This week on In For Questioning Angie interviews Debut Dagger short-listed writer, Scotsman and international traveler James Oswald on the program.
Oh, and did I mention that James is a friend of mine? That he and his lovely Horse Doctor wife have visited me in Canada and that we broke bread at Harrogate and I bugged him about his retro 70s wardrobe?
This is all important, because James mentions me in his interview. Which is very lovely (or should be) except for the fact that he says my name wrong.
I mean, so I’ve been told. I haven’t listened yet. But yes, word has spread that James referred to me as a Ruttin’ instead of a RUE-tan.
Ruttin’ is the bastardized form. It’s the hillbilly version, rhyming with “nuttin’”.
“Whatcha doin’ Peggy Sue?”
However, my name is pronounced RUE-tan. Rue rhymes with Sue, tan rhymes with fan.
And what would James know of mispronunciations? How many people say Jam-ez instead of James, and how could you mispronounce Oswald? That would take concentrated effort.
But when you have a name that’s not so straightforward, this is what you must contend with.
Personally, I blame whoever was doing the census in the 13 Colonies back in 1675. Abraham Rutant sailed to what would become the US, and for some reason, they changed Rutant to Ruttan. Don’t ask me why.
We can argue if the name is French or Flemish. What I know is that Abraham apparently fled Metz at the ripe old age of 13 in 1670. Now, since Louis XIV invaded in 1670, maybe things weren’t good. My understanding was that the Rutants were Huguenots, and that Abraham fled to Mannheim, Germany, and five years later sailed to America.
And because the Ruttans were United Empire Loyalists, they ended up in Quebec after some tea went in the harbor in Boston. Which is an interesting thing, if you think about it. Fleeing what became part of France to go to the US, which they left to maintain loyalty to Britain, and in the process ended up living in Quebec.
Once, when I was driving home from Calgary I had the radio on, and Deric Ruttan’s song ‘When You Come Around’ was playing. Afterward, the DJ started to say “That was Deric Ruttan…” and then his partner prompted him and he went into this big explanation for hesitating because he said it looked like the name should be said Ruttin’ instead of the correct way, which was how he said it, and he was very funny and made a big joke of it, and I almost drove off the road laughing… But the truth is, it really really sucks having a name people always mispronounce.
Add to that the fact that some people think I should want to be called Sandy. Hey, if other people like it, that’s great. I will punch you. Okay, only in my imaginary world, in my little fantasyland between my ears, but I hate being called Sandy, and I hate being called Susan even more, it’s not funny, it wasn’t funny ten years ago and no, you aren’t the first person who thought of it and you aren’t that damn clever.
Which is making me feel guilty, wondering whose name I’ve made fun of over the years. I went to school for 8 years with a guy named Julius Puckler. I am not joking. And many kids substituted an F for the first letter of his last name. I have to say, Julius was a bit cruel. The name, not the guy. He had an older brother named Rocky. Come on. Rocky is a tough guy name, and Julius, well... It was a 'get your ass whooped at school' name and he got bugged a lot.
I actually have a cousin named Ruttanna, and I once had friends who laughed in her face, because they thought her name was Ruttanna Ruttan. No, dummies. Her mother had been a Ruttan, and so Ruttanna had her father’s surname, which was Stahls.
When I was a kid, I wished I had a common name. I guess most kids just want to fit in. Sandra was a boring name. Now, I never understand why people insist on calling me other things. I suppose it's some sort of twisted symbol of intimacy, but very few people call me anything other than Sandra.
One thing I learned traveling? Sandra is a universal name. In Africa they had no trouble with it (In Tunisia, in the Arab countries) in Europe, in Costa Rica. It's actually very nice having a universal name people can handle almost anywhere.
Few people mispronounced my surname when I was a kid because there are a lot of Ruttans where I grew up. Great big community of bootleggers left over from Prohibition…
Then as an adult I learned what a difficult name Ruttan apparently is. In my career, I worked with so many kids with speech impediments, my first name was impossible for them (with a three consonant blend, and one of my kids couldn’t pronounce ‘S’) so with some I was called Sara, and some, well, I guess Anna is the closest name.
And now, my friend is on In For Questioning and even he can’t say my name right.
Before you ask, my married name is always mispronounced as well, and now that I'm legally changing my name back.. Maybe I'll change my surname to Brown instead. Sandra Brown.
I can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with that.