It happened again.
I was at a party with a sizable crowd and where I did not know anyone other than my hosts. So I did the usual self-introduction thing and told them my first name. One woman said, “I remember when I can incapacitated by it in college”. She had, like so many others, thought my name was spelled and pronounced as ‘mono’, short for mononucleosis, the infectious disease sometimes referred to as ‘the kissing disease’ because the Epstein-Barr virus that causes it is spread through saliva and kissing is a common way of transmission.
Actually, there is a subtle difference in pronunciation between the two words but many people miss it and usually go to the first word they are familiar with. I then tell them that it is spelled and pronounced like the Spanish word for ‘hand’ and that clears things up, especially if they know some Spanish.
I sometimes wonder whether I should bother at all. It seems a little picky and suggests an elevated sense of self-importance to correct people on such a minor error as the pronunciation of your name, especially with people I am likely to never meet again. So why do I do it? Perhaps it is because I do not wish it thought that my parents were weird enough to give me a name associated with a virus.
Incidentally, I had never heard of this disease in Sri Lanka, likely because kissing on the lips is something that is only done within the context of marriage or extremely clandestinely between two intimate partners. So while in the US, it can spread widely on college and high school campuses, in Sri Lanka it was totally absent. At least, I did not know a single person who contracted it.
I remember a Star Trek Next Generation episode when Dr. Pulaski pronounced Data’s name with the first syllable rhyming with “bat”. Data corrected her, and she responded, “Dayta, Dahta, what’s the difference?” Data gave his “accessing” look for a bit and then said, “One is my name; the other is not.”
But I agree that it’s no cause for a full-blown mano-a-mano.
“Perhaps it is because I do not wish it thought that my parents were weird enough to give me a name associated with a virus.”
Isn’t naming your kid after the Spanish name of a body part a little weird? : )
Kidding, of course, but I do have two questions. Is Mano common in Sri Lanka? And, is Mano short for a longer name?
The reason you had not heard of it, Mano, is because Epstein-Barr virus is typically contracted at a younger age in most parts of the world. When you contract EBV at a young age, it’s almost always a mild disease or completely asymptomatic.
Here in the US, and also in Europe, we live in a more “hygienic” environment, and that typically means we encounter the virus later. About 90% of the adult population carries the virus, and once you’re infected the virus sticks with you for life. So if you exchange saliva with a lot of people (such as through kissing), you will almost inevitably catch the virus if you didn’t pick it up as a child. That’s why so many people here catch it as teenagers or in their early 20s, and at that age it is more likely to cause acute disease.
Source: I earned my PhD doing EBV research. 🙂
How could that clear anything up at all, unless they know some Spanish?
Well, sticking with Spanish, while mano is indeed the word for ‘hand’, mono is the word for monkey, so, yeah, it does matter how one pronounces words.
I read mono as one, the opposite of stereo. I of course have always read your name, so know that it is not spelled with two o’s. I always try to pronounce peoples names correctly in their language, but some inflections and tones are exceedingly hard to hear, much less pronounce properly if English is your first language.
I have a name that is easy for the average English speaker to pronounce, but very difficult if their native language is Spanish or an Asian language like Vietnamese.
I simply let those people use a nickname, and address me as their word for ‘bird’ rather than struggle and mangle my name into a different word. It has sparked multiple enjoyable conversations in the course of my life, and some really great friendships.
For most Americans, I think they are just lazy and make no effort to understand unfamiliar ‘foreign’ names, which I would find annoying and a bit racist.
Given your love of puns (which I do not share but somehow my brain thinks up bad ones anyway) I suggest you try new ways of introducing yourself.
Hi, I’m Mano. Mano Syllabic. You can call me Man.
Hi, I’m Mano. Mano Lithic. Einstein, near enough.
Hi, I’m Mano. Mano Sodium. I wonder if you’ve seen my teammate?
“Mono” is another of those words that divides English speakers from American speakers, in the UK the disease you can get as a young adult is known as “glandular fever”, plus I’m in my sixties, so I also think “not stereo” when I hear it.
The first time I read your name, I thought of Manolo Badrena (ex-Weather Report, Herb Alpert). Though with a surname like Singham, definitely not the same ethnicity. As it happens, he just turned 70.
Deepak Shetty says
Atleast you arent “Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas” (A really good bowler!)
It’s a big difference. When George Bush Jr. was running for Texas governor, his campaign slogan was “Juntos podemos” which means “Together, we can.” The Houston Chronicle reported that his campaign slogan was “Junto pEdemos” which means “Together, we fart.” Changing out the o for an e makes a pretty big difference.
And it’s your name. Come on people (who get this wrong). This is not hard.
“Juntos” not “junto”. Criminy.
Mano Singham says
To answer your second question first, yes Mano is short for Manohar.
As to the first question, Mano is a very, very common name (I personally know about a dozen people) but for almost everyone it is a shortened form of a longer name. There are many longer versions that are not so common (I do not personally know any other Manohar) and they are often gender-specific but the shortened form is gender neutral. i.e., If the name is Manohar, it is male, while Manorie would be female, but both are likely to be known as Mano.
Mano Singham says
When I correct them, I say ‘Mah-no’ with some emphasis and that usually clears things up.
Thanks for the answers.
My name is Larry and people often assume it’s short for Lawrence, but it’s not. One time, I even had to dig up my birth certificate to prove it.
Rob Grigjanis says
larpar @15: Where I grew up (N England), the common short from for Lawrence was Loz. Short for Barry was Baz (in Australia, more commonly Bazza, I think).
I never heard of that disease either.
To one of my vintage, mono is the difference between AM and FM radio.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
My legal first name is Shawna. I’ve answered to Shannon, Chandra, Shawn*, Shane, and so forth.
*I don’t mind this one so much because, woohoo, gender euphoria.
John Morales says
Monos tienen manos, pero manos no tienen monos.
(Yeah, I know. Late to the party)
My given name is Juan Ramón, but when I came here to Oz people only had one first name (so, Juan) and basically nobody could pronounce it — everything from yooan to kooan and around that, but no Juan. So I became John, for simplicity’s sake.
I wonder if they were trolling him deliberately?
Add a few letters and you get pendejos, which rhymes but isn’t generally considered an appropriate word for a newspaper to print.
I’m adopted so I have no real idea what my ancestry looks like but my first name uses a Scandinavian spelling of a semi-common name. My last name is a common English word but not used as a name very often. It’s one letter away from another common English word that is much more common as a last name. So I get some confusion about spelling at times even though my name is pretty straightforward.
When I run into people who have unusual names I try my best to pronounce them and ask for corrections. Once I sorta get it, or at least as close as my accent will allow, if they have another name they go by for ease of use with English speakers I ask which they prefer. I know I might not be saying the name they were born with correctly but I feel like trying is a way to show some respect and distance myself from the sorts of people in the US who freak out about immigration.
It’s not rude to mis-hear someone’s pronunciation of a name, and it should be corrected politely, as Mano does, and immediately, as, when they hear the correct pronunciation from someone else, they get embarassed that they were saying it wrong.
It is rude, however, to comment on someone’s name. No one should remark on what your name sounds like or make a joke about it (believe me, my college roommate was called Pandora, and I know for sure how rude that is.) Almost the only permitted comment would be something like “What a pretty name!” and even that is pushing it.
Matt G says
In my case, Matt is short for Matthew. When I’m at some counter (e.g., doctor’s office) where it has to be spelled in full, I’m often asked if it’s one or two T’s. I’ve been a Matthew all my life (55 yrs.) and have not, to my knowledge, ever met a Mathew. I guess we don’t travel in the same circles.
This whole thread has confused me terribly. I took a lot of Spanish and “Mah-no” is how you pronounce “mano” in Spanish. And regarding distinguishing it from the mono- in mononucleosis, they sure sound the same to me. In fact, from https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/mononucleosis.html ,
In my head, I always “pronounced” Mano as “man-o” with the “a” in “can”.
But then who am I to speak? My last name is “Neinast”. At least half of you will say it wrong, and I’ve been dealing with it my whole life.
Rob Grigjanis says
ahcuah @24: I’d guess NINE-ast.
Well over half get my last name wrong.
@ 24 ahcuah
That’s interesting, it clearly depends on regional accent.
To me Mano is pronounced like the “Ma” in Ma & Pa Kettle followed by “no”:
Whereas ‘mono’-(nucleosis) rhymes with “gone” followed by o:
In some accents these vowel sounds might be the same. But to me very distinct.
P.S. My guess would be Nye-nast where Nye is like Bill Nye and nast rhymes with fast. 🙂
Hmmm. What region? My accent is the “classic” “tv news” midwestern accent, and I have never heard it pronounced maw-no-noo-klee-OH-sus. I had no idea there was any variation. Oddly, Mano lived for a long time in Ohio (where I’ve lived for over 30 years), so I am really surprised that the people he was around would use maw-no.
Most people who have never seen it before pronounce my name with an initial “Neen”, not “Nein”. Those who get it “right” are somewhat familiar with German (and if they ask, I’ll say “like the German ‘nein’ for ‘no’.) But I generally try not to correct people. As for the last syllable, we’ve generally soften it from “ast” to “est”. Somehow “nine-essed” is better than “nine-assed”. 😉 Particularly when one is in Junior High.
I’m late, so you probably won’t read this, but the problem may be the cot-caught merger. While theoretically there is a difference between a “short” o and a “long” a, in practice most dialects of English will use the same sound for both. So unless you pronounce your name as [mæˈ no], most people will understand the sounds to be the same.