Name Calling

Day 006 – July 28, 2011

In this electronic space, I go by the name “Xavier”, but that is not my real name.

My real name is tough to pronounce by people who have grown up speaking Spanish…which would be 99.9% of the folk I encounter here in Lima, Peru.

My name contains sounds that are not normally heard in Spanish. To give an example, assume my name is “Cheyenne” (which it’s not, thanks for asking). Pronouncing this name like it sounds like the capital of Wyoming gives a person with a Latin tongue fits. First off, the opening syllable is a combination of  a pair of sounds not normally heard in Spanish. The name starts with a “shhh” sound similar to the verbal warning a cranky librarian gives. To my knowledge, there is no equivalent in the Spanish language for this “shhh” sound. The next sound of my name’s beginning syallable is a long “i” sound similar in sound to the word “eye” (or to the opening chanting sounds heard in the song Crazy Train). Again, there is little to no Spanish equivalent to this sound as the letter “i” in Spanish sounds like the “ee” sound (similar to the English words “beet” and “meet”).

Given that my real name is close to impossible for a Peruvian to pronounce, this has made for some interesting variations in my appellation when I have ordered scones at Starbucks, hamburgers at Bembos, or been any place where I need to give my first name.

Using “Cheyenne” as my example, I have been known at various establishments as “Chee-Ann”, “See-Ann”, and “Que-Ann”.

I know when it is easier to join them than to beat them. So, to make my life easier when providing my name, I have adopted what is known as my “Starbucks Name”. It is the name non-Peruvians (e.g., North Americans, Europeans) with non-Latin names give to the cashiers at Starbucks to make life easier for all concerned.

That is why I go by the name Xavier. So I can get my scones without embarrassment.

End Note: For the record, I pronounce my name “Ha-vee-air” as opposed to “Ex-save-ee-air“. Just so you know in case you want to order scones for me.


About sinpolaris

sinpolaris is the psuedonym of a guy who likes to write.

Posted on October 12, 2011, in Difference, Peru and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I have a similar name pronunciation problem: native English speakers tend to have a little bit of a hard time with it, and my Asian and Latin acquaintances find it completely impossible. I don’t use a “Starbucks name” but eventually I end up introducing myself using whatever simplified version of my name my non-English-speaking friends have come up with. It works. The name I ended up with in Viet Nam sounded like a chorus of rain-frogs when the kids were trying to get my attention. I loved it.

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