Who ever dreamed that moving to Chile would require a name change too? Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen into some kind of involuntary witness protection program!
On the day I arrived in Chile, my name was Peg. Little did I know how much trouble that would stir up. It’s a very strange name to Spanish speakers. The main problem is that there is no word in Spanish that ends in “g,” so they just can’t pronounce it, which means that the “g” gets changed to a “k,” and my simple, 1-syllable gringo name comes out “Pekk,” or occasionally “Pikkk,” and always with a very explosive “p” and a dragged out flemmy-sounding “k”… Ick!
And then because it’s such an odd sounding name, they don’t understand it when I say it. The name is unknown here–Peggy, they get, but I haven’t been Peggy since I was a kid. And forget trying to leave phone messages… I finally got to the point where I would say, “Tell her the gringa called.”
So when the time came to look for a job, it was clear that I would get no call backs if the prospective employer couldn’t pronounce my name. I had to face the facts… I was going to have to resort to using the dreaded “real name” for the first time in my life. It was weird to introduce myself with the name that appears on all my legal documents. Until that moment, I had only been called Margaret by total strangers, mean teachers, and my father when I was in BIG trouble!
It’s also odd because it has three syllables in Spanish, so instead of the English “MAR-grit,” it’s pronounced “MAH-gah-det.” Kinda catchy, actually. And, for some strange reason, it is also subject to spelling changes. More often than not, people will spell it Margareth. The only reason I can figure is that the name Elizabeth is fairly common here, but because the “th” sound doesn’t exist in Latin American Spanish, they drop the “h” and call her “eh LEES a bet” (no “z” either). My reaction was originally to suggest they take my “h” and give it back to Elizabeth! (Gringo humor, I guess… it usually gets blank stares.
MAH-gah-det it is then… Although sometimes I just prefer “Gringa.”