Family HistoryGuest Posts Names: How do you say that? By Schelly September 10, 2015 Share Share Copy Link Contributing author Schelly Talalay Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com If your family name is Smith or Green, you won’t relate to this post. However, if your family name is something more exotic – welcome to the club! They look at your name, stammer and ask “how do you say that?” What do you do? Do you patiently spell it several times? Will you, as I often do, spell it out as in “D as in David, A as in Apple, R as in Robert” …. Do you break the name down into syllables for the other person? Do you give up and say, “Call me by my first name!” People look at DARDASHTI and their eyes glaze over. “Is that two Ds and two As?” asks the person on the phone or in a store. I usually break it into three syllables: Dar-dash-ti. For TALALAY, strangers usually put the accent on the wrong syllable, and say Tah-LAY-lee, instead of TAH-lah-lie. To confuse matters, one family branch uses TALALAY in English, but pronounces it Tah-la-lay. No wonder our ancestors switched to TOLLIN, TALLIN, TAYLOR, TOLL, TALL – and FEINSTEIN! First names aren’t so easy, either. When my surname is giving problems, I might just give up and say “call me Schelly.” Of course, then they’ll ask how to spell that because there are so many variants: Schelly, Schelley, Shelly, Shelley, Shelli and more. When we lived in Teheran, some relatives thought my name was Shirley and they’ve been calling me that ever since. I just received a wedding invitation a few weeks ago addressed to Sherley. I recently finally convinced one cousin that it was Schelly, and she was quite surprised. She had forgotten how hard I tried to correct it so long ago. My great-grandfather, according to the Newark, New Jersey city directory circa 1906, even flirted with TOLINI at one point, making us Italian. That was also the reason it took me years to find his first naturalization papers. I spent months calling the proper Essex County office to ask about the records. They kept telling me there was no TOLLIN, no TALALAY. Finally, having established a phone relationship with a friendly clerk, she told me that they had boxes of old records rarely accessed. I managed to persuade her to take a look by offering to pay for dry cleaning her clothes. Although she refused, I think the offer convinced her that I really wanted those papers. In any case, she dealt with the decades-old dust, the creepy crawlies and retrieved our treasure. The miracle is that she found the papers. The moral of this part of the story is never to give up. Keep calling, try to find a friendly soul at the other end. But don’t do this if you live in the same city. It helps to be somewhere far, far away, perhaps in another country. Obviously, if you’re half-a-world away, you can’t go there in person to check for what you need. But I digress. (I do that a lot) Why this topic? An Arizona paper carried a story about another family with a really unusual name. Can you say URTUZUASTEGUI, boys and girls? There’s even a video to hear how the family says their unusual name, along with a few photos. It’s a hard surname to pronounce and spell, but the unique name is very big in south Yuma County, where a street is even named after the well-known family. Somerton resident Josephine Urtuzuastegui, 86, has had nearly 70 years to get used to her married last name, but she’ll still admit that it’s been a challenge. The former Josephine Obeso was 17 years old when she married Charles Urtuzuastegui in 1941 and went from having a simple surname to a 13-letter mouthful. She admitted the name had to grow on her. “When I first got married, nobody could pronounce it. I was really embarrassed and would just say, ‘Call me Josephine.’” Then she had three sons — Charles Jr.; Alex, who passed away in March; and Robert — and with children came doctor visits. “The doctor could never say Mrs. Urtuzuastegui. I told him to call me Mrs. Josephine. After that everyone called me ‘Mrs. Josephine.’” The San Luis City Council renamed the simple “A” Street to the well-known family’s name. Businesses on the street don’t understand why because people can’t say it or spell it in English or in Spanish. There’s a Facebook page for people who share this name. The name is actually from Spain’s Basque region, famous for its unusual language linked to no other on earth. This name also has a variant – Urtusuastegui – as relatives in Mexico spell it with S instead of Z. Read the complete story at the link above, and view the video to learn how to say this unusual name. Do you have an unusual name? How do you explain it to strangers?