August 18th, 2008

A Hydrangea By Any Other Name Would Be Easier to Spell

It took me a long time to submit to Anne of Green Gables, mostly because the cover declared her to be “the best-beloved heroine of all time,” or something, and I just don’t cave to such overpromotion (not even when I was 12).


But once I started reading, I was hooked. And one of the things that got me was her focus on her identity. Sure, she was an orphan—but she was also Anne With An E. As An Elisabeth With An S, I so identified. Elizabeth is a completely different name, people! Take a look:


Elizabeth – all business! no-nonsense! pointy!

Elisabeth – soft-hearted. kinda cuddly. always ready for a nap. (Doesn’t S just look like it’s about to topple over onto its side?)


Today, in the office I occasionally grace with my presence, someone called my name and asked me a question, and another person, who goes by Liz, started to answer.


“Oh!” she exclaimed when she saw me. “I thought she was talking to me!”


“You’re not Elisabeth,” I responded. “You’re Liz!”


She denied this, claiming that she was indeed Elizabeth. (Of course, we weren’t spelling at the time, so the conversation you’re reading actually has a lot more going on than our oral conversation did.)


Honestly, I think they need to establish an Elis/zabeth moratorium, anyway. We’re forever getting the wrong emails and voicemails—because even though she goes by Liz, her email address is elastname. The “Elizabeth” pops up in Outlook, and off the sender shoots the email, leaving poor Liz to forward it to me with a note indicating that she thought it had been intended for me.


Fortunately (for me), Liz is a lovely, easygoing person (despite the no-nonsense, pointy Z). We have made peace with the occasional misidentification.


It is, however, quite different when one of my editors misspells my name. Not only because he should know better, and I sign a lot of emails directed to him, and my email return address has my full first and last name, and my column always has my name at the top when I turn it in---but also because he’s an editor¸ for Pete’s sake. One of my readers brought the misspelling to my attention and asked if I wanted her to write him an angry letter about it. (She has an easy-to-spell name, pronounced in an unusual way, and is thus sensitive to such name-related issues.)


On the other hand, the very very worst thing is when one misspells one’s own name, as I occasionally do when typing a very fast email. I always correct the mistake before clicking send… except when I don’t notice it. Which is why today I received a very penitent email from someone who wanted me to know he was sorry for spelling my name the right way… because he’d noticed the way I typed it in my email to him last week. The email in which I’d spelled it wrong. (Although it does look a little more elegant Deffnre—like theatre. Plus it has the added benefit of looking incredibly complicated to pronounce. I may consider making it permanent.)  

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