Bulletin Board, excerpt

From (St. Paul Pioneer Press) Bulletin Board

Posted on Tues., Nov. 15, 2005

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What's in a name?

Poet X of PDX: "At the seasonal temp job where I'm taking catalog orders over the phone, I encounter strange names and must attempt to pronounce them nanoseconds after they appear on the screen in front of me. I'm sometimes complimented on my ability to pronounce the unusual ones. I explained to a customer the other day that it probably helps that I'm a seasoned reader.

"Last week I spoke with a woman whose last name is Borges, also the name of a famous writer that I've read since college days. I pronounced the name like I've heard the writer's name pronounced: 'BORE-hays.' The customer giggled and corrected me. She pronounced it to rhyme with 'gorgeous.' I explained why I'd said 'BORE-hays' and was surprised that she had never heard of Jorge Luis Borges, given that they share the name. [Bulletin Board says: Oh, she'd probably heard of him; probably knows him as "George Lewis Borgeous."]

"Two days ago, I spoke with a woman whose first name is Nanella and remarked what a lovely first name that is. Also that day, I was presented with a last name that had few vowels and most of the unusual consonants (J, Z, K, etc.). Unusually, I gave up halfway through and asked the customer for help, adding: 'I'll bet you've had people actually hurt themselves trying to pronounce that one.'

"Yesterday I got a call from a pleasant young woman whose last name was 'Topliss.' If there were prizes given out for restraint, I'm sure I'd have won The Big One. I got through the call without so much as a comment or a titter (sorry, couldn't help it)."