Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's in a Name?

Penelope Trunk, who was kind enough to blog about my new book, “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them,” pointed out that while she liked the book, she wondered about the name Bruzzese. “What’s up with her name?” Trunk wondered. “Who has any idea how to pronounce it?” (

“If you want people to talk about the stuff you do, you need a name people can say,” Trunk wrote.

First, let me say that Bruzzese is Italian. There’s been a gradual Americanization since it moved from the old country, but when I took it as my married name more than 20 years ago, I was told that it was said “Brew-ZEES.”

As you can imagine, Trunk’s remarks generated plenty of responses, ranging from the outraged to those who agreed with her. Trunk further explained her thinking, writing that “when your success hinges on people being able to pronounce your name, I think a name might need to serve a different purpose than just cultural identity.”

Trunk’s post really got me start thinking. Did my success hinge on people being able to say my last name? I began paying much more attention to people I was exposed to every day through the media: Anderson Cooper, Barbara Walters, Charles Gibson. But then I also noticed who these people were talking about: Barak Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Renee Zellweger, Martina Navratalova, Rudolph Giuliani and Ellen DeGeneres, to name a few.

So, even though my unpronounceable last name has become a topic of conversation, I understand now that I need not worry. After all, as far as difficult names go, I’m in pretty darn good company.

1 comment:

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

As a once Monterastelli, I taught first grade. Every first grader could say and spell it at the end of the first day of school and some parents never did get it -- even though it was totally phonetic.

Someone suggested I have the kids call me by my first name. I said I wanted the same respect as all other teachers, that I had faith they could handle a long word just fine thank you. As you see they did.

We can find something wrong with every name . . . give me a list and I will -- too similiar, too different, sounds too much like, reminds me of . . . on the other hand, you can just call me LIZ.

I love Penelope and I agree in theory, especially when applied to products. But not about people. Names are the first words we know. They are ours to keep if we want to. :)

Hey Anita!