“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to” – WC Fields
What is the purpose of a name? To label? To classify? To butcher?
Coming from a large and diverse family, names have become somewhat of a challenge or even a sense of frustration. And this can be for several reasons.
We have what can only be called “cultural stubbornness.”
Cousin brings her new boyfriend to a large family function. His name is Craig, with a “C.” In fact, I believe he introduces himself to everyone as Craig with a “C.” He later becomes her husband of 22 years before they divorce. From the day my family met him to the day they divorced (and after), he was known as “El Greg.” In fact, unless you said El Greg, they had no idea who you were talking about.
Then we have the “name stereotype.”
Another cousin visits from out of town with her husband. Important to mention that she has been married to the man for a few years. As he sits at the table and my aunts begin to serve dinner, one of my aunts begins to call out, “John. John. John!” Frustrated she tells us, “He never answers me.” Which is true. Also, his name is Charles.
Finally, there is the “pronunciation predicament.”
In this family, pronunciation is a predicament and a challenge. I mean, we’ve all learned what a Hoover, L-Tunes and Cyrus are (Uber, iTunes and Sirius), but there’s always a new one that will either blow your mind or embarrass you to death! Auntie rolls up to the drive-thru at Taco Bell and starts yelling into the speaker, “Tampax! Tampax! I want Tampax!” Now, you must yell because they can’t hear you and there is a line of cars with their windows down as this is happening. Finally, her daughter says, “Mom!” Auntie turns around and tells her, “It sounds like I’m saying Tampax, huh?” After her daughter informs her that she is asking for Tampax at the Taco Bell window, she finds out that she was actually ordering the ten pack of tacos.
But nothing compares to Mr. Bill Sepretti. Who is Bill Sepretti? Still trying to figure that out. My Aunt V had to get a water heater replaced in her home. Aunt V is very organized when it comes to her debits and deposits, so she absolutely did not want the new water heater to appear on her water bill. So, when the water company went to install the water heater, she specifically told them that she wanted it on a separate statement. The man installing it agreed.
A few weeks later, she gets her water bill and realized there is a charge for the new water heater. She immediately called the water company to speak to the man who installed it.
When the receptionist answered, she asked for Mr. Bill Sepretti. Receptionist had no idea who that was. She transferred her to the installation department. Again, no Bill Sepretti, so they transferred her to billing. This went on for a while as she was transferred from department to department and no one knew who she was talking about.
Eventually, she ended up back with the receptionist, who patiently asked her, “Ma’am where exactly is his name on your statement?”
My Aunt V answered, “Everywhere! He stamped his name all over the invoice!”
The receptionist calmly answered, “Ma’am, that says, bill separate.”
Aunt V’s answer, “Okay, thank you,” and hung up.
She then proceeded to say that it was a mistake that anyone can make. Somehow, I doubt it.
— Jeanette Cubillos-Dominguez
Jeanette Cubillos-Dominguez is a mother, teacher and writer from El Paso, Texas.