"Maureen Ellen!” my mom screamed up the stairway. The sound reverberated from the walls and the house seemed to shake off its foundation. My eyes widened, as I immediately stood at attention. “What did I forget to do now?” I thought to myself. I was sure that I must have forgotten to take out the trash or wash the dirty pots and pans aching for a deep clean. “Maureen Ellen!” she persisted in a frustrated tone. “Com-ing!” I shouted back. My mother never mentioned my first and middle names together unless something went terribly wrong with the house. Besides being a name that bares bad news, Maureen Ellen is a name to behold, a name to cherish. I must admit that I quite like how it sounds. There is this one little problem, however. No one, I mean no one, can pronounce the Maureen in Maureen Ellen correctly.
Maureen, Sardine, Zarine, Marine, More-een, Murine, and Maoreen. Apparently, there are a zillion ways to pronounce, or should I say, mispronounce my name. I blame my mom for all the confusion it causes. I mean, she could have named me Nancy or Noreen. No, I was named Maureen. My dear old mom named me after the famous actress Maureen O’Hara. I guess she was popular back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. I can’t really say that I have seen her movies. Somehow I have this image of a tall woman with beautiful black, wavy hair and gorgeous blue eyes. Being such a starlet, I wonder if she had ever been victimized by this random act of mispronunciation. Probably not.
It was revealed to me that Maureen means “little Mary”. That sounds excellent to me because I know plenty of women proudly wear that name. For the most part, they are good people. Additionally, I read somewhere that Mary means bitter. I guess you can say I am a little bitter and rightly so. I just want to know, could someone please say my name correctly? Someone, anyone?
My mother uses the Southern Ohio way of pronouncing my name. It is as follows: Maur sounds like how you say Maher, as in Bill Maher. The ‘een is like the word seen. So now you have Mar-een…Maureen. Most people from the northern parts of the United States call me More-een. I guess since my name means little they think I need more. I am not, however, by any means, little and I certainly don’t need more. No more. Hey, I’ve been tall my whole life. In fact, I have been called Amazon to Lurch to Lady Liberty. In class pictures, I was easy to spot. I’m always the one in the middle, back row. That’s where you would find me!
The first time that I played little league baseball, I introduced myself to Coach Randy and the boys as Maureen . I may have even repeated it two or three times, possibly more. No problem, right? Hardly. Someway, somehow, the boys on my team had serious hearing problems or should have been referred to a speech pathologist because they butchered my name beyond recognition. Suddenly my name changed from Maureen to Marine! Really? Marine? I was forever tagged a U.S. Marine. I didn’t have a buzz cut or bellow, “Sir, yes sir!” Nope. Not me. When I took the mound, the boys would cheer me with the official little league chant. “Come on ____, come on bud, come on _____,” they would yell out the chant for any boy. When it was my turn, they didn’t know quite what to do, since I am not a bud. So they improvised, just as they had done with my name, “Come on Marine, come on now, come on Marine!” As I reflect back to those days, it sounded absolutely ridiculous. Any way you slice it, people have problems with my name.
When I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras, the people in my village pronounced my name in the most interesting way. This was to be expected since they would use their Spanish pronunciation. They would say, “Maaaauuuuureeeen.” They pronounced the first part of my name-Mau similar to Mao in Mao Tse-Tung. Then came the ‘reen with a twirl with the r. It just didn’t sit right with me. These people really tried their darndest to get it right, to no avail. It was, however, way better than hearing “Gringa! Gringa! Gringa!” ring in my ears to perpetuity. Each time that they would shout Gringa, I jumped out of my skin. The pitch and force with which they screamed GRINGA, caused my ear drums to serve me their walking papers. So I decided to make life easier on them and me. I changed my name to Marina. I was Marina and everyone was happy.
When my mom named me Maureen, I am sure she had no idea the confusion she would create. She probably thought everyone knew how to pronounce it. Maureen. Such a pleasant, yet chaotic name. Hey, I could have been like my sister. My mom named her Diane. I have never heard anyone having trouble pronouncing Diane. Diane. Diane. It’s just plain easy. No effort, no problem. I guess my name suits the tall bastion of light, for the huddled masses, that I am. Maureen definitely is more than a little. I cannot be bitter anymore, just patient. I have learned, the hard way, that Maureen is quite unique. Certainly, I should be appreciative of all fond memories and humorous stories that have come my way. Okay then, my name is Maureen. That’s Maur like Bill Maher with the ‘een sort of like sardine. Nice to meet you.