On Friday something rather unusual happened to me. I spoke to someone with a first name which is more unusual than mine - by which I mean I had never come across it anywhere before. (It turned out that I actually know three people who happen to answer to it if you spell it backwards - but more about that later.)
It got me thinking though. Names are very strange things. That seemingly random assortment of letters which appears on every legal document connected to you (from Birth Certificate onwards) forms part of your personal identity - yet we never give our own name a second thought.
I must admit to being so used to the following line being uttered whenever some stranger rings me that I hardly take any notice - "Please can I speak to....I am sorry I don't know how to pronounce this...?" .
This may come as a complete shock to you but I could never for the life of me work out how English people (yes - they are the biggest culprits for this one) managed to read and decipher my name into "In Eke" - until I started messing around with the letters of a name with the same amount of letters, as well as sharing three of the five in my name,
On the subject of pronunciations - I have two "official" pronunciations which I will answer to. One of which is the original Dutch pronunciation. Go to "Google Translate" (other translation software is available) select "Dutch" and type in "Ineke" then press the loudspeaker button to find out what that is - or find a friendly Dutch person to educate you. The other one is designed specifically for native English speakers - just think crisps and football. Knock the "L" and the "R" off "Lineker" and you will see what I mean.
When I was growing up I remember being envious of one of my Dutch cousins who has got the nearest thing to a true "English" name that exists in that side of my family. However, I must admit that my brain doesn't compute the English pronunciation with the Dutch spelling.
Put it this way - anyone who introduces themself to me as "Martin" will find their name spelled with an "I". Please forget any ideas you may have of "MartYn" being an unusual/posh/distinctive way of spelling Martin - mainly due to the fact that when the spelling M-A-R-T Y-N hits my ears my brain translates it into "M-A-R-T-I-J-N" - the Dutch "I-J" combination can be replaced with a "Y" - and pronounced accordingly (as in to rhyme with the large river in the most northerly place called Newcastle). I have spent the best part of 40 years with this pronunciation lodged in my brain (Martijn happens to be my cousin's name).
Remember i started by saying that I was speaking to someone with a name which was more unusual than mine (but I know three people with that exact name spelled backwards)? The name was "Kered". Apparently their Dad had been called "Derek" and just decided to reverse the letters.
That made me think of one of my Science teachers at secondary school - Trebor Gnik - known to the remainder of the "rational" world as Robert (or Bob) King. (I can still remember a slightly risque advertising slogan related to "Trebor Mints" in association with that particular teacher.)
Hmm - I wonder why nobody ever thought to reverse "Trevor"??? Or maybe they did and that is how the name "Robert" came about. It is very easy for a finger to slip from the letter "V" to the letter "B" on a keyboard after all. I like the thought of "Rovert" as a name.
Funnily enough - Mr King was the only teacher in living memory who bypassed all conventions regarding attempting to pronounce my first name and called me "Ink". Even now I use "Ink" mostly as a way of making it easy for people to remember how to attract my attention. None of this "Ink to my friends" stupidity - "Ink" is mostly reserved for those people who have mangled my name too many times. (In fact, I only have one friend from school who I will answer when she calls me "Ink" - the rest of you may be allowed to call me "Inky" if you hit my "Liked, Trusted and Approved" list.)
When I was playing with the letters in both "Ineke" and "Derek" I found something strange with regard to one of my friends from the "Real" world. If you rearrange the letters of "Derek" in a certain way then swap one letter with the one immediately in front of it in the alphabet you come out with how to formally address him!
I will leave you with this final thought about names and words relating to them - why do we talk about "addressing" someone when we speak to them??? The only thing I have been known to address is an envelope - this involves the application of ink to paper. I don't think the Police would be very happy with the idea of writing people's name on their skin and sticking a stamp on them at the start of a conversation??? There again, with the explosion of tattoos on people with names and various other identification marks, I am not so sure about that.
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