Sunday, March 7, 2010

M as in Monkey


If you are like most human beings on the planet you have no idea how to pronounce my last name. I understand. Trust me. Listening to people butcher my last name for the last 26 years has not been a pleasant experience.

I admit having 4 consonants in a row really isn’t the best way to make a word. Hmck. I don’t know how you would even tell someone to pronounce that by itself. Saying it aloud sounds like you are trying to dislodge a hot dog from your esophagus.



So let me be clear, it is pronounced Bem-Key. Not Bomk. Not Boeemick. Not Bombchek

Don’t try to interpret what the letters might say. Don’t try and figure it out. Just trust me; it is pronounced Bem-Key.

My whole life people trying to pronounce my last name have failed to do so successfully. I can count on 2 hands how many times a stranger got it right on the first try.

In fact I have come to expect people to misspell my last name as well. Like when I have to visit my corporate partners for work. I will have to show my I.D. at the front desk to get a visitor pass which will usually have a letter or two out of place. So you can imagine my surprise when I handed my license to the guy last week, my license that says RICHARD BOEHMCKE on it and got back this pass:

Really? I mean that’s kind of like running a whole marathon and then tripping over your own feet at the finish line. I actually had a flashback to another incident of being called Robert. Did this guy actually think Robert just sounded better?

If I hand people a business card or something with my last name on it, they ask me how it’s pronounced. And I will tell them. But I can only imagine what they are thinking as they try to reconcile what I’ve told them with the letters they see in front of their face.

Where the hell are the vowels?

It is like telling somebody to drive a car where turning the wheel right makes the car go left and stepping on the gas makes the car stop. People seem to want to believe me but they struggle to make it work.

Growing up in my house my family knew if the person calling the house for my Dad was a telemarketer,

Hi is Fred Bocheckey home.

Or even better

Hi is Fred Boe… Fred Bohe… Hi is Fred home?

For as long as I can remember, my mother spelled out our last name over the phone like this:

B as in boy, O-E-H, M as in Mary, C-K-E.

I repeated the same format when reciting my name over the phone to people collecting my information. But when I got out of college I realized I didn’t want people equating “M as in Mary” with myself. My personal emasculating misgivings aside I thought I could come up with a better word.

So at my last job with my 26 letter email address I started saying “M as in Monkey.”

I think its funny because ya know, who doesn’t like a Monkey? Who doesn’t like a Boehmcke?

Don’t answer that.

When I was in Kindergarten I remember thinking about marriage (I was a romantic 5 year old) and trying to figure out which girls’ first name would go well with Boehmcke. I didn’t think anything sounded good with Boehmcke.

Melissa Boehmcke? Nah.

Jessica Boehmcke? Don’t think so.

Finally my 5 year old self settled on the idea that I would have to take my wife’s last name. As far as I was concerned, no woman was going to want to take Boehmcke. It just wasn’t cool. And if I wanted to get married; I would have to change my last name.

These days, it has become a running joke amongst my friends that in order to have a woman take my last name upon marriage (assuming my fiancé wants to marry me, assuming I find a fiancé, assuming… well, you get the point) that this woman would have to have a last name way more challenging than mine, a name she really had to change. Somebody like

Ellen Poocrapskie


Katie Racist

I mean the only names that seem to work with Boehmcke are the ones of my mother, sister and aunt. So unless I find a Dana, Felice, or Grace who wants to marry me it’s going to be tough.

And there just aren’t very many girls named Fred.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like my last name as a kid, I liked it fine. I just knew it was a burden for some people. And hearing your “friends” refer to you as Bojaflemkey doesn’t necessarily make you feel good about yourself.

I thought it was just because at that age people weren’t worldly enough to learn how to pronounce my last name, or hadn’t yet perfected speaking English. I thought this would change later in life.

But no, people have really just given up entirely. Like the office visit I went on last year. I received this gem of a nametag.

Bighard? BIGHARD? What the heck is that? It sounds like the name of an adult film star. I understand I don’t talk about my job very much, but I think it’s unfair to just assume… well, ya know?

And as for Boemivigre I mean, I don’t know what to say. It sounds like it could mean a vigorous lifestyle of being bohemian maybe?

It almost looked like one of those instances when you start typing but you don’t realize all of your fingers are just one off to the right and you type a sentence that looks like this

O fpn’y yhink hr voulf hsbr

And then you spend the next 5 minutes trying to figure out how the hell you typed something so strange.

The guy probably just thought, ya know what, I can’t pronounce this, so it doesn’t matter what the hell it says.

But I learned at some point in high school that the German pronunciation of my last name sounded like Boomka. And so Boomka was born.

Some of my very close friends call me that, and had it not been taken, that was going to be the original name of my website.

So I’ve become resigned to the fact that nobody will say my name right. And it doesn’t bother me anymore because I love my name. And one day I plan to be so successful that people will equate the name Boehmcke with brilliance and hilarity instead of just, pale skin and poor decision making.

One day people will look at my name and say, “Now THAT is a man of charm and class. He is a man of the highest caliber. His name brings to mind the utopian ideals of a society we wish to achieve. His name represents all we aspire to and all that we love. His name is the name by which we all wish to be known. His name is truly fantastic!”

And if all that doesn’t happen? Well… I guess I’ll just keep my eye out for Katie Racist.


Anonymous said...

Bem key I have always loved your unique last name! Keep makin me laugh Rich!!!!

Beach Vintage said...

Firstly thanks for visiting my blog. Love love LOVE when a man pops past [its kinda rare]. Second, I hear you about your surname. I have the same troubles and they started young. I remember turning 9 and my local radio station aired me a birthday wish" "Happy Birthday to Simon Gorget" [ my name is Simone Georget]. I cried all morning in the shower preparing for school. I actually misspell my last name now so as people can actually pronounce it. Maybe you should try this?? Thanks again - Simone

Joey's Dream Garden said...

Very funny! I laughed out loud at the "Bighard"!! :D When I've read your surname I've been ok with the last part, it was the first part, so thanks for making it clear!
have a lovely Monday
Joey :-)

Jordyn said...

People with easily-pronounced last names really miss out on character-building opportunities. Nothing makes a person stronger than the first day of school, just waiting for the teacher to make a weak guess.

RedWriter said...

I was born Stacy Rhodes so while I can't quite feel your pain I am forever getting an unwanted 'e' stuck in the middle of my first name. It's like people just can't read. Tut. :)

Great blog. x

whalechaser said...

You are one of the lucky ones who can have some fun with the telemarketers though...see, when they call and stumble on your name you can just let them struggle and struggle with it and eventually, this is NOT HIM! click!
Great post!

Megan said...

i'll search my phonebook and point any objectionably-named ladies your way.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

In a way, it is actually rather comforting to know that I am not the only person with a frequently butchered last name. It's Knutson and no, the "K" is not silent (Think Ca-Newt-Son). Mrs. "Nutson" is the most frequent interpretation; however, once a person switched the "n" and the "u". You do the math.

Jeninacide said...

You know what is funny? I was friends with a girl in high school whose last name was "Dickman" and her mother's maiden name was "Cockman." True story. : )

I have always had an easy to pronounce last name, but there is an EXTRA CONSONANT in there that everyone always misses. Damn German spelling.

Pond said...

Having been born a " Boettcher" I share some of your pain. On the boat on the way over my dad lost the umlaut "O" and picked up the e, cause it was free I suppose. It ended up being pronounced like boat-cher.
The original pronunciation was actually closer to "betcha".. which I may have preferred.. sounds kinda snappy, don't ya think?

iconsandsymbols said...

I'm Polish, so I know what you go through. My first name is Agnieszka. To make it easier for people not familiar with Polish pronunciation, I go by my middle name - Anna. But having a horribly complicated name can be a good thing. There was a character on an old Polish movie, Grzegorz Brzeczyszczykiewicz, who was released when captured by the Nazis because they couldn't spell his name.

Mrs. Dreamer said...

Totally laughed hysterically when I read your post. Surprisingly, I got it right on the first time. My married name (Schofield - like the gun, like Prison Break) is constistantly prounounced Shofield. Hubs always responds with 'you didn't go to shool, did you? Cause I went to school). My maiden name? I got loads of "Stephanie Hhhhhhhhhhhow do you say your last name?" It was Heigert (gotta love those wonderful German names...he he he).
RedWriter - one of my girlfriend's name is spelled Staci. She actually had one woman at the grocery store she worked at tell her she was sorry for her parents naming her 'stocky' (and it didn't help that she's a bigger girl). Apparently she'd never seen an I at the end of Stac :)

Caroline B said...

Thanks for making me laugh out loud this morning - 'Bighard'...I think I would have that framed! Although my name is really not that hard if you actually READ it (Bletsis) the amount of variations I've had are incredible - my favourite at work was Mrs. Breakfast - & on the phone it's always 'Mrs. Ble..blee..bled..ummm...' until I put them out of their misery. I can't even revert to my maiden name, people couldn't pronounce/spell that either - 'Scotcher', although I don't see how anyone who can read can get that wrong!

Michelle said...

This is fantastic. Thank you for starting my week with an 1,100-word long outburst of laughter. I must say I'm proud to have added to this tradition in the office as well.

Christopher said...

That had me busting a gut there. I used to get annoyed when I was a kid because my last name rhymed with pickle. I feel better about that now.

Blasé said...

I just pronounced your name out-loud and I got it RIGHT!

No, really I did.

JerseySjov said...

i also guessed that it was "bem-key"

at least you got an easy first name. my name has been the bane of my existence literally since i was born [one of my grandfathers called me the wrong name for at least 2 years].
you say you can count on 2 hands how many times a stranger's gotten it right? i can't even count, because to start counting you have to have one. i stopped correcting teachers when i got to about 3rd grade because they never got it. even if they had my older brother for the last name, they still had to battle with my deceptively simple first name.

wasn't expecting to write such a long comment, but this is something of a touchy subject for me!

Anonymous said...

I got it right, first time. Probably 'cos I love words and pay attention to them. Also, I had a Year 3 teacher whose name was Doecke - very similar (but not).

Thanks for dropping in to my blog, Mr Boehmcke. Favour returned.

The Girl said...

You know when you're reading a book and you come across a word you don't know (don't lie, it happens) I just pretend it isn't there and carry on as normal. That's kind of what I did with your surname.

Of course I now need to call you Bighard. That's excellent. I nearly had a hernia at that one.

Deanna - The Unnatural Mother said...

I'm in the same boat kid! You're wife whether she's Grace or a Dana will get use to it... I am constantly spelling my new last name as I married a Verbouwens: V as in Vicotor, ER B as in Boy, OU, W as in water, ENS.

Oh, and now I am paranoid that my son is going to be humilated for the rest of his life, I ruined his chances of running for office, nice!

Jenny DB said...

mwahah this is too good - i have a complicated last name also, and when i did gymnastics as a kid it was always amusing to hear the awards ceremony. i inevitably got "Balls" thrown in my last name too. Good times. anyway, thanks for stopping by my blog

Pat said...

So THAT'S how you pronounce your last name. I've wondered about that! Great post!

My married name is Heinen. I'm forever saying H-E-I-N "as in November"- E-N "as in November" because N and M sound alike over the phone. People mistake my name as Heiney. Or better yet Hyman. Yep. That's a good one.

Julia said...

Once known as Boehmcke, now known as Bighard!!! I laughed so loud that is classy!

Madhu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madhu said...

Dear Bighard Boemnky,

(sorry..just kidding..) you have an awesome sense of humour.

And thanks for visiting my blog.. :)

Robin Z said...

okay. I can SO relate to the last name debacle. I spent most of my school years just being known as Robin Z. It got to where I almost forgot how to spell my last name.



I have won quite a few bets on that one. Can you spell it if I say it? Can you say it if I show it? Yeah. I like Jack on the rocks, thank you very much.

So - Bum-kay (ha!) - how would YOU say my last name?

Thanks for a great laugh:-)

Candace D said...

Well Bighard, welcome to my world! :)

Try saying Candace Danylewich three times fast and then expect that maybe, just maybe some day someone will get it right.

I live in Norway and despite the fact that I submit all my applications with CANDACE, it always comes back CANDANCE. Kan danse in Norwegian literally means "can dance" and seeing it written like that on my visa (in my passport) and all my other ids and cards just reinforces the fact that no one clearly cares to learn or even read my name. (Even when it's something as important as a federal document.)

You win though, Bighard. :) Fantastic post.

The Expatresse said...

I used to work with a woman who was, at the time (she has since married), named "Meghan Cahill." One day she received a package at work addressed to "Megbar Cargill."

So, of course, we all started calling her "Megbar."

dogimo said...

Just tell them "silent O, silent H, hard C, silent K silent E."

Seriously - this was a joy to read.

Cathy said...

And I thought my biggest problem was having to tell people "It's not spelled with a K!"

You are funny - I mean David Sedaris funny!

oh, hello friend. said...

thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind comment :) so neat to have it come from a guy-blogger too ;) you have a couple really great blogs here yourself! your writing is quite entertaining! - danni

JMH said...

Screw Katie Racist (well...).

For a wife, look for the first name Cheru -- I think that's Turkish -- if you don't have enough credit card miles, you can compromise with Cheri or Sheri. You'll have angel babies.

Tough name to pun.

I appreciate your visit to my photoblog and your comment. Comments are like applause, except when they ridicule and humiliate you. Please come again.

ebal.raen said...

OMG BIG-HARD! That's ABSOLUTELY hawt! Hahahaha I think that security guy was watching porn when you came a the wrong time telling him 'My name is Richard" and all he cares about is -hard and you can know what's big when ya see one hahahaha whatever

Btw the word verification below says 'maricer'. Ring any bells?

Candice said...

My maiden name was constantly butchered as well, so I feel your pain. That being said, I would have totally fucked that up.

~Ivy~ said...

I enjoyed this post! I promise if I ever meet a Boehmcke in person, I will knock their socks off with my perfect pronunciation of their "Bem Key" name. I will give all the credit to you of course!

jorgg wobblington said...

Bighard Boomka is a great pornstar name. Mine would be Cat Dancer.

ArtSnark said...

This post is an instant classic

Old School/New School Mom said...

I have to admit, I couldn't figure out how to pronounce your last name in my head. I've been imagining it this whole time as "Bum-key" for no apparent reason.

I love telemarketers.

Also, those name tags are hilarious. And the funniest thing is that instead of messing up "Boehmcke" they decide to goof up Richard. That makes so sense.

Kid Vs. Produce said...

This had me giggling like a loon. I had a brief spell as a telemarketer, and not only got the honor of calling every "Dick" family in the phone book, but also got to call a Stone Coxhead.

My married name is Lauck, and I love the phone calls for Mrs. Lou-ack? Mrs. Luke? Mrs. Luck? Mrs. Lack?

Thanks for the laugh.

accidentally, kle said...

You, good sir, are truly hilarious.

I'm splitting my sides reading through your blog, but had to comment on this entry in particular because I can completely relate. I have a twenty (!!) character name (ok, 3 names) and not one of them ever gets spelt correctly. And listening to people try to say one of them especially... they always end up giving up, it never fails (while I sit back and listen in amusement at their feeble attempts).

I'l be back to read more, and thanks for dropping by my blog, which in turn led me here!

PS 'buncyt' is the word I am about to type in to submit this comment! *shakes head*

Reikalein said...

Haha, I have to say, on the one hand, I'm slightly glad I'm a girl because when I get married I could take on my husband's surname. On the other hand, my surname has provided me with entertainment for the last 23 years, I'm not sure I want to give it up! Also, I have to consider the fact that the man who has swept me off my feet has a menacing surname: Metzger. That's Butcher, in German.

I'm Syrad (Sai-rad) but people pronounce it Sirad. Or Siriad. People seem baffled to see that I'm not Middle-Eastern upon meeting me. It's actually a British surname (derivative of Stewart), but will anyone believe me? No.

Burke said...

Hi Richard, I can't believe you've laid all of my thoughts on our shared last name out for the whole world to see. Certainly if we were named Smith we wouldn't have a barrelful of humorous anecdotes to tell. I'm Robert by the way and I think it may sound better. I actually go by Burke the name my parents gave me until the Parish priest told them they couldn't baptize me as Burke, thus Robert thrust upon me. I think we are 2nd Cousins I can never get it right. Your Dad and My Dad are cousins. My dad always spelled it wrong for food delivery, but I have always spelled it out like you Mom as a sort of homage to our German ancestors, who have been diluted out of me by the English and Irish. Growing up coaches called us Bemps, Bomacheckie etc. I have a friend who still Shout Boomka to me every time I call or see them you've got to love it. The only ones who could pronounce it were professors, or anyone born east of Antwerp. After weeks of dating my wife saw my name on a piece of mail and thought I had lied to her about my name. I could go on forever that's why I don't write, I don't know when to stop. Anyway, I've been reading your writing since I found out you boxed me out on facebook for a custom account username. Today I discovered your use of the domain name I can't begrudge you though since you are doing infinitely more with the domain names than I would have. From one Boomka to another, keep up the good work.