A Rose by Any Other Name

My question to the group was fairly straight forward, “Has there been a proven Y-DNA link between my ancestor and a certain ill-tempered curmudgeon on the Mayflower?” I’ve been told by several people that one exists, but when I start asking for the proof what I get in return is anecdotal. One of the big family tree lessons I’ve learned from digging around on Ancestry.com is that among the good information there is a such an amazing ton of bad information, so take all information with a big grain of salt. Unfortunately, in large part thanks to the internet, the bad information easily and quite quickly hops from family tree to family tree with ease.  All you need to do is press a button.  One of my favorite examples involves my 3rd great grandmother having my great-great grandfather at the age of one according to several trees.  Think what you will about my family, I’m 99.9% (leaving that .1% to account for physiological wackiness) certain that my 3rd great grandmother wasn’t having children quite that young.

In this particular email to this group who all share my last name, I threw in a little “P.S.” asking, “Out of curiosity, how do you pronounce our last name?”  I might as well have made that the subject of the email and posted it in big, bold, capital letters, because while i got a few “no one is quite sure about your Y-DNA question and the Mayflower Association will not accept DNA evidence as proof of descent” everyone else immediately jumped on the pronunciation thing.

So, basically this past Friday night I unwittingly started a small family war.

You see, the first part of my name is “Dough”. I pronounce it the way it looks, like dough or doe. A few people chimed in with “no, it’s like ‘dow’”, or “no, it’s more like ‘dah’”. Then came the proclamations: “We here in Ohio say it…!!” or “Well, in the northeast we say…!”  This was followed by a quick shot across the bow, “oh, so when you make bread, do you make it with dow?”  They added a little wicked emoticon smiley face to soften the impact, but that comment was met with a picture of and recipe for pandowdy to strengthen the dow/food claim.  Touché, mon frère. touché! Points to the chef!

There was a brief intermission of kvetching about people adding “er’s” to our name and some general fussing about the difficulty in trying to get people to pronounce correctly.  A friend of mine suffers from a similar issue with her first name.  The issue being you pronounce your name and the person you’re speaking with repeats it back with an entirely different pronunciation despite having just heard the correct version.  In my friend’s case, her name is Anna, but when she introduces herself as Anna more often than not the person she’s speaking with changes it to Anna. You easily see her dilemma and frustration.  (Yes, sometimes I’m difficult on purpose.)

My whole Y-DNA question was drowned out by “o” and “ow” sounds..

That’s when my favorite part of this discussion appeared (although “do you make your bread with dow” is easily my second favorite).  It began with “there’s a street in London with that same name, maybe we should find out how they say it” to which a gentleman from the UK stepped up and boldly claimed, “the correct pronunciation is ‘dow’”.  Now the use of the word “correct” would be enough to send both of my eyebrows skyward, but what edged his response up to the very top as a true favorite was a truly delightful paragraph about the history of language   My favorite line being one where the author carefully explained to the American dullards what was meant by the tern “18th century” with an “or as you would say” for the rest of us who couldn’t keep up with that fancy “18th century” talk. Whoa! Easy there feller.  You’re saying 1850 isn’t in the 18th century?  But they both have the number 18 in them!!! MIND BLOWN!  He also added that the 1700’s really only covers 1700-1709, a statement with which I would tend to disagree, but hey I’m American like that – fat, loud, simple and wielding a gun just like everyone else I know, bless my heart. This fellow then followed with another fun bit that basically stated, “the reason you pronounce it incorrectly is likely because you’re making a faulty assumption about the origins of your name.”

A short note followed from another fellow in the UK asking, “what do the English know? In Scotland and Ireland they say ‘dough’” followed by even more winky smiley emoticons. 🙂 😉 😛

Half a day went by without any further response while the Americans were undoubtedly using the time to take careful notes about the whole “century” thing. “Ok, so if 1700-1799 is the 18th century, then that would mean… Holy cow! It’s all coming together now.”  And just when I thought we’d spend the rest of the weekend contemplating these latest revelations, Braden from Ohio stepped in to give his own take on the history of language, as well as a general history of the name. Then all hell broke loose as Braden went all haplogroup and Y-DNA on the guy. Oh snap! History/Science nerd smack-down DNA style!  The gist of what he said, since it was a rather long and detailed email,  had to do with discussing the moment in history when spelling became more standardized.  He used the aforementioned haplogroup to shed doubt as to whether we Americans, who share that name, have actual ties to those similarly named in England since apparently it’s an uncommon haplogroup for the area.  To finish off, he cited anecdotal evidence based on his own UK travels of places he found where folks, when presented with the spelling, pronounced our “dough” as “doe” to prove that even in the UK there’s not necessarily one “correct” accepted pronunciation.  I nearly sent Braden a “Bravo! Well said!” email, but decided to hold off.

As of this morning, the “dough” battle rages on ignited by my simple question.

My take on the whole thing, history and haplogroups aside, is that the “right” way to say your own name is the way you pronounce it.

5 thoughts on “A Rose by Any Other Name

  1. Had to laugh – we have lots of strange spelling – however it’s said locally it the “correct way”. People take the funniest things waaay to seriously….but it’s “family”, so I guess that’s normal.
    Language is fluid. Things change through time (standardized spelling helped that …and legible writing. People also go “creative”..my grandmother disliked her last name when married and insisted everyone change to the French version…as people travel and reinvent themselves, it’s always a mystery how/why names are as they are
    PS Some heritage/lineage groups are beginning to accept DNA…matter of time.

  2. Beth says:

    What inspired me to ask the question of the group was years of having my name butchered. Every now and then, after many a properly sound butchering I would hear, “I know a person with that last name and that’s how /they/ say it.” So, I figured I’d try to root out all of the perpetrators of those bad pronunciations. Of the people who responded, 90% (a statistically sound number +/- 85%) claimed to pronounce it the same way I do. It seems it’s those Londoners who are the real problem. I really did expect more people to claim an alternate pronunciation, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case. (I may believe that my family who carry the name “might” have been the sort to change how it’s said. Don’t tell my Dad! 😉 )

    As a person who cannot stand their legal first name that I do not go by (I’m sorry, Grandma – it’s lovely for you), I completely understand your grandmother changing the pronunciation to something she felt sounded more appealing. Whenever people mispronounce my first name (doctor’s offices, DMV) I just smile and never correct them, because frankly it sounds so much better. (Again, sorry Grandma!)

    Fingers crossed that when we have take the Y-DNA test it finally proves that relationship to the Mayflower miscreant. Even if the Mayflower Society doesn’t accept it yet (fingers crossed that they would accept it at some point), it would confirm a long held family belief and make Dad really happy.

    Hope you have a great week! Bundle up!! It’s cold outside!

  3. All this is very interesting. My grandmother a UT research librarian really enjoyed digging up history and family history. As a teen they did the “grand tour” of Europe when that was the thing to do for a couple of months. I think she wanted to emphasize any French connection after that. She was into a bunch of historical society groups – frowned on some of the Mormon “research” as at that time it was mostly word of mouth and family history – not hard documentation. Ancestory has that tendency, too – good nudges in directions, but still good to find solid proof. DNA is pretty solid fact. (If there’s DNA, there’s real documents proving it somewhere – but who has the time. Can you link to any existing accepted descendants?) Most likely all groups will accept it as the data bases grow. Meanwhile, real historical (and sometimes hysterically funny) mysteries
    And it is cold. The dog ran out and ran back in..but she’s getting cabin fever. Will have to wrap up and walk shortly (where is the sun?)

  4. Michelle Balderson says:

    I believe that we as Americans changed the pronunciation of a lot of the English/British language. And as Texans, we like things plain and simple. Nuttin better than some good ole slang, y’all! We pronounce evrrything differently.

    • Beth says:

      I always tell my non-Texan friends, we as Texans pronounce everything right (especially if they’re picking on me for saying “oil”) all y’all in other states pronounce things wrong, bless your hearts. You all were just made a little bit “special”.

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