And Let’s Not Forget The Guy Who’s Last Name Was ‘Butt’ — He Pronounced It “BYOOT”

14 December, 2006, Thursday

Tonight at work, I spoke to a woman on the phone and asked her what her name was.    She pronounced it “Cah-RIN”.     

“And how do you spell that?” I asked, running down a mental checklist of the many spelling variations that I have seen of her name.

She spelled it:  “K-a-r-e-n.”

I trust many native English speakers reading this will, as I did, roll their eyes and think vile things about her for being so ridiculously contrary about something that is commonly understood and accepted by a vast majority.      

Her name is not “Cah-RIN”.  It is Karen.  And, as Karen Carpenter did and the lovely Karen Grassle still does, it is pronounced “CARE-en”.

Is life just not difficult enough for her, I thought, irritated, as I finished up my business on the phone with her, that she must add one more arduous task to it?    I wondered  how often she’d corrected people in the course of her life and bitterly resented her for needlessly adding another tiny little dollop of confusion into our already chaotic world.

Later in the evening, I thought about my friend Janice from elementary school. 

Janice pronounced her name as “Juh-NEESE”.

Every year on the first day of school when the teacher would take attendance by calling out each student’s name, the teacher would get to Janice’s name and call out “JA-nis G.?”, and every year Janice would correct him or her.    And if our regular teacher was out ill for the day, she would correct the substitute teacher during that attendance call.  

But what I remembered last night was my reaction to Janice and her name.  And my reaction was no reaction at all.   She was simply a girl who liked her name pronounced Juh-NEESE and I accepted it fully and completely, without any judgement.

It’s very little wonder that I recall being a much happier individual then as compared to the one I have become. 

The fact that this Karen woman, a stranger that I will likely never speak to again, pronounces her name differently should not matter the slightest to me.     Yet it irritated me enough that once I finished with her phone call, I complained to other people in the room about it and they all groaned about it, too!       Misery has the best tea parties. 

It happens to so many of us.  We get comfy in a rut, stay too long in a job that fulfills only one of our needs, and our unhappiness begins to show.  

It’s been 30 years since I was in elementary school and sometime between then and now, life has worn me down to the point where I can become pissed off about the way a woman pronounces her name.   Fortunately, I’m still young and strong enough to beat the fucker back.   The question is, will I? 

It’s clear to me that I must.  Because people will never, ever stop being irritating, troublesome, pains in the arse.   And if I don’t start addressing my own attitude toward this truth, then the things that bother me will become even tinier.     And that’s a scary thought. 

“Hell is other people.” – Sartre



  1. A friend of mine did a substitute teaching gig one day and she was confronted by a name:Tyree.

    Pronunciation: tie-REESE.

    I don’t think you need to feel like you’re in a rut if you wonder where the hell that sibilant came from. No matter how you examine the spelling of that child’s name, you can’t “beat the fucker back.” You’re not gonna find any indication of that /s/ sound.

    By the way, this is a very entertaining blog. I do wish you had picked a darker blue for your highlight lettering, though.

  2. Hi Exterminator (and you should know that I say that whilst imagining you in superhero tights) – wow -thanks so much for the pleasant surprise of a visit.

    Wariness prevents me from publicly stating what I do for a living, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to trust me when I say that the whole screwy name thing is merely the silver plating on my list of work-related irritations.

    And what I wrote wasn’t *really* about that woman’s name, anyway. It was more about me. Trying to lower my defensive walls by admitting some of the more personal aspects of my life, showing who I am and initiating an intimacy with….er, are you buying any of this happy horse shit? Me neither.

    I completely agree with you about the hard-to-see links. WordPress makes it difficult to monkey around with the template, but I think I can fix the problem. Thank you for calling attention to it.

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