Name And Shame

I like Starbucks. I’ve mentioned that before. They are one of the few mega chains to have successfully implemented the much sought after ‘personal touch’. You know, from the days before the mega supermarkets. When you popped into ten different little stores on the high street, and was greeted by the owner, your amigo. Who was always friendly, knew his stuff and served you just right. Of course, I’m referring to the stores on shows like The Wonder Years, or the Waltons. In real life, store owners were just as likely to be miserable old gits as they were to be friendly.

Take my visit to Starbucks yesterday as the perfect example. I ordered a Frappucino, but their machine was out of order or something. They were very apologetic, and I ordered a latte instead, sat down and drank it. Just as I was about to leave, one of the staff came up to my table. Their machine was working again. Here was the Frappucino I had ordered. Gratis. That’s the ‘personal touch’ I like.

But there was one little problem with their attentiveness. They always ask your name, and write it on the cup. The quizzical looks I’ve been givien upon telling them my name, the weird crap I’ve had written on my cups and the mad names I’ve been called over the years….just leave the cup blank, dudes! Sometimes they do just that. My name is pretty simple. Just two syllables. Yesterday I was Karal. Do I look Polish? Or did I wander in to the store in a slightly effeminate way? Sort of like a Carol would?

I can’t entirely blame them though. There is no Mexican version of Gary. And my weird British accent can’t help matters. It would be okay if I was a  John, Paul, George or…well maybe Ringo wouldn’t be ideal. But Juan, Paulo and Jorge are all easily taken in. Ricardo, Alfredo and Carlos would all be equally acceptable if I was a Richard, Alf or Charles. I could even be Adolpho, although to be honest Adolf hasn’t ever had much appeal as a name in the UK. Since 1939 in particular. A renaissance isn’t expected any time soon. It’s a matter of taste, I guess. Although, as ever, there are always those with no taste.

But anyway, I do need a new name. A ‘Mexico Friendly’ name. Gary just isn’t working out for me. With a lot of names, you can just add an ‘o’ (or an ‘a’ if you’re of the fairer sex) and bingo – you’re all done. But Garyo doesn’t sound any better to me. It is close to Mario. But I don’t think I’m a Mario. I quite liked the name Garrapata that Paola used to affectionately call me. Till I discovered that a garrapata is a tick that dogs get in their ears.

Another obvious option is Garibaldi, after t. Col. José Garibaldi, a famous Mexican military commander, and an even more famous plaza in Mexico City where the mariachis hang out. But then there are also these. And it wouldn’t be a new name for me anyway. There have been friends who’ve called me Garibaldi since my hair started receding.

I do like the ring that Gacho has to it though. I could be a Señor Gacho. If I’m trying to impress, I could even be Macho Gacho. Sounds cool to me. Unfortunately, the word gacho is, apparently, far from complimentary. It’s a sort of combination of a few derogatory terms. So much as I like it, I think I have to rule Gacho out. Not least because the Starbucks staff might think I’m speaking to them, not simply telling them my name. I don’t want to offend. So maybe I’ll just have to soldier on with Gary, unless someone has a better name that fits. I’m just not  Mario, Garibaldi, Gacho or Garrapata material. But most of all, I am definitely not a Carol.


21 thoughts on “Name And Shame

  1. Based on superficial and probably incomplete two minutes of research, “Gary” comes from the Old English word for “spear”. There’s an equivalent Nahuatl name “Mitli” (easy enough to spell anyway).

    Or, as someone suggested for names that Mexicans can’t remember, call yourself “Nezahuacoatl”


    • Mitli. Not bad. A bit…..camp sounding though! You did spur me on to research my name myself, also for a couple of minutes. Turns old the earliest traceable ancestor of my name is Norman. As is my surname Denness, which first found its way to England in 1066….


  2. Well, there was King Carol of Romania. And Caryl Chessman, the Red Light Bandit who was executed in 1960. And Carroll O’Connor.

    The best thing about Jennifer Lopez is that I no longer have to spell my name.


    • There is one other Karol, which I hadn’t though of previously, despite making the Polish connection. A Karol that Mexicans are very familiar with, and fond of.

      But I’m just not saintly enough to pull that one off!


  3. Nez says:


    You should just take a perfectly random spanish name that sounds pleasing to your ear. My co-worker Autumn had an impossible time getting people to learn her name whilst backpacking across South America…”Otoño” didn’t work so well, since “Toño” isn’t exactly a pretty name for a female. Thus her new name that she was given.



  4. Kim G says:

    LOL….my name is both unfathomable and unpronounceable by Mexicans, even dear F. It either comes out as “Keem” or Kem, neither of which particularly appeal to me.

    But as for Starbucks, why not just pick the first name that pops into your head? If you’re feeling cranky, it could be something long and difficult to write, as someone suggested, “Nezahualcoyotl.” Or maybe you could dig up something more difficult. When you are feeling amiable, perhaps a simple “Carlos,” or “Juan.”

    I’ve used a few Mexican names in Starbucks to avoid having to explain my name and go through pronunciation exercises. Much easier really, and they don’t care whether it’s your own name or not. At least not until we have to identify all coffee drinkers in order to prevent terrorism. Oh, wait, it’s Mexico and they don’t do that silly stuff unless America asks them to.

    Anyway, I’m sure you can figure it out.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where even here, people at first think it’s either Ken or Jim. Can’t quite reconcile the cognitive dissonance of a guy named Kim.


    • I can pronounce your name. But I must confess, if I hadn’t confessed already, that I half expected to meet a North Korean when we met up!

      As for prevention of terrorism….give it time. Or maybe there’ll be a backlash against the Arizona law, and any foreigner ordering coffee will have ‘Wetback’ inscribed on their cup!


    • Michael Wolf says:

      @Kim, Quim is actually a name in Catalan. It’s a shortened forme of Joaquim, whose Castilian equivalent is Joaquín. Let’s just ignore for the moment that the i in Kim isn’t much like the i in Spanish.

      I had my name turned into “Miguel Biólogo” once, although I did contribute.


  5. steve says:

    You are: Enrique. (enrique iglesias). No mas problemos. Go with it.

    Ask your fiancee (who sounds more like Frida each time you mention her)
    (and I think I like her!)

    ask: “Should I be Ricky Martin or Enrique Iglesias, tonight?”

    PS don’t respond with the results.

    Christ on a stick, that was easy!

    my god, with the highway robberies on the main road to PV (15 people relieved of their cars and
    cash) and the First lady visiting San Miguel (do we stay in? do we go out? The army is everywhere,
    and they look Very Unhappy… (usually they consider SMA duty a piece of cake..)
    Is there trouble? Can we get booze delivered? It’s just ‘different’ now? Should we bring the Army cake? Are they really the Army?

    THIS is the easiest problem I have had to solve here in Mexico in 2 years!

    ENRIQUE. got it? If you hate that, there is always EMILANO (zapata), but that is so old.

    if you want to be a problem, say “CHE.”

    ( I can’t GIVE AWAY Che backpacks in mexico city.. they hate him.. why? ..quien sabe?)

    there is always CHUY (don’t tell your wife!)
    It is so common here!
    In my area, I am ‘maricon’ or more often PUTO, and he is CHUY. So, the Teens are able to make distinctions! (…)

    So, I go drink. SOMETIMES to a starbucks, with my Flask filled with BAILEY’s Irish creme. (Or single-malt; be creative; your time here is limited!)

    All hail, ENRIQUE! at starbucks! (I mean, why get complicated?.. you’ll just get the wrong drink)

    that was easy. Now, can you tell me if it’s any less than 112 degrees (50 C) in DF yet?
    And no fire hydrants to open up (like in NYC)?
    I’ve got this urge to get out of town.



    • I’ve just read in the news of a spate of highway robberies, all over the place. The economy must be picking up. People have things worth robbing again…

      Enrique? Henry? See, in Mexico Enrique has a different feel to it than it’s English equivalent does in English. Henry is for old men or future kings. Or a price.

      The weather is still hot. Very hot. Has been for a while. The skies opened up big time last night though. So now it is sticky too.


    • Loved the article! Now we’re on to something! It’s been pointed out I could just make up a name. Why not have some fun? I could be Hugh. That’s very English. Add a Mexican name for luck. And there you have my new alias. Mr Hugh Juan.

      I was lucky before if they got my name. They might not get Hugh Juan. But if they do, I’ll not simply be lucky, but get lucky….! They do have some very pretty señoritas in Starbucks! 🙂


  6. Pgonzalez says:

    I think after your stunning prediction (England to win 3-1) you should go for El Adivino – The Soothsayer! Or Juanito, as in Johnny Giles (he always gets it right!)


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  8. El Nahual says:

    Was reading through the archive and found this very entertaining, so i couldn’t help chime in even if it’s too late and you might not see it.

    When you return to Mexico you should consider Gabo. Gabo is meant to be a Grabriel’s nickname but it’s fairly uncommon among Gabriels (only one out of the three i know use it), and Gabriel itself, while not rare, it’s not that common either (probably because Gabriela is so much more popular, and also because every Gabriela is also a Gaby), so you could easily adopt it as a mexican friendly version of Gary. Garo could also work but it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.

    Also, you do kindda look like you could be a Gabriel.


    • It’s never too late to comment. I get email alerts every time someone scribbles a note. As for Gabo….I’m not convinced. Sounds like the sort of name a clown would have! 🙂

      In the end, I settled for my middle name, David. And to make it easier for them, I pronounced it the Spanish way. I used that for the last year or so of my Mexican life. Mostly successfully.


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