Thursday, April 17, 2008

Call me Ivan.

"How do you pronounce your name? Is it EE-vonne or Yah-vonne?"

I hate this question.

No one used to ever ask me this question. Then, they sent out a telegram or something because now it's like a weekly occurrence.

I hate this question because I don't have an answer. I honestly don't pay attention or even care how people pronounce my name. I never even thought about it until people started asking me so much. And so that is how I answer:

"I don't care. You can call me either one. It doesn't make a difference to me."

But the conversation never ends there. People don't believe me. How can I not care?

"Well," they stutter, "I want to say it the right way. How do you say it?"

"I say Yah-vonne. But people say it differently and it's fine."

At this point, people are usually looking at me with squinted, concerned eyes as if I don't know what I am talking about.

I remember one time, I was at my old job, having a big deal meeting with all my upper management. My publisher was there. My boss was there. My ad director was there. The editor in chief and the creative director of the magazine was there. And we're supposed to be talking about real issues about some marketing program, when one of them turns to me and says, "How do you pronounce your name?"

We're talking about this here? Right now???

And the conversation went as it always goes, and when this topic comes up in a group, it always drags out twice as long because then everyone has to compare and contrast how they say my name. These people were especially unconvinced that anyone would take something major like the pronunciation of your first name lightly.

"Well how do you say it?"


"Well how does your mom say it?"


They were beside themselves. It was mortifying.

But what this conversation made me realize that even though I don't care how people say my name, I subconsciously remember how people in my life pronounce it. I knew immediately at that meeting that my mom was a "Ee-voone." Dan, also an Ee-vonne. ("It's the correct way to say it," he told me. Of course it is.) My brother and sister, on the other hand, "Yah-vonne." They even call me "Yuv" for sort. (But then again, I can hear my brother saying my other nickname "Ee-vonney.") Maybe Pete's an Ee. Jen--my sister-in-law--a rare, but still perfectly acceptable "A-vonne."

Quite frankly, I am just happy that people actually remember my name. Some people complain about having hard-to-pronounce last names, but I have the unenviable problem that I often need to spell my first name and my last name when I am telling someone my name. And I can't tell you how many times I am at a restaurant and I put my name down for a table, and I watch the host scribble down "Evan" or "Ivan." Sometimes I will even spell out my name and it's just too much to compute for them and they will still write down "Ivan" or if I am lucky "Ivonne."

Then when it's time for my table, he or she will walk around the crowded restaurant, shouting, "Ivan? Party of two?"

And when I point my finger in the air and stand up to announce that it's me, the host will look at me suspiciously--"Wait, you're IVAN?" and reluctantly will walk me and my guest over to a table.


Peter said...

I think I call you all of those names without really thinking about it, nor do I have a preference. Though, I kinda like Ee-vonney.


Brash Lion said...

I, like the shlubs in your story, get sad when people don't have a decided way to pronounce their name. It's your NAME! I guess though, if you have people in your family pronouncing it all different ways, you get used to it. My last name is similar though it looks like Mc-Clean, according to my grandfather and for the past 12 years, me, it's Mc-LANE. It confuses people, sure, but it's how my name is freakin' pronounced, all right? ;)

Annette said...

Okay, I tried to leave this comment yesterday, but I guess it didn't work....

I NEVER paid attention to how I pronounced your name, but now I'm obsessed with it. I actually think I say it "Ye-vonne", which is a combo of the two. Oh well, I still like Yuv the best. Or Sis!