Before divulging my penchant for swiping missalettes from church, I planned to open this blog by explaining how the name How Gozick? came about.
For as long as I’ve been alive, my first and last names have caused confusion. Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, people named Smith and Jones were vastly outnumbered by names with lots of consonants. Something in our genetic makeup allows us to pronounce names like Wojciechowski, Przybyszewski, or Kwiatkowski with the greatest of ease. Some of these names were Americanized due to language issues at ports where immigrants entered, including mine. My great-grandfather Vasil Godzik came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s after a long journey from what is now Ukraine. We were told growing up that our name meant “buttons” in some Eastern European language, but I’m not sure whether this is really true.
There are also a bunch of names that are very similar to mine and in spite of our multi-syllabic name-pronouncing superpower, my six-letter last name is confused with people named Gocek, Kozick, Kocek, Kozich (and countless others!). I am also asked if I’m related to people whose last names aren’t even spelled like my own. Because some of those names are pronounced differently from mine, I have also suffered countless mispronunciations which have caused lots of laughs over the years. Some of my favorites include names sounding like “Gauze-ick” and “Got-sick”. My dear friend Michele, who was blessed with a fabulous normal-sounding surname, has taken a life-long pleasure in mocking my name. The mockery of my last name continued into high school when she gave me a piece of gauze in a paper wrapper, saying “Gauze-ick” aloud while handing it to me. In freshman year, people started greeting me in the morning by saying “How Gozick?” I thought of it as a term of endearment. Some of my childhood friends (and their children!) even call me Gozick as if it were my first name.
My first name has also been the victim of pulverization. It’s a reasonably uncomplicated name, but so long that on standardized tests, my name was shortened to Christ because there were only six bubbles. When I need to use my name to order something, I often shorten it or use a different name because for some reason, people often don’t understand it when I say it and I often end up repeating it.
And that’s exactly what happened when I ordered coffee from Starbucks the other day. I ordered, the guy held up the little device to scan my Starbucks card, and when I presented him cash instead, he kind of slammed the little scanner down on the counter. As if I were some low-class slob for paying in cash. (This was the Short Hills Mall, after all! Anyone without an American Express Centurion Card is a low-class slob!). When I gave him the name Chris for my order, he asked me three times what my name is. I’m always prepared for several different spellings, which, in that setting, are forgivable. Unless I tendered some currency, like the American Express Centurion Card, that would show the correct spelling of my name. When the barista shouted “grande ice coffee”, I retrieved it and snickered when I saw a name I’ve never been called.
How the guy got “Gracie” out of “Chris”, I’ll never know. Incidents like this are so frequent for me that I’ve tried to take extra special care with people’s names. I always want to say them just right so that I don’t fall into the category of “that girl who always mispronounces my name”.