It was back in high school, first day of school and I was new there. The teacher made everyone stand up, one by one, and say their name. I understood later that he did that to make sure he and the rest of us knew how to pronounce everyone’s name. What a great idea! There are some episodes you never forget. As we were going through the class, we got to one kid who really had a name that didn’t fit his look at all. It wasn’t what I expected. He stood up and said, “Je m’appelle Ianoojan”, without pronouncing the N at the end. I assume I wasn’t the only one who didn’t expect that because he was asked to repeat his name. So he says it again, much slower. That time I got it. He was a really nice guy and also new to the school. I liked him, he was cute and kind so when I got to science class, of course all the people who knew each other sat together. He and I were the new kids and had noone to sit with. I was overjoyed at my good fortune when I realized I could sit with Ianoojan. So I went over to him and said, “Want to be my science partner?”. You see, he looked like a smart boy and from what I’d witnessed in the first two classes of the morning, he had a great sense of humour. I figured I’d get good grades being paired up with him to do all the experiments and, most importantly, that we’d have fun. And my hunch was right, we spent the year having a blast and taking nothing seriously. But, as much as we laughed and got along great right from the beginning, it took fully six weeks before this very English looking boy who’s last name was Ross, would finally correct me. Turns out that his name was not Ianoojan. It was Ian. Simply Ian. And no, that was not a shortened version of his name, it was all of his name. Not wanting to offend anyone, since there were many French speaking kids in the school, when asked his name, he would translate it for all of us. So what he was actually saying was that his name was Ian or Jean (as in John in French, for those of you who would say Jean and pronounce it Gene for a woman). Since he would answer in French, with a strong English accent, his name was “Ian ou Jean”. Ian Ross. Simple as that, and he was Scottish. For six weeks I thought that maybe he was part Inuit through some recessive gene that wasn’t obvious to the naked eye.
The other day I’d had enough of trying to work out a little technological glitch with my computer so I finally gave in and decided to contact customer service for a bit of help. It’s rare that I get on the horn anymore to get help because often I end up spending far too much time and not getting much of a solution. Since it wasn’t urgent, I figured I’d just shoot off an email to see what would come back. These days, when you contact customer service, whoever responds gives you their name, usually only their first name. It’s the same via email. You get a first name and if you end up going back and forth with your issue, you get mails back from multiple people.
Today, I received an email reply on my issue from someone who has a name that seems easy enough to say but gee, it doesn’t translate so well in this culture. His name is Anass. I don’t know where that’s from but this person’s last name starts with O and that’s exactly how they signed the mail. Anass O. Just like that with the period and everything. Imagine how he might introduce himself (or maybe she’s a woman)…”Hi, I’m Anass!”. I received the nicest mail from this ass with all my questions answered and a great solution. The mail ended like this:
I remain at your disposal for further information.
I don’t know how my name sounds in other parts of the world but it’s fun to put things into our own contexts sometimes. A crazy little email about nothing that important really and it just made my day. I wonder if he/she knows. Thank god for different cultures…it adds spice. And it reminded me that if ever I go to a different country and introduce myself, if people get a chuckle out of that, surely it has nothing to do with me…it’s just the turn of a phrase. Hopefully they’ll fill me in on the joke…