Friday, November 10, 2006

What's in a Name?

Well, apparently quite a lot if it’s mine. In fact, I may have generated some confusion on this blog as to my moniker. Check it out. You’ll see Elisabeth Stewart, Elisabeth (Beth) Stewart and Beth.

What you will not see and will never see is the nickname Liz. I have nothing against this name. I like it. It’s great, it’s beautiful — it just doesn’t happen to be mine. Surprisingly (infuriatingly), there are many people who take a giant leap of imagination and assume my name is Liz when I’m introduced as Elisabeth or fill out a form with my given name.

Example. I fill out a form in a doctor’s office using my legal name, Elisabeth Stewart. (I don’t want to screw up OHIP rules and regulations.) I hand in the form. I wait for my appointment while reading old magazines. And wait. A name is finally called. “Liz?” No response from me. By the second “Liz?” I clue in. The receptionist is referring to me. How on earth did she decide the nickname Liz is what I might wish to be called??

Here’s another example — one that occurs frequently. I meet someone new, introduce myself as Elisabeth and the response is, “Nice to meet you, Liz.”

What?? Where did that come from? Do I look like a Liz? What does a Liz look like? (Me, I guess.) And why don’t these people ever come up with Betty or Lisa?

Let me set the record straight. When I was born my parents named me Elisabeth Hughes Breithaupt. (The screwed up pronunciation of my maiden name is another issue.) From day one they called me Beth. My mother loved the book Little Women and they didn’t want any other nickname used which could be derived from Elisabeth. They lost on that score.

I married and became Beth (or Elisabeth Stewart). When I began writing, I decided to use Elisabeth Stewart as my author name. By doing so, I may have added to the confusion. But I have never, ever referred to myself as Liz.

Family and friends call me Beth. Others call me Elisabeth. That’s fine. Just please do not call me Liz. That is not my name and it’s presumptuous to label me with a nickname you’ve never heard coming from my mouth or seen written by my hand.

(As for the use of an “s” in Elisabeth as opposed to a “z” — that is yet another headache I’ve dealt with my entire life.)

Does anybody else get their name screwed up? Or have a nickname they dislike?

Megan — I know you do.

Barb — do you ever get “Barbie?”

And “Marnie” — I will always use your given name.


Anonymous said...

You forgot Sheiba - an easily understandable derivative of Elisabeth..........ok, so maybe not so much. Bottom line, people, respect that fact that the owner of each name knows exactly how to pronounce it, and take no liberties unless invited to do so.

Barb said...

I detest the name "Barbie". I have all my life. I let one person get away with calling me "Barbie" when I was an adult and it mushroomed to other friends! I still don't like it but I've come to accept it as a term of affection. But.....I might like you just a tad better if you call me Barb or Barbara

hip_ragdoll said...

My "real" name is Deanna, and it gets mangled all the time: Donna, Dana, Deena, Diana, Darlene, I could go on.

But in high school, many, many friends started calling me "D", which I REALLY hated, and now it's too late to have them stop. Oh well, at least they're not calling me "b" for "b....".

Sherry said...

Obviously being new to your world, I am just seeing this post because of the link. I feel for you (and oh yes, I can pronounce your maiden name..worked with someone by that name many eons ago!) and completely understand your feelings about a short form that is not your short form. One of my best friends is Elizabeth and when we first met I had called her Liz when I was in a hurry for something. I stopped myself, looked at her and said "you aren't Liz, and I'll bet you don't even like Liz as a name". She told me I was correct. I've never called her that again..and she's not even a Beth..she is simply Elizabeth.

I've been called Cheri, Cherry, Shari, Sharon, Shirley, Cheryl..either people don't hear when I say "Sherry" or they aren't aware that it could be a name.

Beth said...

Amazing that you can pronounce Breithaupt - and knew someone with that last name. (Whoever it is, I'm sure we're related somehow.)
I suspect when people mispronounce your name, they just weren't listening properly.
Going from Elisabeth to Liz is a giant leap - one that you (hurray!) corrected on your own.