Mis-pronouncing ethnic names

I’m in Jersey City NJ again, at the NY/NJ MQ User Group giving a session on certificate management.  Nearby hotels are fairly expensive so last time I was here I tried an AirBnB and it didn’t go very well.  This time I figured I’d try a budget hotel a few blocks from the event.  What I didn’t realize was that “a few blocks” really isn’t, if the hotel is bounded on one side by an Interstate highway and the on-ramp to the Holland Tunnel. D’oh!

So when I climbed out of the Newport PATH train station to the surface street, I headed the “short” way, only to be blocked.  Google Maps was a bit of help, except the GPS signal tends to get lost in the tall buildings and it kept reversing my direction.  Eventually, I backtracked a couple blocks past the PATH station, then walked up past a mall, then turned right again and walked several more blocks to the hotel, all while carrying my backpack and dragging my suitcase in the rain.

After checking in at the hotel, I asked the desk clerk if there was an easier way to get from the hotel to the PATH station.

“Easier than what?” she asked.  “How did you get here?”

“Well,” I said, “I came through the light-rail stop behind the mall, around the side of the mall to Marin, then past the parking lot and the Educa Onal Community Center…”

“The what?”

I had pronounced it E-dooka OH-nal.  I figured I had mangled the name of some wealthy donor who had established the center.  There’s a lot of diversity in and around the New York city metro area, as you can imagine, and I had no idea what nationality this name might be.  All I had for comparison was the name Donal Logue which I had heard properly pronounced recently when he had done a Public Service Announcement on TV.

Donal is pronounced like DOH-nal so I figured Onal sounds like, well, OH-nal.  I would just have to fake a pronunciation for Educa.

“The E-dooka OH-nal Community Center,” I repeated tentatively, asking more than telling. “It’s a block down Marin from here?”

“Do you mean the ED-YOU-KAY-SHUN-AL Community Center?” she asked, enunciating every syllable very slowly.  “The one with the sign where the “TI” fell off a long time ago?”

I thought about it a second.  All the letters were in upper case.  I had just assumed the spelling was intentional and I bet you could fit a “TI” in there. If the letters had fallen off a long time ago, the weathering would hide the outlines where they used to be.


I suppressed the facepalm but my whole body sighed involuntarily.

“Yeah, that’s the one,” I said meekly.  Then, not waiting for an answer, I bolted up the stairs to my room.  Suddenly, it no longer mattered how long the walk was to the PATH station.  The 10 steps to the stairs seemed like an eternity.

Well, here’s another hotel to which I can never return.

About T.Rob

Computer security nerd. WebSphere MQ expert. Autist. Advocate. Author. Humanist. Text-based life form. Find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
This entry was posted in General, Humor and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mis-pronouncing ethnic names

  1. Great story, T.Rob, I got a good belly laugh of of that one.

    • T.Rob says:

      Glad you liked it, Drummond. You do know the last time you commented here, a book resulted. You realize that’s your fault, right? I hope so because I’m holding you to your original commitment to buy a copy. In fact, as I explain in the book, a traditional publisher would want a decent sized market to go to print but I, as a self-publisher, was able to green-light the project based on a projected sale of exactly one. And you are it. (Though I am happy to autograph it for you. For a fee I can have someone else autograph it for you.)

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