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My Last Name is Gerencser: Living with an Oft-Butchered Name


My last name is GERENCSER. It is of Hungarian origin. It is pronounced Grr-IN-sir, though I have heard pronounced in more wrong ways than I can count. Grinsker, Grinsinger, Garuhenzer, Geringsir, Grensler, Grensker, Grincher, Grinzer, to name a few. And then there’s the various ways people write my last name, similar to the way they think it sounds.

When I have to call a business that will ask for my name, when I’m asked, I immediately say, Gerencser, G-e-r-e-n-c-s-e-r. Rare is the occasion that I don’t have to spell it twice. Recently, I had to spell my name four times before the billing clerk got it. Such times are a real test of my patience.

The misspellings that bother me the most are when someone has the correct spelling of Gerencser and still butchers it. Last week, I attended one of my granddaughter’s spring school programs. The printed program, of course, had her last name misspelled — Gerenscer. Tonight, I attended a theatrical production by one of my  granddaughters. I told her father that I was pleased that the arts group had spelled her last name correctly. He laughed and replied, Actually they had it spelled wrong. I pointed it out to them and they corrected it. It was spelled, you guessed it, Gerenscer.This, by far, is the most common misspelling of my name, and Gerencer or Gerenser are also common. The reason for this is that there are no CS words in the English language, so when someone sees the CS in Gerencser they assume it is misspelled.(My editor pointed out there are a few words that end in CS, words such as basics,frolics, and logistics. The real problem is that a “C” followed by an “S” is always hard. Thus “Grinkster.”) One customer service rep asked me after I spelled my name to her, are you sure that’s right? I wanted to reply, are you fucking kidding me? It’s is my last name, I know how to spell it! Instead, I politely said that I had spelled it correctly, and then I gave her an English lesson about why people tend to misspell Gerencser.

My all-time favorite misspeller is my mother-in-law. Polly and I will celebrate forty years of marriage in July, yet my mother-in-law still, more often than not, spells my last name with the C and the S reversed.

Do you have a hard to spell first or last name? Please share your experiences in the comment section.


  1. Avatar
    Grammar Gramma

    My maiden name was Wedel. Rhymes with needle. But much like Gerencser, if Wedel was pronounced, no one could spell it (Wheedle, Weedle, etc.) and if it was written, no one could pronounce it (Wed-EL or rhyming it (approximately) with nettle.) There were five girls in our family, and every one of us was glad to get rid of that last name! If I had ever divorced my husband, I would never have returned to my maiden name. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    My married name is Wiren. It’s Finnish and was originally “von Wiren,” pronounced “fon Viren” (short i) approximately. But Bob’s family ended up pronouncing our name like “Wire-n,” or as I say every time when necessary, “It’s pronounced wire with an n on it.”

    But if you pronounce it with the short i, we really don’t care anymore.

    My maiden name, “Rogers,” was always pronounced correctly. However it was frequently spelled “Rodgers” which mildly irked me then.

  3. Avatar

    My surname is Toscano, which is actually Spanish, though it derives from Italian (Tuscany) and I’m often assumed to be Italian. Hence the spelling ‘Tuscano’ is a very frequent error, and it’s very seldom that I give my name and don’t end up spelling it out first time.

  4. Avatar

    My maiden name was Hein (pronounced Hine). People would say hen, hines, hane, Hanes most commonly. Spellings were variable as well, to the point I would say “Hein, like the ketchup without the z”.

    My married name isn’t better – McElduff pronounced MAC-el-duff. Usually we get mc-EL-duff, but we also get McDuff, McDuffie, Duffy, McElroy, McDonough, McDougall.

    My kids are Kaelin and Kieran. Kaelin I’d often called Caitlin so she often says Kaelin, no T. Kieran gets called Kiernan or sometimes Karen. His HS soccer team was recognized recently at a town council meeting for winning a state sectional title, and he was called Kiernan Mc-EL-duff and the guys all cracked up.

  5. Avatar

    Mea culpa… I remember wondering why Jesus allowed me to misspell your name in my earliest blog replies here! 😉 Dear dear Jesus was surely pointing something out but I never figured it out.
    My last name should be pronounced Fawnderlip and always requires spelling even though Vanderlip seems pretty obvious and easy to me! I think most names with more than two syllables will get mangled one way or another.

  6. Avatar

    Bruce – Never having heard your last name pronounced audibly, I at least had the first two syllables correct. People constantly insert a “c” after the S in my last name Shumate, even after I say S-H-U. But that is about the extent of it for me.

  7. Avatar

    According to one source I found the name meaning as Gerencsér = potter. Maybe you knew it already, but I find name origins interesting.
    It is also a village in Slovakia. The village had already existed in the 11th century. It was the settlement of pottery in royal service. So not a mere potter, but maker of the good stuff.

  8. Avatar

    My maiden name is Wulf. Guess how many variations there are of that name!

    When I was a senior in high school, my parents bought a new house on a six-house cul-de-sac. The previous owners were named Wolfe. The family on the corner? The Wulfs (no relation).

    We had a LOT of fun with the mail that first year!

  9. Avatar

    I am a McLeod. It gets spelled McCloud and pronounced Mc-LEO-d.

    My father was supposed to be called Philip, but my grandfather accidentally registered him as Phillip. He changed it to the usual spelling when I was young so people would stop misspelling it.

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Bruce Gerencser