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.