What’s in a name?


Let me start by saying that I have grown to love my name. It feels like it fits me; at least, I can’t really imagine being someone with any other name. And a life with my name has been quite character building. Not a dull moment to be found. My name has become an important part of me, and it is me. Also, mom and dad, please do not be offended by this post. It is just a bit of fun. I am honored to have been given my name by you both.

Now, I may not be able to imagine myself with a different name, but I can wonder at what life might have been like were I to be have bestowed with a name that was easier on the eyes and tongue.

I can wonder what it might have been like for the past few decades to not have to apologize for the difficulty and discomfort my name presents to most people I meet.

Of course, I had also experienced my share of apologies coming from the aforementioned individuals.

This afternoon’s visit to the Women’s Clinic presented a series of interactions that I sometimes wish were less familiar.

Marieke walks into the clinic. She stands awkwardly at the window, waiting for the secretary to open the glass window.

Why do they need a sliding glass window, she wonders? Are they trying to hide from us? How does glass actually make people disappear? Or is it just the feeling of being “on the other side” that helps alleviate any discomfort?

Window slides open.

I need you to fill out this form. Marieke starts writing.

Ok, you’ve written enough, she said shortly before I had finished filling out the address line and zip code on the small sticker.

I need your ID and health insurance card and for you to fill out these other forms as well.

Ok. I go sit down and write down my partner’s name and relationship to be in four different boxes and sign my own name and add the date to four other separate boxes.

Note: I am not sure what prompted me to begin writing about myself in the third person, so I have reverted back to the first person. I hope this is acceptable to you. If you are frustrated, feel free to attempt to pronounce my name. Maybe, it will help you empathize with my plight.

Ummm, let me see if I can get this right. Mar-ee-kee? A voice calls out tentatively from behind the open sliding glass window.

Marrrr-ick-uh, I respond as I walk up.

Yeah, I know. There are a lot of vowels. Thanks, mom and dad, for making my life so easy. Followed by my nervous laughter.

Ohhhh. I figured it must be foreign. I don’t do well with those foreign names. She laughed without a hint of remorse.

Well, this is America and also Arizona, I thought to myself. At least she is accurately representing the stereotypes.

Let’s move on, shall we?

Mar-eek? The nurse called out to the empty waiting room. Yep, that’s me.

Did I pronounce it correctly?

Close. It’s Marrr-ick-uh.

Oh. Ok. Please take off your shoes and step on the scale.

I am led into a small, sterile room with beige, tan walls.

Then the small talk begins. In the middle of my attempt to explain what I did as a park ranger, which was understood from the nurse’s perspective as a tour guide (Ok. Sure. Why not a tour guide?), the nurse excuses herself to answer a call from somewhere outside the room.

Huh, I thought. I guess I will just sit here with the blood pressure wrapped tightly around my arm, feeling like I have lived a ridiculous life with a ridiculous name and wait.

Seconds and minutes go by. At least, it feels like a microcosm of an eternity before the nurse returns.

Here is a cloth to put over your lap, she explains as she sets down a crinkly, papery excuse for a blanket. And this one you put on with the hole in front.

Ummm. I have no words for a response at this point. A gown with a hole in the front?

The nurse leaves the room. I step down from the chair, lift the white white “gown” with blue trim, and unfold it to reveal the familiar open back with a string of blue to match the blue trim around the edges.

Freaky! The front of the gown has been sliced open from the neck down to just bneath tummy range.

At this point, I have forgotten about how irritating it is to explain and apologize for my name and have been transported into a disturbing Sci Fi film where they are breeding women with aliens and need a hospital gown that has been cut open in the front for quick delivery of the alien-human babies.

I am flashing back to scenes from Battlestar Galactice when the doctor opens the door and walks in tentatively, stopping as she peers down at the chart.

Ok, I think I’m going to need some help with this one, she says, looking up and smiling at me.

Marr-ick-uh, I respond robotically. It’s a tricky one, I know, I lift my shoulders into an apologetic shrug and offer a few har har hars.

I’m going to write it down so I can pronounce it, she says.

I recommend spelling it M-a-r-i-k-a, like Monica but with and ‘r’ instead of an ‘n.’

Oh yeah, she says. That makes sense.

Yes, I think. Yes, it does.

We go through the first part of the medical interview. Then, she has to leave to get the nurse to help her.

I’ll only be a minute, Mar-eek, she assures me.

Guess that phonetic spelling did not succeed in working its correct pronunciation magical powers. I should have suggested that she speak like a pirate, Marrrrrrr-ic-uh. People love that one. Gets ‘em every time!

The doctor returns with the nurse, and they proceed to talk about me while I lay on my back for the poking and prodding. It just feels wrong, but I try to play along.

No, it’s super comfortable, I joke when the doctor apologizes for the scapula. I could lie here all day. Seriously. This is great.

The visit over, I get dressed and text a photo of the holey gown to my sibling.

You look straight out of a Margaret Atwood book, they write back.

I follow a series of arrows that lead me in a circuitous route to the check out, wondering as I walked if I really was in a Margaret Atwood book and I was walking into an alternate reality from the one I left upon opening the door to the clinic an hour earlier.

At the check out desk, I wait for the secretary to print out a form.

Ok, Ms. Slaw-vin. You’re all set.


I smile and thank her.


Did I say it right? She asks.

Close, I respond. It’s Slow-vin.

For a temporary respite from reality and some humor, I am sharing a short video I created wherein I explain the proper pronunciation of my name, along with some tips for remembering how it is pronounced.


3 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. The link to the video “How to Pronounce My Name” doesn’t seem to work. When I first heard you say your name, I was surprised that you put the stress on the first syllable, since Jacques Brel, in his famous song by the same name, puts it on the second syllable. I found a Youtube link to Brel singing “Marieke”, which might either please or annoy you. I’ve always loved the song myself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfGDpzL9H7Y .

    1. Hi Jim! Thanks for reading my blog post. I think I fixed the link. My grandmother is my namesake, and I believe that she pronounced similarly to the Jacques Brel song. She passed away before I was born, so my parents named me after her. ❤

  2. I feel your pain, Marieke, although I will say I do love the name my parents gifted me, even though, when I lived in France, everyone thought they wanted a boy (because my name sounded like Nicolas to the French). And then in this country, people want to pronounce it like the cough drop – Ricola – when it’s really pronounced like Saint Nicholas except without the s. Of course, nobody in England mispronounces my name but I chose to live elsewhere so I feel like I only have myself to blame. I do remember my children, as little ones, asking me why I didn’t correct the many medical professionals who would come out and bellow my name like the cough drop. Ha! Hahahahahahahahahahaha.
    Your name is lovely…..just like you.

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