Q: What do Brian Fidler, Barbara Chamberlin and Harreson Tanner have in common?
A: Those of us in the media often spell their names wrong.
I, personally, have allowed two of their names to be spelled wrong in this paper and I remember the circumstances of each one because we editors (and writers) really hate that.
Perhaps we don’t hate it as much as those having their names spelled wrong because, after all, it is an insult not to spend the time and effort to ensure we have it down right. Especially after these good people give their time to us to tell their stories.
Brian’s last name was spelled “Fiddler” a couple of years ago because it just slipped through since it looks so natural to be spelled that way.
Barbara’s last name was spelled “Chamberlain” because I had a very authoritative source that said it was spelled that way. Well, not so much.
And Harreson’s name was spelled wrong when I worked for another publication six years ago. The copy editor didn’t think it looked right and he checked the phone book. There, it was spelled “Harrison”.
I phoned him to apologize and I felt I had to tell him the circumstances (if only to prove it was an honest mistake) and he brushed it off saying he doesn’t bother to correct people and that includes NorthwesTel.
Yeah, I know what he means. With a name like, “Darrell”, you get so used to seeing your name spelled wrong that you just refuse to let it bother you.
That is why I have two children named, “Brian, with an I” and “Wren, like the bird”. There was no way I wanted my children to go through life as Harreson and I have.
Back in J-School, we were taught that only the person you are interviewing knows how to spell their name. If we wrote a story and spelled someone’s name wrong, we would get a zero … automatically.
I have been known to say to a person, “Please spell your first name,” and they respond with, “B-O-B”.
Yet, back in Kapuskasing, I forgot to ask someone how to spell their name for a story on a computer camp (a big deal almost 30 years ago). So, I asked their boss how to spell it. It still didn’t feel right, so I opened up the phone book at 10 p.m. to phone and ask him.
But it was spelled the same way in the phone book, so I decided against the chance I would wake him up (not realizing the nature of computer geeks in those early days). Sure enough, his boss and the phone book were wrong.
More recently, I spelled Fiona Solon’s name right in an online survey. However, some spell-checker between here and there flipped it to “Salon”.
My heart goes out to my writers when they get caught. Recently, one of them was so frustrated because she ALWAYS asks how to spell a name. Yet, she was told by an employee of Macaulay Lodge that it was spelled “MacAulay”. She phoned back and was told again, “MacAulay”.
And there are those who have told me they found the spelling of “Stan McGowan Arena” on very official-looking websites. Of course it was “Stan McCowan” whom the name comes from … whether it looks right or not.
Therein lies the danger of the Internet: if we type in the name wrong, it will probably be confirmed by someone else who got it wrong.
Alas, as a gift to our writers, Josephine Holmes, my assistant editor, gave us a What’s Up Yukon Style Guide that has exactly 100 names that often get misspelled.
There are old favourites like “Pine Medical Center” (which prefers the American spelling) and “Hougen Centre” (not Hougen’s Centre); and new favourites like “Well-Read Books” (don’t forget the hyphen) and “The Old Fire Hall” (capitalize the “T” and “Fire Hall” is two words).
There. From now on, we will be perfect … ish.