of syllables and the right consonant in the right order I care most about. Lenore and Leonora are the front-runners by a mile, in that order, and I will notice them every time. Similarly, Leona is missing the R and really obvious, and Loreena (Gaining in popularity thanks to Ms. McKennitt being originally from about an hour's drive from here) flips order.

But I had a coworker call me Eleanore (my mother's name) for nigh on three years before someone remarked on it to me.

#99 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 04:28 PM:

Xopher @93: Well, yes, and I have done so occasionally, but I've been using the other method for a number of years now, and I'm used to it.

#100 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 04:36 PM:

Lee at 94, I have been told that while Americans in general are remarkably ignorant about many things, they are really, really, really ignorant about geography.

OTOH, coming back from Phoenix AZ this past weekend, my totally random stranger seatmate and I played a multiple-choice game on his e-device in which we had to identify state capitals (quick, what's the capital of Vermont?) We did quite well: I'd say we got over 70% right.

#101 ::: Craig R ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 05:05 PM:

Of course, writing code for parsing the last name/first name out of a full text field can be a humbling experience

When PC-to-mainfame file transfers Were A New Thing, I was called upon to write a piece of one-off code that would take the text of a file that contained employee names (current/past/retired)for a one-time populate of the New Improved Payroll (a turnkey system that could not cope with the transfer of names from the then-current system)

The payroll department shipped us the data on several floppies (they were 5-inchers - it wasn't *quite* long enough ago that they would have been 8-inch ones), as a spreadsheet. They were very carefully instructed that the name fields should be *separate* text fields for first/middle/last -- I could handle variable length fields with no issue, so they didn't have to shorten any names, etc. My initial thought was that I would have to play fiddly games for II/II/SR/JR/MD/SJ/etc.

What I did not expect that, after 6 tries, the full names were *always* bundled together into the first name field, with the remaining fields empty. For Chinese Wall purposes I was Not Allowed to play with the sourced data myself for building the spreadsheet.

It took several tweaks for the parsing to be consistent, and then doing manual corrections.

It was an interesting experience

#102 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 05:08 PM:


But thereby hangs a tale. I once got 'Capital of Vermont' as a crossword clue. So I asked a friend whose family came from Vermont what it was, and she said 'Burlington'. When I had written half the letters in, I said 'This doesn't fit', and she said 'Oh, perhaps it's Montpelier, then'. Which it was.

In general, American state capitals are not where you expect them to be. Unfortunately, this rule is not adhered to perfectly - Boston, for instance, is the capital of Massachusetts.

#103 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 05:50 PM:

Pfusand @25 (yes I did a C&P for that) Come to South Yorkshire where they won't raise an eyebrow due to Broomhead Moor and it's associated resevoir. I've been camping there, it's a lovely place.

#104 ::: Raul Flugens, Duty Gnome ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 06:56 PM:

[Craig R, it looks like you have a typo in the URL you're using for your comments. Please check for a comma where you meant a period -- Raul Flugens, Duty Gnome]

#105 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 06:58 PM:

lizzy L @ 100... I think it was Ambrose Bierce who said that War is God's way to teach Americans about geography.

#106 ::: Tom M ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:06 PM:

You could blame folks like my great-great-grandparents. They were Danish immigrants with the last name Nielson, but wanting to sound more American they insisted that it was pronounced Nelson.

Being that cavalier about their last name means that a couple generations later I have cousins who spell their last names in every possible permutation that can possibly sound like Nelson.

#107 ::: Craig R ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:32 PM:

Duty Gnome (104)

Yep. comma instead of period Fixed

#108 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 07:57 PM:

If anyone needs services of the kind Craig R mentioned at # 101, my company can help. To keep this from being spammy, I won't namemy employer here. But you can find it in my profile on LinkedIn or Facebook.

#109 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2012, 10:52 PM:

John McPhee's book Coming Into The Country has an interesting look on how state capitals get selected in a democracy -- in general, it won't be the largest city unless the largest city can muster more votes than all the rest of the state combined. For Alaska, for instance, Anchorage wanted to be the capital, but everyone else in the state felt that Anchorage had too much power already.

The Wikipedia page actually has a column for this, interestingly enough. 17 yesses, 33 noes -- more yesses than I'd have thought.

#110 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:33 AM:

David Goldfarb, #109: I would think centrality (in a large state, for equal travel distance from the borders) would trump city size as a consideration.

Thus Albany over NYC, Springfield over Chicago, Madison over Milwaukee, etc.

#111 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:40 AM:

The converse example, I should add, is when the largest city IS the central city: Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, etc.

#112 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 10:55 AM:

Pyre @110:

I think that depends a lot on the distribution of population in the state - if you've got multiple population centers of approximately equal size, centrality makes sense. Texas is probably a good example of this situation.

If you only really have one sizable city (by the standards of the state) and the capital isn't it, though - something like Delaware or Oregon, as well as Alaska - I'm not sure that centrality is as much of an issue as the rest of the state not wanting further concentration of power in a single location, as David argues in #109. (Juneau, after all, is even less central than Anchorage!)

#113 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Absolutely. If you have two centres of approximately the same size, frequently making neither of them the capital avoids a lot of problems. Especially if the two centres are historically enemies or for any other reason a great deal of potentially justified offence would be taken if the other was chosen.

Ottawa is a great example of this.

And as I was just watching again that particular Animaniacs song...

#114 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Look at mine. While Fragano may have me beat in some venues, the initial and the II at the end combined with the last name adapted from the French make me confident that I place near the top in others. I also have poor handwriting, which makes postal replies to "Ruth" possible.

#115 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:42 PM:

Columbus is both central and the largest city in Ohio, but I don't think it was the largest when it replaced Chillicothe as the capital.

#116 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 02:58 PM:

I can spell Nielsen, but that's only because I don't use bookmarks. However, I do tend to spell it in lowercase, without spaces.

#117 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 05:20 PM:

I have had supposedly literate native English speakers misspell my first name. The last name I can somewhat understand when it gets spelled as the animal, but I do not know where "Danial" comes from.

I have also had native English speakers look at my first name and pronounce it "Danielle".

#118 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 07:31 PM:

Albany also makes more sense as the state capital when you realize that the decision was made when a lot of commerce went up the Hudson River and then west by the Mohawk and the canal system. (The Appalachians may be an old, eroded mountain range as mountain ranges go, but rivers still flow downhill to both east and west, not through the mountains.)

#119 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2012, 09:33 PM:

Sacramento. It wasn't the first capital of California (actually, it's the fourth since statehood), but it's the one we still have.

#120 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 02:26 AM:

ACW@36 - I used to have a coworker named Chesla Wechsler. She dealt with her lifetime of having her name misspelled by marrying a guy named Olszewski (pronounced Ol-SHEV-ski).

As a Stewart, I'll take pretty much any spelling starting with St and having a r in it as close enough, except at work where I have doppelgangers.

#121 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 02:30 AM:

Dover's the capital of Delaware because it's in the middle. I'm not sure if, at the time that it spun off from Pennsylvania, Wilmington had become the dominant city or if New Castle was. (Wilmington had been the main Swedish settlement, but New Castle was the center of the 12-mile arc that forms the northern-to-western border.)

#122 ::: lexicat ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 02:47 AM:

Mycroft W @ 113

Or Canberra, purpose built to be Australia's capital because neither Sydney nor Melbourne were acceptable choices.

#123 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 01:21 PM:

My usename is generally pretty easy, although people get inexplicably nervous when I say "Jeremy, spelled the usual way." (I am female, more or less obviously so in person, and the mismatch make people twitchy.)

But my legal last name, Dalberg, is consistently misspelled as "Dahlberg," by everyone everywhere. Even when I say repeatedly "no h." It's the more common spelling by far, and Roald Dahl certainly isn't helping, but it still drives me a little nuts.

When I was a kid, my dad, whose first name was Dan, had a very long and confusing conversation with the mother of one of my schoolmates. We'd known them for years - years! - and yet she somehow managed to convince herself that my genial, spacey father was in fact Dan *Dahlberg*, the town chief of police.

#124 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 01:28 PM:

(And Patrick, based on one of your recent tweets, you have relatives in Texas - I have a good friend who's also a great-great-great-whatever of Basil Hayden. Of course, he had rather a lot of children, so that's not a huge surprise.)

#125 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2012, 09:02 PM:

'...people get inexplicably nervous when I say "Jeremy, spelled the usual way."'

Aw hell, I hate using letters.

#126 ::: tykewriter sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 04:52 AM:

About, ooh, twiddly-some years ago, people started saying "how are you spelling that?", as though "how do you spell that?" was somehow too prescriptive or summat. I haven't heard it for a while, so perhaps it was a corporate fad.

The first vowel in my last name gets moved up a couple of vowel-places (o to e) through sloppy handwriting. Yes alright, mine.

#127 ::: khavrinen ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 06:21 AM:

C. Wingate @85: I had a high-school teacher who told us that his name had probably originated from some ancestor who could be relied upon to "Win-[the]-gate", but if he had been the first of that name, it would more likely have been "Wing-ate" ( and mimed eating a piece of chicken ).

#128 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 11:11 AM:

Name etymologies are peculiar, khavrinen. My last name doesn't come from what anyone might think, but is cognate with Widmark -- Anglo-Saxon wid marr, which translates as "handy with the spear." Those of you who like canting arms can imagine what the device I might have registered with the SCA heralds would have looked like....

#129 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 11:41 AM:

My surname is Polish, instantly recognized as American Polish when I traveled to Poland, due to the "-ski" ending and my feminine first name. The name does contain adequate vowels, so it's not too frequently mispronounced. In Utah, where I grew up, and now in L.A., I've found the most consistent correct pronunciations come from hispanic people for whom English is not their first language.

In preparation for my next trip to Poland, Dad has been redoubling his genealogical efforts. He sent me my "Pedigree Chart" and the sheer variety of names from the last 175 years is amusing. My dad's side has mormons (looks like British Isles - we haven't checked that far back) and Poles, my mom's has Bohemian, Samoan and French. I complained that while my sister got a "family" name, I was saddled with a boring vaguely hippie-ish first and middle name. Disappointing when you realize I could have enjoyed being Zelnorah, Salomea or Faatausala.

#130 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 12:07 PM:


I dunno; my eyes-not-quite-awake-yet read "Salomea" as "Salmonella". Perhaps if you'd been given that one, you might not have enjoyed it so much!

I was almost named Anghared, and I can hear the "annie-horrid" playground taunts in my head even now....

#131 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 03:59 PM:

I've worked in the same place for 19 years, and I have a co-worker who always calls me Heidi. I've given up correcting her. (Yes, we do have a Heidi in the office. I wonder what this person calls her?)

Another person was bawling me out rather emphatically once, but calling me Melinda, until the person next to him said "If you're so ticked off with Melinda, why are you yelling at Melissa?"
That broke the tension, and he calls me Melinda jokingly now.

The most common spelling error I get with my name is Meade. I did get called Mrs. Meat once.

#132 ::: Mark Reed ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 07:32 PM:

As a Mark Reed (a name exceeded in its utter boringness only perhaps by that of my late friend Chris Jones), I have had relatively few troubles in this regard. I get the occasional "Reid" or "Reade", and even more rarely "Marc", but mostly everyone gets it right.

I have a friend of Italian descent whose first name is Davide (DAH-vee-day), and he not-infrequently got mail addressed to David E. Giancomo (not his real surname). His actual middle initial is F, so he has also gotten mail addressed to the phonotactically unlikely "David E. Fgiancomo". I think that was when he gave up and decided to put "David" on everything that didn't require a full legal passport-matching name..

#133 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2012, 11:58 PM:

Everyone calls me "John Bert", of course, except for those who say, "So Burt, what's your last name?"

I once wrote someone a letter, and signed it "John" as I usually do, and sent it out with our usual return-address stamp, which identifies us as "John and Kathe Burt". I was a little puzzled to get a reply directed to "John, Kathe and golin".
Kathe pointed out that when I sign my name, the upper loop of the capital "J" is kind of small amd could easily be taken for a lower-case "g", while my lower-case "h" has a wide stance and could even more easily be taken for "li".

Lee @58, if my last name were Jones, I would definitely spell it J'Onzz. Or maybe I wouldn't since I have resisted the urge to spell my first name "J'Onn".

#134 ::: Lenore Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 12:40 PM:

My last name is Jones, and I started getting misspellings when I moved to New York City (actually, I live in Hoboken, NJ - we sometimes says Hoboken, New York, the City, not the State). I think my spoken "o" wasn't round enough, or something, because I would frequently get Johns or Johnson as a result.

My first name, of course, gets misspelled as often as Lenora Rose's does, but in the opposite direction. I'd never gotten anyone else's mail, though, until my current job, where I work with a Leonora.

I usually spell out both names.

#135 ::: J.D. Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2012, 11:46 PM:

jaque @88: as well you might, and you'd be correct. But a lot of people are boggled by the "a" and pronounce it (often over PA systems, since my daughter and son were both involved in various sports) as "Rho-AH'-dees" or "RHO'-a-dees."

#136 ::: Estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2012, 02:28 AM:

I go by "Esty" and apparently 'y' is the last vowel anyone would expect there; I get Este, Esti, and at Starbucks, SD (as in card). Yes, really.

I've given up and started saying "Esther" for takeout.

#137 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2012, 09:45 AM:

Cally Soukup, #130: "Anghared" means "much beloved" and is the name of several princesses in Welsh and Arthurian myth. I think it's as beautiful a name as "Amanda" (whose meaning is similar).

#138 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2012, 09:59 AM:

Craig R, #101: "Of course, writing code for parsing the last name/first name out of a full text field can be a humbling experience."

Yah. What's the algorithm? John Paul Jones vs. Patrick Nielsen Hayden -- in which does the middle part go in the last-vs-first-name field? How is the poor computer supposed to know?

#139 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2012, 12:03 PM:

Pyre: Sure, Anghared is a beautiful name, but it also comes with ready-made playground taunts. I'm just as glad that I didn't grow up with the bullies calling me "Horrid".

#140 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2012, 02:01 PM:

I narrowly escaped being named 'Priscilla'. Which is euphonious enough, but the obvious schoolyard nicknames are either 'Prissy' or 'Silly'. I can never decide which would be worse.

#141 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 01:26 PM:

Bill Stewart @120: Olszewski (pronounced Ol-SHEV-ski).

I would be really tempted to corrupt that to "O'Szewski."

J.D. Rhoades @135: jaque @88

Ahem. You did that deliberately, didn't you? ;-)

Estelendur @136: I go by "Esty"

...which my brain, of course, immediately permutated to "Etsy."

#142 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 02:13 PM:

Jacque (141): I read that as 'Etsy' on the first pass, too. Sorry about that, Esty.

#143 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:41 PM:

141, 142: yep. That happens. I practically crow in triumph when my friends tell me they tried to go to '' by accident. :P It cuts both ways, you see.

#144 ::: Estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2012, 07:42 PM:

Username capitalization fail :(

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