A Very Difficult, Complicated, Challenging Name

As a child I read the story of Goldilocks. Gold – i – locks: three syllables. Before long I could write her name and spell it accurately. Everyone in Second Class at Leeton Public School achieved the same competence. We were pretty sharp in those days, in Leeton, New South Wales.

My name is Goldenberg. Gold-en-berg. Three syllables.

It was in the year 1972 that my childhood wish to receive letters in the mail was fulfilled. Advertisers wrote me letters, medical specialists wrote to me, insurors, charities and other mendicants all wrote to the doctor. Most of them mastered the three-syllable test that we Leeton Alumni passed in 1952.

Those who had most trouble with my three syllables were medical specialists. Lots of them wrote to Dear Dr Goldenburg. The vagrant ‘u’ looked ugly.One wrote: Dear Dr Rosenberg. I knew a few Doctors Rosenberg. Were they receiving letters addressed to Goldenberg?

I had a few letters addressed to Dr Goldstein. I feel flattered: David Goldstein, the eminent oncologist, is a remote relative by marriage, and one of Medicine’s natural intellectuals.

One distinguished colleague wrote to: DearDr Rosenstein. Stein the crows!


I was thrilled to be addressed as Dr Rosenkrantz. Obviously a Shakespeare enthusiast.

I’ve received lots of letters addressed to Dr Goldberg. Goldbergs are thick on the ground; we three-syllable Goldenbergs are fewer. Those thick Goldbergs – many of them lovely people – suffer syllable envy.

Last week an insurer wrote to me as follows: Dear Dr Glodenburg. Three syllables, two innovations!

Language advances, spelling evolves, we progress.


7 thoughts on “A Very Difficult, Complicated, Challenging Name

  1. The Dr Rosencrantz made me laugh out loud! My sympathy – I have carried our family name, Custance, with me through school and adult life and was foolish enough to include it in my author name, I have degree certificates on which the authorities have corrected what they perceive as my misspelling of my own name (there are more variations than you might imagine for two syllables). My daughter’s partner has a name which shares features of yours. I have worked hard to make sure I do not get a letter wrong.


    • Hilary

      Please forgive my tardiness

      Your names present delightful opportunities for wordplay

      It has been difficult for me to restrain myself

      And I have not always succeeded as you would know

      I have come to realise that the bearer of the name can wrath of such play

      Names truly are important

      So often they encode a family story

      Often too the given name is inspired by vision

      Or charged with poetry

      Or drenched with love

      In this melting pot of tongues and tribes I pay close attention to names, hoping to divine origins, stories, dreams, visions

      So pleasurable to correspond with you HCG




  2. I had some difficulty with my name as a child never the surname though the nice solid Anglo-Celtic Allen. Now it is more tricky as both names are massacred with regularity. Pilkington becomes Polkingtin, Polkington, Pinkington, Pinkerton, Picklington and Pikingtin. And if I’m. Really lucky Kerryn becomes Karen, and my dearest Darren becomes Derryn.


    • Oh Kerryn

      How they tangle your syllables!

      Such tempting opportunities reside in those cantering sounds!

      I read about fifteen years ago that good that Australia’s commonest surname was Nguyen

      The Smiths have been eclipsed

      No-one in Oz can read Nguyen phonetically or intuitively

      Now I’ve learned how I find it a breeze

      But many a good Aussie of Vietnamese origin has seen main streamers mangle the name in gargles

      Pilkington and Goldenberg become pushovers in contrast




  3. My own favourite along these lines, Zocton Kelin – a then girlfriend has called me Zocton ever since. (The ubiquitous H in Yossi never ceases to puzzle – surely we’ve evolved to the point where we can brook a double S as just that…)


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