Has anyone else ever started their day with someone asking them for books on death, only to be told that it’s not the coping with death kind of books, it’s the kind where you can “tell how long someone has been dead, because the guy that died on my couch was all wormy, so I just wondered how long ago he died, you know?”
Yeah, that was a first for me, too.
So anyway, I was reminded yesterday that it is exactly a month until I have to present at a conference. No big, I’ve got lots of time to get organized, and since I’m a last minute type, I have more time than most people. The email from the conference organizer had an attachment which included all the details of my talk, what time to show up, etc. Everything looked fine – except my name was spelled wrong.
This is not a new thing for me. I have a two-part last name – my own original last name, then a hyphen, then The Genealogist’s last name. Not a huge deal on its own, except that both names are, to many people, impossible to spell and/or pronounce. So I am used to people spelling my name incorrectly and pronouncing it even more incorrectly, and that’s fine. I’m used to spelling it out for everyone, and correcting pronunciation, I’ve been doing it since forever. What I find really annoying is those people who refuse to even try to say my name. The ones who, when introducing me will say “this is Elizabeth….oh…buh….er…oh forget it, YOU introduce yourself!” or the ones who flat out say “I am not even going to try to say your name, I’ll just make a mess of it, dontcha know!” To them I say, yes, you probably will, but out of respect, you really ought to try.
Growing up with a “complicated for many” last name, you often are the butt of jokes, where people will rhyme something with your name, because hey! That’s funny! And among my friends and people I love, it can be really funny. But if you’re doing it to a) insult me and my heritage or b) take the pressure off yourself and the fact that you don’t know how to pronounce my name by making light of it? Then that is not at all funny.
We have tried to instill in the boys how hurtful name-calling can be – words matter. And they get it. In addition to this, we’ve also tried to explain how teasing about a given name or surname or altering it for fun can also be hurtful – sometimes even more so, because there are underlying prejudices at work here, consciously or subconsciously. And that is a way bigger thing that I can even do justice in this post.
I used to shy away from my name and the attention it drew, vowing that if I got married it was going to be to someone with a “normal” last name and I was going to lose my last name forever! But what happened? When I did get married, I realized how much my name was a part of me, and how sad it made me to think that I’d ever wanted to “lose” it. So I chose to hyphenate – which still gives many, many people the vapours, I know – and I’m really, really happy with my decision to do so.
So. My name. I’m not sorry it’s long, and I’m not sorry it’s “unusual”, but I am sorry for you if you think I’m just being difficult putting two long-ish names together to “prove something”. It’s my name, and if you think I’m going to get up and present at a conference where the moderator can’t pronounce my name, or refuses to do so based on the grounds that it’s “difficult”? I am so going to call you out. I am also sending back that letter with corrections made to my name, and an offer of free lessons in how to properly pronounce it before the conference, because I refuse to feel badly about it any more.
Shout out to The Ting Tings. That is SO not my name.