I’m French and have lived in the US for over 10 years now. Yet, even some of my closest colleagues still have trouble saying my name right. They usually get the first name alright but the last name often remains a problem so, I thought, as a small distraction from the OOXML raging debate, I would spend a few minutes talking about my name.
My first name is “Arnaud”. The way to pronounce it is “Arno”, or if you will “R-no”. Easy enough but many English speaking people keep wanting to say every letter and insist on saying the D when it is totally silent. In general the end letter is silent in French, and “au” is basically just like the letter O. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, and I’m not especially a defender of the many irregularities and complexities of the French language.
When I first moved to the US and had to give my name in a restaurant to be put on the waiting list I used to spell my name so they would write it correctly. I quickly discovered that this was a big mistake because I would later fail to recognize my name when called. I now simply say “Arno”, which they often understand as “Arnold” (with the D I never say, mind you – it’s amazing how our brains want to always match what we hear to something known. -) But that’s ok, it’s close enough for me to recognize when it is called later, which is all I care about in this case.
Now that I’m done with my first name, let’s get to my last name. My last name is “Le Hors”. This one is tougher and in fact even French people have trouble with it. I’ll explain why later but first, let me insist on the fact that it is in two words.
This is actually not that uncommon in many parts of the world but for some reason people in the US seem to have a major problem dealing with last names of more than one word. It is a constant struggle to keep my name as two words.
People always seem to want to either attach it as in “LeHors” or as in “Le-Hors”. It’s neither. The fact that many names are spelled in one word even though they were clearly two initially, such as “McDonald” or “McTracy”, is a testimony that many did give in on keeping their names in two words at one point in time. Maybe my son will too one day, if he stays in the US, but I won’t.
A related problem I discovered while insisting on having my last name written in two words is that people reading “Arnaud Le Hors” then wrongly infer that “Le” is my middle name and address me as “Mr Hors”.
Of course, it’s understandable in a country where so many names are so common that people must use their middle name to try and differentiate themselves, but in my case it’s just another trap. To prevent that I now often write my middle initial, as in “Arnaud J Le Hors”, which clues people in. Some still get it wrong though.
I also try to put two spaces between my first name and last name, as in “Arnaud Le Hors”. But more than often computer programs collapse the two spaces in one, defeating my attempt [Update: looks like wordpress does exactly that as a matter of fact, I can't seem to figure out the right escape sequence to get two hardcoded whitespaces...]. In fact, computer programs that are developed in the US by people who make the same typical assumptions often garble my name one way or another.
Whether at the drugstore or at the car rental my name often reads as “Hors A”, “Le A”, or some similar variation, on the display panels. And because airline companies and travel agencies handle the two words differently I often have trouble with non matching frequent flyer numbers, etc.
Back to the pronunciation, the way to say my last name is “Luh Oarss”. It took me a while to figure this one out with help from a couple of American friends but having tested it on several occasions I’m now confident that, when said with an American pronunciation, it leads to the write sound. (Special note: Come on, Bob, try it a couple of times, I’m sure you can do it.
The H is silent and the S at the end is pronounced. That’s where the French too have difficulties. See, as I previously said “in general the end letter is silent in French”. So, most French people don’t say the S.
But my name is not really French. It is from the north west part of France, called Britany (“Bretagne”) which had its own language and my name used be spelled “An Horz”. After the French revolution, all the names from Britany were translated to French in an effort to unify the various regions of France. The “An”, which is an article just like the English “An”, was thus translated to the French article “Le”. In the process the Z was changed to an S and since then the spelling no longer quite matches the pronunciation.
All my life in France, starting from primary school up to now, I’ve had to correct people’s pronunciation – “it’s not ‘Le Hor’, it’s ‘Le HorSS’” – and correct people who systematically write my name as “Le Horse” even when I spell it to them – “No E at then end”!
Sometimes I envy my cousins who live in Britany where local knowledge shields them from all these troubles, but I wouldn’t trade the Californian sunny weather for the rainy weather of Britany, even though the coasts of Britany are some of the most beautiful regions I’ve seen.
So there, you have the whole story now, and probably more than you care to know. Standard program to resume shortly. (pun intended)
In case anybody misunderstood my blog entry “Let’s be clear: The Apache Software Foundation does NOT support OOXML“, I did not mean to imply that the ASF has any official position one way or another regarding OOXML.
My point was simply that Microsoft is misleading people in claiming OOXML support from basic XML tools and their parent organizations.
I don’t think anybody who actually read my entry could read it otherwise but I respect the sensitivity of some ASF people on the matter.