It’s My Name; I’ll Pronounce it Anyway I Like

When I was a child, a teacher once told my elementary class something that kind of blew my mind. We were discussing spelling rules (i before e except after c, or when sounding like ‘ay’ as in neighbor and weigh) and someone mentioned that her uncle had a name that broke the rule. The teacher then said that proper names don’t have to follow any rules–that one’s name could be spelled “B-O-B” but pronounced “Methuselah” if the person so desired.

Since at that age I wasn’t particularly fond of my given name of “Leslie,” I was intrigued by this revelation. Perhaps I could insist that my name was actually Cynthia or Elizabeth or Kimberly or anything more feminine sounding than Leslie. Well, no one was on board with that, so I just settled for being plain old Leslie.

I do pronounce my name with a soft “s” sound rather than with a “z” sound as many Leslies do. Once a girl who shared my name but used the “z” sound told me that the “s” sound was for males named Leslie, while girls used the “z.” She told me my name’s pronunciation was masculine. I disagreed, so I slugged her.

Just kidding. I politely disagreed with her and went on my way, mentally punching her with gusto. She was rather obnoxious, after all.

My mom gave me the lovely, feminine middle name of D’Aun, (pronounced Dee Awn) though. In fact, she settled on it way before coming up with my first name. Apparently, her best friend at the time had named her daughter, D’Aun, and Mom loved it so much that she wanted to give that name to her firstborn daughter. However, since she didn’t want to copy her friend, she used it as my middle moniker.

For awhile after my birth I really didn’t have a first name, but my Nannie (Mom’s mom) had recently read Giant by Edna Ferber, in which the main character’s name is Leslie. Everyone involved (except moi, dammit), agreed that Leslie paired well with D’Aun, and it was a done deal.

When I saw the film, Giant, I was super stoked because finally a lovely, feminine woman (Elizabeth Taylor) would answer to my name! Surely I’d then be able to embrace this designation. My hopes were dashed when the pronunciation chosen by the filmmakers was “Lezlie.”

Lately I’ve been taking an informal poll of women sharing my name. So far, it’s about 50/50. I’m not inclined to punch the “z” aficionados anymore, but they shouldn’t make any assumptions about my femininity based on an s.

Do you know any Leslies? Which is it, z or s?

Peaze, people.

Hurricane Leslie

My actual real life name is Leslie. Supposedly I was named for a character in a novel that my grandmother read before my birth. Although I can’t be certain, I’ve always suspected that novel was Edna Ferber’s, Giant, which was published in 1952 and became a major studio film in 1956, the year I was born.

The absolutely gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor played the part of Leslie Benedict, and when I saw the film I felt such a sense of vindication. Finally here was a character with my name, and oh, what a character she was: Beautiful and smart and fashionable. It bothered me some that her name was pronounced with a “z” sound while mine has the softer “sss” pronunciation, but I was willing to overlook that. After all, my grandmother read the name in a book. The movie folks likely had gotten it all wrong.

Leslie wasn’t a common name for girls back in my day, and it’s never going to make the top ten list for female children, as names like Linda and Sophia, Ashley and Jennifer have over the years. I have met a handful of female Leslies, though, some pronounced with an s others with the z. We’re a pretty select group.

Yesterday Studly Doright sent me an email with information about another Leslie.

Welcome to the club, Hurricane Leslie. I hope they pronounce your name correctly.

Peace. People.

Love the Name You’re With

Written in response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt:

Say Your Name

Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?

The story of my first name, Leslie, hinges upon the story of my middle name, D’Aun

My mother had a close friend whose daughter was named D’Aun, (pronounced Dee Awn). Mom was enamored of the name, but didn’t want to infringe on the friend’s daughter’s name. And I suppose that might’ve been awkward.

“D’Aun, stop that right now!”

“But Mommy, I’m not doing anything!”

“Not you, D’Aun–D’Aun!”

So rather than deal with the confusion and the imagined penalty of name theft Mom elected to find a first name to precede the name D’Aun. Apparently that was no easy task. Many names were considered and subsequently discarded.

Then as my mom’s due date drew near her mother, (my Nanny), found my name while reading a book. The heroine was Leslie. And that name seemed to fit well with D’Aun. 

I’ve always believed the book Nanny was reading was Giant by Edna Ferber. It was published in 1952, and I was born in ’56, so the timing would’ve been right.

In the film version of Giant, Leslie is played by Elizabeth Taylor, so that only adds to my certainty that I am the character’s namesake. I mean, just look at her and then look at me! Or not.

The pronunciation of our names is different, though. Having only seen the name in print my Nanny believed Leslie was pronounced with a soft “s” sound, whereas in the film it’s a “z” sound.

Oh, that friend of Mom’s with the daughter named D’Aun–I don’t recall ever having met her. As is often the case friends from those early years drift away and are never heard from again. They could’ve left D’Aun as my first name and no one would’ve cared. 

There was a time in my life when I wished to have that romantic sounding moniker. D’Aun! I imagined in high school how much different my life might be as a D’Aun! But plain old Leslie suits me. I don’t think any other would fit me quite as well.

Peace, people!

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