: every day is a spelling bee :

image161We have proper nouns to thank for that. They’re those long, unfamiliar names for people and places that no one can spell. Think Poughkeepsie. Shoot, most people don’t even try, they ask you to spell it, instead. So we do. Day after day after day.

Every time we place an order or make an appointment, every time we leave our name, we wind up spelling the damn thing. And mine is a doozy: nine letters and four syllables. The funny part is, there’s nothing tricky or confusing about my last name. No silent letters or wéîrd pûnctüåtiøn, it’s not even all that long.

What throws people, I think, are all those syllables. I mean, come on, four? That’s just piling on. Eyes glaze, mouths drop open, and minds skedaddle to their happy place. Attention spans, ladies and gentlemen, aren’t what they used to be.

With their thoughts wandering in all directions, people add consonants and transpose vowels, they change the ‘b’ to a ‘v’ and the ‘a’ to an ‘e’ and what’s it spell? Confusion. That’s why it sometimes takes as many as three or four tries to get everything right.

My first name, thank goodness, is short and sweet, but even that’s no guarantee it’ll be spelled correctly. I have, in fact, been everyone from Liza (with a ‘z’) to Tina (with an ‘n’), even though my name is Lisa (with an ‘s’). L-i-s-a. What could be simpler? Ed? No, thanks.

Back in the old days, before the advent of internet shopping, there was ordering by phone, a painful and time-consuming process. What with street names and city names and last names a person could spend the better part of twenty minutes just spelling all the proper nouns. And I’m not exaggerating (by much).

I lived on Knoxville Avenue then and told the sales rep it was spelled like the city in Tennessee. Fear surged through the phone line. When the package came it was addressed to Knocksville. Sounds like a cartoon city, doesn’t it? Joe Palooka’s hometown, maybe.

Finally, in self-defense, I started using an alias: my grandmother’s maiden name. Six letters, two syllables, and I’ve never been asked to spell it. Not once in all the time I’ve been using it. These days, when I order a pizza or stop at the dry cleaner, all I say is Wilson and presto — my work is done.

I’m telling you, Wilson works better than shazam or abra cadabra or tada. Why, it’s like having a magic word or a secret code. No, wait, it’s better than that. It’s a damn miracle, m-i-r-a-c-l-e.

Copyright © publikworks 2013

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25 Responses to “: every day is a spelling bee :”

  1. davidufer

    Hahahaha, this was great! My last name is short and sweet but gets mangled all the time! Good luck…Wilson!!!!!!

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  2. Lukraakvars

    oooooh this happened twice today, I had to spell where I work and my brother’s name. My brother’s name is a common South African guy name, but we have so many different languages in South Africa that, whats common to one is foreign to another. This post made me laugh at it all. Keep it up!!

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    • publikworks

      I feel for you, Lukraakvars. I have enough trouble with just the one language, I can’t imagine dealing with any more than that. Although I did try Spanish once — ay-yi-yi.

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  3. the home tome

    ha! yup, people have a lot of fun w my first name, Jocelyn, so sometimes I just go with JJ. :) And you are right, it is particularly interesting over the phone!

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    • publikworks

      It is, isn’t it? I have to admit, the Knocksville address threw me for a loop. Had I been the sorter at the post office I’d have had to spend a minute or two deciphering, you know? So hat’s off to them.

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  4. FurthermoreAndSoForth

    Thanks for the laugh, Lana… My maiden name was quite simple, then I took my husband’s name when we married. It begins with d-w. Granted those two letters don’t exactly flow, but I swear I’ve watched people go into convulsions when I’ve spelled it for them. And try being a woman named Jo. At a recent dentist appointment I was in the waiting room with a man. When the young receptionist called out “Jo” and looked at him, I piped up to explain that’s actually me. She stared at me as if I were lying. Great post, Lisa.

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    • publikworks

      Thank you, sir!

      Wow, a fancy new avatar and everything, that’s terrific. I love the picture, but I loved your comment even more. You always crack me up.

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      • FurthermoreAndSoForth

        Likewise Leroy! Your posts are my fave. And not only is my avatar new, by the way, but so is the blog that goes along with it. It’s my “retired life” blog, meaning I don’t have to write about farming every week anymore. If you’re having difficulty falling asleep some night, give it a read.

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  5. Susan

    I have three rules. One is, “Don’t go anywhere you can’t spell.” Never been to Albq-something. Or Pough-there. I also haven’t been to Duluth, too many ‘u’s.

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    • publikworks

      I’d steer clear of Duluth, Susan. Minnesotans (and cold weather) live there. Poughkeepsie, though, what a great name — it’d have to be a fun place to visit, don’t you think?

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  6. Prudy

    Lisa, great post! I’ve been using the name “Bell” when ordering at a restaurant. A lot easier than spelling my last name. My husband was French and we’ve been called anything from Reindeer to Rickashay. Ha! Ha! You’d think Bell would be easy but not…they look askance and say “Ball”? It’s crazy out there… Forget about my first name…they never get it right!!!

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  7. Lenore

    My maiden name is always misspelled and mispronounced. Correction, when I traveled to the country from where came the name, they pronounced it correctly. I was thrilled.
    My married name is more easily pronounced and spelled. Still, when I go to a restaurant, I always stick with my friend’s maiden name: Young.
    WIlson and Young – living in harmony.

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    • publikworks

      I’ll tell you LD: I used to cringe when I heard my name called at a restaurant. The more mangled it was the louder they called. Ai-yi-yi! You and I should go out for lunch and put our aliases to good use.

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