What's in a Name?
I have no doubt there’s some study that confirms what I’ve long suspected: easy-to-pronounce names provide a real advantage.
It starts with a job interview. “Tell me about yourself, Miss Taylor,” is a lot easier to say than “Tell me about yourself, Miss, uh, Jumbrown…? Uh, Jimboree?” That’s me.
My name is Andrea Giambrone. To Italians, or anyone accustomed to the Italian language, pronouncing it is a piece of cake, or – more accurately – a piece of cannoli.
In fact, it’s a quite mellifluous name: Andrea Jam-bro-nee. It’s pretty to say and to hear. The problem is, I almost never hear it – unless I’m saying it myself.
It’s pronounced correctly maybe once in twenty times. I’ve been called Jambone, Jimbro, Gambrown; and it’s almost always preceded by clear embarrassment for the person attempting to say it.
All this helps one appreciate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s success all the more. Obviously, his name had nothing to do it. (Quick – spell his last name. See what I mean?)
Movies are filled with marquee-easy names: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Eddie Murphy.
TV also allows you to aim your clicker at those you know: Gayle King, Bobby Flay, Pat Sajak…
The territory gets a little trickier with Oprah Winfrey. I’m sure she was called Opera more times than “La Boheme.” I would imagine Ellen DeGeneres has also had her share of mis-pronounces. “Uh, Miss De Jeaners…”
Writers, too, seem to have a successful time of it with easy-to-say names. Danielle Steele, Louise Penny, Walter Mosley, Jim Patterson – enormously popular, best sellers. Fess up: when was the last time you bought an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn book? Or went online searching for Jerzy Kosinski’s latest tome?
Whoever said it’s all in a name knew what they were talking about. I have no doubt that’s why “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” was a hit. Who’s gonna go see a movie titled “Mr. Bacigalupe Goes To Wacahoota?”
Recently, a letter instructed me to contact Ms. Mlycnyzk. I couldn’t begin to tell you how to pronounce it. I stared and stared, spellbound by the fact that this was a name with no vowels (I do not count ‘y’ as a vowel).
Whatever else Italians are full of, we are full of vowels. A-E-I-O-U’s amass amid consonants like pepperoni amid pizzas. Vowels adore Italian names and flock to them to decorate, adorn, decorate as though each name were an individual work of art. Aha! A flourish here, a curlicue there – bravissimo! Vowels everywhere!
I dream of how different life would be if I had another name: I once thought of assuming my mother’s maiden name: Maida (May-da). Until a friend stared at me and asked, “Made a what?” So much for that.
Then I think about everything that’s involved in a name change: from contacting Social Security to contacting my long list of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, subscription services, the phone company, the insurance company. I would grow old letting people know I have a new name.
One good thing, though: when someone doesn’t know me, it’s obvious as soon as I answer the phone and hear, “Uh, Miss Guy-am-bron…?”
“Who’s calling?” I ask. Typically, it’s a telemarketer, I can honestly tell them that Miss Guy-am-bron isn’t here.
Finally, a difficult name makes something easy.
Hello My Name Is yours,