Sunday, November 25, 2007

It happens all the time now.

When I was a kid my mom once refused to pay the dentist until he corrected my name on the bill. It was BetteJo, not Bette. I learned very early to not only correct people who left off the Jo, but to hate the name Bette if it was directed at me. If someone else was named Bette or Betty – it was like it had no relationship to my name, it was entirely different somehow.

Growing up when I did, in the midst of Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and Hee Haw, you can imagine how often I heard comments about being from the south, ya’ll. It didn’t bother me and I never even took it as teasing. My name was different and you had better believe that when I walked down the hall at school and heard someone call out “BetteJo!” I felt quite safe in turning and saying “what?” – that they were talking to me.

So it was with great amusement about 6 or 7 years ago when, at the doctor’s office, I was called Ba-tay-ho. Um, yeah. I looked around and realized that the nurse was calling me. What? I was laughing when I corrected the nurse, she was quite embarrassed but I couldn’t stop laughing about it. I must have told everybody I knew because it just seemed so – well – funny to me. The worst anyone had ever done was leave off the Jo, which I found annoying but this was great! Too funny!

Now however, if I am at a doctor’s office, or any place where they don’t know me and have to call me by name, I see it coming. The person looks at the chart or paper or whatever has my name printed on it, screws up their face in confusion, and starts going through alternate languages in their head. Frequently I see an “ah ha!” moment and they look up and say “Ba-tay-ho?” Looking around the room.

Okay, I write it as one word. I put the Bette and the Jo together with a capital J. That developed as a way to stop people from dropping the Jo. Put them together as one word would mean people would recognize it as one name, right? Well it did work for a number or years. And sometimes when I have to print my name on something I do it with all caps – BETTEJO. Still, the assumption was always that it was one of those doggone southern names where they stick a Jo or Bob or Jim something on the end of every name.

At some point it all shifted. At some point the assumption shifted and now? Now I have become Hispanic apparently. The 2nd “E” has become an “A” and the “J”? The “J” has become an “H”. Ba-tay-ho. One of my co-workers calls me this on a daily basis and it still makes me laugh. But at what point did the shift come? At what point did the assumption shift from – oh she’s from a different part of the country to, she’s from a different country altogether? Hm-m-m.



  1. My best from was a Marilu and her sister was Bettyjo....Marilu hated it when people called her Mary-Lu..

    I wonder what they call her now?

    BettyJo is a nice name...they say that reading literacy is down! Yee Ha

  2. I can't believe anyone would call you anything other than Bettyjo, just as it's spelt! However, it does remind me of the deep south, but strangely, I've never imagined you to have a southern accent.

  3. This is so funny ....I get all sorts but to me my name os simple , its just the spelling , Shelagh its sheila but people get all caught up by the g

    and my daughter is Nathalia , prnounced Natalya but so many people say the h too , she gets mad .

    Yours is a great name !
    Are they saying Bat-tay-ho or Bar-tay-ho Im still not clear ?

  4. BetteJo with an 'e' and a capital J. And - I don't have a southern accent, my name just sounds like I should! :) And - they are saying it just like I'm writing it - I'll try a different way - Buh-tay-hoe. It is so incredibly silly!

  5. Lord, you wonder what's going on in people's minds sometimes. Would you honestly think a person would call themselves Bette HO?

    I bet that nurse was mortified ROFL.

  6. Yipper thats interesting how that happened, no idea when tho....but still interesting. I can appreciate your angst too...I get all kinds of crazy 'versions' of my name - and some are WAY OUT THERE - like 'velvet' does one get to Velvet from Lavender???
    Here in Oz, with thier accent, Ive gotten used to being

  7. I wouldn't assume your name is Hispanic, because of the general lack of double letters in Spanish words. Now, if you were Betejo, I would DEFINITELY call you Bay-tay-ho.

  8. Not international enough I fear - I had assume 'bet' 'ee' 'jo' but I am always the simplest amoebo when it comes to pronunciation.

    My sister in law [American] explained, it's that 'Americans put the 'em far sis on the wrong sill a bull,' [try saying it aloud and it might work] or alternatively I'll try again tomorrow when I'm not so tired.

  9. Names are important.

    My wife's name is Marylynn. On her birth certificate it's spelled seperately, but apparently, back in third grade, her mother was tired of people calling her Mary. So she started putting it together. Still, she gets, Marilyn, Marylou, Marylee, or just Mary. I always have to tell people, it's a southern name - two names spelled together. Then people seem to get it.

    I figured yours out the first time I read it. Maybe because of my wife's name.

  10. Well, I have to say I am guilty of putting the space between your name. I guess I can blame my poor eyesight, old age and being a little dense at times. I do apologize.

  11. Maddy you have it totally right! And Leslie - oh my gosh no apologies please! A space is nothing, it's leaving the Jo off that makes me crazy. Even turning me hispanic makes me laugh! I was really just commenting on the shift in American society where now it would be more common to try to pronounce a name someone is uncertain of - as if it were a different language as opposed to just an unusual American spelling.
    Welcome, Rick!

  12. I'm guilty. When I read your blog, I read it with a Southern accent!

  13. Oh, girlfriend....that would happen to you here a bunch!!

    This was a very interresting blog for me.

    When did we have to start putting everything in two languages? At my work they even have Job applications and I-9's in Spanish. I learned Spanish in highschool and college...and I never dreamed how much my spanish would improve and be needed later on.

    Now, because of how much I use spanish at work, I even have caught myself saying LeeOhNel instead of Lionel. Mostly because we have one who prounces it the way I first spelled it and one who doesn't. YIKES.

    I love reading your blog. I never ever read it with a spanish accent. I'm a northerner dumped off in the midwest. I annunciate like Ted Koppel. LOL

  14. Wow -- unbelievable!

    I grew up with a difficult-to-pronounce-in-the-South last name, so whenever we went out to eat, my father gave his name as "Jack. Just Jack."

    And yes, we did get called "JustJack, party of 4."