Saturday, November 13, 2010

We say Eegore, they say Eager

A while back, I watched "Coco before Chanel". The movie was okay, but my general impression of Gabrielle Chanel was that of a self-centered and calculating bitch. I found it difficult to drum up any sympathy for her. "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky" did nothing to dispel this impression. I found the "love" story to be rather boring - he was her excuse to end her mourning for "Boy", she his for abandoning his tubercular wife and passel of children. I'm sorry, but being creative does not excuse one from treating others well.

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I work with some Latvians, one of whom is named Igor. Most of us - and by "us" I mean myself and my non-Slavic co-workers, so this is not just a dumb American quirk - call him Eegore, whereas his compatriots pronounce his name more like Eager. I listened carefully during "Coco and Igor" (most of which was in French and Russian) and yes, the latter seems to be the correct pronunciation.

Most of my co-workers are not native English speakers. We make a genuine effort to pronounce each others' names correctly, and we are forgiving of each others' efforts. For example, I think Vidya's name consists of two syllables, but most of us slip an extra one in there, so instead of vid-ya, we say vid-ee-ya. I wonder if that is comparable to referring to "Carl" as "Carol". My name is not mispronounced often; instead, I am sometimes called by another co-worker's name, although since the two of us are no longer on the same team, this happens less frequently.

Some of my Chinese co-workers resolve this problem by taking English first names, going by Susan or Sheila or Tony instead of their real names, most of which start with the letter X. The Indians, on the other hand, tend to shorten their impossibly multiple-syllabic names or adopt nicknames. Thanks, Raj.

I seem to be particularly challenged when it comes to names of any origin. I even confuse my co-workers Dan and Mike, not because their names are similar (obviously NOT) or because they look or sound alike, but because their last names start with the letter R. I know - hopeless.

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