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Sunday, October 14, 2007A Rose By Any Other Name
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet -
From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1594
The nurse came out looked around the waiting room then at the folder in front of her. All eyes were on her. She was new she hadn’t been there long enough to memorize names to faces yet. For a non-Spanish speaker the nurse did a great job with the Latino surnames. She rolled the r’s and emphasized the accents where they needed emphasizing smiling at each patient when she was done. Suddenly her smiled faded and her forehead creased. She stared at the folder in her hand trying to mentally decipher the name written on the front. It was obviously a tough one. My mother smiled and said to the friend sitting next to her ...
“Any money bet it’s my name she’s struggling with.”
“Okay so your last name is kind of tough but what the hell is so hard about saying Maggie?”
“ My real name is not Maggie that’s my nickname.”
“Oh so Mags what is your real name?”
Mom whipped out her ID and showed her friend. She struggled to pronounce it.
“What the hell?! How do you say that ?”
Mom called the nurse over and said. “ Excuse me Miss are you calling....” and her name rolled off her tongue like a beautiful prayer. The old nurse had been Egyptian so she had absolutely no problem with the name. The new nurse apologized for being unable to pronounce her name and mom laughed it off . “It’s okay don’t stress it. It happens all the time. May I borrow your pen?” she asked the nurse and added as she wrote on the folder “Here this way next time I have an appointment it will be one less headache for you.”
Mom’s used to people butchering her name. As a kid my mother got so tired of teachers mispronouncing name she would add the phonetic spelling to the heading on all of her school work which is what she did to the folder the nurse had been holding. My mom carries the name of a Berber ancestor...back in the day when her family immigrated from Spain to Puerto Rico my great-grandmother’s children all had Arab first names only the youngest born in Puerto Rico carried Christian names. When the family immigrated to New York and those children married and had kids of their own the practice of carrying on the Berber names was abandoned. Except when it came to my mother . My mother ‘s first and middle names are Arab and added to the linguistic twister is my grandfather’s uncommon and hard to pronounce Spaniard surname. She was nicknamed Maggie as a kid and it stuck much to the relief of her linguistically challenged American born relatives. When pronounced properly mom’s name rolls off the tongue smoothly and sounds beautiful. However when it’s mispronounced....oy vay! Disaster! It sounds awful like a bad “B” horror movie actress running and tripping yelling for help through the woods even though the audience knows full well help well not arrive and the girl will just be another slasher victim. T’aint pretty but it’s sure fun to watch.
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