Thursday, 9 June 2011

"I don't think it's as common over here"

I have come to terms with the fact that nine times out of ten, my name is liable to be misheard over here. I don't think there's been a time where I've introduced myself and haven't been asked - very nicely, mind - to repeat myself. It's not so much my name being an uncommon one than a combination of my unfamiliar accent and the markedly different vowel sounds in US pronunciation: I have always pronounced my name "Caah-lee", but over here the sound is more akin to "Caurrh-lee". Mystery solved!

However, what I didn't realise was just what my pronunciation of my name sounded like to US ears. I'd noticed that people looked a tad bemused upon hearing it for the first time, until saying "oh, Carly, right!" - but hadn't paid too much attention to why this might be.

Image: Evelyn S, Wikimedia Commons

The scene: one of my favourite pork sandwich emporiums in the Ferry Building. I order my favourite delicacy, which I am told will take around five minutes to prepare. I'm asked for my name, so that my order can be called when it's ready for me to collect. No problem! "I'm Carly," I trill - at which the guy looks a little confused, but duly writes it down.

"I haven't heard that one," he says. "Is it kind of unusual?"
"Hmm, not really," I chunter. "Although I don't think it's as common over here as it in the UK."
"Well now I know," says the very pleasant young man, who I swear is barely suppressing laughter. "Have a nice day!"

I wait for five minutes at the side of the counter, and sure enough, the server calls out what I hear as "Carly?", and I eagerly spirit off my delicious-smelling sandwich. Only when I look at the receipt I've also just been handed do I see what my name was taken down as:

"COLLIE". As in the dog.

Needless to say, I now introduce myself as "Caurrh-lee", although I should point out that I don't hold the monopoly on comic mishearings - to American ears, my husband Rob's name sounds like "Rub". So, readers: have you ever fallen prey to a name-shaming?


  1. Not me personally, but my friend Craig Jackson has spoken to call centres, only to get through the post several days later letters addressed to a Mr Grawk Johnson.
    Oh, and British Gas know me as Stuart Jam Roberts. I've never had the heart to change it.
    I'm Mrs Stuart Roberts according to the DVLA.

  2. Stuart Jam - as in Space Jam!

    I think I told you about my finest hour in the UK: purchasing some train tickets over the phone and giving my name as Carly Farthing, only to have them arrive addressed to "Mrs D. Sarthind".

  3. I don't have a name-confusion story, per se; but back when Mike Atherton played cricket for England, I was always asked if he was a relation. (Atherton not at all a common name in South Wales). I eventually stopped explaining that, yup, two people really can have the same surname without being related - and I just told everybody that he was my uncle.

  4. Tom, I cannot tell you how much this made me laugh.

  5. With a surname like Crockford you can imagine that these things do happen to me occasionally, for example once when I made a reservation at a Chinese restaurant only to be greeted on my arrival as "Mr Cockhard" (although I swear that there was a mischievous twinkle in the waiter's eye when he said it)! Then there was the time when I was at Laser Quest as a youngster when I decided to adopt the aggressive, combative pseudonym of "Murder", only to discover at the end of the game that my attempts to strike fear into the hearts of my opponents had been perhaps fatally handicapped by the fact that the man at the counter had decided to call me "Bernard" instead!

  6. Murder Al - that's your new name, and I'm sticking to it...

  7. As with Rob, I found they struggled with the short 'o' sound as we pronounce it, so I was rendered Tahm, Tarm, and Tahmas (in the sound, not the spelling). I guess Rob is really Rahb for them? Funnily enough, they didn't have too many troubles with Cock, though I was obviously asked to repeat that several times! (Crockford, I have literally no sympathy for you regarding name stuff-ups)
    Do you find they mock your pronunciation of anything suffixed by "berry"? My friends had an amazing time saying "Bluebrees" and "strawbrees" in the poshest faux British accents they could muster.
    Good times...

  8. When this popped up in my inbox I was like "who they hell is Tahm Cahk? Am I being spammed?!"

    Our usage of the words 'proper' and 'properly' seems to be causing a fair bit of amusement, as well as the emphasis we place in 'yoghurt'. Rob is indeed Rahb here, and Severn almost always ends up pronounced "Suh-VERN" (saying 'no, like the river' is of no help as you can imagine).

    And Al - sorry, but Tom does indeed have the monopoly on this one!

  9. to be fair though. tom's 'cock' is regularly corrupted to COOK! shame!

  10. You may rue the lack of exposure the name Carly is getting when it's the name of the new love interest in the upcoming Transformers sequel. Who is also played by British "actress"-model, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, so yeah...

    Of course my surname is open to such abuse even my mates' parents and bosses were known to drop the pretense and just call me Clappers.

  11. Why you should NOT skim-read comments: I initially thought you were saying that the Rosie Huntington-Whitely character in Transformers is called Clappers...

  12. Kristie: that's cheating, don't let it happen!

  13. a bit of a late addition to the name thing: After a long work conversation over the phone with someone attempting to sell me a business idea, I received an e-mail addressed to Gin Hart.
    I've no problem being mistaken for Gin, so long as it's Hendricks!

  14. I don't have a name-shaming that rates the laughter this blog has provided, but I do have a humorous story to tell that kind of fits. I am a Texas girl, born and bread, but I've tried most of my life to NOT sound like a Texan. Unfortunately, speaking to a Canadian Jew over the phone, with his first language being Yiddish, I discovered just what it means to suffer a true misunderstanding. I had been on the line with a polite young man, as I was placing an order over the phone. It would seem he needed to multi-task, and he asked if he could place me on hold. I had no problem with waiting, as I was also trying to read an ad in the local newspaper. I was elated to read that a shop in the mall had a sale on kitchenware, namely pots and pans. Since I needed a new set of these, I exclaimed my excitement aloud, only to be reprimanded by this young man for doing so. First off, I was surprised to learn I wasn't really on hold. Secondly, what was this guy's problem? After a bit of coaxing, I managed to get him to explain what he "heard" me say. Ha! It would seem that "pots and pans" sounds like "putz in pants" over the phone. Okay, "fine," says I - not knowing what a putz was - until the guy fussed at me again. I couldn't get over the audacity this guy had for fussing at me for no reason, so I asked for further clarification. I couldn't believe it - he thought the ad in the paper was for, as he put it, "man parts in pants." Bahahaha! Now, I don't know about where you live, but where I come from, there would never be any advertising for sale on "man parts in pants." But pots and pans? I picked up a new set that day, and laughed as I paid for them.

  15. "Born and BREAD," geeze, what was the topic again? Hah! Will you please pardon my typo?