Identity Change

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.”

6 responses to “Identity Change

  1. The same happened with my name as well. It’s not even a common American name either, so it’s really been put through the wash. Most people just gave up and I was donned a Cuban name, lol.

  2. La Gringa/Margaret

    I hope at least it’s one you LIKE!
    Some people call me Margarita, which I actually like, but don’t feel is mine, and others try to shorten it to “Magui” (pronounced like Maggie) or Marge–which is where I draw the line!

  3. You should see my American friends trying to pronounce MY name..
    Javiera is out of perspective..seriously. After 2 years knowing them it’s a complete FAIL. From now on I’m havi, english pronunciation indeed, haha

  4. I can only imagine how Javiera gets jammed up on an English speaking tongue! At least you don’t spell it with an X!

  5. As a child growing up in Chile, I felt comfortable with Catalina or Katy (pronounced Kahti). But upon returning to Chile after nearly 45 years abroad putting up with “Kathy”, I’ve tried to keep my adult (and legal) name Kathleen, to no avail. When asked, I try to give it a Spanish sound: Kat-LÍN. But it’s no use. They insist on adding syllables, such as Cáterin or even Cateríneh. “No, it has only two syllables; it is the Irish form of Catalina.” Blank stares. Oh, just call me Katy with a K.
    Of course I lost my maiden name when I was married the first time in the US, as is customary. But my second marriage took place in Chile, so I still have my former married name and no “apellido materno”. Soooo…, they try to make one up: “Curdy”, with “Mc” written separately as my “apellido paterno”, or else they try to pinch-hit with my middle name. It seemed easier before, when Chilean ladies used their husband’s name, such as “Sra. de Burotto”. Of course that sound a bit machista nowadays.

  6. Isn’t it funny how names that seem so common to someone in one language become so troublesome in another? Peg, Kathleen, Joan, Eileen, just to name a few! And yes, the whole second apellido dilemma! I tried to have my mother’s family name put on my ID card, but nothing doing. Since it’s not on my passport, it’s not legal… Love the way yours becomes Curdy–which would make you Katy Mc? 😉

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