Friday, April 22, 2011

What's the deal with my name, Part Two

Yeah, so, as it would happen, my weird friggin' name is so friggin' weird that one post just isn't enough to describe how friggin' weird it is. My name appears to be impossible for anyone not directly related to me, by blood, to pronounce. Emphasis should be placed on the first syllable of each word – MAR-jorie MAC-atee – but instead people place the emphasis on the second syllables – Mar-JOR-ie Mc-CAT-ee – which makes me wonder if I might not have an alter-ego, or something.

Ok, I'm willing to concede that my surname is spelled kinda weird and really does look like it ought to be pronounced that way. If it were spelled the way it's pronounced, it'd have an extra A in it, like this – MacAtee.

But “Marjorie” shouldn't be that difficult. I know it's not a common name, but it's not as if I've been spelling it in hieroglyphics. Nevertheless, people must be pretty creative, because they've come up with a lot of different ways to spell my name:

Margerie – Not bad, really. One letter off.

Margory – I think you mean, Mar-GORE-y.

Marjoreee – That's a bit like falling off a cliff... 

"Marjoreeeeeeeeeeeeeee..." -- divemasterking2000

I don't really care that much about the spelling, unless it's important, in which case, I'll spell it for you. It's the pronunciation thing that bothers me. People have been pronouncing my name wrong all my life. Actually, since I've grown up, I've found most people can manage to say “Marjorie” without making asses of themselves. But, while I was going through school, teachers and administrators always pronounced it Mar-JOR-ie Mc-CAT-ee. To be fair, my teachers generally only did it once, which is fair enough, cause as we've established, it's a weird name. This was the name I'd hear over the intercom whenever I was called to the main office, from the day I started school at the age of five to the day when I finally got sick of it and decided to just friggin' ignore them.

I was fifteen that day. I was in the middle of my angry, adolescent triple-mohawk stage. I'd recently had some success with refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance, on the grounds that it mentions God and could therefore be construed as prayer, so I decided to try my luck with the name thing, on the grounds that if they expect me to answer when my name is called, they can damn well take two seconds to learn how it's pronounced.
They called me several times – mispronouncing my name more emphatically each time – while I sat there carrying on with my business. Finally my teacher, who knew me well enough to tread lightly, said, “They're calling you to the office.”

“I'm fifteen years old,” I replied. “You'd think they'd have learned my name by now.”

My teacher shrugged, took a sip from her water bottle and went back to whatever it was she had been doing. Some of the other kids in the class giggled, quietly, and shot me approving looks.

“Mar-JOR-ie Mc-CAT-ee, to the OFFICE, PLEASE.” They were beginning to sound impatient. A few minutes later the assistant principal himself stormed into the classroom, in a red-faced cloud of angry obesity.

When are you going to come to the office?!” he shouted.

I replied, “I dunno, when are you going to learn to pronounce my name?”

COME WITH ME!!” he bellowed, and I'm sure he would have grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of the chair if he could have gotten away with that.

I went and he took me into his office. “Sit down!” he commanded, pointing at a chair with one of his blunt little sausage fingers. I sat.

“I'm calling your mother!” he announced, as if I were supposed to be afraid of that, and then he picked up the phone and dialed.

When my mother answered, no doubt groggy from her mid-afternoon nap, Assistant Principal said, “I've been trying to call your daughter to the office for the past 20 minutes. She refused to respond when we called her name over the intercom and I had to go to the classroom to get her myself!” He puffed up as he said it, like a poison toad.

My mother must have asked to speak to me, because I was passed the phone.

“Why didn't you go to the office?” she asked. She was using her gruff, you'd-better-have-a-damn-good-reason-for-this-sh*t-kid voice.

“They're still pronouncing my name wrong,” I said, “and I'm sick of it. That's not my name, and I'm not going to answer to it.”

My mother went silent. “I'll speak to him,” she said. “Put him back on the phone.”

I recognized this tone of voice, too. It was all I could do not to crack up, as I passed back the phone and said, “She wants to speak to you.”

Assistant Principal put the phone to his ear. I fancied I heard thunder rumbling above. “Yes?” he said.

And I could hear my mother's voice, coming through the phone, loud as the voice of God Himself booming down from the Heavens – “Her name is MAR-jorie. MAC-atee. When ARE you going to learn how to pronounce it?!?”

The string of profanity she released does not bear repeating here. --  Cloned Milkmen

Love you, Momma.


  1. Oh yeah! I hear you!

    My married name is impossible. But it gives me a great way to lose those annoying cold callers and anyone who phones up asking to speak to my husband or me and can't pronounce it. 'I'm sorry, no one of that name here. Thank you. Goodbye.' Conversely those who think to ask before attempting to say it, or apologise for mangling it, will get brownie points, kudos and gold stars. As well as my time. It's only two syllables, please. Look at it and, in the words of the game show host Ted Rogers (3-2-1) 'say what you see.' Simples, isn't it?

  2. Ha, yeah, I always know when I'm being cold-called, too. Every coin has two sides, right? :D

  3. I don't understand the failure of phonics. My name is not tough. My problem is, people drop the syllables or transpose them. It's an English name, for God's sakes-- granted, most of the people who fuck it up are not of European stock, and are cold-calling me. Fail.

  4. There's failing, and then there's mis-pronouncing a fairly ordinary name failing.

  5. Lynne and Marjorie, I agree with you both. We all have good English names (mine's North-Eastern England by origin, yours is listed as being originally Northern Irish, Marjorie). If it was something Eastern European I could understand it; a former colleague has 6 syllables in her surname, which is more than enough to confuse people. But I still managed to get her second acceptable pronunciation right off the bat. (OK, I'm a linguist and a lover of words, this is my specialty.) That said, my linguistics lecturer at Uni told me many years ago that English is one of the most inconsistent languages in the world. Too bad it's also one of the most popular...mangled or not!

  6. That comment was hilarious when I was drunk and came up with it.

    Not so much now.

  7. I like to collect fake names for myself to use in my writings. I think you've made the list.

  8. Hi Marjorie,

    Great story! I can relate very well - my last name is Visaisouk (pronounced vee-sai-sook) and it gets mispronounced allll the time, especially when I was in school.

    I thought you may be interested to know that there is a new tool available for people like us with hard to pronounce names, called an ANT or audible name tag. Our website is, and I would love for you to come give your 2 cents on our blog,

    Thank you very much for sharing!