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
[singlepic id=404 w=320 h=240 float=right]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.
My First Name: Jay vs Jork
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 Jörk.
What makes this name quadruple complicated is the fact that
- the diacritic letter ö doesn’t exist on international keyboards
- commonly, the name is spelt with a “g” at the end – but my name has a “k” because my Mom felt like it
- using the correct way to replace an Umlaut in German 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. Keep in mind that in Germany, doing business is usually done using people’s last name rather than their first names (unlike in the English speaking world, where you might very well address clients or even your boss by his or her first name).
One of our international clients however 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 “real” first name only ever comes out when anything involving official documentation has to be dealt with, because it inevitably means someone has to cite the name in my passport or my Green Card. While my German passport correctly spells it as Jörk, my Green Card spells my name as Jork.
To make it even more confusing, the correct non-Umlaut spelling would actually be Joerk, as you can replace a German Umlaut using the diacritic, followed by an e. I know.. it’s complicated.
Funny story: I remember a mortgage company in the UK getting terribly confused when they thought an apartment I was purchasing was being bought by two members of our family, and they couldn’t understand why there were seemingly TWO applications in the pipeline: one by Jay and another one by Jork.