Monday, December 8, 2008

What's in a name?

'Hello, I call myself ass…'

That's a pretty direct translation of my former French introduction: Bonjour, je m'appelle Ann.  The French word âne, pronounced just like my American name, means ass, as in donkey and fool.  Unfortunate, isn't it?  It took me an embarrassingly long time to appreciate the irony of this monosyllabic utterance.  By announcing to French speakers when I introduce myself that 'I call myself ass/fool', I sort of send the message that I may just be deserving of the moniker.


After I stumbled on this word for ass/fool, which was never on any of my high school French vocabulary lists, I fell back on my namesake – Saint Anne.  What happened to the ending 'e' in the Americanized version of my name, I don't know, but because the French pronounce that terminal 'e' as 'uh' in their reference to the sainted grandmother of Jesus, I'm happy to grab the syllable and go by Ann-uh in French-speaking lands.


But there's more:


'Hello, I am called N7…'

That's the translated German version of my christened identity.  Brilliant.  Goofy in at least two languages.   Many of the German dialects pronounce the letter N indistinguishable from the American 'Ann'.  They too, refer to Jesus' G'ma as Anne, with that all-important 'uh' sound tagged on at the end.  Compounding the difficulty, my last name, oddly, means seven.  To be named for a number is as rare in German as it is in English, although I did once meet a fresh old German man surnamed 'Acht', which means eight.  He whispered alluringly 'together, we make 15'.  For crying out loud…


Tired of the incredulous stares when I announce myself as either a model number or an ass, I'm happy to attach an 'uh' at the end and avoid all confusion.  Saint Anne is known in all languages.  I'll stick with her when I venture abroad.

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