There are certain experiences that everyone with hard to pronounce and hard to spell names share.

There are certain experiences that everyone with hard to pronounce and hard to spell names share.


The best example is probably roll call on the first day of class. As the teacher is about to take roll, he announces that he is "bad with names" and apologizes in advance for the butchering of names that is about to occur. He is making this disclaimer because of your name.


The teacher beings calling out names: "Adams." "Baker." "Carter."


Then there’s a pause. The teacher is squinting and holding the roll sheet two inches from his face. He gives several stuttering, far-from-confident attempts at your name.


You say "here" and then tell him the correct pronunciation, usually having to slow it down and say it multiple times.


You say you’ve been there? Pull up a chair. Let’s start a support group.


Hi, I’m Ann, and you may have noticed that my name began appearing in this paper a couple weeks ago. I’m a new reporter here.


You also may have looked at my last name and thought it was a typo. It isn’t.


I know. My name looks like someone angrily punched their keyboard. It looks like someone threw a handful of Scrabble letters against the wall and let them randomly fall into place.


It does not jibe with the English language. That’s because it’s Czech. The "j" is actually pronounced like an "i." The way I have pronounced it all my life is "Smy-stra-la." I’m a Smajstrla — there are not many of us.


The Smajstrla family’s biggest claim to fame might be Craig Smajstrla, a Major League Baseball player for the Houston Astros in the 1980s. Apparently he was nicknamed "Mr. Buy A Vowel" by broadcasters, which is fitting. I’ve never met or talked to Craig, but with a last name like "Smajstrla," we’ve got to be related, right?


I guess that’s one good thing about having a unique, albeit impossible to spell, surname. Encountering another person who shares it who you’ve never met before is always an interesting occasion because it’s so rare. If a Smajstrla meets another Smajstrla, there are exclamations of, "Where are you from?!" and "Let’s trace our genealogy!" Granted, this has only happened to me once in person and a couple times over social media.



Happy birthday Sunday to Katy Jones, Pat Wright and Dale McMillan, all of Denison; Dr. Jerry Gundersheimer, Talmadge Kemp, Mark Blanton, Ahjaleigh Smith, Hugh Maxwell, Alvin Wayne Gray, Joseangel Romeno and Terry Lynn Green, all of Sherman; twins, Ky Trader and Braedon Trader, both of Wylie; Geraldine Wimpee and Kyla Neal, both of Bells; Treva Anderson Bell of Bedford; Billy Wayne Pat of Leonard.


Happy anniversary Sunday to Eric and Sheri Gillespie of Hurst, 12 years.