My last name is Beukema. I very much enjoy having a unique last name, and indeed, a very uncommon (for people my age) first name. It means my Google footprint is pretty much restricted to me and not people who happen to share my name: convenient. It meant that my college email address before the at sign was just my last name: easy. Unfortunately, it also means my wife, having taken my last name, is now doomed to spelling it and pronouncing it for other people, as I have all my life. The name is of Dutch origin, incidentally.
When I was in college, I realized the easiest way to teach people how to pronounce the name is "Rhymes with PUKE - a - muh." Uh, sorry, Beukemas, but that's what seems to stick. Otherwise, you keep getting BUCK-e-ma or BOO-ke-mah or Bue-KEE-ma or some combination thereof. I take these in stride; comes with the territory.
Then there are the misspellings and misreadings that really mangle things. Some of this is my own fault for my "n"s and "u"s looking too similar when I write. For a while, I had a whole branch of junk mail stemming from a single magazine subscription, all addressed to a Fred Benkema. Someone once read my name as Berkman. Huh?
The best by far, though, was when I was directing the Southwest High School pep band at a hockey game my junior year in 1996. Our band director, Keith Liuzzi, and I had both given our names on a slip of paper to the announcer at Parade Ice Garden. This led to the following:
Please rise for our national anthem, played by the Southwest High School band under the direction of Fred Balookema and Keith Luicheck.Brilliant.
Anyway, what got me thinking about all of this was a phone call I made yesterday to American Airlines to alter our travel plans for visiting Melissa's family in California this Christmas. The automated phone tree system asked me for the last name of the reservation. I fully expected to be immediately put on hold to wait for someone I could spell the name to, but sure enough, the system recognized what I said. Granted, it used a stock mispronunciation (BOO-ke-ma) in repeating my name back to me, but still: kudos, American Airlines' phone software provider, kudos.
(Hat tip for the coat of arms)