1    Sep 20104 comments

Names: How do you say that?

They look at your name, stammer, and ask "how do you say that?" What do you do? 

Do you patiently spell it several times? Will you, as I often do, spell it out as in "D as in David, A as in Apple, R as in Robert".........

Do you break the name down into syllables for the other person? Do you give up and say, "Call me by my first name!"

People look at DARDASHTI and their eyes glaze over. "Is that two Ds and two As?" asks the person on the phone or in a store. I usually break it into three syllables: Dar-dash-ti. For TALALAY, strangers usually put the accent on the wrong syllable, and say Tah-LAY-lee, instead of TAH-lah-lie. To confuse matters, one family branch uses TALALAY in English, but pronounces it Tah-la-lay.

No wonder our ancestors switched to TOLLIN, TALLIN, TAYLOR, TOLL , TALL and FEINSTEIN!

First names aren't so easy, either. When my surname is giving problems, I might just give up and say "call me Schelly." Of course, then they'll ask how to spell that because there are so many variants: Schelly, Schelley, Shelly, Shelley, Shelli and more.

When we lived in Teheran, some relatives thought my name was Shirley and they've been calling me that ever since. This summer, I finally convinced a cousin in Los Angeles that it was Schelly, and she was quite surprised. She had forgotten how hard I tried to correct it so long ago.

My great-grandfather, according to the Newark, New Jersey city directory circa1906, even flirted with TOLINI at one point, making us Italian. That was also the reason it took me years to find his first papers.

I spent months calling the proper Essex County office to ask about the records. They kept telling me there was no TOLLIN, no TALALAY. Finally, having established an online relationship with a friendly clerk, she told me that they had boxes of old records rarely accessed. I managed to persuade her to take a look by offering to pay for dry cleaning her clothes. Although she refused, I think the offer convinced her that I really wanted those papers. 

In any case, she dealt with the decades-old dust, the creepy crawlies, and retrieved our treasure. The miracle is that she found the papers.

The moral of this part of the story is never to give up. Keep calling, try to find a friendly soul at the other end. But don't do this if you live in the same city. It helps to be somewhere  far, far away, perhaps in another country. Obviously, if you're half-a-world away, you can't go there in person to check for what you need.  

But I digress. (I do that a lot)

Why this topic now?

An Arizona paper carried a story about another family with a really unusual name. Can you say URTUZUASTEGUI, boys and girls?

There's even a video to hear how the family says their unusual name, and a few photographs.

It's a hard surname to pronounce and spell, but the unique name is very big in south Yuma County, where a street is even named after the well-known family.

Somerton resident Josephine Urtuzuastegui, 86, has had nearly 70 years to get used to her married last name, but she'll still admit that it's been a challenge. The former Josephine Obeso was 17 years old when she married Charles Urtuzuastegui in 1941 and went from having a simple surname to a 13-letter mouthful.

She admitted the name had to grow on her.

“When I first got married, nobody could pronounce it. I was really embarrassed and would just say, ‘Call me Josephine.'”

Then she had three sons — Charles Jr.; Alex, who passed away in March; and Robert — and with children came doctor visits.

“The doctor could never say Mrs. Urtuzuastegui. I told him to call me Mrs. Josephine. After that everyone called me ‘Mrs. Josephine.'”

The San Luis City Council renamed plain-vanilla "A" Street to the well-known family's name.  Businesses on the street don't understand why and people can't say it or spell it in English or in Spanish. There's a Facebook page for people who share this name.

The name is actually from Spain's Basque region, famous for its unusual language linked to no other on earth.

This name also has a variant: Urtusuastegui as relatives in Mexico spell it with S instead of Z.

Read the complete story at the link above, and view the video to learn how to say this unusual name.

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Comments (4) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Schelly:
    Two comments if I may.
    First my name is one where the dirst name is commonly found as a last neme. People flip them all the time especially hotel reservations (No we don't have a reservation for Davis!).
    Second, my father went to a boarding school where there was an English exchange student, Richard. But the first exchange student at the school had been a Gus so each one was Gus. But Uncle Gus had never told his parents in England. In 1961 we visited Uncle Gus and his parents and we asked him a question. His parents looked at him wondering who Gus was and he had to explain.
  2. I first name is Dlorah. It's Harold spelled backwards. Maybe not unusual today but in the 50's girls went by Debbie, Brenda and Sue. My middle name is Cathern and it is always misspelled, too . I go by Kay now. There is actually another Dlorah out there because I couldn't use it as my e-mail, it was already taken.
  3. My last name is Urtusuastegui and im from Arizona. I spell it with a s.Theres people here that get very confused becuase they cant say it or spell it.
  4. In Genealogy there are a lot of spelling mistakes, nicknames and spelling abreviations. When trying to find your ancestor you need to be aware of these. You may also need to know how to find them in an index when this occurs. Check out the blog about names and genealogy. It offers a number of suggestions on how to perform some searches when this happens.


    Regards, Jim

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