Since moving to Virginia almost eight years ago, I have never heard my surname so mangled, maligned and misspoken. Granted, it’s not a common name around here, and spoken with the varying Southern accents — from Hillbilly on up — I usually answer with a shrug and a gentle correction. Sometimes even my first name is misspelled, which happens. I don’t know which of the two is more common — Steven or Stephen. People I correspond with on a daily basis at work, through email, often spell it Stephen, even though the proper spelling is in each and every signature of each and every email I send out. But never mind. Call me Steve and we’ll be fine.
Ah, but the surname. I’ve heard everything from Bird (yes, the “a” is silent, as God intended. Have a greet day) to Braud to Braid (second most common) to something unpronounceable– Bwarid’uid, and I can almost see their tongues convulsing, trying to push those letters out of their mouths. Brdfkdw? How ’bout I call you Brad?)
At work — where I was already employed for six years — I was once called to the front office via telecom: would Stephan Brnfstk please come to the front office?). I didn’t recognize the name, wondered briefly if we had a visiting foreign diplomat, and went back to work. Finally, someone came to my desk and asked me if I was deaf, I was needed at the front office. As Walter White, aka Heisenberg, once said: “Say my name!” Or, as my second grade teacher once said, “Sound it out!”
But never mind. It’s Baird. As in “he bared his teeth at anyone who mispronounced his name”. As I said, it’s an uncommon name around here, but it’s not like it’s written in Klingon. One correction and it’s usually fine. But when I pronounce it for some people, and they repeat it back to me, there are usually too many vowels. “Booodkuuchi? And how are we today, umm… can I see some ID?)” At the post office. Getting my taxes done at H&R Block. At the bank when I ask for a loan so I can legally change my name to something easier to pronounce. Like Joe Kickass.
Or better: I’m thinking Bond. Steve Bond. Cue the music. Have a greet day.