The Filibuster

Dear RSBS Linguistics Dept.,

How the hell do you pronounce Mike Stanton’s new name?  Is it “Gee-an-carlo” or “Jon-carlo”?  I’m going to keep pronouncing it “Mike”.

Jonestein
(pronounced “Joan-steen”)
Fort Worth, TX
___________________________________

Being a nation of immigrants means that US phone books are full of many sometimes unusual names.  Some of my favorites include Christian Okoye, the KC Chiefs’ Nigerian Nightmare; Juan Pierre, who can’t seem to decide if he’s French or Spanish; and, of course, Barack Obama.  Unless you’re a modern-day Nativist, like the un-ironically Catholic Newt Gingrich, you realize that this inflow of names, traditions and cultures makes our country a more interesting place.

That makes me wonder how a guy like Stanton got tagged with the name “Mike” in the first place.  He was drafted by the Marlins, a team based in south Florida where there is no shortage of hispanic first or last names, out of southern California where the same holds true.  So how, in either of those environments, does a guy like Stanton get forced into assuming a name he has never used?

I find it even more interesting that I’m answering this question the day after St. Patrick’s Day as the Irish were undoubtedly one of the primary targets of mid-19th Century Nativism in the US.  Part of it was poverty, part of it was religion.  But all of it was xenophobic.  150 years later, not only are people with Irish last names found everywhere in the United States, we also dedicate a day to them each year on March 17th.

True, sometimes this influx of last names from all corners of the earth leads to problems.  For instance, I’m not really sure how Keith Jackson would handle a name like Ndamukong Suh.  But athletes, just like any other American, have the right to use and be called by their real name.  Sure, it might get mispronounced from time to time but I think that if the tables were turned and it was any Tom, Dick or Harry arriving in another country, they’d still rather be called by their own name.  Hell, sometimes it even works out in your favor.  My last name often gets mispronounced as “Cruise,” which leads to getting asked if I’m related to Tom.  I just smile, give a non-committal answer and let them keep pronouncing it however they want.

-A

P.S. I’m pretty sure he’ll respond to either pronunciation.  I’d just avoid using Mike.

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