Sunday, May 28, 2017

Punctuation Name Game

In the continuing saga of NAMES YOU ONLY HEAR IN UTAH, allow me to tell you a story. There's a teacher who works at the boys' school who had a student named La-a. Now, I'm unclear as to whether this teacher had this student here in Utah, the great naming apocalypse state, or if the student hailed from another state but regardless of where she came from, her name was straight up La-a. When the teacher called roll for the first time, she said, "Uh...Lah ah?" And, I mean, what the heck else would you say?

The girl, clearly annoyed said, "It's Ladasha!"

No. No it isn't. At the ABSOLUTE BEST, it is Lahyphena.

Hyphens and dashes are two different things. A hyphen joins words together. A dash separates words into parenthetical statements. Sorry, Lahyphena, your name doesn't make grammatical sense. But who am I to point fingers? My last name is sporting an extra, and very confusing, S. The only thing that extra S is good for is weeding out the telemarketers. Everyone on the planet thinks my last name is pronounced as though you're combining two different food items--fish and pork--when, in actuality, it sounds like something an angry linebacker would yell just before the sack.

I see a lot of weird names that I have no idea how to pronounce in the subbing business. (Subbing profession? Subbing industry? I'm cracking myself up over here trying to make it sound like I do something more glamorous than glorified babysitting.) But if I ever see anyone with a "-" in the middle of their name I am going to straight up pronounce it hyphen. Just to be a jerk.

I pass these terrible names on to my sister-in-law who, even when she isn't currently gestating a human being, likes to hear them. I use the word "likes" rather loosely here. It's possible she's merely humoring me. She is, however, growing an entire little life inside of her at this very present moment and so I've been sending a whole heap of RIDICULOUS names to her. Sometimes, I make them up. She's never certain if they're real, in the sense that someone actually bears the moniker, or made up by me. As opposed to the parents who must, literally, pull Scrabble tiles from a box and then make it work.

I actually just tried this intriguing notion and randomly pulled the following:


I'm annoyed that I pulled a Q with no U but that is of no real concern. We could just leave them like that. In fact, I'm now wishing for a fourth son so that I could have Garrett, Matthew, Will, and Jsaiqok which is, OF COURSE, pronounced J say qwok. But I could rescramble them and have little Joqiska. Oh please let me do one more because I'm on a roll. Kajqosi.

Anyway. This La-a has us RUNNING WILD with the possibilities. What fun you can have throwing a dash into any name you can think of. But why stop there? There are so many other punctuation marks that haven't even been invited to the party. My husband came up with Ca... which, of course, would be pronounced Cuh lip sis.

How about the ,? Tre, (pronounced Trey comma). It could absolutely be a name here in the great state of Utah.

And why isn't anyone using the :?

Whatever happened to Melissa and Diane and Michael and James? Those names we could pronounce. Those names passed the substitute litmus test. And really, when naming a child, ask yourself WWASS? What would a substitute say?

I guarantee that this sub would have said, "La ah." If met with the giggles that always accompany a good name butchering, she'd maybe have said, "Lahyphena?"

But then, she'd have to introduce herself by writing her name on the board. "No," she'd say. "Not Bassham like fish and pork. Bashum, like a pumped up linebacker." Or, maybe, a serial killer.


  1. I laughed at the Key and Peele substitute teacher skit "A-Aron" so hard.....but then I saw this article and it changed how I think about student's names. Article specifically talks about students from other countries, but I also think it applies to our African American students as well. Every time I hear the La-a story, it's an African American child.

    1. That's a great read. For the record, I would never, ever actually mispronounce a student's name on purpose. Ever.

    2. Of course. Just wanted to share another perspective.