What’s in a name?

Recently I sent a letter of inquiry off by email to a company about an issue. The reply struck me odd because it was entirely in French. At no point in my email did I use any word of French, nor was it to a French business. It was to a business that didn’t even have a French language section on their website. However the person who replied felt the need to answer me in French. Then the light bulb went off, my last name.

My last name is Blancher. It has been spelled that way for nearly two hundred years. The branch of the family I am from is from Eastern Ontario and very much a United Empire Loyalist area. Yes there are variations of the last name like Blanchard and Blancherd, but I didn’t spell it with an “erd” or an “ard”.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope

It’s not hard I guess to mispronounce my last name, but it’s also not hard to get it right either. Blancher. Blanch – er. When you pronounce it properly, there is no “D” sound at the end. Blanch-er. Nope, no “ard” sound either.

When it comes to assuming my last name is French (and not an Anglicized French name which is common throughout North America), I guess that means it is also OK to assume I speak/read/write French.

I don’t. I took French up until Mr. Goddard’s Grade 11 class, and did use it in college a little when I’d hop on the train from Toronto to Montreal in search of cheap booze, awesome concerts and bagels. But that was over 15 years ago and now, I speak only French curse words when driving on Autoroute 20 in Montreal.  So why did this person assume I spoke French?

There are Blanchers in Eastern Ontario, Nova Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba. There are Blanchers in New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, and of course that bastion of French enclaves, Ohio.

So why did the person who replied think I speak French, sheer ignorance and a lack of thinking. If I were replying to an email, and the writer had written in English, I would think that the writer’s first language is infact, English and that all correspondence should be in English. Just as I would think that if I had received an email in French, German or Swahili. But I used that word again, common sense. Tsk Tsk.

I could even forgive the person if it was a phone conversation and I introduced myself, and the person heard my last name with a D because of the phone quality, or perhaps I was being lazy when speaking. I could understand that.

So to Ronald Smith in Ottawa, I am sorry that I wrote your company that has an English name and you having clear Anglo-Saxon birth and given names, in English. That is my problem for assuming and making an ass out of u and me.

Maybe I should start writing emails in Klingon.

Leave a comment