As long as I can remember, my name has always been a source of misunderstandings, mishaps and embarassing incidents. It all started when my mother decided to defy an ancient tradition (the firstborn son always receives his father's first name and both my grandfather and my father are named Imre/Imrich) and talked my father into giving me a different name. My father backed down insisting on the tradition being continued at least in some way and so two years later when my brother was born, they named him Imrich. Since people believed the tradition was honored the first time, for most of our lives, everyone always confused the two of us.
To make matters worse, instead of an honest-to-God Hungarian first name to go with my Hungarian last name, my mother picked out a name which couldn't have been more Slavic without sounding too 1836*. So here I am, stuck with the politically suspect combination of a Slavic first name and a Hungarian last name which has raised many a brow and lead to many a dumbass question of the "So what ethnicity are you then?" type. It's Hittite, by the way. I even gave that as my ethnicity at the last census and you can kiss my fat Neshite ass, Slovak National Party.
Then there's the way my last name should be correctly pronounced: the Hungarian "é" which is a long close-mid/near-close front unrounded vowel without a counterpart in Slovak** is usually heard as [i:] and the combination of "pl" with the final "ö" (i.e. [ø]) is simply too much to handle for most people. As you can imagine, calling a service hotline or introducing myself at the front desk of an office building is always a fun experience - "I'm sorry, did you say [tʃible]?" As long as I live, I will never forget the look on the face of the doctor in the ER in an English town (where I came in after a small accident of the 'pedestrian vs. motor vehicle' type) as he looked at my sign-in sheet and went "Um... Mr, er, [kɛpləʊ]?". The only non-speaker of Hungarian outside our family who has ever pronounced our last name correctly was the Vice-Dean of our Faculty (a professor at the Department of Slovak Language and Literature, of all people) at my graduation ceremony. Needless to say, this feat earned him the undying respect of the entire Hungarian branch of our family, especially my grandparents.
And finally, there's the whole written thing. Never in my life have I had an official document issued with my last name spelled properly the first try. My first passport was a particularly embarassing disaster: the accute accent on "e" was missing. As a result, I was not allowed to board a flight on one occasion because the name on the ticket (copied from my ID card) did differ in this rather insignificant aspect from the name on my passport.
At one point, my father - who has had to go through the same ordeal - started collecting various instances of misspellings of our name from things like official letters, ballots, participant IDs and such most which he came across during his politically active years. For a long time, my favorite item from that collection was Czőploi, taken from a wedding invitation. Every time I look at it I can just hear the person responsible thinking "OK, I'm pretty sure 'p' and 'l' were there somewhere and there was a digraph and one of them Hungarian letters, now if I could only remember which one and in what order..."
Long story short, I thought I'd seen it all. That was until Friday when I went to the post office to pick up my latest order from abebooks. Having opened the package and checked its contents, I was thinking of throwing the envelope into the next trashbin when my eyes fell on the address box:
Yes, you are indeed seeing what you are seeing: & # 2 6 8 , é p l ö. Someone wrote an HTML entity on an envelope.
I totally understand where this began: the webform on the abebooks page did not process the character "Č" - Latin capital letter c with a háček U+010C, HTML entity & # 2 6 8 ; - correctly (happens a lot) and thus this was printed on the order and the invoice. But how could someone actually write this as a part of a person's name, is simply beyond me. Do the good people in France really think our names contain ampersands and numbers? I hope not. Even if this was just a case of not paying enough attention, someone actually had to grab the envelope, pick up a pen, look at the invoice and wonder for a second or two just what the heck were those weird characters and numbers doing in a person's name. I am inclined to believe that that someone was not very IT-savvy and simply too puzzled to figure it out. So they just copied the name line over from the order. But still...
Be that as it may, I shall be proud to present this to my father to include in his collection. I hope it will have the same effect on him as it did on me, because when I looked at that envelope, I broke into a laughter the like of which hadn't been heard from me in years. That alone - and stories like this one - is compensation enough for all the trouble with my name.
* On April 24t, 1836, a bunch of Slovak patriots led by Ľudovít Štúr took a trip to the Devín castle to pledge their lives to the national cause. As a symbol of their dedication, each took a purely Slavic name. Some of those would still be quite OK today (Hurban's Miloslav, Maier's Jaromír etc.) , some of them... Let's just say that if you decided to name your newborn son Velislav, Zvestoň or Slavoľub, you might as well start saving up for therapy sessions right now.
** No matter what the Wikipedia says, there ain't no way in hell the Hungarian "é" in "hét" is the same vowel as "ee" in German "Seele" or the long variant of the Polish "e" in "dzień". No fracking way. Hungarian "é" is both more close and more front than either of those.