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My name and me - Input Junkie
October 27th, 2013
09:16 am

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My name and me
CJ Cherryh raised the question on facebook of how people feel about their first names, and I'm continuing it here.

I live in my head so much that I find it odd to have a name and a face, though I've more or less gotten used to it. I've never seen anyone else mention that reaction to those very ordinary features of living.

I'm neutral about my name, and there's no other name that seems more plausible to me. For quite a few years, if people got my first name wrong, it was very likely to be by calling me Linda. Maybe I looked like a Linda?

I got my name because I was named after a Channah (guttural ch), but my mother didn't like Hannah or Ann.

The only thing I don't like about my first name is that it's occasionally used as shorthand for "man who is to be raped" as in "your cellmate is going to call you nancy". I could live without that.

I defend my last name because most people can't hear it, see it, or (of course) spell it accurately. It's Lebovitz. That's L-E-B as in boy-O-V as in Victor-I-T-Z. There is no I in the first syllable. That's a V in the last syllable, and it's pronounced like a V.

Mid-Westerners are more likely to get my name right. I don't know whether it's a tradition of courtesy, or less exposure to the more common spelling.

On the what-a-strange-thing-it-is-to-be-a-human side, I think the extent to which people get my name wrong (after they've been told it three times, had it spelled for them, and seen it in print) is evidence that people generally notice very little about the world, especially if they have a slot which isn't quite right to fit their experience into. I'm not saying that everyone is ignoring the same things, though.

I chose nancylebov for lj because a cute nym wasn't occurring to me and I wanted something which might be easier to remember and spell. I've been called Nancy LeBow. There's just no escape from that damned W.

There are unrelated Lebovitzes in the world, but the story for my family line is that the original name was Probolski (I'm guessing about the spelling), but it was changed at Ellis island. I'm not sure about why-- maybe an error, maybe a belief that Lebovitz sounded more American.

The Cherryh discussion turned up a lot of reactions and stories people have about their names... tell me about yours if you'd like.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1022472.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:supergee
Date:October 27th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
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When I was growing up, Arthur was one of those intrinsically laughable anglicized Jewish names, though not quite as bad as Melvin or Seymour. I've pretty much gotten over that.

Having a name like Hlavaty with a non-Anglo phoneme in it is a cheap way of being memorable.
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From:whswhs
Date:October 27th, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
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Anglicized Jewish? I should have said "judaicized English." Probably we mean the same thing: Originally a name from the British Isles that got picked up by a lot of Jewish parents?
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From:supergee
Date:October 27th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
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Anglicized Jewish, in the sense that Jewish boys were given the Anglo versions of the name of a male ancestor: "This is Morris; he's named after his grandfather Moishe." My grandfather was Avrom.
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From:whswhs
Date:October 27th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
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But of course neither of those is actually the English version of a Jewish name; that would be Moses and Abraham. There's just a coincidence of first letter. Though there is the bit in Shakespeare about Falstaff being "in Arthur's bosom, if ever man was in Arthur's bosom."
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From:supergee
Date:October 27th, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
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The first letter is chosen deliberately.
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From:thnidu
Date:October 27th, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
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I'm Mark. My uncle Marshall and I were both named after my great-grandfather Maximilian. I don't know either of their Hebrew names, but I'm guessing they were both Meshulam, like me.

I agree with whswhs that "neither of those is actually the English version of a Jewish name". I'm pretty sure they meant "coincidence" in the older literal sense of things being the same, not the newer sense of things just happening to be the same.

Edited at 2013-10-27 09:00 pm (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:October 27th, 2013 04:10 pm (UTC)
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The nice thing about Hlavaty is that it's distinctive but (so far as I know) easy to pronounce.
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From:kalimac
Date:October 27th, 2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure that less exposure to other forms of the name Lebovitz is responsible for getting it right. I don't think that coastal people deliberately set out to misspell your name, it's just that on first encounter they think they already know it.

I try to remember the differing spellings of people that I know, Lebovitz and Leibowitz and even Liebowitz, Schaefer and Schaffer, Schacter and Shechter, but it's not always easy.

Nancy is a good name, despite those connotations which don't really associate in my mind with women, because it's a well-known name that isn't really common, so you don't have to deal with a million others, and it doesn't lend itself to a lot of differing spellings (though I have seen Nanci). In English folk song, Nancy seems to be the generic name for a sailor's girlfriend, and it's not intended derogatorily.
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From:nancylebov
Date:October 27th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure people don't deliberately get my name wrong, but I was wondering if midwesterners try harder to get names right.
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From:redbird
Date:October 27th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
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Speaking as a Rosenzweig, I don't think so: I think it's that they're starting with fewer preconceptions. I am pleasantly surprised when people pronounce or spell my name right; the odds are a bit better in the New York area, I think because I'm less likely to be the first Rosenzweig they have met or heard of. (New Yorkers are the ones who sometimes misspell it as "Rosensweig" with an s; the naive misspelling drops the z altogether.)
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From:tod_hollykim
Date:October 27th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
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I sort of like my middle name of Kim a little better than the first, Holly. Mostly because it's not that worn. My relatives know me as Holly and I mostly kept that until I met another Holly. Then it was Holly Kim for awhile until I started to go by Kim.

Holkie has come lately because of my email and board name of holkimcardie. Just my first and middle mashed together with Cardie for Cardassian. Yes, I am a Trekker.
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From:erratio
Date:October 27th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
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My name is Jennifer but I *always* go by Jen except on formal documents. It used to be part of a general trend of trying to make myself seem small and unimportant, but now it's just my name and Jennifer sounds *wrong*. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans seem immune to the concept of shortening names, so I've had to get used to being a Jennifer a lot more often than I'd prefer.

My last name was shortened from Polish, presumably to make it simpler, but contains a difficult-to-pronounce consonant cluster such that I always have to spell it out anyway.
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From:whswhs
Date:October 27th, 2013 04:03 pm (UTC)
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My experience has been that a lot of people neither hear words sound by sound, nor spell them letter by letter. Rather, they have pre-existing blocks of sounds, which they chunk together to make up newly encountered words or names, as in oldtimer syndrome for Alzheimer syndrome. (The Japanese are famous for doing this, as a result of their language having a restricted syllable structure—for example, bei-su-bo-ru [note that the u's are silent, so "beis-bor"]—but the English speakers I encounter often come close to doing the same thing.) And they often have one familiar spelling for each syllable or word and will shove it in for a new word, instead of learning letter by letter. The mentality that actually analyzes the sounds of words or names is somewhat uncommon.
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From:bugsybanana
Date:October 27th, 2013 05:14 pm (UTC)
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My name has been a challenge because both first and last names are tricky to spell - and Christine has multiple valid spellings, and then there's the Christina issue (or Cristina, since I'm around Spanish speakers all the time too), and then the last name is its own can of worms, with the tilde. I usually don't bother with the tilde, but my business cards and my resume have it. I don't use it on my LJ header, and I'm more bothered that LJ doesn't put S after the apostrophe in Quinones' than I am about the lack of the tilde.

I was going to say Spanish speakers generally get the last name right, but as it happens, a few months back I discovered that my boss at the upholstery shop and his family were initially thrown by the S at the end, because they expected it to end with a Z. Their background is Ecuadorean - turns out Quinonez is the common spelling in Ecuador, while Quinones is the common spelling in Puerto Rico, where my folks are from. I'd never had that occur before; I think Quinones is the more common spelling in general, except in Ecuador, I guess.

I've occasionally thought I should have a first name that's less overtly Christian in origin. There's no reason behind it except my parents liked it - it's the middle name of my next older sister, in fact. If I had been a boy, my father wanted to call me Stephen, and they thought about using Stephanie, but decided against it. They wanted Anglicized names for their children so we would fit in better as mainland Americans. (My mother even wanted to change our last name to Quinn at one point, but didn't out of respect for my grandfather.) The exception is my brother - he's a Junior. The weird part about that, though, is that my dad's name was Enid - no idea why my grandparents decided on the name for him, but he and my brother are the only male Enids I know of. OTOH, because it's so uncommon, I didn't realize Enid was typically a girl's name until I was well into adolescence. (My brother goes by Ric, short for his middle name Ricardo.) My sister Susan was named for her grandmothers, and Susan was an Englishing of my maternal grandmother's very Catholic name Asuncion - who was often miscalled Susan by people who couldn't pronounce Asuncion. (My other sister Joanne is the one with Christine as the middle name. Susan's is Leonor, and mine is Michelle.)

My name is also 17 letters long, deceptively so since it's only five syllables. I collect long names for this reason - the Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the longest last name in MLB history, is the one I'm taken with at the moment.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:October 27th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
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"Mid-Westerners are more likely to get my name right. I don't know whether it's a tradition of courtesy, or less exposure to the more common spelling."

I would say it's more likely to be due to a tradition of phonics. The Look-and-Say method of teaching reading produced an inordinate amount of people who can't sound out unfamiliar words, so instead they take wild guesses based on similarities to familiar words.

My daughter's given name is Liran - three consonants, two short vowels, how hard can that be? You'd be amazed. She stopped using it because she got too tired of having to explain it. Could have been worse; she could have been given the original family version, Leuraney, which everyone would probably have misprounounced as "Lou Rainy".
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From:acelightning
Date:October 28th, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
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I suspect some of the trouble people have with your name may have to do with A Canticle For Leibowitz.

Obviously, the name on my driver's license is not "Ace Lightning". My legal name is a fairly uncomplicated and rather bland WASP name. (And I do not ever use it on LJ, DW, or anywhere else on the internet. Google "Ace Lightning", and you get no references at all to my "real" name; Google that, and you get no references at all to Ace Lightning. It's saved me a world of trouble.) When I was a child, though, some of my schoolmates insisted on calling me "Al". I didn't like that, so I decided to come up with a one-syllable nickname that I did like. I chose "Ace", for a number of reasons involving aviation and the alphabet. But only a very few people ever called me Ace. However, I started using an ace-of-spades design as a sort of personal logo; it evolved into an entire "coat of arms", complete with motto, although I didn't know the rules of heraldry at all - metallic purple didn't exist in the Middle Ages. (I eventually outgrew that, of course.)

I didn't take my husband's name when we got married. Our surnames just don't hyphenate euphoniously. And I was afraid I'd confuse the payroll computer where I worked, and I'd never see a paycheck again :-(

Fast-forward to when Wicca discovered me. As part of my early training, I was encouraged to come up with a personal sigil, to be used as a sort of non-verbal equivalent of a signature. I took my "ace" symbol, and added a lightning bold across it - as you see in my userpic - to symbolize the magick I hoped to learn, and because I was working as a radio engineer (to show that a tower is transmitting, one might draw little lightning bolts emanating from it), and because I like lightning in general. One of my covenmates looked at it and said, "Y'know, you could read that as a name - either 'Lightning Ace' or 'Ace Lightning'."

Fast-forward another ten years; I discovered computer BBSs. The very first one I joined required a two-part username... okay, now I'm "Ace Lightning" on the computer! Later internet logins required a single name, which of course is "acelightning". As I made more friends online, and got to meet many of them in person, even the ones who did get to know my legal name still called me "Ace". And there are now more people among my friends who call me Ace than who call me by the name on my passport.

And then around 2002, BBC Canada created a children's animated TV show with a main character named "Ace Lightning". I found out when people emailed me through my webpage... which wasn't good, because there was a fair amount of erotica on that page,
entirely unsuitable for 13-year-old boys. (The page eventually got deleted.) I emailed both BBC Canada and the BBC itself, pointing out that I'd been using the name online for a long time before they applied it to a cartoon, but they never replied. I'm still Ace Lightning.


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