A few weeks ago, I watched a hilarious skit on Inside Amy Schumer. The skit centered on a four-women panel, speaking at an innovation conference. They were smiling, sitting confidently, waiting for the questions to begin. There was a sense of importance, pride in each of their faces. The moderator, who was a man, began with quick introductions down the line. When introducing Amy, he mispronounces her last name. Amy sheepishly smiles, mumbles, “Sorry!” and rushes into an apology for his error. The moderator continues, barely acknowledging her, then continues to the next woman. The introductions progress with more mispronounced names, or inaccurate credits of accomplishments. The apologies become more frequent and frenzied; they’re sorry for asking questions, asking for a glass of water (but got coffee instead). The skit ends with a panelist losing her legs, screaming she’s sorry for ruining everything.
As laughable and outrageous this was, I completely identified with all of it, especially the name mispronunciation. I can’t tell you how often I have been called variations of my name and have, in turn, apologized to the offender. Why am I sorry for someone else’s error? Sure, it’s often an honest mistake (except when it’s not), but surely there’s no need for me to apologize. Over the years, I have gotten much better at addressing this issue. I will correct the offender until they get it right.
The frequency of this happening has increased now that I’m doing stand-up. Sometimes I’m meeting the booker (or host) for the first time the night of the show. Ok, no big deal. I just clearly introduce myself and all will be right in the world. Most times, it is. Other times, it’s not. I have had people on shows tell me that they “can’t pronounce my name.” I’ve been told they will “get as close as they can.” How often do I get an apology for it? Almost never. Over the years, I’ve had people try to convince me that Marie and Maria are interchangeable.
Guess what? They’re not.
I have been keeping mental note of how often I utter these meaningless apologies, and it’s pitiful. I have said sorry for:
- Walking into a doorway first, even though I was the first person to reach the door.
- Someone blatantly interrupting my conversation.
- Accidentally dropping my change onto the floor in front of someone walking down the hall.
In all of these instances, a simple “excuse me” would have sufficed.
I’ve become more aware of people around me using this now sullied word. You know what my completely un-scientific research has shown? Women BY FAR exceed men in empty apologies. Constantly throwing out an “I’m sorry!” diminishes the meaning. When an apology is necessary and warranted (for when you’re being an asshole), it carries more weight, more meaning. Saying it for every accidental moment makes you sound ridiculous.
So, let’s set the record straight on my name, once and for all, shall we?
My name is Marie Forster. Not Maria or Mary. Definitely not Murray (I mean, really?) Not any other variation of a name beginning with the letter M.
Forster is pronounced with the letter R, directly before the letter S. It’s not Foster. It’s not Forester. It’s not “who cares, it’s the same thing.”
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. I hope you’re not too upset….