The Name Game: Back to School Edition

Every year it's the same thing.  First day of school.  New teachers.  Roll call.  Gringo names.  Spanish pronunciation.

Things tend to get a little confusing because there is a big difference in how words (and names) are read (and pronounced) in English and in Spanish.

If read in English, my kiddies' names all have a very nice ring to them.  But read in Spanish, they become something totally different.  For example, the "J" in Spanish sounds like the English "H", so Jack Alfonso becomes HACK Alfonso.

And because the English "TH" is very hard for many Spanish speakers to pronounce, Ashley Faith becomes ASH-LAY FIGHT.

Since the Mexican "CH" is never pronounced like the letter "C", Nicholas Patrick becomes NEE-CHOH-LAWS PAW-TREEK.  His first grade teacher, refused to pronounce his name in English, claiming that since we were in Mexico, his name had to be read as if it were in Spanish.  Finally after a couple of months, she started calling him Nick.

This isn't the only problem Nick's had with his name.  When we first moved to Mexico, Hubby's grandmother was waiting for us at my in-laws house, anxious to meet her great-grandchildren.  As soon as she picked Nick up in her arms, she asked us what his name was, to which we both replied, "Nicholas Patrick."   She looked at us kind of in shock and said, "Nicolas Parches?  What kind of name is that???"  Parches is Spanish for "Patches".  She thought we named our son, Nicholas Patches.

Oddly enough, Hope's one syllable name causes the most confusion.

The "H" in Spanish is always silent, so Hope Nicole becomes OH-PAY NEE-COLE-AY.  Sounds a little like Pig Latin doesn't it?  But no, it's how most teachers have pronounced Hope's name over the years.  When Hope explains the proper pronunciation, the name Hope is then mistaken for HOBE, which is the Spanish pronunciation of the Biblical name, Job.  Which then leads to the following conversation...
"Isn't that a boy's name?"
"Yes, Job is a boy's name.  But my name is Hope, it's the English word for Esperanza."
"Then why didn't your parents just name you Esperanza?"
"Because my mom's a Gringa!"
"Oh!"

But wait, the fun doesn't stop there.

Remember, everyone in Mexico has two last names.  Hubby's last name, Limón is easy to pronounce: LEE-MOAN.  But my Gringo maiden name?  Not so easy!  "Harris" has that darn silent "H" and the double "R" so it becomes AH-RRRREEEESS. (UPDATE: As per a new law in Mexico, my US born children only have one last name to match the name on their US birth certificates. Read more...

I told you it gets confusing.

Thankfully, my kiddies are all great sports and really don't mind having to go through this year after year on the first day of school.  They are proud of their names and like the fact that no one in school has the same name.   
 
Have you ever had someone mispronounce your name?








For more posts like this, be sure to read The Name Game.

27 comments:

  1. When we tell people TIfani's name, they say estefani. We say no, Tifani and they say oh stefani. We had that problem with my in-laws, they couldn't pronounce Tifani, so they just called her Nena. My name is Monica, so I get called Mo-nee-ka. I just tell them call me Mo. So now when I see my dad and feels like being smarty, he says Moneeekka! Then he says how'd I do, do I sound like I know spanish! I just tell him oh yeah perfect! :)

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  2. Your post had me laughing out loud, especially I totally understand it! I don't ever mind someone pronouncing my name like the car: Mercedes. But when they try to be respectful and pronounce it in Spanish when they clearly don't have the tongue for it, the name gets butchered. So it's either you know how to pronounce Mer-cedes in Spanish or you don't. Just stick to mer-say-dees. it's all good :) 

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  3.  This happens all the time! My in-laws still calll me A-LI-AS and Mexicans who read my name pronounce it LAY-UH (like the verb leer). I am convinced my name is not difficult! I explain to people here, it's like "tia" pero con la "L"...still doesn't work usually.

    I work with many Germans, and I often wonder how Mexicans would even begin to pronounce some of those names (Schorsch, Ulrich, Ingeborg?) or German LAST names?! Would make English names look like a piece of cake by comparison. :)

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  4. LOVE this post!!  Mispronunciation isn't much of a problem with my name as it is for my sons.  People tend to add an 'N' to my name, calling me 'American' not 'America'....Cairo on the other hand get's called 'Hairo' because Latinos think his name is 'Jairo', not 'Cairo'.

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  5. My name is Stephanie and everyone here tries to call me, Estafania. It drives me crazy! I can't wait for Monday when, my kids start school here for the first time. Their names are Luis and Jennifer so, that won't be an issue but, my maiden name is Bolt. Now, they have to get used tohaving 2 last names... Going to be interesting...

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  6. They always pronounce my name, Valarie, as the Spanish name.  So, I am valeria.  But, my MIL used to have trouble saying Emily.  I hear her calling her Emilia a lot.  Which I think is cute, too.  And, Bella.  Well, you have that double L so sometimes I hear them calling her Beya. 

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  7. "Because my mom's a gringa" jajajaja soo funny! my son's middle name is Nathaniel and my family in Mexico say "Nadanel" "Natalio" or "Natanel" I'm like, "Just call him Julian" LOL

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  8. I hate being called by my full name, Barbara. I much prefer Barb. Since I've started Spanish lessons, I've learned that barbe is Spanish for beard. Now I get why the Mexicans always call me by my full name. Guess I'll have to get used to it. Ugh!

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  9. OMG You made me laugh so hard on how they pronounce "Hope". I can totally hear my parents saying it like that, too. No problems with my girls' names but my parents massacre my husband's name - Jeremy. It sounds more like - Herrrmy, Heremy, sometimes even like Jerry =) Too funny!

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  10. that happens to my kids all the time, the funny part is that my daughter nows tells her name as is told to her at school, with that gringo accent, jjajaj but it's ok!

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  11. I named my son after his father, Juan, so we don't have any problem with him, but as any Jennifer can tell you, once you cross the border your name automatically changes to Yenny.

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  12. As a teacher, I've always respected my student's names and pronounced them to the best of my ability. I make a very big effort because I feel that it shows respect towards the child.  However,  that isn't always the case with my daughter's teachers.  Both of my girls have Italian names (Isabella and Francesca) because my father was Italian and my husband and I share the dream of one day living in Italy.   We've had them called "Chabelita" and "Francisca" (which if someone out there is named either of the two, I don't want to offend you) but those are not our daughter's names.  When it does happen, my girls very nicely tells the person, "That is not my name, my name is..."  And I feel proud of them!  :) 

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  13. HAHAHAAAA - thanks for the laugh!  Our son's name gets mispronounced all the time.  And even my name - LISA (I know, so simple) has thrown  few people off. 

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  14. OMG - your post made me LOL!  Yep, had plenty of problems with my name in the U.S.  For some reason, "Aurelia" has become everything from areola to ariel.  I've had to explain I don't have a fin or sea shells, and the other one (along with multiple other mis-pronunciations) I've left alone and just repeated the "English" pronunciation of my name.  :)  Good luck with another school year!  Great that your kids are such good sports...

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  15. It's not that they mispronounce my name but it gets misspelled. Ila is pronounced eye el a. It get s spelled Iva, Ida, Illa, etc

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  16. My husband still cannot pronounce my last name right: Bailey.  It comes out Burly.  But his first last name is one I have never gotten down: Barrera.  Oh well.

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  17. My first name isn't butchered too much because it is both English and Spanish. But my last name is a different story.  The English call me Jervis.  And the Spanish speakers call me Ghhher-vah-is.  It should be Jhur-vay.  Them darn French never like to pronounce the last letter of much of anything. 

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  18. I couldn't comment yesterday but this post reminded me so much of my experience in reverse with gringo teachers. My first name is Patty, not Patricia. So all wanted to call me Patricia or Tricia and I would have to explain its Patty on my birth certificate. Teachers don't like to be corrected so I'm sure that's why they butchered my last name. LOL

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  19. oh goodness! they must be good sports! we are having a hard time naming this baby because ideally it would be a name easy to pronounce in both languages. However, finding a name we like that fills that criteria is nearly impossible. : /

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  20.  This was a very amusing post. Ever since first grade, everyone has had trouble with my name to the point where I could tell it was my name on the roster cuz the teacher would pause before attempting to say it. It's Bianca but for some reason when I lived on Long Island, most teachers put an r on the end. Never understood why. Then when I have my name written on the Starbucks cups, it's all sorts of weird spellings. My favorite is when they wrote "BNCA"

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  21. My name is Josie and so all of my husband's friends and family think that my name is really Jocelyn, and that's what I get called.  My best friend's family calls me Chuchis.....I don't know why.  People also like to say Yo si, tu no.  Because in Spanish Josie would be pronounced 'yo si'

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  22. When I was growing up no one could pronounce or spell my name, I too remember that long pause before the teacher gave it a try on the first day.  I decided early on to just answer to anything that started with a J and sounded remotely like Jonna.  Here in Mexico, that usually means some form of Juana or Juanita.  I don't even try with my real name in Spanish, it comes out something like Hoe-Nah and it doesn't sound very good.  Add to that my last name starts with an H, never easy.

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  23. We get some similar name issues with our kids' names here in Ireland. Our oldest is Hannah, and hers is almost always right. Second daughter is Cailyn (KAY-Lynn) and she's forever Caitlin of Keelan (which is a boys name). The man cub is Isaac, and every one says I-zack. And, they don't say the "th" here, so hubs is Seth, but it's often pronounced Sett. Gotta love cross-cultural living. :)

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  24. Too funny. Yes, "Esmeralda" sounds like absolute hell in English. I think the problem is the number of syllables. In Spanish, no problem. Sounds beautiful. "Ezzy" is awful in Spanish. Sounds like "etsy." No me gusta! Then sometimes in English I'll get "Easy," instead. 

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  25. Ay, tus niños! Leslie, you had me giggling with the pronunciations. It's a good thing the kids are good sports about it. I used to get so upset when I was their age when people mispronounced my name (which is not very common in the U.S., surprisingly, but is very common in Mexico and Ireland - I was the only Maura in school until I got to high school and there was only one other girl who had the same name with the same spelling and we became quick friends), or worse, called me Laura or Maureen or some other name. As an adult, I get exasperated sometimes when I say my last name, Hernández, with the correct pronunciation and people don't understand me until I say HER-NAN-DEZ gringo-style. Thankfully all the family names we might ever want to use as first names or middle names for our future children can be pronounced easily in both languages. 

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  26. Hillarious! Nicolás Parches has a lot of potential for a joke nickname. The easy solution to avoid these language-frustrations: two names, one from one culture, and the second for be used on the other.   

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  27. As always, you do a great job of clearing up the cultural differences in marriages like ours!!!! NO WONDER it takes us FOREVER to decide on a name! Every time I like a name...and it sounds ok in Spanish, we always go through how will it be spelled and pronounced in both languages. I didn't realize it was SUCH a big deal in Spanish as it is in English and (only after reading this post) I'm SOO glad I listened to my husband w/ our kids names. We wanted them to be spelled and pronounced the same in Spanish/English. I always wanted the name Evan--but hubby wanted to spell it Ivan, but that's prounouced different in English. So we ditched the name. =( But I'm happy with the names we have! No one can say my name right in Spanish when they see it spelled. I have to spell it Bruk to get close...or I'm "Bru-kay"
    ha!

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