What are the more annoying things I’ve experienced in my lifetime is the fact that people just can’t seem to pronounce my last name correctly. Really? Is it really that hard?
My name is Ron Stauffer. Stauffer. Stauffer. S-T-A-U-F-F-E-R. In case you’re wondering, the “au” is pronounced “au” as in “faucet.” Years ago, my dad did a bunch of genealogy research to figure out exactly where the Stauffer family came from. We’re obviously of German ancestry, but our particular family line comes from a family that emigrated to the United States from Switzerland 100 or 200 years ago. As a part of his genealogical research, my Dad discovered that were related to a bunch of other people who Anglicized their last names as “Stouffer” as well as “Stoffer” and “Stover.” Which is cool, I guess, but our family’s name is Stauffer.
It’s so simple. I always like to tell people that we have the same last name as the animal cracker people (i.e. “Stauffer’s Animal Crackers“), not the frozen entree people (i.e. “Stouffers Frozen Lasagna.”) Since I’ve started studying foreign languages, I’ve learned about the concepts behind diction… things like elisions, liaisons, and diphthongs (something we Americans apparently use all the time but I’d never known about). So I think, to be technical, my family says our name with a “digraph;” two letters (a+u) which are pronounced as one sound. Sometimes people criticize this, like one woman from Germany who told me I “must be ashamed of my heritage” to pronounce it in an inauthentic way. But I don’t really care too much: if I really wanted to be technical, I’d ask people to call me “Ronald,” since that’s my first name. But “Ron” is what I prefer. …and when I go to an Italian place, I order “broo-shedda,” because if I actually said “I’d like bru-ske-tta” they wouldn’t know what I’m asking for.
Remember that show Marty Stouffer’s Wild America? I used to watch that show on PBS all the time when I was a kid. I loved it. And I thought it was cool because his last name is similar to mine, but it’s not mine.
Marty Stouffer pronounces his last name “stah-oww-fer,” and we pronounce ours “stah-fer.” Please—if you meet me, try to say it correctly. And in case you can’t, here’s a video of Marty Stouffer (again—whose last name is different than mine, mind you) pronouncing his name about 300 times. My name is NOT pronounced that way. Please don’t make that mistake ever again. Thank you.