Growing up, a little, fair-haired Florida girl, I always wished my name were Kelly or Lisa. At the time, those were the names I associated with ‘pretty’, ‘popular’ and ‘all-American’. There seemed to always be in my sight (even if several grade levels away) some pretty girl with a big, shimmery smile, feathered hair and a flock of friends with one of these names, that I would wished, so badly, I could be like…. But I got Andrea. Not ANN-dree-ah but on-DRAY-ah, pronounced the way my father’s people said it. So not only was I stuck with, what in my opinion was a boring, un-pretty name; I got one that because of it’s pronunciation, was constantly being stretched or twisted the way others wanted it to be.
The years I spent wondering what my parents would say if I asked them to change it.
I never did make it to the courthouse, but instead got used to the mispronunciations. There was [the aforementioned] ANN-dree-ah, ON-dree-ah, ANN-dray-ah, even AH-dree-ah-na. (It took my friends until the eleventh grade, to finally come up with Dre.) Then of course there were the questions. While on my first job hunt, fresh out of college, at an interview with a company where the secretary was named ANN-dreee-ah, I was asked why it was on-DRAY-ah. I was speechless for a second, caught off guard by the stupidity of the question. “I’m sure it’s complicated to explain,” the woman continued. “Actually it’s not,” I replied. “I was named after my grandfather Andrej.”
Named after my Slovak grandfather Andrej. My dad is Rudolf; my sisters are Gabriela and Kristina. “It’s GOB-riela,” our mother would always correct people. “Like gobble gobble. And it’s spelled with one L. And Kristina, it’s spelled with a K.” It makes sense really, considering our last name Fecik, which doesn’t appear any lists of common American surnames with Smith or Miller or Davis and getting butchered regularly. Unfortunately we grow accustomed to everything.
But as someone once told me, while in training for a new job: Your name is your name, and it’s important for people to say it right. I will grant a free pass when you’re just getting to know me, but when after months, you still can’t get it correct, my patience wears thin. And when the occasion arises that someone questions why name is what it is (as if I chose it myself) I really get bothered.
Case in point: It was one day at work, a month or so after starting at a new office; I had just gotten off the phone with a friend of my boss’s who called with a question I wasn’t sure how to answer. So in relaying the message to the guy who sits next to me, something came up about her name. Our exchange went something like this:
Me: “So that was Raquel Bloomfield.”
Co-worker: “You mean Rachel Bloomfield?”
Me: “I think it’s Raquel. She spells it Rachel. But she says it Raquel. I’m not really sure why.”
Co-worker: “Maybe she just wants to be fancy.”
Me: “Whatever. Doesn’t everyone want to be fancy?”
Co-worker: “Yeah, seems that way, on-DRAY-ah.”
I laughed back in agreement, not really grasping ahold of what he was saying. I continued to go about my business, when it suddenly clicked. Did he just say what I think he just said?
I turned back and asked him. “Why did you say that?”
“I don’t know ann-DREE-ah,” he replied.
And just as my blood was about to start boiling, I took a deep breath and very calmly explained. I told him about my grandfather Andrej that lived on a farm in Czechoslovakia and my father Rudolf that wanted me named after him. I told him how my father, who came to the United States at age 25 and still has an accent as thick as gravy has never in his life uttered the named ANN-dree-ah and would never call his daughter that. And I told him if he thought I was just trying to be fancy, I could call my dad up and have him talk to him directly. Needless to say he shut his mouth and never mispronounced my name again.
I know that it’s pointless to worry what anyone thinks, or to be bothered that someone just can’t seem to get it right, but as that person said to me once, your name is your name, and it is important. So for all the Madisons or Talullahs out there, or gosh, the Bunnys, the Sevens, the Sodas– be thankful for your unique name and care not about the snide remarks that are bound to come your way. Remember that our names are chosen especially for us and chances are, a lot of thought went into them. If you’re lucky the one that you were given, is one that sets you apart from everybody else, because it’s different.