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1  noun  ˈbläg, -ȧg   plural -s
2  intransitive verb   -ed/-ing/-s
: to talk pretentiously and usually inaccurately : lie boastfully

Tortured with a hyphen

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

My real first name is Ann-Elizabeth. THANKS MOM

My mother's name was Rose-Marie, with a hyphen. Her mother's name was Elżbieta-Anna, with a hyphen - that's Elizabeth-Ann in Polish.

I inherited the hyphen. I inherited the curse of a hyphenated first name.

I'm not reproducing, so I'm not passing the cursed hyphen on to another generation, inflicting lifelong bureaucratic hell and name-unintelligibilty. It's time to end this hyphenation nonsense. The hyphen dies with me.

No governmental or business database can cope with a hyphenated first name. Forms yell at me: SPECIAL CHARACTERS FORBIDDEN.

I try not to attribute deeper meaning, but how can I not? I am old now. I know better.

Special characters ARE forbidden.

Human beings cannot understand my name, in any form.

I will not be truncated to Ann. "Ann" sounds too much like "and." I refuse to be yanked back into a conversation from which I have mentally dissociated just because I've misheard the speaker say "...AND..." and mistook it for my name.

Humans change my name to Elizabeth, Elizabeth-Ann, Ann-Marie, Lisa-Marie, or Liz.

I try to help. I really do. After graduating high school, I started going by "A-E." This lets me quip, to people who speak US English as their first language, "It's like A-E-I-O-U. You owe me! GET IT?!"

But that doesn't help anyone. Many people who speak English as their first language convert that into "A&E." Humans who are old enough to have played a lot of Trivial Pursuit during the 1980s and 1990s immediately call me "A&E" and are very happy to report to me that it's a very fitting set of initials, because it means "Arts and Entertainment," and that's my whole bag, right? Yes. Yes, I guess it is, maybe. It's a majority of my bag, at least.

In UK English, "A&E" means "Accident and Emergency," referring to what US people call an Emergency Room or ER at a hospital. So, that's terrible.

And people in general worldwide (except for people who speak a dialect of Arabic as a first language) hate initials that include a glottal stop - a consonant sound formed by the audible release of the airstream after complete closure of the glottis. It's tough for a lot of people to pronounce a glottal stop. It doesn't feel nice if you're not used to it. It's possible to pronounce it allided - "AEEEE" - and that can sound fun, like something one yells in New Orleans, perhaps, but that doesn't catch on much.

I go by Phoole in the music-business areas of my life - but of course that isn't any less confusing, because I've ruined the spelling. Phooligans in India love that I'm called Phoole, because Phoole in Hindi means "flower." HOORAY SOMEONE LIKES ONE OF MY NAMES

My name being Ann-Elizabeth, with a hyphen, has grown to be a huge problem in my day-job life.

When I first joined my current organization, the Operations Manager of my section suddenly announced she'd be transferring to another department. The Supervisor of my section at that time was a singularly-brilliant and delightful person named Elizabeth, who allowed some people in the organization to call her "Liz."

Liz was connected all over the sprawling, vast organization, and was well-known and well-liked, as she should be, because she rules. She and I bonded immediately over tech-house music, mad cravings for international travel, and affinities for attaching googly eyes to inanimate objects in order to anthropomorphize them and make them funnier.

Liz left the organization shortly thereafter, which was a powerful loss to the organization and to me personally, because it is really hard to find someone in a municipal governmental organization who loves tech-house music, understands the joy of living abroad, and is down to googly-eye-bomb random stuff on a moment's notice.

I took over her duties, and eventually became the Operations Manager of my division.

From my first day in assuming these roles, everyone I interacted with in other divisions called me "Liz."

Having lived with a terrible first name one-two punch for so many years already, I initially just ignored it and went on doing things. I was already used to people calling me "Liz." It didn't occur to me that these specific people might be thinking that actual-Liz and I were the same person.

However, that turned out to be exactly what was happening. People would say, "Hey, remember that conversation you and I had six years ago about such-and-such-a-thing?" and I'd have to say, "You must mean Liz, my predecessor. I am Ann-Elizabeth, a different human."

Nobody liked that.

They ignored it, in turn, and fled into the comforting arms of their belief in a Continuous Liz, an Uninterrupted Liz who remembered them and had rapport with them and knew them.

To this day, many Department Heads and other long-serving staff think I'm Liz. I have corrected them many times. They don't care. I'm Liz to them.

And that would be fine, if not for the fact that I have a wonderful employee named...Beth.

Yes, Beth, THE OTHER PART of the OTHER PART of my name.

Beth is a Lead in my section - her job means that she too interacts with many, many other people throughout the entire huge organization.

The situation has devolved to the point where there are now, I understand, people who think that Liz, Beth, and I are one united being.

We are all Liz. We are all Elizabeth. We are all Beth.

A person will say one thing to Beth, and then assume that they have said it to me. Or vice versa. Or they will recall something they said to Liz years ago and expect that knowledge to exist in the Liz Continuum, in all of our consciousnesses, a Bethian Archetype pervading our mutual gestalt.

Difficulty compounds when someone knows that a component of the Lizness is that one of us (THE ONE, for them) is the Operations Manager. If that person talks to Beth, thinking Beth is the Liz that is the Big Boss, they may ask her to do something that is a Big Boss Level Task, which Beth might not even know is a thing at all.

When Beth, in an effort to be a good person and do good things, tries to do the Big Boss thing that most people don't even know is a Big Boss thing, chaos ensues.

But at no point is anyone in the organization ready to believe that the Liz Trinity is just three separate human beings, one called Beth, one called Ann-Elizabeth, and one called Liz, who left the organization in 2015.

When I first met John Hodgman at a book signing for his book The Areas of My Expertise: An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order, John asked my name, in order to inscribe the book to me. Already cringing, I replied that my name was "A-E."

Hodgman regarded me coolly. "Your name is not A E. Those are letters. What is your name?"

"It's...Ann-Elizabeth. Ann hyphen Elizabeth. With a 'z'."

Hodgman's eye twitched. "A 'z'?"

"Absolutely. And a hyphen. I'm sorry." My cringe expanded, affecting innocent bystanders.

Hodgman glared steadily at me as his Sharpie moved over the book's title page, inscribing my stammers, word for word. "Ann-ElizabethZ Z Absolutely."

(We also had a lively, jovial and invigorating chat about my t-shirt, which commemorated his dear friend David Rees' pivotal comic "My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable," and about the life and duty of being a fool, charged with speaking truth to power. It was not all hyphens and silent resentment.)

When I returned to the table later to get a second signed copy for my Dad, whose first name is Dan, Hodgman inscribed the copy:

"For Dan-Elizabeth. P.S.: Stop torturing your daughter with hyphens."

The bottom of the title page of John Hodgman's THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE, showing his dedication of his signature to me. At the top he had signed it "To AE." He then drew an arrow down to the bottom of the page, which is the portion of the page displayed. His signature continues, "AKA Ann-ElizabethZ Z Absolutely."

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