Muriel Spark in 1960
I wish I had changed my first name to Julia –my middle name- when I moved to London. The thing is, my first name, Muriel, is pretty common in France.
But over here, when I say it, I always get the same reaction. It usually is along the following lines:
“Oh, what a nice name! My great grandmother used to be a Muriel too. She was living with her sister, Great Aunt Mildred, who was a spinster. They both died in the 1920s, well into their nineties.”
Apart from the fact that it makes me feel much older than I am, I also hate the way my name is pronounced over here. In French, you need to stress the last syllable, MuriEL. But not over here. They stress the first syllable and the best way to describe the sound people make when they say my name is a meowing cat. Something like MEOWrial. Awful. And, to make matters even worse, as I don’t recognise my name, they usually have to say it a few times, preferably louder and louder. They must believe that I am a bit hard of hearing. I am not.
Believe me, I have tried hard to explain the difference between the French way and the British way of saying Muriel but, most of the time, my British friends don’t get it. They look at me with round eyes, as if I were barking mad. They are so entrenched in the British way of saying things that they can’t even notice the difference.
That said, when the barrista at Starbucks asked me my name the other day, I said “Julia” to avoid a long-winded explanation of how to write it, etc…but he managed to write “Giulia” on my cup. I don’t think that I will ever win…
Some first names just work in their country of origin, I suppose. Jules is very popular French first names for little boys, but apparently over here it is for girls? I don’t think that I will ever get it. Maybe, after all, Muriel is not that bad a choice. I wish I could blame my parents but I am too old now. I am stuck with Meowrial now. Such is life!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London