I, for one, think it’s easy to pronounce (‘uh-leen’), but my experience has been the contrary. My parents named me Aline Celeste — Aline after my mother’s college hallmate — a namesake I’ve never met, yet still call Aunt; Celeste after a nun my mom favored at school. Though a bit of a quagmire, my name is unique and doubles as an ice-breaker. What’s more, I like it.
In fourth grade, I came up with a hint on how to say it correctly. I was new to a small town in New Jersey and my teacher, Mrs. Hamburger (talk about names), was taking attendance. She struggled when she got to mine. Spontaneously, I blurted out, “It’s Aline, like gasoline.” Ok, not the most literary comparison, but a decent, impromptu line for a 9-year-old. It stuck. In fact, my childhood boyfriend recently referred to me as such on Facebook.
To this day, I’m not sure how I crafted my catch phrase on the spot. As I’ve aged, my mother, a retired speech therapist, suggested using more mature rhymes such as “Abilene, Texas” or “a lien” on your home. I’ve test driven these, but “gasoline” is still the keeper. Though I get the occasional heckler calling me “Oline” — going for the phonetic accuracy, I’ve yet to abandon my go-to tip.
Junk mail labelers and telemarketers butcher it most. I get the likes of Aileen, Arlene, Adaline, Allie, Eileen and Alice or really, any women’s name, starting with an A. Business colleagues cannot get it together either. After apologetically correcting one co-worker a dozen times, he said not to be sorry — that my name, was in fact, my brand, and he should say it the way it was meant to be said. In addition, I still have close friends and family members who pronounce it wrong. Well wishes on my wedding video are the smoking evidence. I can only awkwardly correct them so many times and have developed a secret three strikes and you’re NOT out policy. I have a 100 percent tolerance.
Thankfully, my name was pronounced correctly when it mattered most — when getting my diplomas, during my marriage vows, when my two boys were born. People took special care to say it right at times of significance; they collectively came through.
Now in midlife, rather than grow weary of this predicament, I’ve learned to chuckle about my misnomers and answer to any alias that comes close. I applaud the effort, even the most futile tries to say “Aline” without error. Ironically, the mispronunciations have morphed from an annoyance to a music of sorts, a playful interpretation of my identity. With each botched attempt, I’m reminded of what makes me, me. I am my name; I now mirror this moniker, lovingly chosen by my parents. It sets me apart.
So go ahead customer service reps, phonathon staffers, doctors’ office receptionists, job interviewers and new aquaintances, bring it. Your take on my name won’t faze me, but rather, pay tribute to my lasting novelty.
— Aline Weiller
Aline Weiller’s essays have been published on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop blog, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode, Role Reboot and Skirt, among others. She’s also the CEO/Funder of Wordsmith, LLC — a public relations firm based in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Follow her on Twitter @AlineCWeiller.