Much of my childhood is a blur of bike-riding, Nancy Drew novels and plaiting someone's hair, but still a few memories stand out vividly in amongst the murk of legwarmers and backpacks. One such is the day in primary school when my best friend, let's call her "Blondie", came up to me in the playground and excitedly told me the latest piece of celebrity news she'd acquired from unknown sources.
"Oh my gosh, Madonna's got married! To someone called Seen Peen."
Blondie was quite a big Madonna fan. But then so were most 10-year-old girls in 1985. Still, Blondie went further than most. She sometimes wore lacy side bows in her hair and fingerless gloves. This was a step beyond my own fandom, which pretty much just involved dancing around when her videos came on.
"What? That can't be what his name is."
"No, it is. It's Seen Peen."
She was convinced that Sean Penn's name was actually pronounced this way. Like something you'd say in response to a streaker at a football game, or that Kevin Smith (may he rest in hotness) full frontal in Desperate Remedies.
"Whoop! Seen peen, ladies! High five!"
As if the idea of Madonna getting married weren't disturbing enough (to a 10-year-old) this nutty name was the yucky almond icing on the wedding cake.
I'd like to say that this was one of my first experiences of another person getting someone's name utterly wrong but actually people had been getting mine confused for years at this point.
Which is why I try so hard to get people's names right myself. Because I hate it when people get mine wrong.
I'm not infallibe, of course (though I certainly hope there aren't any "Seen Peen" howlers in my past). I do sometimes get it wrong and I always feel absolutely terrible when I do. Because it does seem like a bit of an insult to that person to make a mistake like that.
For myself, I've been referred to as all of the following:
Banana (okay, the first two were both by small children but still, who wants to be called Banana?)
Monica (apparently "Moata" sounds a bit like "Monica" if you say it over the phone)
and of course, my old standby...
And then there are the people who respond to emails thinking my surname is my first name and call me "Tamaira" or even more incorrectly, "Tamara". Even though I've signed the email off with "Moata".
In instances like this I generally reply back using their surname in a similar way. "Kia ora Postelthwaite, thank you for your speedy response..." I like it. It makes it sound like we're both at a posh boarding school.
I guess the upside of this name confusion is that if I ever need an alias to operate under I have plenty to choose from - "This fugitive from justice may be travelling under the name Tamara Motata. Approach with caution." Handy, no?
And you. Yes you. That time you called me "Moana" in a blog comment? Yes, I did notice and yes, I will be holding it against you.
I guess, for me, going to the effort of getting someone's name right is the same as saying "I care who you are" and so not making the effort sort of gives the impression that the opposite might be true.
Anyway, I thought perhaps the best way of getting across what my name is while also subtly suggesting that it might be a good idea to get it right was by way of a mnemonic. Those are helpful, right? So below, is a rage-filled, violent number that just sort of popped unbidden and slavering into my head.
M is for the Magistrate who'll sentence me
O is for the Open wounds I'll leave
A is for my Angry face (trust me, you won't like me that way)
T is for the Time I'll do, just for beating and maiming you
A is for the Ambulance that someone better call if you'll have any chance
MOATA, MOATA, MOATA - You'lll be screaming it in agony as you die a painful death!
Catchy, isn't it? I'll admit that the last line needs a bit of work but you get the grisly picture.
So how are you with names (be honest)? Can you come up with a mnemonic for your own that approaches the poetic heights of mine? Do people often get yours wrong and does it bother you or not? Has anyone ever heard a more hilarious example than "Seen Peen"?
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