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?