The importance of being Csaba

I know, I know, I don’t have an easy name to pronounce for the unassuming foreigner. But then again, it’s not that horribly difficult either.

What I don’t understand is why it seems challenging for some people to spell my name correctly in an email… after all they only have to copy and paste my name either from my previous email’s signature or else from my email address (where it’s featured twice).

But it does happen, like it did a couple of days ago, repeatedly from the same prospective client.  The most frequent failed attempt at spelling my name is “Czaba” – mostly by Polish people or English speakers who happen to have a Polish friend.  At least they assume that the first two letters of my name (“cs”) are to be pronounced as a single consonant.

Then, much less frequently, there’s a school of thought that introduces as “a” vowel between “c” and “s”, perhaps in an attempt to make my seemingly unpronounceable name pronounceable. Followers of this school come from far and wide, and they are probably not related to each other.  Throughout the years I’ve read and heard “casbah” (think Rock the Kasbah from Clash), “casaba”, and occasionally even “casaban”.

The simple fact is that the “cs” combination in Hungarian represents a sound that exists in many other languages.  It’s the same as “ch” in English (not choir, but chair), “ch” in Spanish (chico), “tsch” in German (tschüß), “č” in Czech and Slovak (časopis), “cz” in Polish (czarny), “ч” in Russian (чёрный), “ç” in Turkish (çevirmen), and “ci-/ce-” in Italian (ciao). (Identical letters or letter combinations are used in some other languages as well to represent the same sound.)

But that’s not the only “problem” with my name. You see, it ends in an “a”, which in any “normal” language would imply it’s a female name.  Long time ago, a few years before we started using emails, I applied for a Europe-wide student conference in Luxembourg. It was to be fun – a full week of seminars, international exposure and fun in a country that I had not visited before. I duly sent my application form to the organizers – a photo was not needed.  When I showed up at the conference venue, which doubled as a dormitory for participants, the pretty female organizer was quite astonished to see that I was a man – despite my name. She told me that they had put me in a girls’ room, and now they need to reshuffle the rooms a bit.  I tried to explain that I don’t mind sharing the room with three girls of assorted nationalities, but it was no good. I ended up with three guys – all of them with regular male names, all ending in consonants.

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About bancsaba

Discovering the world, step by step, word by word
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