Hello, My Name is…

Posted by mwallach on November 9, 2011 in Crazy Follows Me Everywhere |

Dear That’s Life,
The naming of a child is not something to be taken lightly, and rightfully so. It is not a creative writing assignment. The name upon which a child is bestowed shapes who he is as an individual, sticking with him for life. I know the care and consideration my husband and I took in the naming of our kids, though I wonder if sometimes, people just pick names out of a hat.

In my opinion, the name “Miriam” is a tough one to take through life. A friend had told me he and his wife had considered it for their daughter but went with a different “M” name instead. I told him that speaking from experience, they had made a wise decision.

Constantly butchered and commonly mispronounced, I often use one of a series of aliases when needing to leave my name somewhere or place an order. It is easier than having to spell my name or face when it is destroyed by someone who has either never heard of Moses and his siblings or by a telemarketer who just cannot read. A good friend calls me “Marriot” because my name could be mistaken for that as well.

“Marion” and “Maryann” are the two names I use as alternates to “Miriam.” A number of years ago, I wrote an article about how a local pharmacist named Marion with whom I was friendly shared that she tells people her name is Miriam because she is often called that instead of her own name. In our local Five Towns enclave, they hear her say, “Miriam” not “Marion” and in an effort to avoid her own personal frustration, she just calls herself by that name. When I told her that I do the exact same thing, except I use her name as a default the same way she uses mine, we both got a good laugh. I could not imagine how she could possibly find “Miriam” to be easier than “Maryann”. In my opinion, hers was the golden ticket to a cleanly spoken name.

The one place where mispronunciations happen most often is at the coffee shop. With so many drinks prepared at once, patrons are asked their names in order for the cups to be properly labeled. In theory, it makes perfect sense. In practice it usually works pretty well and allows the customer to feel that added, personal touch. For me, I get that warm fuzzy feeling when my pretend name is said correctly. That is enough for me.

I stood on line with my husband at a coffee shop in Manhattan about a year ago. “Your name for the cup?” asked the woman behind the counter. “Maryann,” I said, without missing a beat. “REALLY?” said my husband. “Maryann?!” I smiled, explaining that it was just easier than listening to someone get my name wrong or having to spell it out. It is just too complicated and this way was simpler. Success was attained when both my name and my drink were correct.

The irony becomes when I use one of my trusted aliases only for that name to be destroyed as well. Then I get really frustrated.
As if lightning struck twice, I happen to have frequented the same coffee shop twice in one day but at very different times. (And if you think this is an opportunity to give me a lecture about coffee drinking, save it: I drink decaf.) The personnel had changed and I saw no one in common between my visits. Despite that, each visit elicited some kind of funny experience. While a normal person may have only had one such interaction, I am not normal.

A low-maintenance coffee drinker, I only take milk in my cup of joe. Ear buds in and music blaring, I did not notice anyone standing around me as I placed my order. “Name for the cup?” asked the gentleman behind the counter. “Mary,” I said as I took the bud out of my right ear, shortening my alias even further, laughing as I gave my fake name a nickname.

“MARY?” said the gentleman behind me. I turned, only to notice a man, who seemed my age, wearing a yarmulke, standing right in front of me. “Really?” he said with a smile. Taking a good look at me, he did not believe my name was Mary, as it is not a name typically used by Orthodox Jews. I laughed. “It’s much easier than my real name,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. When my drink was ready, “Mary” picked up her coffee at the counter and went on her way. Later in the day, on my way home, I stopped back at the store, needing another drink before my commute. “Mary” was so successful the last time, I tried it again. My iced coffee order placed, I waited for my current name to be called, except it never was.

“Marie?” I heard, only to look up and see my drink on the counter, but with the wrong name. “A decaf iced coffee for Marie?” said the woman again. I could not believe it. Marie? Really? Come on. I knew she meant me, and yet, here I was. My plan to have a simple, understandable name, was over.

Even “Mary” wasn’t safe. I looked at the cup, saw the name and knowing I was back at the square one of name mispronunciations, I took my drink, my name now “Marie”.

My face fell. Even my fake name was getting butchered. Stunned and dejected, I took the drink off the counter. Heading towards the door, feeling as if I needed to defend myself, I said in a barely audible voice, “My name is MARY.”
As Seen in the South Shore Standard Nov ’11


  • Yossi says:

    The name on my paperwork is Yosef. So I tend to tell people they can call me “Yussi” but even that’s too hard. I’ve been called “Yo-see” “Yoshi” and “Yo-ss” (Yo-see without the ee). Then there’s one coworker who called me “Pugsley” for a while because I wore a polo shirt with horizontal stripes. It seems there is a character on the Adam’s Family, chubby kid, who wears polo shirts with horizontal stripes. I am not chubby and I try not to blow things up at work. Anyway, my first reaction was to protest but I decided to roll with it. I realize, he hasn’t called me Pugsley in a long time. I hope that was entertaining.

    Yoshi ‘Pugs’

  • Moshe says:

    When people read my name they usually pronounce it Mawsh or Maw-shee. If I tell them my name they usually hear Marshall or Marsha (?!). At Starbucks I just say my name is Mark.

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