What's In a (Starbucks) Name?

3 years ago




Ar-na-by...what's your name, baby?

It's rare for someone to say my name correctly on the first try. It happens, but it's rare. I've been called all of those above and a few others that make less sense. And by less sense I mean less sense of a seemingly normal person who thought Amoeba could be correct.

I prefer "How do you pronounce your name?" (No need to add, "…so I don't butcher it, because I don't think I could say that without you saying it first." People are stupid). Asking first shows genuine interest, rather than confusion or the ridiculous assertion that Armenia might be accurate.

Saying my name over the phone is exhausting. N as in Nancy. B as in boy. I get asked where I’m from, what my mother was thinking when she named me, what it means. I’m from DC, that question offends me on my mother’s behalf, and it means my mother was creative, I guess. What am I supposed to say to that? “Oh, she was high”?

Growing up, I hated my name. I wanted something common and easily pronounced, recognizable. Ashley, Amber, Melissa, Tammy. I craved Karen or Sam or Tia, Nia, Leah. I eventually came to appreciate being the only Arnebya in the room (although I’m still not over Kings Dominion never having a keychain with my name on it, or having the Romper Room host say into the Magic Mirror, “I see Arnebya”).

Admittedly, I sometimes purposely mispronounce others’ names when they mess up mine. “Thank you, Suzanne,” when the name is clearly Susan. “Have a good day, Bree-on,” when the name is Brian. When telemarketers call and ask for Arnesha, I say, "There’s no one here by that name," because technically, there isn’t. And sometimes, just for kicks, when someone sees my name written and says, “Wow. I’ve never seen that before. How’s it pronounced?” I say, "Brenda."

While I do love my name now and its uniqueness, the purposeful tendency to not say it to strangers is ingrained in me. When I visit restaurants with my family, I give my husband's name. It's easy. I can't even default to last name, because Herndon almost always becomes Henderson. In restaurants or anyplace I have to wait where a name is required (in nightclubs, when I was younger), I tend to answer “Your name?” with "Lisa." It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s automatic.

I hadn’t realized how far deep this aversion to saying my name to strangers went until last week when I visited Starbucks. The barista asked, “What’s your name?” and I said, "Lisa."

I don’t think I’d ever considered that other people might do this—blatantly lie about their name, for whatever reason. Well, reasons aside from hiding your identity because you’re wanted by the police. I glanced at the cup a while later and giggled, posted it, showing Lisa, on Facebook with the caption, “Do you have any idea how many times I would have to say, let alone spell, Arnebya?”

The comments I got were fantastic. So many liars! I mean, people with a reason to say something different from their actual name. There were shortened names, different variations, and outright changes like mine. And it was noted that even the most common names are sometimes flubbed.

I think it would be hilarious to hear, “Tall vanilla latte with whip for Beautiful” or “Grande iced coffee for blue shirt.” One of my Facebook friends suggested I give a different famous name each time. Tina Turner seems to work well for her. But I’m thinking my walking to pick up a cup called for Michael Rappaport might be funnier.

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