Saturday, March 3, 2012

this is personal...

Hello everyone! And happy weekend!

Today I want to talk about something that's completely off-topic and unrelated to scrapbooking. And personal. The spelling of my name. You can't get more personal than the spelling and pronunciation of one's name. How many of us feel a twinge of ire when someone mispronounces our name or misspells it? Or mocks it's pronunciation? This can equally effect those who are named Mike or Kathy but prefer to be called Michael or Kathleen. It's a matter of respect to pronounce one's name correctly; even if you innocently mispronounce it, when corrected one should make it a point to remember. Anything less than that is rude and disrespectful.

I mean, come on, a life time of having an unusual name, even popular names, trust me, we've heard every joke, pun, etc. and it's completely unforgivable when some loud mouth dolt mocks it in an attempt to be  funny. You're not funny and most of us who are the target will just smile and nod, then walk away thinking 'what a jerk'. Or we won't answer to the way you choose to mock our name.

Yes, I know my name is spelled wrong. Blame my mother. Ok, fine. I know as an adult I could spell it properly but I won't. Call me superstitious but I'm afraid of the Dionne Warwick curse. So here's the story:

Yes, my mother had first child syndrome, meaning when I was born (I am the oldest), she wanted to be clever and festive with my name. She wanted me to have a German first name to go along with my German last name (my maiden name). Never mind my birth given middle name; and please don't take that as a challenge to figure it out. My middle name is now my maiden name, lol. But a LOT of women do that when they get married; move the maiden name into the middle name spot. So I killed my birth given middle name, LOL!

However, until my birth given middle name died a painless death, I would lie if anyone asked me. "Oh yeah, it's Ann". No one would doubt me. But if I dared to tell anyone my real name, the reaction was always the same: "what was your mother thinking of!?!" If you think to yourself that it couldn't be THAT bad, let me tel you a story I heard about the dreaded OJ Simpson. Apparently his mother had an arrangement with her sister that they would name each others kids. The sister had her babies first and I guess OJ's mom gave them horrid names. But when OJ was born, you guessed it, pay back is a bitch. And that's how he got the name Orenthal James, a.k.a. OJ, a.k.a. the Juice. So before any of you can say 'oh, it can't be THAT bad' my answer is "yes, it can be".

Regardless, when I was about 18 or 19 I became aware of monograms and how my initials could potentially spell out a word. I thought it would be really cool if I married someone with a last name that began with an "E"; then my name would spell out the word fame. But then I realized I probably wouldn't hyphenate my name, something that wasn't incredibly popular in the early 80s, and that I should my future husband carefully. Not because he might be a jerk or something, but - believe it or not - based on the first letter of his late name.

I dated men whose last names began with C, D, E (although I did not get my wish), G. OMG! could you imagine your initials spelling the word fag? Even worse, can you imagine having a name like Ima Hogg? L, seemed like I dated my way through the alphabet with no luck at all. Why couldn't I meet a nice guy whose last name began with a B; then I would be fab. Or someone with a last name that began with an "X"; that would have been funny. Then I met my current husband (I've been down the aisle more than once). His last name, now mine, begins with a "T". Yeah, that middle name had to go.

Aside from all that, when I was a child I would have killed for a more normal first name. I wasn't a Karen, or Mary, or Julie, anything common. But this weird name of which I was forced to endure years of torture from people who thought they were being clever, witty or funny. And kids can be so cruel and judge a person by their name, as if I popped out of my mother and said 'give me a weird name'! By the time I got to junior high there were a few kids calling me Freda-Lay, as in Frito-Lay, the corn chip. I had no tools on how to defend myself and was so embarrassed by it that I used a nickname in high school. So I went from Frito-Lay to Missy Prissy. Great. Can't wind for losing, uh? I reverted back to Freda toward the end of my Junior year but I'll get to that later.

Anyway, several decades ago (I'm older than I look - very late 40s), when I was born, my mother wanted me to have the name Freda and with that spelling. My father, who comes from a very strong line of Germans, with a touch of English (yes, I wonder if a member of the English side of the family got sent to Australia), and according to my research some Scottish as well (Cochran clan), told my mother that her chosen spelling of my name does not have the German meaning she wanted unless she puts an "i" in there. F-r-i-e-d-a. The way it's spelled, Freda, has more of a Danish or Dutch meaning and it alters the pronunciation as well.

See, in the German language, if a word has "ie" in it then it's pronounced as an "E". If it has "ei" then it's pronounced like an "I" as in stein. An "oe" or just an "e" is really a hard "A" as in the word bay; so that little piano playing boy in the comic strip Peanuts is really shray-der, not shrow-der. The list of "rules" goes on. In fact, I think the German language has more rules than English does. Confusing, I know. I quit learning German after one semester in college and stuck to French and Spanish. So technically, my name is pronounced Fray-da. But please don't call me that. If you think I'm being over sensitive then please re-read the first couple of paragraphs of this post.

I mentioned learning a little bit of German. That was because I used to work seasonally at Oktoberfest in the bier-garten years ago in the Chicago area. I wanted to understand the songs. I wanted to be able to sing Valerie-Valera in German. We wore name tags and when a German speaker saw my name they always asked "sprechen sie deutsch?" NEIN! Sigh...

Alright, I side-tracked. So my father told my mother that my name doesn't have the German meaning unless there's an "i" in there. BUT, my father is rather obtuse. More than that. He's hard-core and very dictating and that's being kind. It was very difficult growing up with him but that's another story. He might be right, but the way he tells people things, you just don't want to listen or agree with him. Chances are my mother did not like the way he was giving her a "lesson" on German languages and the proper way to spell my name. And there you have it. If you're a mother, and even if you're not, you know how it is: the mother fills out the birth certificate at the hospital. The spelling of my name is now official: F-R-E-D-A.

All my life I've had to listen to failed attempts to pronounce my name. Most people get it right the first time. There's one woman in my community who insists on calling me Fred-a (Fredda) because she knew someone with my spelling who pronounced her name that way. Good for her. But as I said before, it's quite rude and disrespectful not to pronounce someone's name the way they want you too. Equally, you don't call someone Scooter, Turtle, or any number of "nicknames" unless they say it's ok or accept that as a nickname. Needless to say I avoid that women and outright ignore hear when I hear her starting to mispronounce my name.

Now, I have made exceptions in the past. Like the cute guy that I worked with at a grocery store years ago when I was fresh out of high school. He used to call me Fred. But I thought he was just trying to get my attention. After a couple of months of that, one day I was standing in front of him, closer than usual, and he said "oh! your name is Freda! I thought it was Fred. I couldn't see the 'A' on your name tag". And no, we didn't date. Sigh... But this woman I used to work for, and she was mean, she used to cuss out the customers! She thought she was being funny calling me Fred. So I turned around and called her Oreo in an attempt to make fun of her name. And I wasn't trying to be funny or witty; I just didn't like this person I worked for. Her business folded a few months later anyway.

For a while I did put an "i" in my name but that backfired. Now there were people calling me fried or Fried-A. Which brings me to the Dionne Warwick "curse". Back in the 70s, at least I think that's when it happened, Dionne listened to her numerologist and put an "e" at the end of Warwick. Warwicke. She then experienced years of, well, nothing special happening in her career. She eventually dropped the "e" and she came back in the 80s with a couple of hits. So I view adding an "i" to my name as the kiss of death. Plus, everything, even legal documents, has the spelling F-R-E-D-A. If I were to add the "i", I would have to take the time to change all that, including my birth certificate. It's a huge hassle! trust me!

Even when women get married (or divorced) to change your name on every single legal document (social security card, driver's license, passport, checking account, etc) is a huge hassle and can take months to accomplish. If you're a divorced woman, and plan to marry again, you may as well wait until Mr. Wrong #2 (or 3, or 4, lol) comes along to do the name change thing again. It's otherwise a complete waste of time to go back to the maiden name, only to change it again (if you so desire) when you walk down the aisle again. Now, if you have time to kill, or really hate your ex, I won't fault you on that, lol.

Ok, so I mentioned going through a phase in high school where I used a nickname instead of my birth given name. The reason why I switched back to my name was due to a conversation I had with a German couple during my Junior year. I always, up to that moment, felt sort of excluded because I did not have a common name like the other kids I knew. I was envious. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to legally change my name when I turned 18 and not necessarily to the nickname. Just to anything that was common, anything I thought I could live with.

One day I was talking with a German couple and I asked them about common girl names in Germany. They gave me a short list. I tossed in a few others like Ingrid, and I forgot what else. Then I took a big breath and asked the big question: "what about the name Freda?" The woman jumped all over that one. She told me it was a common name, though not as common as others, but there were indeed many MANY Freda's in Germany. That's when I confessed that my real name is Freda, but without the "i". And that's when they told me about the Dutch meaning to the spelling of my name. I was so relieved to have a common name, even if it was in the wrong country. I immediately switched back to using my birth given name.

On another note, I have searched Social Security records, which records how many children in any given year were given certain names and the specific spellings. I forgot how far back the records go, but in my year there were several Freda's. I have also Google'd my name, both married and maiden name, same spelling, and I am quite surprised at how many people share my name. In fact, under my maiden name, there are two other women in my city, about the same age as me; one owns a house and the other (of a different ethnicity) has an arrest record we won't discuss. Sigh!

So, other than the fact that you probably don't know very many Freda's personally, and that my name rhymes with a popular alcoholic beverage that also defines to a certain extent my tropical spirit and lifestyle, my name is more common than I originally thought. Also, I've learned my lesson to focus not on what I don't have, but to focus on what I do have and embrace it. I'm keeping my name. And the spelling.  :-)




  1. I have one of those names, too! It absolutely IRKS me when someone spells my name Billy. One day I popped off the response "nothing dangles between my legs, therefore nothing should dangle in my name". Extremely crude, but it was to someone who was like family to me my whole life. I tried HARD to be patient with people. I mean, it's not often you come across a female with this damned name! But, like you said, it would be nice if people would figure it out. I have people who I've emailed for months, if not years, that still use the wrong spelling...............which makes me a MALE! It sucks and I totally feel your pain!!

  2. lol! Billie! BTW, I may be going to CKC. Have a couple of friends in Houston who are going. :-)