Readers' most ridiculed names
- 10 July 2012
- From the section Magazine
Adam Gopnik's piece on much-ridiculed names drew a large response from readers lumbered with nominal millstones.
In the piece , Gopnik - whose name in Russian refers to a drunken hooligan - wrote of the dilemma of parents bestowing unusual monikers.
Here are a selection of readers' most ridiculed names:
My maiden name was "Cockett". Most people in my family were known by their surname just because their friends enjoyed shouting "COCKETT!" across the street. When I was at senior school, in the early days of internet filters, replies to my emails would often be blocked, as the first four letters of my surname were automatically starred out. I do strangely miss being a Cockett but get a lot less sniggers when introducing myself as a Tizzard although I guess it's still open to a few jokes.
Sarah Tizzard, Dagenham, Essex
If you think about many Chinese surnames, or names, they can be really confusing. Not just for non-Chinese, but the Chinese too. My anglicised Mandarin name is Ho Kit Ying (Ho is my surname), but like any good ol' Mandarin name, all the syllables can very well sound like a last name. I could be Miss Ho, or Miss Kit or Miss Ying and all three actually exist as a surname. And then there's the use of "ho" in rap songs to mean "whore". Suddenly my name sounds like a high class prostitute when I'm address as "Miss Ho". That's why I insist all my associates call me Miss Kit, and they're none the wiser!
My surname is Aisthorpe. Most people find it hard to pronounce but the "Ais" is pronounced as "Ace". I was told by an Icelandic and a Swedish guy that it means the village of God. I'm quite happy with that. We all come from the Grimsby area.
Keith Aisthorpe, Sibu, Malaysia
"Woolfson" over the phone - nightmare. "Yes, Woolfson, like son of a wolf. W-O-O-L-F for Freddy-S for Simon-O-N." And the worst thing? I come from Portugal where W is hard to pronounce. And my poor brother - Zack Woolfson, he's better known as "Jack Oolsa". Well done mum and dad.
Jessica Woolfson, Cascais, Portugal
My surname, Or, is a phonetic translation of the Chinese. It can be quite a nuisance when bureaucracies recognise it as the conjunctive "or", and instead choose my middle name (also Chinese) as my surname. My parents also have plenty trouble when they have joint accounts, the names often are: "my father's first and middle name OR my mother." Underlining or using all caps only contribute to the confusion. In everyday usage, I have often have the "Brian or what?" and being in Canada, being asked whether I am related to the hockey great Bobby Orr. Over the years I have learnt to emphasize when pronouncing "Or" so people recognize it as a last name.
Brian Or, Toronto, Canada
I'm Jonny Large, yet I'm 5ft 5in tall. I've always been short, just to keep the irony consistent across my life time. My actual first name is Jonathan, and whilst I realise that adding the words "large" and "jonny" in this country is mickey-taking suicide thanks to the condom euphemism, I prefer being called Jonny to Jon or Jonathan. I've learnt to not be bothered by it and I like to think that for all the reasons my surname gave people a chance to poke fun as I was growing up, that it has made me a lot more resistant to that sort of thing in the adult world.
Jonny Large, Hitchin, UK
My maiden name is Kasecamp. I'm told it's German and means something along the line of "maker of cheese" though I can't really be sure. The surname is apparently only in existence in this small community in Western Maryland, having been settled by our German ancestors. When I married my husband a few years ago, I took his last name in the hopes that having a shorter but equally as unusual name would make life (and the naming of future children) easier. But alas, Bena, it seems, is just as strange and even more likely to be mispronounced. (One must assume a second invisible "n" in the spelling to accurately achieve the pronunciation.) We just cannot win.
Amanda Kasecamp Bena, Frostburg, Maryland, USA
My surname is not unusual but my first name sounds like a surname and vice versa. If I had a pound for everyone that thought Pearse was my surname and addressed me as "Ken" thinking they were being matey, well I could have had lots of pounds. A few (educated) will try "'Piers" which is a good stab, though most will assume "Percy". I've got no problem with people getting my name wrong, after all it's not very common, I just get annoyed with people who think that somehow I've got it wrong and they need to put me right!
Pearse Kenny, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos
When I was young I hated my name as the overall combination is reminiscent of Nelly the Elephant and led to teasing. Now I am grown up and just graduated in graphic design and I think my name is an asset that will give me an edge on others.
Emma Element, Bedford
I think my surname has helped shape my personality. I don't think you can have a surname like "Everhard" without having a sense of humour! I wasn't the biggest fan of it as a child, but as I've grown up I've learned to have fun with it, and watch as people try and avoid laughing when I tell them!
Dan Everhard, Clevedon, England
Cold callers generally ask for Mr Roswell, very convenient as I just say he doesn't live here. Overseas callers seem to do better, I think they liken it to Rassul as a base for the name. I've been called the obvious like Russell but the most obscure was Groundsell.
Tony Rowsell, Hartlepool, UK
My surname is Cock. No "s" on the end or "x" to make it seem less rude. Just plain old Cock. It was the bane of my life when I was in secondary school - the source of much laughter and ribald jokes. Character building I am told - but at the time just felt like bullying. And even now - no-one believes it can be just Cock so I am often Cocks, Cox or even Colk. I have a cyber-marriage to my boyfriend (whose name is Fullwood - no chance of hyphenating those two names) as Facebook refused to accept this was my surname and thought I was being rude. Hey-ho it's part of my identity now and i wouldn't change it!
Kathryn Cock, Bodmin, Cornwall
My name is a constant cause of humour in my current job as a prison officer (Cosh 'em). However, I was previously in engineering and had cause to visit my namesake town of Cosham in Hampshire where I attended an appointment to find the chief engineer's name who I came to see was a Mr Kickham and his deputy a Mr Basham (I kid you not). Imagine the mirth at reception when I booked in - Cosham, Kickham and Basham.
Bill Cosham, Lowestoft, Suffolk
As you can see my name is a bit fishy. Was a nightmare as a small kid. Once my mum tried to con me by saying the other kids laughed at it because they were jealous. I thought "mum I'm 8, I'm not stupid, thats not true". But you get used to it and it kinda toughens you up a bit. When I was in the army, my nickname was Billy after Billy the Fish, a cartoon character in a certain adult humour comic. I've been living in Denmark for the last 15 years now and when I say my surname to a Dane they don't even bat an eyelid, even if you tell them it's a fish
Stewart Trout, Ringsted, Denmark
Not the original family name which, was simply Nutt, but an attempt at social elevation around 1900. The addition of "Van" being a bogus claim to Old Dutch New Amsterdam aristocracy. Why on earth didn't they just change the "Nutt" bit? A question that still haunts those of us that bear the curse of this dreadful and difficult to pronounce surname.
Robert Van Nutt, New York City, USA
My name has been a stumbling block for years! Despite being British born and bred, my parents parents opted to give my brother and I names that reflected our Ashanti heritage. I suppose I got off lightly with "Kwadjo Aboagye"; my brother has had to deal with the epithet of "Nana Kwame Adu Twum Aboagye". The name "Aboagye" literally means "animal, get!" I have often re-interpreted this as "get the animal" or even "hunter". Indeed, in more recent years, I have truncated my first name to just "Jo" but then I generally then get mistaken for a girl: weird for a six foot, 17 stone black guy with dreadlocks!
Kwadjo Aboagye, Leeds
I still get the jokes, particularly around events or party invites. But the stick I got was worse at school. At uni my friends delighted in referring to me as Cumming of Dorking. Also, my mother's maiden name was Dicks. I'm sure everyone was far too proper (and innocent) to snigger at the wedding vows though. Unbelievably, at junior school I think we shared a school run with the Going family for a while. I'd love to get married and lose my surname in many ways - but only to someone with a normal name!
Emily Cumming, London
Emma L-Y-S-K-A-V-A. If I had a penny for every time I've had to spell my surname, well, you know how the saying goes... I think my first name lures people into a false sense of security and them BAM I hit them with a surname like Lyskava (luh-skaa-va). I used to wish that I had an easy to spell English surname as I got sick of spelling it out and felt embarrassed for those who stumbled across all the consonants which the Polish language is so fond of, but now I rather like it. It's interesting and different and I don't want to get rid of it if/when I marry.
Emma Lyskava, Manchester
I'm a journalist currently writing for Kerrang! magazine with the last name Longbottom. I was torn between using a pen name and using my own name. Ultimately used my own name as it's distinctive and I feel a sense of family pride/heritage every time I see it in print.
John Longbottom, London
My surname is one that, as a boy, I vowed that I would have changed the second my grandparents died - I didn't want them to know how difficult it was growing up with it. Originating from Malta, where the name is an incredibly common one with no stigma (it doesn't have the feminine edge to Sultan as carried by the name elsewhere in the world), to have it transposed to the UK where jibes and insults are racked up in the multitude meant a trying childhood for my brother and I. My brother changed schools on a couple of occasions to avoid bullying. Thankfully, this experience has hardened both his and my attitude to such behaviour and, as a young man, my brother became physically able to dissuade any such assaults. I went the other way and tried to make light of my surname first, undercutting any attacks, with that desire to keep anyone I met comfortable with my name, leading eventually becoming a DJ and entertainer. In my early-thirties, my name became something I was comfortable with - although I felt especially guilty when it was one I then bestowed on my wife, two years ago. I have no idea what to say to my children when I eventually have them about their own experiences, I really don't.
Leonard Sultana, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire
Having the surname "Beauchamp" - pronounced "Beecham" - has caused me no end of grief. My family and I are all used to spelling it out for people and correcting those who attempt to pronounce it in a French way. The name has been in England since around 1066 and the pronunciation has obviously changed since then, but I have had people argue with me, at length, that I pronounce my own surname wrong. My latest response is to tell them that if you ask a taxi driver to go to Beauchamp Place in London by pronouncing it in a French way, they won't have a clue where you mean. My family are descendants of the Beauchamp who was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and subsequently had the Tower named after him. I like it as a name - it's an interesting historical name, with a coat of arms and a motto which is always nice to have - but I do wish people would stop "correcting" me on how to pronounce it!
Annie Beauchamp, London
Not so much an unusual surname (although it is), but a tiresome combination of first and surnames. Everyone thinks they are the funny when they they jokingly ask "George *the* Forth?", presumably not considering that I have heard that regularly throughout my entire life. Over 30 years of people thinking they are punning originally is incredibly tiresome. But not as tiresome as my school's eccentric music teacher who thought it tremendously amusing to say at least twice a year (or more - it certainly felt like it): "Go forth and multiply, he said, but he came fifth and lost." Even spelling it out is a pain - "Is that Fourth like the number?" "No, it's Forth like the bridge." "What...?" You'd think the Forth Bridge was well known - I assure you there is a significant proportion of the (admittedly younger) population who have no idea what I'm talking about.
George Forth, Slough
I was born in Denmark, so Helle was not unusual. However, I married an American named Jack Berry - now people expect Halle Berry. Has not been funny for a long time. When people see my name, I usually say "Yes, it is really my name."
Helle K Berry, Racine, WI, US
I'm Neven Salom - my surname is Salom, as you can see. Not the most unusual of surnames, but not the most common either, especially for a Bosnian, that isn't Jewish, or religious at all, like me. I'm half Christian and half Jewish through blood, but agnostic and spiritual personally. In short, I describe myself as a "Bosnian born Brit". I find my surname funny, and so do others, and it's always a good and funny way of starting a conversation with someone, especially if you just met them. I say "Shalom", sometimes, when joking around with friends and people. Some people, such as at work, actually think that you pronounce my surname as "Shalom", instead of "Salom", which can be awkward, which can get a tad irritating, frustrating and tiresome (explaining) at times, but it's a low number of people, and I just try to think of the funny side.
Neven Salom, Cricklewood, London, England, United Kingdom
My surname is my married name. I married and actually changed my name from Thomas to Rosbottom. My husband and I come from the same town and I've found out that our surname is one which is very local to Wigan. There aren't many of us about and in fact, there is a Rosbottom Facebook page upon which, someone asked if anyone had ever met another Rosbottom to whom they weren't related. When I asked my husband, he said that he hadn't. We are a dwindling breed as at least one of my husband's cousins has changed his surname so that his family wouldn't - and I'm paraphrasing here - have to go through what he'd gone through as a child. The odd thing was, when we emigrated to the US, I found a whole batch of Rosbottoms living within 20 miles of us!
Catherine Rosbottom, Louisville, KY, US (but originally from Wigan, Lancashire)