Thursday, April 26, 2007
What's in a name?
What's in a name? That which we call my last name would be just as difficult for the English to spell. Which is particularly funny, because it's a very common Scottish surname. Yes, there are many variations of it, and yes, it's not spelled the way it sounds. But honestly, I've had more misspellings of my name here, on this tiny island where the origin of the name is a mere 1000km away, than I ever did in Germany where the name is not well known. I guess it's because in Germany I would spell it out using the German phonetic alphabet so there could be no mistaking how it was spelled. It took me ages to get used to it, as it's totally different from the "Alpha Bravo Charlie" of the English-speaking system. The Germans use German first names (for the most part) instead, so it starts off as "Anton Berta Caesar". So for example, old Tony would say "Berta Ludwig Anton Ida Richard" to spell his last name. Or I live in Caesar Otto Otto Kaufmann Heinrich Anton Martha. When I first heard it, someone would be spelling something to me on the phone and rattling off these words at a million miles a second and I would think they wanted me to write these words, not realising they were using them to spell something. The Germans use this spelling alphabet far more than any English speakers do. It's quite useful, once you finally get used to it. For one, my name was never misspelled after I learnt the system. Maybe I should try the same with the English. Canadians never had trouble with the name either by the way; it's a far more common surname where I came from in Canada than it is around these southern regions of England.