Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's all in a name...

As a kid, I always felt kind of bad for other kids who had names that, come every fall when students make that predictable pilgrimage into new classrooms, teachers would have a hard time pronouncing.

Jada Werkhoven. My pal Janae Bakken. The one black kid in our high school, Amewoke Ngoboda (I still don't know how to pronounce or spell his name, but it's something like this).

Then there were those with easy first names, but the last names would often get bollixed:

Derosier. Kostuch. Saumweber.

The teachers would come close, but scattered giggles from across the room from those of us who had been through this the year before would alert them to a near-miss.

Growing up in middle America, my name was never a problem. The Hutchinson name goes back nearly a thousand years in Wales and England, and over 200 years in the United States. There's even a city called Hutchinson in my home state of Minnesota, named after my great-great-great-great-great-great uncles who founded it.

So you see, pronouncing "Hutchinson" was never a problem.

Until I moved to Holland.

Understanding and speaking a new language requires dedication and lots of practice. Of which I have done some. Enough to keep our household out of trouble (although remind me someday to tell you the story of when I called the pet crematorium the day our dog died and mistakenly requested that someone DELIVER a dead dog opposed to the intended PICK-UP a dead dog soon...).

But at the very least, when my vocabulary fails, I have cracked the code on the Dutch alphabet and how things are pronounced. For example, when you see "oo," you say "oa," as in the word boat. When you see "ij," it sounds like "eye." And when you see "ch" in a word, you do your best to cough up a mouth full of mucous.

I am now wishing I would've kept track of all the comical variations of my name that I've seen and heard in the last five years. "Lynn" can be tricky for spelling, but "Hutchinson" is the one that baffles them all.

I offer the two most recent examples:

About two and a half months ago, Dave and I ordered our crib ("ledikant") for Sadie's room (on yet another day, remind me to tell you about how much I miss having a Target around the corner). It would be arriving in the store in 6-8 weeks. As with all of the baby stuff, we put the order under my name.

Two weeks ago, I saw on my mobile that three phone calls had come in from this store, but no messages were left. I called back and asked if, perhaps, our crib had come in and that's why someone called.

What ensued was about two hours and 4 phone calls back and forth between me and the store manager as to why these first calls were made. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but we have no order placed for Lynn Hutchinson. Not anywhere."

Ahh...but what I SHOULD have asked them was if they had an order placed for..."Hutekineson Lin"! Because that's who they thought I was...some strange Scandinavian woman mysteriously born and given a surname in the People's Republic of China!

And now this morning, I opened the door to receive the mandatory delivery of bed risers and bed pans for home birth (yeah, yeah...another story), and ended up signing for...(drum roll, please)...

"A.E. Huddleston."

A. E. Huddleston! Now THERE'S a name I might be able to get into. Maybe it could be my pen name if I start writing murder mysteries. Maybe I could become an aristocrat with a name like this. The possibilities are endless!

Well, to all of those kids heading off to new classrooms this week armed with seemingly impossible names, I salute you. Be strong. I feel your pain.

"Proper names are poetry in the raw. And like all poetry, they are untranslatable."- W.H.Auden


David said...

Well, Miss Huddleston, love the new name!

Melinda said...

Ha! You did luck out Lynn. I had to deal with everyone wanting to pronounce the silent "e" on my last name. And let's not forget the absurd televion show that accompanied my childhood nickname. No first grader wants to be dating an alien named Mork.

Janae & Michael said...

Home birth, eh?!? You made a major change! Can't wait to hear about it!