Thursday, August 7, 2008

How Do You Spell That?

I just got the worst mangling of my last name that I've ever witnessed.

'Pfohl' is not an easy name to spell for anyone, but at least in the States we are so used to such a wide range of bizarre surnames that people are pretty patient about figuring it out. I'm sure there are other Pfohls in Brazil as well, down in the south that is, where the German immigration concentrated. Here in Bahia, almost everyone is 'Santos' or 'Araujo' or 'Oliveira'.

So I was dropping off some print cartridges to get refilled, and the guy asked for a name. I told him 'Marcos' which is what I usually do, as even the name 'Mark' causes problems. He got Marcos alright, but then he wanted a last name. Usually what I do when I have to give a last name is pull out an ID so they can copy it off of there, but I didn't do that today. I sighed inwardly and started to spell it letter by letter.

I should mention that I tend to screw up the letters in Portuguese, I learned them one way off of a CD ROM I had and then discovered that they use different names for the letters here, I've never really reconciled myself to that. Plus they tend to spell out things in this odd way- for instance the word for duck is 'pato,' but instead of spelling 'P - A - T - O' (peh - ah - teh -oh) they say "Peh-a-pah, Teh-a-toh". I don't get it. And it doesn't work for a name with only five letters, four of them consonants, and two of them silent.

As I'm speaking the letters as clearly as I can, slowly, but without the usual "P as in Peter" helpers I tend to use when it's important, I see he's adding all kinds of extra letters. Maybe he was trying to do a peh-ah-pah kinda thing with my name. When he finished he asked me if it was right. I made a frustrated gesture with one hand and said it was good enough.

I should have done what my dad does when he gives his name at a restaurant- he just tells them "Fole" and is done with it.

So how did he spell my name?

PEFOHLOL

4 comments:

Pedra said...

At least you can call yourself "Marcos" here and folks can pronounce it! When I say my name, I always get the same response: "O que?" and then a total butchering of the pronounciation, usually along the lines of "cherry". Oh well, my fault for not coming up with a good nickname and using it from the beginning of my time here!
-Cheryl

markuza said...

Yeah, that's true- I had a friend named Pamela who stayed here and she got the name 'Panela' which as you know means 'frying pan'... Then there was my friend Artemisia... nobody could pronounce that... Then again it took me forever to figure out how to pronounce 'Adilson' and even the way I say 'Daniel' makes them laugh.

What really drives me nuts is when they don't call me Marcos and instead call me 'Mike' for some reason.

Anonymous said...

how do u pronounce the name adilson ?

markuza said...

'Adilson' is pronounced 'ad-JIL-sown'. It doesn't seem so mysterious to me now... I think the main problem was that I had no frame of reference for names like that previously. Now I know lots of them.