When I read Raisa Patel’s piece in the CBC called “Here’s how to pronounce my name, and why it matters to me”, I was inspired to write an entire article about my own painful struggle with getting people to correctly say my name.
I commend her for her courage to speak out about this societal issue. People with difficult names have been silent for far too long.
There is a whole underclass of people who are unjustly subjected to the microaggression of having their names mispronounced.
After all, names are powerful. They can evoke such an immediate response out of you. When somebody calls your name, you react physically, craning your neck to listen. Very few things in life evoke such a response. You hear them everyday and they become indistinguishable from who you are.
Not only is my first name completely alien and unfamiliar to most people, but my middle name and last name are also difficult to pronounce.
My full name is Vasile Cosmin Dzsurdzsa.
I’m Romanian, my last name is Hungarian. Some people guess Czech, or Slovakian. It really makes no difference.
It doesn’t help that every part of my name is foreign because I sadly don’t have the privilege to opt for an easier middle name.
When I deal with customer service on the phone I inevitably have to preface my last name with the warning, “It’s really complicated, let me spell it out for you.”
The assemblage of letters that follows reads more like the patent pending nomenclature for an experimental drug or a common phrase in Klingon instead of a real name.
Usually they have to read it back to me before they get it right.
It’s pronounced Jurja.
I’ve been called “D’souza”, “Dazorda”, “Dusurda”, while some people have just opted for Mr. D.
Which I quite like.
I’ve had my name spelled wrong on cheques, internet bills and official documentation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually get my name wrong on my gravestone.
Having a difficult last name is such a pervasive problem that sometimes, I can’t even spell it right.
Etymologically, Dzsurdzsa derives from the Central and Eastern European name “Juraj” which comes from the Slavonic “Yuri”. It means “nimble, quick, handy” and is a version of the English name “George”.
I envy people who can just say “Brown” or “Edwards”. They must have it so easy in life not having to deal with the minor nuisance that comes with correcting people about your name.
In this world there are only two kinds of people: those with regular names and those with names that are extremely difficult to pronounce.
My father’s name was Vasile Dzsurdzsa, as was his father’s before him.
I hope to continue the tradition and name my son a variation of that name.
Even if it’s hard to pronounce.