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December 18, 2008



Hi again. You probably know what happens to my name when I travel abroad. Especially for english speakers it's really hard. So I don't mind if they translate to "Hector", which is more common to them (both english and spanish speakers). My last name is tipically brazilian (Teixeira), but the different pronunciation of the "x" makes it really different. At first I didn't recognise my name when they called me at the airport and almost lost my flight. :)


Even though I introduced myself as Jackie to my Argentine friends, I was called Shackie, Shuckie and Yackie. It didn't really bother me.

But my last name (Luciano) seemed to confuse a lot of people since it’s primarily used as a boy’s name in Argentina. When I applied for a gym membership the receptionist had to ask me several times if I understood what "nombre" and "apellido" meant, she was so doubtful that she even asked my roommate to confirm my name. When I left my class and looked for my membership card in the women's file it was nowhere to be found. Needless to say we found it in the men's file under last name: Jackline, first name: Luciano. :0)


I'm a Brazilian guy with one of those "extremely European" last names (Dutch, in my case) and it's funny that I don't even need to leave my own country to experience the very same situations you describe, particularly the part about having to slowly spell my last name every time I need it -- and still having people getting it wrong frequently. Fortunately, my first name is simple enough that it can be pronounced (with small variations) in just about any language, so I've never had problems with it abroad.


My name is Carolina, so you can imagine how it was pronounced when I lived in the USA; CaroLAIna, which was fine with me. But my friends called me Lina so they would stop mispronouncing my name :-)

Marcio E. Goncalves

It seems that americans have a very hard time with my name, Marcio. No one can pronounce it right - normally they say something like Marshall, Marcel, Marchio, etc...

In New York a lot o people would just say: Can I call you Mark? But that doesn't happen here in San Francisco, though.

Sometimes, very rarely, someone realizes that Marcio is the male version of Marcia (a name that does exist in english) in pronounce Marcio as they would pronounce Marcia in english, something like (in portuguese) "Marshia/Marshio".

I already accepted the fact that I am "Marshio" around here...lol

But my last name, it's even worst: Goncalves. First, I can't even write the name correctly in a english keyboard, because they don't have the cedilha (the little tail in the c) and don't know what it means. So people will read the C as a harsh sound, not as a S sound, as should be.

But that part it's ok. It's expected. What I find weird, is that a LOT, a mean a LOT of american, will hear "Gonzales" when I say "Goncalves". Even after I spell out for them, they STILL repeat: Gonzales, right?

I don't know why this happens. Maybe Gonzales is such a common latin name in California and people assume that, as a Brazilian (thus latin), that's what I said?

Well, but I can't complain - my asian friends have a much harder time than me. NO ONE can pronounce their names (americans don't even try...) so they have this tradition of choosing a english name to present themselves.

Sergio Heringer

I didn't get it but Rachel seemed surprised because Brazilians and latin american have european surnames? If so, first, we're settled by Europeans, hello! and we speak European languages and part of our ancestors, being us of mixed blood or not, comes from Europe. What did she wanted us? with indigenous name? They were massacred by European settlers. African names? Slaves were compulsory baptized with christian names. Had we to invent new surnames?

Sergio Heringer

Oh! And by the way, I'm Brazilian and have a German surname and I don't necessarily live in the south of Brazil. I'm from northeast. Even in northeast of Brazil, in Recife, there's a small jewish community.


I have more of a problem here at home in the states with people mispronouncing my name. It's spelled just like it sounds.... Alisa (uh-lisa). I often have to explain that it's "Lisa with as A at the beginning" right after someone calls me Alisia, Alisha or Alissa after I have just told them my name.

Latinos always get it right, I guess because Elisa is similar and is a common Latina name.

It's funny, it seems that after the ear is used to hearing certain names, we just associate a name that is new to us with one we already know and turn it into the name we are used to. It's frustrating though, so I always try to get people's names correct, because I get tired of correcting the mispronouncing of my own name.... and I have met some folks with some VERY uncommon names!


I'm not an ex-pat at the moment, but I had a fun way of getting people to say my name right or almost right. What helped when I was in Brazil or Peru was to tell people my name, Tracy, is pronounced like the number 13 (trece or treze) and that my last name, Walker, is like their favorite whiskey: Johnnie Walker. :D


Back in the day when I was an expat:

Priyanka Karnik= Bianca Kah-nee-kee



I just need to say that you are even more beautiful in the video than in your pics..


Excellent post. I am half english so I have to spell my last name nearly everyday to people.

To makes things worst, my parents had decided to give me a bilingual name (such as Eric or Arthur), however on the last minute my Dad (english) decided to name me after his best friend in Brazil, as he really liked the "exotic" name (although Guilherme means William and is quite common here).

So when I moved to London, no one could say my name. They would call me Gill-herm, Gillem, Guile, and at best Guillermo, Guillaume... Terrible. One of my co-workers used "Guilly" as a nickname and it became rule for the others in the office. Some people would just use my middle name when calling me at the office and that annoyed me a bit.

But is something you learn to live with.



I hate seeing myself on video, so I'll just post here.

I'm pretty lucky with my name. Jennifer is common enough in Brazil that there's an Orkut group dedicated to us, although the spelling isn't standardized. I went by Jenny because it sounded kind of cute when Brazilians said it and it reminded me of my beloved Portuguese great-grandfather calling for me, and "Jenny" is a common English name chosen by Chinese women here in Hong Kong. And "Jen" is arguably the most important Confucian value, so I've got my bases covered.

My last name, though, is never spelled correctly by Americans. It's a not-that-unusual variant of a traditional Irish surname but people seem to think I must be spelling it wrong. I even had a professor ask me once, "Are you sure that's how you spell it? Were your ancestors drunk when they went through Ellis Island?"

One thing I really hate -- even though I think Jennifer is a pretty common name and one that isn't too exotic to most foreigners, I can't tell you how many times I introduce myself and hear, "Ohhh, LIKE JENNIFER LOPEZ?" Yes, yes, like Jennifer Lopez. Seriously, there needs to be a new famous actress named Jennifer so I can get rid of that stigma. Oh, and any guy I met with the last name of Lopes in Brazil would inevitably say, "If we got married, you'd be JENNIFER LOPES. HA HA HA HA." Hilarious.

Ray Adkins


I didn't understand your doubt or surprise with Brazilians having German last names or Argentineans having Italian last names...??
I worked with many Brazilians in Sao Paulo with names such as Bornhausen (German), Ferrarini (Italian), Theodoridis (Greek), Hecker (Danish), Silva (Portuguese) and a good friend of mine with a last name of Smith (English) they are all Brazilians of European ancestry, English, Danish, Greek, Italian, Portuguese are all part of the melting pot of the Paulista society of today.
Actually, a very famous woman named "Martha Theresa Smith de Vasconcelos Suplicy", take a look at her biography, I think you can't get any more "super" "European" as her family's last names:



Ray Adkins


You will probably enjoy reading this link:



Ray Adkins


Here is another interesting link on the Smith family in Brazil:


Rio Gringa

And this is why I need to start writing a script...

Sorry for leaving out the all-important phrase, "DUE TO EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION..." (which I obviously know about)

FYI people, most Americans don't even know Brazilians speak Portuguese, let alone that there was mass European immigration in Latin America beyond the Spaniards.

Eduardo Sant'Anna


"might be dificult for cariocas as the CH would sound like "sheeeeee". hahahah How true! :-D

And that makes me (and many of us who don't know you in person) wonder how exactly you sound speaking portuguese. From the few words you mentioned, you seem to be doing an excellent job! Can you post a video of yourself speaking a bit of portuguese? :-)

Well, about my name. Not that complicated as well. Most people will say "Eduarrrrrdo" with english pronunciation and some will call me Edward. But in the end I tell everybody to call me "Ed" or "Eddie" to make things easy.


Gustavo Franco

I work for a multinational corporation and I'm used to people calling me "Gustav Frank-o", some use the Sean Connery accent to say "Gushhhtavo" and pretend they are into the carioca accent. Super fun time, really. Most of people call me by my nickname stratus, though. We will see what happens when I move to US next year.

Sergio Heringer

I keep on not understanding Rachel's comentary or response. Being white, mixed or black, all of us most of Brazilians and Latin-Americans have European surnames (or spaniard-iberian surnames are far away from her concept of European?). It seems stupid. So not just for the European immigration but also previously for the colonization that brought to these lands the culture and a ton of people from Iberian peninsula that even myself, with German ancestors, I consider as Europeans too. Or aren't they supposed to be considered so? That's why her surprise in the video makes no sense.

Rio Gringa

The point that I so poorly got across orally is that many people assume all Latinos have Spanish names and that all Brazilians have Portuguese names, as opposed to names of other European origins, like from Germany or Italy.

Luciana Oliver, Irina Du-Point, Maciel Grecco

For her response, Americans are so self-centered that it justifies their ignorance about other countries. So we must be sorry for Americans being so stupid? That's it? Come on! Perhaps Brazil we're settled by Alliens and we should have Martian names and surnames (haha).


The comment above...so not funny.


C'mon people! It was just a "lapse"... And it probably has nothing to do with being American, since most Brazilians I know talk the exact same way, forgetting that Portuguese (and Spanish) names are European as well. Or it's simply implicit that they refer to Europeans other than the official colonizers (which would be just obvious). Everybody understands that!
Then again, she SAID that Latin-Americans have European surnames and that they may be difficult to pronounce, and that IS TRUE (even for the Portuguese and Spanish names). So what's the big deal? (BTW, that would be true for the other non-European surnames also common in Brazil, like Japanese and Korean.)
I bet that most of these "offended" Brazilians that accuse Americans of being so ignorant about Brazilian history don't have the slightest idea about how many Swedes or Dutches immigrated to the United States and where they settled, for example. So let's be fair here.
There is no way other people (Americans, Europeans, Russians or Filipinos) could know anything about our history if we, Brazilians, don't tell them. I knew nothing about Trinidad & Tobago until I met people from there. But if we advertise to the World only African descendants dancing in Carnival, who is to blame if they get the wrong idea? Nothing against the "mulatas" (far from that), but they are only one part of our rich society.
Currently, one of the most famous Brazilians around the World is Giselle Bündchen, but I've never seen any American finding anything strange about her surname or making any funny comments about it (not even Stephen Colbert). In fact, it was more difficult for Brazilians to pronounce, just proving Rachel's point.


I have a serious doubt that I've been wanting to ask you a long time: how come you're in Brazil for only 2-3 years and already speaks Portuguese with much less accent then Henry Sobel? Actually, your Portuguese sounds very good by any standards.

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