I have both a complicated first and last name. I don’t mind telling you that it’s a gift as well as a curse. Not a single day goes by in which I have to spell both names out over the phone at least twice. It might well be easier to refer everybody to this website for the whole story.
Last Things First
Versluis is a Dutch name, and not as uncommon in Holland as you might think.
I even met others Versluises one the web: Arthur Versluis is an author, and Paul Versluis is a professional photographer from Kansas City. But there’s several others, especially in The Netherlands and South Africa.
There’s also a Versluis Park somewhere in Michigan I believe. Maybe we should all get together and go there to setup an “invitation only” Versluis Meeting some day.
The second syllable sluis means “lock” in Dutch (as in “water lock”, not “door lock”), which indicates one of our ancestors probably was a canal fetishist of sorts. It’s a closely guarded family secret though, so I’m afraid I can’t comment on it due to that unwritten confidentiality agreement all Versluises have entered into.
For spam cold-callers it’s always a challenge when they try to pronounce my last name. I admit I take a cruel yet great pleasure in it when someone starts with “Can I speak to Mr. [pause] Vsmls… er… Mr. Verrr… Hmpsghjksjk…”. My response is usually “nah, never heard of him” before hanging up with a mean smile.
Popular misspellings of the Versluis name on spam letters include:
- Herr Luis
- Mr. Lewis
- Verse Luis
- Jorge Berluis
and many others. If you can think of a good one, drop me a line or leave a comment below.
The First Name: Jay vs Jörk
As if my last name wasn’t complicated enough, there’s an even taller story behind my first name. Ever since I’ve been dealing with the English speaking world, I’ve been known as Jay. That’s of course not my real name, which is actually Jörk (a bit like the Iclandic singer Björk without the B).
What makes this name quadruple complicated are the following facts:
- the diacritic letter ö doesn’t exist on international keyboards
- commonly, the name is spelt with a “g” at the end, however is spelt with a “k”
- using the correct way to replace an Umlaut in the German language would actually make my name Joerk
- no-one in the English speaking world knows how to pronounce it properly
When I started communicating with one of our overseas clients back in the early nineties, I often signed my name simply with as J. Versluis. In Germany, people often address one another by their last rather than their first name – unlike in the English speaking world, where we are more likely to address clients or even superiors by his or her first name.
One of our international clients was soon addressing me as Jay and chose to spell it out as J-A-Y. It felt very natural, rolled off the tongue much easier and lessened the pain of communication drastically. Plus, Jay Leno was rather popular on TV at that time, so I adopted it as my “international moniker”.
The name stuck when I moved to London in 1999 and no-one ever questioned what Jay might be short for. My actual first name only ever comes out when dealing with anything involving official documentation, because inevitably it means someone has to cite the name on my passport or my Green Card. While my German passport correctly spells it as Jörk (with the diacritic), my Green Card spells my name as Jork.
To make it even more confusing: the correct non-Umlaut spelling would actually be Joerk, which is the German way of replacing diacritics on non-diacritic capable keyboards. You use the non-diacritic letter variant, followed by an e.
I know… it’s very complicated. Jay is super easy. Let’s just use that, life’s too short.
I remember a mortgage company in the UK getting terribly confused when I bought or remortgaged a flat in Finsbury Park in the early noughties. They must have had documents pertaining to both versions of my first name. Hence, and quite logically, they assumed the apartment in question was being acquired by two members of our family. Perhaps two feuding brothers, one named Jay, the other Jork?