A few months ago, if anyone had said I’d be writing a blog on how to pronounce my name, I’d have told them they were mad. Only a completely self-absorbed narcissist would think that a subject worthy of a blog. And I’m not one of those. Or am I?!
It’s true that most people mispronounce my surname in a variety of different ways. But I’ve had decades to get used to it, and it really doesn’t worry me.
So why am I writing this blog? I can answer that question in just two words: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
I recently had the great privilege of meeting the legendary psychologist who, along with Martin Seligman, established the positive psychology movement. Apart from having the most spectacularly un-spell-able surname, even his first name had me stumbling. Was it ‘Me-hale-ee?’ or ‘Me-high-lee’? Was the ‘y’ silent? Which syllable was emphasized?
In the Speakers’ Lounge at the conference where a number of us congregated, it became clear that I was not alone in my uncertainty. Approaching the great master to shake his hand, most people seemed to either swallow his name, or avoid saying it altogether. Mihaly was unmoved by this. But other people felt awkward. And it occurred to me that being comfortable saying someone else’s name is a necessary first step in developing a relationship.
As it happened, a Buddhist nun gave me the key to his name. ‘It’s Me-high, Cheeks-send-me-high,’ she told me laughing. Easy when you know how.
So to cut to the chase, my surname is not any of the favourite mis-pronunciations – ‘Mit-chee,’ ‘Mike-ee,’ or ‘Mick-eye.’ It is, very simply, Mickey. As in Mouse.
It’s a Scottish name, and Aberdeen is the only city in the world where everyone knows how to both spell and pronounce it because there are so many Michies. To be purist, the Scottish pronunciation has the ‘ch’ part of the name patterning ‘loch.’ But since that’s a sound most English speakers don’t make, and when they do are liable to become phlegm-flecked in the attempt, it’s probably safer just to stick to the Disney version.
That’s all folks!
This blog was originally published here. Sincere thanks to author David Michie (whose books include The Dalai Lama’s Cat, The Art of Purring, as well as the non-fiction bestsellers Buddhism for Busy People and Hurry Up and Meditate, for giving permission to Starts at 60 to share this blog. If you would like to read more of David’s blogs, click here.