Friday, April 26, 2013

W IS FOR WIECHMAN


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Growing up as Kathy Cannon, I didn’t hear my name mispronounced or misspelled. “Cannon like the gun,” I said.

I first met Jim Wiechman when I was 13, and he pronounced his name WEEK-MUN. (My German grandma said the rule is to pronounce the second vowel—IE sounds like E. Actually, German rule would pronounce it VEEK-MUN with W pronounced like a V and that guttural K sound like coughing up a fur ball.)

WIKE-MUN is what I usually hear. People who have known me on a first-name basis for many years still think my last name is pronounced that way.

A few years after we’d met, Jim began pronouncing his name WEECH-MUN (CH as in church). I asked why he changed it. He said his two brothers had changed it, and since they would pass on the family name, he felt they should be consistent. No problem. But of course, that was before I knew it would become MY name.

I didn’t learn until much later that Jim’s brother’s first wife is the one who changed it to follow American phonetic rules. I also learned that some of Jim’s sisters resented the change.

Had I known, I’d have happily been a WEEK-MUN. But by the time I learned the story of the change, Jim and I had been married for 25 years and had four children, and we’d called ourselves WEECH-MUN all that time. It was too late to change it back.
So, now married to Jim for four decades, I am Kathy Cannon WEECH-MUN (spelled W-I-E-C-H-M-A-N, I before E, only one N), but I answer to anything close. I understand how difficult it is to tackle a pronunciation when names often don’t follow the rules. And people sometimes change the rules.

Friends have suggested I write under my maiden name to make it easier, but I’m proud to be Jim’s wife, and Wiechman has been my last name more than twice as long as it was Cannon. I’m also proud to be a Cannon, so I use both names. If you’re confused, don’t worry about it. As Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?”

8 comments:

  1. Someone once told me that in German, the first vowel does the walking and the second does the talking. I avoided the entire issue of names 25 years ago but not changing mine. It still surprised me that more young women don't embrace this option. It's so much easier, and I've never regretted it. My daughters have even said they wished they had MY name!

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    1. You make a good point, but "back in the day," my & my husband's family would have been horrified if I hadn't taken his name--however he pronounced it.

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  2. How funny and interesting... and I would totally be one to pronounce it Week-mun. Love the wedding picture ;)

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    1. Thanks. I often think about how young we were back then. A lot of water has passed under that bridge, but for the most part, they've been good years.

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  3. Well I certainly understand. My last name is also German It's supposed to have an umlaut over the "O" and when we visited Austria it did. But here the sound is more like "er" so the name is rarely pronounced the way it should be. And people pronounce it differently depending on what part of Canada they live. We pronounce it with the umlaut and confuses people We are also married about 4 decades :D

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    1. Congratulations on your 4 decades! The US is such a melting pot of nationalities & the names that go with them. I think it's best when I just go with the flow & answer to anything close. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Such a nice story! And 40+ years of marriage - Wow!

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    1. Thanks. What can I say? I found a good guy.

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