a difficult name
or: thirty-three ways to misspell our family name
Updated with three new misspelling in 2019!
According to Google, Facebook, and the rest of the Internet, there are several fellows with the same name as me roaming this Earth. Many Michaels Werneburg. At least two are Americans. There's also a motorcycle enthusiast in Austria. And three or four different Germans including an artist. I'm also susceptible to the problem of receiving email for various M Werneburgs.
The name is German, of course, and arose from the Thüringer Wald, a hilly forest in the country's center. The first record of the name "Werneburg" then "Berneburg", dates to 1254 in a town named "bear town" in Germany. The name came to be spelled "Werneburg" instead of "Berneburg" because in German, the "w" is pronounced with a 'veh' sound, and 'v' and 'b' are of course quite close (as we'll see below).
As names go, something dating back to the 13th century isn't bad. In German its vowel sounds have a nice round quality and the "r"s are slightly rolling. It's the non-German pronunciation that have led English-speakers to mutilate the poor thing all my life. Here's a sample.
Man, this doesn't even begin with a "W"! An unsuccessful job applicant made this most surprising stab at my name. Uccemebug (pronounced Oo'chemebug) became my nickname for a while; I still use it as an alias on various websites.
I guess we're going to inch our way up the alphabet. I suppose this one doesn't really count, because spell-checking software is .. stupid.
In the late 90's, Toronto Hydro (what is it with these power companies!) thought that this was how my name was spelled. Honestly, couldn't they recognize a typo when they saw it?? Or did they think I'd adopted some faux-fashionable web 1.0 name? I don't even know how to alphabetize this.
In 2018, Mari spotted this attempt on some correspondence from our son's tennis club.
This was the name under which I was configured in an employer's Active Directory server. It meant that every document I created had that name tucked away inside it, as did every email I put 'round for the first few hours. Three spelling mistakes in one name.
Huh? Did the girl at the film counter in Calgary really think someone's name would be spelled that way? Or is this a statement of true apathy. "Whoops, fat-fingered that one .. ah, screw it."
Curiously, this is a constant problem. I don't understand the shift from 'er' to 'ei', but English-speakers are ready to do it at the drop of a hat. In the 80's, one of my teachers even asked if I were related to Casper Weinberger!
Even Google liked to get into the act. This screenshot was made in 2004 when I was looking up a "Werneberg".
A new entrant in 2019, this is the first from my son. A teacher at his school put this down when he signed up for something.
Another new one in 2019, also encountered by my son. This is how someone at the YMCA spelled the name.
Geez Louise. I think this person spelled my name this way on purpose, in the 'comments' section of this site. Back when I got comments, that is.
A new one in 1995 when the federal government's tax office had something to say, this turned up again twenty years later in early 2015, when one Ms. Glicksman of Waterfront Toronto got it .. closish.
Okay, I'm not crystal clear when I speak....
EnergyAustralia had this. Imagine that one said with an Aussie accent!
Reported by my brother, who shares the struggle. We've now got the first four characters right....
Nope. Maybe you're looking for my neighbour Beezle?
So close, Red Cross donations phone operator. So close. I do forgive you, I'd only read it to you three times.
Wow, all but one character correct. This is a particularly common one. I've seen coworkers, bosses, friends, even my business partner do this.
At a cottage "resort" in the Kawarthas, spring of 2016. I can't believe it took this long for this one to come up.
This is about the only one I actually find irritating. Do we really need an extra syllable? And another "ur" sound, at that?
"1-800-GOT-JUNK" sent me an invoice for the removal of a sofa in late '18. The next spring I was doing some clean-up and spotted the misspelling.
From the dry cleaner.
My health-benefits-insurance firm thinks my son's last name is "Wernebury" despite having my name correct in their files.
And on the second day of 2014, the mailbox gave to me (well, my darling wife) a letter addressed to Mari Wernedurg. It came from a company with whom we've been doing business for three years, but with whom we'd entered a new contract. Yes, you guessed it; a mobile phone carrier.
In early 2015, my son went to a funeral, and nervously wrote his name "Wernedurg". Sigh.
This is an amusing one, and not too uncommon when I've spelled it to someone on the phone. I suppose if your last name is something like Ford or Chin, Wernegurg's as good as Werneburg....
I had a fun minute with this one, wondering if I'd be able to cash the cheque from the twits who'd spelled my name this way. The bank accepted it, and didn't miss a beat on trying to up-sell "Mr. Wernerbug" some services.
A new one for '15. Amazingly, this was a transcription error. A postie wrote it like that while looking directly at an addressed package.
Another amusing mis-spelling I come across from time to time. Of course, it's the famous 'v' to 'b' transwhatever that changed the original name pronounced Berneburg to Verneburg.
I'm on a committee of five people, where this spelling persists.
My mum told me that they received mail for 'Whirlybird' in the 70s.
This was supposedly the way that the itinerant workers on our farm thought our name was spelled. I like this one, it reminds me of the AI Wintermute from a novel by William Gibson. My cousin, who shares the plight of this last name, used it for her production company.
A fresh entry dating to 2013, this is how Toronto-Dominion Direct Investing thinks my name should be spelled. This is after weeks of clowning around to get my account open because their automated account open process was "broken".
I've been trying to get this fixed for two years without success. TD seems to mean well, they're certainly free of the annoying shi* that CIBC put us through, but they're not great at execution.
Our six-year-old daughter's attempt, October 2018.
Someone on one of my boards made this attempt.
The fellowdimwit who ran the storage outfit in Vancouver addressed me as "Mr. Whatever-it-is", then broke into a digression that suggested I use the name 'Green' to avoid confusion. Another time he called me up asking for "Mr. Werne"; when I told him my actual name, he apologized and hung up.
Wait, that's the right spelling! What was amazing about a recent item of snail mail that arrived was that "Werneburg" was practically the only thing they got right in the entire address sticker. They had "Slingagala" instead of "Shinagawa" for the city name, then tried again with "Sunugawa" which is particularly amusing because it is the same word repeated in my address. They also got the postal code wrong .. and yet the mail arrived.
So much for the humorous typos and other oddities that English-speakers have come up with. But if I thought it was a hassle dealing with English-speakers, I learned that it could be far worse when I moved to Japan:
Living with a foreign name in Japan is tricky, tricky.