Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name . . .

It isn’t easy having a name like mine. No one can spell it, most people can’t pronounce it, and you’ll never find it on a keychain in a gas station. When I was a kid, I dreamed of having a normal, beautiful name—like . . . Linda. Everybody can spell . . . Linda. But if your name is. . . Eula . . . you can’t even get that spelled right on your Starbucks cup.

When I order my Iced Grande Decaf Whole Milk No Whip Three Pump Peppermint Mocha, I usually let the barrista spell my name any way she wants to, hoping that phonetics wins the day. But that’s no guarantee that the guy at the other end of the counter will have any idea how to pronounce it when it comes his way. I’ve been called Evla, Ulla, Oolah, Lula, Elva. Last week it was Yuma.

But the one that took the cake happened a couple of months ago. It was business as usual in my local Starbucks: I order my drink, she spells my name wrong. She tried to fix it. But she made such a mess of the cup that the other barrista couldn’t make any sense out of her handwriting at all. He looked at my drink and finally settled on, “Mike!”

So . . . you’re wondering where I got such an interesting name. It was a gift from my parents. I was named after both grandmothers. My mother’s mom, Eula Cook, had been told as a child growing up in rural Alabama that her first name was Creek Indian, meaning “devil.” My father’s mom, Marie Jennings, told me her name meant “bitter.” So, there you have it. According to family tradition, my full name—Eula Marie—means, “Bitter Devil.” And then I married a man whose Scottish surname, McLeod, means “Son of Ugly Face.” Sigh.

I once met a woman who shared my name. Not only was her name also Eula Marie McLeod, the spellings were identical. She was twice my age and lived in Phoenix. I learned about her by accident when a friend told me she’d seen my name in the newspaper announcing I’d won a free pie at Marie Callendar’s. But when I called to claim my dessert, they told me . . . I was the wrong Eula McLeod. You know, with luck like that, I am NEVER going to Las Vegas. I can’t even win when the odds are one out of two.

But, I was a good sport. I looked the lady up in the phone book and called to tell her about her good fortune. In case she hadn’t read the paper that day. She hadn’t. She was 80 years old, not very impressed by Marie Callendar, and less impressed by me sharing her name. I guess since she’d had it all her life, she figured it belonged to her. She told me that since it was her maiden name and only my married name, that I wasn’t really a McLeod. And I told her. . . well, that by then I’d been married longer than I’d been single, so I was pretty sure I was off probation.

To add insult to injury, my name has recently surfaced among those who are computer savvy. You know what I’m talking about. The acrostic E-U-L-A now means End User License Agreement. Imagine my delight. Well, you can be sure that I am the end user of this name and did not pass it on nor did I sell it to my daughter.

We gave our children normal names that they could find on mass produced coffee mugs and keychains in any gas station across America! And that’s worked very well for our . . . son, Lee. Unfortunately, K-A-T-Y is not the current popular spelling for our daughter Katy’s name. So despite our best efforts, she shares my pain.

Not only was it important to us to give our kids names that were easy to spell, we gave them names with wonderful meanings, too. Well, except for that whole McLeod thing. There wasn’t much we could do about that. And for a long time, I didn’t think there was anything I could do about my name either. Until the day I discovered the truth. And I was set free.

It’s a long story, but it turns out Eula is Greek – not Creek - and literally means Good Words. And Marie means “bitter waters made sweet” or “consolation.” I like that. And McLeod. . . still means Son of Ugly Face. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

I was dinging around on the internet the other night and thought, hey, it might be fun to google myself! I do not recommend this. I discovered there’s a whole dimension in cyberspace happily using my name in vain. There’s a town in Texas—home to 125 people—who support their Eula Pirates. Right here in Phoenix there’s a punk rock band—named after me—whose lyrics could make me believe that Eula does mean “devil”. There’s a EULA Hall of Shame, a SpycarEula, a EULA-lyzer—I want one of those—and an anti-Eula that promises to make mincemeat of me!

And wouldn’t you know it. Just when I start to feel good about introducing myself again, some bozo named Mitchell blogged on the internet for the entire world to read that “anything EULA-like is disturbing.” Fortunately, Webopedia came to my rescue and told the truth: “Not every Eula is the same.” I already knew that, though. That’s what an 80 year old spinster in Phoenix once told me.

I really think they should have let me deliver that pie—personally.

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