02023-02-14 | Coffee, Ottmar | 4 comments

For many years I have been using the name Frank for pick up orders and in coffeeshops. It was easier than spelling my name over and over. And sometimes they wouldn’t even get “Frank” and substituted “Fred”. Whatever, it was still more efficient, faster.

My partner suggested that I use my own name because people should get used to names that are not normative. And by normative I mean typical American names like Tom, Joe and such. (((you will notice I didn’t mention names like John, Robert and Stephen… 😊)))

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Anglo names but there should be room for different sounds, and for alternate spellings as well. How can a culture grow if it doesn’t allow for new or different input? And when you stop growing you begin to die, as Frank Howell said.

So I have been using my own name. It has been rocky and here is something I noticed. A POC will ask me to spell my name and write down the letters. It’s only six letters, and two of them are identical and in a row, and it goes really fast. The white person will look annoyed that I am not a Tim or Joe and sometimes even spelling will not help. I have to believe it’s because they don’t want to accept a different name. Sometimes I quickly reverted to Frank because I got sick of the dance.

I remember when I met with the two founders of Higher Octave Music, in the Fall of 1989. They asked me to change my name because they found it too strange and feared that it would be too hard to remember.

Perhaps my name was just different enough because it obviously did not stop people from finding Nouveau Flamenco. I wonder how many people went to a record store (ah, record stores!) and asked for “that guitarist with the strange name”?


  1. JaneParham

    You would be amazed what people do with “Jane!”. We have fun giving funny names to call us to our table in restaurants. The best one is “Lipschitz” – enjoy the discussions with hostesses on spelling and pronunciation! Hahahaha!

    Remember, I was attracted to Ottmar Liebert, which I saw in the record store on a wonderful CD called Nouveau Flamenco. Irresistible! I never thought it was a strange name; it just sounds deliciously exotic.

    Though some names should be changed for marketing, like Archibald Leach (Cary Grant) or Ralph Lipschitz (Ralph Lauren). Can you imagine a Paris fashion show featuring the new line of evening gowns by Ralph Lipschitz!

  2. anne

    Happy Valentine Day !

  3. Marianela

    I also have a different name and tend to never use it because people are so confused and butcher it constantly. Once I placed an order for pick up, arrived. The lady came out with my order and needed to verify the name. She looks at the receipt looks at me and says ok whatever that is…and then proceeded to hand me my order and walk away. Sigh. It’s not that hard. It was an experience that really stayed with me. Just realized it was the last time I embraced my full real name on a order. I think ypur partner has a very good point here. I think it’s time I try again. Thank you Ottmar, for this post today

    • ottmar

      Thank you for that comment Marianela.
      No matter who we are and what we look like, we want to be seen. Making the effort to say a person’s name means that we make an effort to see them. When so many teachers make the effort to pronounce and remember the names of all of their students, I think we should expect the same from every politician and TV personality. And from each other. It doesn’t matter if we pronounce a name badly. Trying to say it is what matters.


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