Deb Dana’s Green Maiden Name

Lots of things come to mind when I think of the word “green”: grass, trees, money, environmentally friendly behavior, envy, split pea soup.

But the one word I think of first is my maiden name: Greenspon.

Having the last name Greenspon was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it meant I was part of the most supportive, wonderful family, who would do anything for me at the drop of a hat.

On the other hand, it meant people mispronounced and misspelled my last name ALL THE TIME.

Notice the last four letters of that name: S-P-O-N. Not “-span.” Not “-spun.” Not “-spawn.” SPON. For twenty-seven years, that wily O confounded everyone who crossed its path.

I think some people thought I was just trying to be fancy with my pronunciation of Greenspan. Legend has it that my grandmother, upon meeting my grandfather — whose name was Sam — smirked when he pronounced his last name. “And I suppose you pronounce your first name ‘Sahm,’ hmm? Is that right, Sahm Greenspahn?'” To which he replied, “Um. No. It’s Sam. Sam Greenspon.”

When I started working at the PBS Nightly Business Report, Alan Greenspan was still chairman of the Federal Reserve. I always found it interesting how quickly sources returned my calls when I first started that job. Until, of course, they realized I was GreenSPON, not GreenSPAN. I had a good run, though.

When I got married, I figured my days of last-name confusion were over. At last! A last name the world wouldn’t butcher!

And then I received a call at work one day from someone looking for Dana Bates. Sigh.

Do you have an easy last name to spell and/or pronounce? Or are people constantly getting yours wrong, too?

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  1. Everyone (almost) mispronounces my kids’ last name (even at my son’s high school graduation, where everyone knows the correct pronunciation). It isn’t the name I use except legally, and in anything regarding them in our small town. The problem is, that’s no longer how I identify myself and people say Amy Marriedname and I have no idea who they’re talking about. And considering I don’t use it to publish (never have) and haven’t used it publicly for 10 years, it sort of annoys me. But that’s another post.

  2. Pronunciation isn’t such a big dead for me, but do you know how many ways there are to spell Schafer? Or Kerry for that matter? The odds of getting them both right are astroomical. I answer to everything without blinking, Although when the telemarketers call I usually know, because for some reason they don’t recognize Schafer, which one would think to be a fairly common name. They ask for Kerry SKaffer. To which I reply, “nobody by that name lives here.”

    1. I get to give that answer to telemarketers at work ALL THE TIME – and I love it.

      My law firm is “Llewellyn + Spann, Attorneys at Law” and we’re always getting people who call up to speak with “Llewellyn Spann.” Now, 90% of the time, they can’t even get the Llewellyn part right – but MY first name is Susan, and my law partner’s name is David, and we are TWO people, not one.

      I shouldn’t make fun, though. It took me forever to learn to spell Llewellyn.

  3. I thought my last name was pretty straightforward, but when I lived in Texas, telemarketers always called me “Mrs. Grim-ez.” And even here in VA, I’ll get the occasional “Mrs. Grims.” At least everyone gets “Linda” right. *grin*

  4. You’d think my name was easy – and “Susan” usually is – but it amazes me how many people have trouble with “Spann.”

    My husband (who grew up with it) heard all the variations long before I did (including the oh-so-mature playground version: “SPAM”), but in the decade-plus that we’ve been married, I find people have about a 50/50 chance of pronouncing it right. The correct pronunciation is “Span” – like a bridge or the first part of the British term for a wrench. What surprises me is how often people try to pronounce it “Spawn” (or “Spahn”). I’m not offended – I can understand the mistake – and if correcting it would be awkward I don’t even bother most of the time (generally only when NOT correcting would lead to more awkwardness later on).

    Hey – at least the Susan part is easy.

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