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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
How are you spelling that?
Robert Moog
Dr Moog, in vogue, performing in 1980
In death, as in life, when people spoke about Robert Moog, his name sounded like the noise a cow makes.

For a man who did so much to broaden the range of sounds available to the human ear - from prog rock to electronica - it might have been something of an irony that people couldn't get his name right.

For Moog should not have rhymed with "fugue". It's pronounced "Mogue".

Moog was once asked by an interviewer for the definitive word on his name. He was quite clear: "It rhymes with vogue. That is the usual German pronunciation. My father's grandfather came from Marburg, Germany. I like the way that pronunciation sounds better than the way the cow's 'moo-g' sounds."

Moog was not alone in having a name people couldn't pronounce properly. People called Håkon, Jiye, Michi, Elissa, Asa, Nara and Laszlo have each written on the web about going through life with people not knowing how to say their names. Some have resorted to publishing MP3 files of the correct pronunciation.

First-hand experience

Psychologist Dr Mallory Wober (pronounced "woe-ber") has been studying people's names for nearly 40 years, fascinated among other things by how Zipf's law on the "principle of least effort" results in names being abbreviated.

But he knows from first hand experience what's it's like for people constantly to mis-pronounce his name.

The way I react to how people say my name on the whole it depends what I want from them
Mallory Wober

"My surname is terrible," he says. "It results in all sorts of creative interpretations, though it is not all bad - if for instance junk mail comes with my name spelt wrongly, I feel absolute licence to throw it away.

"But the way I react to how people say my name on the whole it depends what I want from them, or from the relationship. If I need some help in a shop, and someone mispronounces my name, then I am probably going to put up with it since I need him to spend some time to talk to me.

"It's never happened, and as I'm 69 it's a distant chance, but if an attractive young woman insisted on mispronouncing my name, I might well end up finding it charming."

But, he added, if someone rang him and used the correct pronunciation, then automatically he would know where he stood with the other person and that it was likely to be a conversation worth having.

Fluency

Sandra Dodd from Albuquerque, New Mexico, calls herself "Sanndra"; people from New York call her "Sarndra", people from Texas call her "Sa-endra". To some of her friends, however, she is Ælflæd (pronounced "Elf-led").

"Unwin?" - "sir!"
"Vine?" - "sir!"
"Wanklyn?" - (sniggers) "sir"

Peter Wanklyn

Dodd is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, whose members take part in medieval and Renaissance role-play. This means taking on medieval names - another name she considered was "Wulfrun".

Having an unusual name in this context is obviously not a problem for her. "Anyone who is fluent in Middle English knows how to pronounce it," she says.

The names of some of her fellow members have actually gone beyond role-play, she says. Some have decided they actually prefer their medieval name in real life - one member, previously known as Robert, changed his name to Cathyn, a name which dates from the 1200s.

Dr Wober has done much research into the assumptions people make based solely on names - eg Antoinette is attractive and flighty, Susan is solid and trustworthy.

Perhaps this is why persistent mis-pronunciation can be so frustrating to people who suffer from it, as it could imply a different set of assumptions.

Even the tendency Dr Wober has noted for people to gravitate towards single-syllable - and thus straightforward - names does not always avoid misunderstanding though.

Film-maker Tom Tanner - a man blessed with a simple, easily pronounceable name - proudly recalls the occasion he answered his phone to a person wanting to speak to "Town Planner".


Do you suffer from an unpronounceable name? Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Go on. Just try it.
Heeran Buhecha, Cambridge

Having a Welsh name outside of Wales has meant I've had a lifetime of mispronunciations, "ann - garad" and "an-ga-hard" being two of the most popular, and that's among the most adventurous.....some people literally just falter in the middle and look up pleadingly. I'm the only person I know that responds to a bemused silence if someone is calling a list of names. It used to be annoying, but I had no option but to get used to it. I tend to just ask people how they'd say it if there was an 'h' in front of it....or just tell them to call me Ang, to my mother's dismay!
Angharad Beurle - Williams, Brixton, London

My name being mispronounced is a regular occurance! Depending on where my friends are from, they all have different versions of it. It's just Na-vaa-zz but it becomes Nabas, Navais, Nawas, Newas. Thats just my first name!! I won't even start with my family name. In persian (my name's origin) its a feminine name but in arabic it becomes masculine. So post most often is addressed to Mr. Very annoying especially when it's something that required me to send my photo or specify sex. I used to get very offended when my name used to be mispronounced but now it doesn't matter so much as I understand different people have different pronunciations!!! But I keep trying to correct people in the vain hope that I will hear my name pronounced correctly.
Navaz H, Nottingham, UK

I don't even expect people to be able to pronounce my name correctly as I know the two dots on the a don't make sense to anyone outside Finland. The only foreigner who's managed to pronounce it correctly was an ex-colleague from Hungary. I've learned to live with it but most annoying pronouciation is something like Piaeve...
Päivi, Haarlem, Netherlands; originally from Finland

My daughter's name is Téanna (Tay - anna) however people find it difficult to say this for some reason and pronounce it Ti - arna. NOt sure why but possibly the path of least resistance
Trevor Pilgrim, Jeddah Saudi Arabia

I have problems abroad. I'm a student of Russian and German, and it's just about impossible to say the second in Russian and Dawn is impossible in both. In Russia, they often giggled and referred to the river, Don, but I politely told the I'm not called Donna. There is no true H in Russian, so the best they could do was 'Kheyzl' (Kh like Scottish 'loch'). In German I usually use the German pronunciation of my surname (Hartz-le) but my first name require some knowledge of English, really, which thankfully most people around me have, or they read it 'Davn'.
Dawn Hazle, Nottingham, UK

I am unfortunate in that my name has a visual similarity to 'Williams', to the extent that customer service staff or receptionist, when trying to find my name in a list, frequently comment "Oh, you mean Williams?". I then have to assure them that I am the best judge of my actual name. As regards pronunciation, people often pronounce it Wil - lons, or Wil - lens; but I insist on Wil- lans, as in 'plans'. Maybe, it would be easier if I changed it to Williams?
Paul Willans, Farnham

The number of times that people insist that Mrs Wagger must be wrong and substitute it instead of saying my name the way it is written. I have had Mrs Wager (as in bet), Mrs Wagner, althoug I think the best one was where I became Lindsey Wagner - the Bionic Woman! Personally I blame all of this on my husband!!
Louise Wagger, Sussex

My name is Asa. Not Asia, not Akka, not Aza, certainly not Asda. I have spent most of my life having to repeat my name constantly until colleagues, businesses, peers and even relatives have understood the message. It was a cause for celebration last night as a friend of my girlfriends had spelled my name correctly on an invitation - we agreed there and then that we would have to attend. It gets worse; some have addressed letters to me as Miss or Mrs - quite a shock for my girlfriend. Even if you can achieve the dream of people remembering your name, you then fall foul of them never forgetting your name. All thourgh my schooling and further education, if there was ever the need for a volunteer - guess who would get called out to the front of the class? People spell my name incorrectly. People pronounce my name incorrectly. My name is Asa (ACER).
Asa Thorpe, Southampton, UK

Linux creator, Linus Torvalds (http://www.cs.helsinki.fi/u/torvalds/) got so frustrated with his name being mis-pronounced, he was one of the first I can think of that took the route of a soundbite providing correct pronunciation... :)
Ian Thompson, Winchester, UK

My surname is easily pronounced, but often spelled wrongly -- most commonly by adding an extra t. My late Dad received junk mail as Mr Leptral. And when he was a professional boxer, his manager asked him to alter his name. Not his surname, he explained, but if he used Jim instead of Jimmy the name would be bigger on the posters!
Paul Liptrot, Walton-on-Thames, UK

I once had a letter sent to me as Miss Muttan - a total mispelling of Hutton.
MM, Middx

I certainly don't have an unpronounceable name, but I fail to understand how, after I've introduced myself as "Laura-Ann" or if a professional has a letter about me with the name "Laura-Ann" they still always, without fail, call me "Laura". When I correct them, they always seem angry that I had the audacity to do so. If I have the courtesy to address other people by their proper name, why can't they do the same with me?
Laura-Ann, England

My name is pronounced "huff" but I answer to anything close - Hoff, How, Who, Ho, Hug, Hugh are favourites. I did draw the line at the cold caller who tried to call me Mr Whore. I told her yes, I'll just go get him for you - and walked off. About half an hour later I wandered back to the phone but for some reason she had hung up. My name comes from the (Flemish?) "De Ho" name as one of my ancestors were part of the winning side at Battle of Hastings. He was a general and was given Cheshire as a fiefdome for his trouble and a perpetual pardon for anything he did in the county, provided it wasn't against the interests of the king.
Richard Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire

I certainly do. Most people, but not all, get the Montagu bit, but the rest is a real lucky dip. And as for spelling it!
Michael Montagu-Fiennes, London

My full name is Victoria Louise Wraight but I go by Louise which I always stress either verbally or in writing. I have lost count of the number of times at the doctors (where I have been a patient all my life!), the dentists, hospitals, job interviews, telephone calls etc etc when someone will call out 'Victoria Wright?' and if no-one else gets up, they must mean me!
Louise Wraight, Tortola, BVI

My surname is Killaurin and people always spell/say it incorrectly.I was looking forward to getting married, just so that I can change it. However as I'm one of three girls, last in line, I'm going to try to keep it. The easiest way to deal with wrong pronounciation is to ignore it or to make a joke of it.No point getting upset, it just leads to ridicule!
Katie, Bournemouth

My family's been blessed/cursed with the last name "Margedant," said "Mar-guh-daunt." The most common mispronounciaton of the name is "Marge-dannt," although there's also been "Margo-dot," "Margie-donnt" and many more. When my father was in school, he learned by the end of his first year if they called for "Margaret Wilson," they were really paging him. It's a fun name, this name.
Beckie Margedant, Indianapolis, IN, USA

I wonder if people will ever be able to spell Osborne - without a U. I am used to it now but its really browning my wife off!
Paul Osborne, Canterbury

Not mispronunciation but misspelling - I must have come across at least a dozen incorrect spellings of my first name. And my family name also being a first name is a problem too. "Dear Scott" emails become tiresome after a while; for some reason, US correspondents seem particularly prone to that blunder.
Alastair Scott, London, United Kingdom

You guys think you have it bad? Cockburn is a fine old Scottish surname and a brand of fine port... which used to advertise itself on the basis of its mispronounciation. "One doesn't say cock, one says co..."
Paul Cockburn, Nottingham, UK

Mispronouncing my name? Not likely. Misspelling the first name--now that's a different matter. Why it is that most folks are mystified when I state "one r, no y", I don't understand. I used to work in a shop and once when I was taking a customer order over the phone I had the honour of talking to a "Mrs Gravelle", but when she spelt it out it was Gravel.
Tony Peters, London

I have a double barreled name, but it's not hyphenated, so most people just ask for Mr Dickson. I often wonder what they think I have the other five letters there for, however in an effort to make up for leaving this off, some people like to add a syllable to make Dickinson. The spelling mistakes are understandable, usually somewhere between my name and Dixon-Leech, however there has been the odd one that can't be printed.
James Dickson Leach, London

My married name is Denniff; my husband is from Leeds. It seems an OBVIOUSLY easy name to pronounce to me, but people in the US most commonly say Denniss, I have had Dandruff and the oh, so popular DennEEF...sort of a French pronounciation.
Amy Denniff, Denver, Colorado

One advantage of having left my homeland is that at last, almost everyone pronounces my name correctly - Meg-an, rather than the more usual Antipodean Meeee-gan.
Megan, London, formerly NZ

da Costa, fairly simple one would spellings I have been faced with: dakosta, dakota, koster, coster, de costa, costa da adn so on and so forth but the best; by the Mongolian Foreign Ministry, when working in Austria's Foreign Embassay, Nicholas Dja Kozstjya
Nick da Costa, Birmingham

"No, really. It's not Harris. Yes, I'm sure....." - I resorted to booking tables at restaurants under the name Jon King.... but that went sour a few years ago
Jon Heras, Cambridge

Before mobile phones really took off, I used to have a pager and a message service, but because of a typo at their end, I discovered that they were answering callers with the salutation "Hello, Tonty Peters answering service" rather than Tony Peters.
Tony Peters, London

I don't have an unpronounceable name ... but that doesn't stop people getting it wrong! It's simple enough - "Qwen - Tin". But that doesn't prevent "Qwin-tin", "Qwin-ton" and "Qwen-ton". Having French-speaking colleagues at work means I also hear the arguably correct and quite acceptable "Con-Tan" and occasionally a half-way "Qwon-tan". Finally, there was an elderly aunt in my wife's family to whom I was always "Quinty"! However, more irritating are those who feel they are at liberty to concoct appalling abbreviations such as "Qwent" - which sounds like somewhere in Wales, or "Quint" which sounds as if I'm cross-eyed. Thankfully the Bond films gave me a way out, and in my previous job as a Quality Manager it was quite satisfying to just sign documents "Q"!
Quentin, Stafford UK

Whilst I have enough trouble with people mispelling both 'Alan' and 'Saunders', my children are really doomed - Cei and Maya. (For the record, 'Cei' has a hard 'C' and rhymes with 'sky', and 'Maya' rhymes with 'flyer'.)
Alan Saunders, Staines, UK

My name ensures that I need to only shop in person or via the Internet; telephone services where I need to spell it in full are a complete nightmare.
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, London, UK

The English appear to have a serious problem in pronouncing Anglicised Irish surnames like my own; I have been called O'Rock, O'Rick,O'Rewrk and sundry other pronunciations. Why did we bother changing our names from the original Irish versions,to Anglicised versions which the English seem equally unable to master. In addition, there is this awful trend of taking Celtic names like Siobhann and Sean and then applying vaguely phonetic spellings - recently I have seen Shevonne and Shawn.
Tony O'Rourke, Stirling

I am always amazed how many people call me McDonald just beacuse my name starts with a Mc. Too lazy to read maybe? Also interesting is peoples opinion on whether Mc should be pronounced "Mac" or "Muck".
Andrew McAnerney, London

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