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Sunday, May 22, 2011

woman of letters

So here we are.
My last post attracted a comment -- or rather, an unrelated question -- that I should probably address. It was from a loyal reader, Anonymous:
This question could mean many things. It could mean:
Who the hell is d’Abruzzi? Is that supposed to be you?
That answer is yes. Or it could mean:
Did you change your last name? Are you in the worst Witness Protection ever?
That answer is no. Or, it could also mean:
Are you going to beat the crap out of the BroadwayWorld.com intern who blatantly mis-typed your name when two other theatre sites who received the exact same press release managed to get it right?
Now, now... calm down, everyone. This is exactly why I’m not running for president. Every little thing gets blown out of proportion. (Oh, and that answer is definitely no.)
Here’s something you should know about life: 

Most people are good eggs who like to help fellow citizens in distress. And when you’re just a silly ol’ actor with a long last name (replete with an apostrophe and two capital letters), people are constantly pitying you and your wee brain, which is too busy memorizing lines. In addition to that, most people secretly want to be iPhones because iPhones are fun and cool. 
Ergo, whenever people see my last name, they like to auto-correct it.
Sometimes they do it to make me seem more glamorous. I can tell that when I see them use a lower case “d.” Apparently, “d’Abruzzo” looks chic and extra Italian, literally translating into “from Abruzzo.” (These are the same people who use a mamma-mia accent when they say my name.) But it’s not a correct spelling. It’s just as wrong when people forget the apostrophe (“DAbruzzo”) or don’t capitalize the “A” (“D’abruzzo”) or both. Those names do exist, by the way, but they belong to other people... just as “Smith” is not necessarily interchangeable with “Smyth.” I will admit, though, that the Internet and credit cards do not like the apostrophe, and that adds to the confusion when I’m forced to omit it, such as in this web address.
Sometimes people futz with spelling because they get flustered by vowels. Not to mention that the “i” is right next to the “o” on the keyboard. That’s how you get “D’Abruzzi.” Often, when such flustering occurs, people tend to just throw in both vowels because Italian names have lots of vowels, and that’s when you see the ever-popular “D’Abruzzio.”
But truly, they mostly just want to help me get it right, just like an iPhone. Case in point: a few years ago, I was at an event where I was spelling out my name for someone to write down. I spoke clearly and slowly: “D, apostrophe, capital A, small b, r --”
At which point I was interrupted by an are you sure? question:
No “m?” 
Her tone was honestly inquisitive, as if I was misspelling my own name and needed to be corrected before I embarrassed myself. Because there are plenty of people out there who think that I actually have a similar but totally different name: “D’ambrosio,” “D’Annunzzio,” “D’Abrosca”... the list goes on. For these helpful Heloises, I have to gently reassure them that I do indeed know how to spell my name. I know their intentions are good.
And I’ve given up on pronunciation. For the record, my family anglicized the pronunciation of “D’Abruzzo” when they came over from Italy, and so it’s “duh-BROO-zoh.” There are people who’ve known me for decades who still can’t get it quite right, but that’s okay. I’ve done the same thing, actually: being so certain of how to say someone’s name that when he says his own name differently than what’s in my head, all I can think is, “He can’t even pronounce his own name!” I’m certain there are plenty of people who think the same of me when I don’t pronounce the apostrophe. So it evens out. 
It’s even funny, especially when customer service is involved. In one memorable exchange in which I was put on hold many times, every time the phone rep (let’s call her Anna) came back on the line, my name would slowly devolve:
First time: Thank you for holding, Miz. Dee-ah-broo-zoh...
Second time: Thank you for holding... Miz... Dee-ah-broo-zee-oh...
Third time: Thank you for holding...Miz... Miz... Dee-broo-zay-ah-no...
Fourth time: Thank you for... thank you for... holding... Miz... um... Miz Dee-brouse-no...
Fifth time: Miz... Dee-ab-so?
ME: Yes, Anna?
There are worse things to fret about. But it’s yet another reason why I’m not running for president. It would be too much to ask of my country to get my name right. 
Still, I bet it would be hilarious to hear all the local anchors butcher it during the primaries. 
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! My favorite and one of the most frequent mispronunciations of my last name is Manicotti. I'm not sure if you've ever noticed my last name, but it's not that. :o)

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