When I worked in Iona, there were a constant stream of perky volunteers with names full of consonants, usually all at once. They had a patient attitude and only a small sigh visible in their smile when you called them Magagagdgrada? for the nineteenth time that day.
So I know the pain suffered by me when the lady on the other side of the desk looks up and says So this is your chequebook .OhhhhhhNa? is absolutely nothing in comparison.
And yet my god it carries the capability of annoying me more than anything else I have yet found in this lovely city. Country, in fact. Ive been other places, and the problem existed there too:
Only very very occasionally will my name be pronounced Anna. With the first A as in Tan or as-it-should-be.
A lot of the rest of the time, it will get mixed up with a latin Ana or Russian Anya, both of which can be pronounced with a longer Ahhhhhh sound at the beginning. Then sometimes, just to mix it up, it gets pronouced Aayna. You know, like anus.
The thing that drives me crazy is that if my name was Joanna (which it actually is, but they dont know that) they would have no problem pronouncing it with a little pointy a. If my names was Hannah, no one would try to pronounce it Harghhhhnah. But take away that h, and suddenly it gets more confusing.
I just feel terrible – because not only are they pronouncing it Arghnah or Ohhhhna But its always always ALWAYS with the question mark on the end, and I feel dreadful that Im having to give them a name that causes them so much pain having to try and pronounce out loud.
And no, that wouldnt be a problem if giving them my surname instead wouldnt be just so much worse. Because I can deal with variations on Anna a lot better than I can the amount of mangling its possible to give the name Pickard. Pick. Ard. PICK-ard. Not hard. Not, in fact, even ard.
Muzz Pickud? Pickord? Packurrrrrd? Pickd? They stumble, over and over again.
Which would be fine if you could get through a single conversation without sharing names – but, in a wonderfully service-driven culture, you just cant. Can I take a name for that delivery? Let me take your name, maam, well call you to the counter just as soon as its ready And who am I speaking to? Thatll be 3.50, if I can take a name for this coffee, well shout out when its ready
So when asked to give a surname I often end up giving My Beloveds, because although were not even slightly married (this comes as close to a perfect reason for doing it as Ive ever heard)(apart from the fact I love my name and still wouldnt have his, so that takes that reason away again, I guess) there really isnt that much you can do to fuck up Johnson.
And so it could go with the rest of everything. If it pains me so much (and it is just the silliest thing, I know) then why not just his name for all things.
We have tried that. But youd be amazed – the problem of the accent is that nothing quite works the way it should, no matter how clearly enunciate:
– Taxi drivers have tried to drop us two blocks from home about fifteen times now because apparently theres something in the way I say Harrison that sounds like Howard to them.
– And the long confused conversations Ive had with waiters just because I have the temerity to put a t in the middle of water are now far, FAR too countless to mention.
So packages arrive for him, furniture comes addresed to him, marked with the name weve given in the shop, or online, or wherever.
BOBBLE JONSON they says (this one has stuck. Call him it, he loves it)
(To be fair, the most usual is Bobby, and that is no ones fault but his birth certificate, on which his actual real name is spelt with an i and an e at the end, in a more conventionally girlish manner)
It is no big thing, I know – and it is a very lovely thing to have been here so long already and not to have found anything more heinous to be annoyed by. But we do not like to cause so much trouble by insisting on having these difficult names that people tend to trip over so much.
So we have decided that in situations where it does not matter a single tiny bit what the people performing a service think we are called, we should just make something up to make life easier, and stop everyone from getting frustrated or annoyed or anything. It works out much easier.
Can I take a name for this order, sir?
Yes. Call me Rock
And Im Yamaha!
Can you just mark it for the attention of Thor?
The non-fat thripe-shot is for Yoshi
Rusty will pick that up
Can you just put Romeo on the ticket?
And so it goes on. Buck and Cindy are our favourites, though. They have stuck. Please feel free to suggest names as you go on: they just have to be easy to pronounce and not Utterly ridiculous (My Beloveds campaign of trying to get everyone everywhere to nickname him The General is, for example, going down reasonably badly with delivery companies and coffee baristas everywhere), and I guarantee that someone will be shouting it out in a Petes Coffee somewhere in San Francisco in the next week, followed by the quiet giggling of two British people with stupid coffees.
Buck! Your soy pumpkin espresso-hot-ice-latte!
Cindy! One non-fat triple shot heavy-duty frappsadoodle with sugar-free hazelnut and no foam?
hee heee heee hee
I love you Buck
I love you too, Cindy