Being saddled with a name that nearly everyone either mispronounces or misspells at first seems to have made me keenly aware of how annoying it can be for someone to get your name wrong. I try to pay close attention when I’m meeting people and will even seek their guidance and approval in pronouncing or spelling their names correctly. It’s a big deal to me to get it right and not rely on an easier to pronounce nickname. I really only have trouble when I call tech support.
One afternoon I had difficulty with my internet service. I did all my own troubleshooting, determined the cause of the problem (which was with my provider), and then called. After I few minutes of typing on my phone’s keypad to navigate the ridiculously long menu, a thickly accented voice answered.
“Hello, my name is Wilbur. May I ask your name?”
“Sure, it’s Leighton. Could you tell me your name?”
“Sure.” When he said it, it came out clipped and sounded closer to a syllable than a full word. “My name is Wilbur.”
“Could you tell me your real name?”
“I just want to call you by your real name. I don;t think it’s actually Wilbur.”
“Sir, I assure you my name is Wilbur.”
“I really don’t think so.”
“May I ask why not?”
“Because I’ve never heard it pronounced with three syllables before.”
“But my name is Wilbur.” He definitely tried to drop one of the syllables.
“Look, I know you have to give and American sounding name, but I’d like to call you by your real name, not one you picked out of a hat.”
There was a long pause. I wondered if he was considering that all calls might be recorded for training purposes. I don’t know if he was debating if he should tell me or not, but when he spoke again, he sounded relieved.
“Sir, it is my pleasure to tell you my name is Srinivasan.”
“Ok . . . wait, what?”
“You make it sound so easy. What was that again?”
“And this is your first name?”
“Yes.” I was defeated.
“Here’s my problem, Wilbur . . .”
I felt bad about it, but I rationalized that we would never cross paths again. I’ve done the same thing with other tech support staff to much better results, so hopefully Srinivasan understand it wasn’t him, it was me.
The biggest shock I ever got from calling tech support came one Fall afternoon at work. I had to call in for a product we use in the District. I waited as the phone rang. I first was surprised at hearing an American voice, but I was more surprised by what he said.
“Hello, thank for calling support. My name is Leighton, how may I help you?” I could not believe it.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Do you spell it L-E-I-G-H-T-O-N?”
“Get out! That’s my name.”
“Wait, don’t you find it interesting?”
“But you’re only the second other Leighton I’ve spoken with. What are the chances that a guy named Leighton would call tech support and get another guy named Leighton spelled the same and everything?”
“I don;t really know.”
“And you really don’t find this interesting?”
He didn’t answer my question correctly either. I just hope the rest of us don’t get judged by him.
Nice to meet you Leighton. I’m Shayna… once spelled Shana… pronounced /shā’ na/… At work about a month ago, I met another Shayna, the 4th I’ve met in my almost 40 years…. My name experience throughout life definitely impacted how I chose my daughter’s name. 🙂
Name Experience. I’m going to steal and use that phrase someday. 🙂 It reminds me of a line in one of Neil Gaiman’s short stories that reads , “Women named Tinkerbell name their daughters Susan.”
I’m also amused by just how well you can write pronunciations.