Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cuyahoga Falls diplomas: What's in a misspelled name?

 Yeah, I wondered about it, too.   How could the hometown of a Cuyahoga Falls high school graduating  class be misspelled on the the jackets of 348 diplomas?  The u was  changed to an a.  And then I recalled that when Moses Cleaveland founded the city on the lake in 1796, the surveying team later misspelled it on the map as Cleveland, banishing the first a to the nitpickers  of historical accuracy.

Could that have been the long lost a that returned  to replace the u in the Falls?

 As one whose name has appeared in print in various malfunctions, I began to understand that correct spelling is not everybody's priority. (Even today, a promotional sign on  Walgreen's lot on West Market St.  tells us of a specially priced cereal  named Kelloog's.)

In my case, my name has been misspelled over the years  as Zaiden in bylines as well as in other references, some of which fell prey to  phonetics as in Zidan, Zaden and Zyden.  But spelling , folks, has been only half of my painful journey through the pages of time.
In letters that arrived on my desk as a reporter, magazine editor and newspaperman,I have been addressed on the envelope as "Rev. Zaidan,"  "Dr. Zaidan,"  "Herr Zaidan," "Comrade Zaidan" (usually in red ink) and...well, I had better stop there.

There's more. Some members of my family pronounced our name to rhyme with Biden (my father fell into that category). Two of his brothers pronounced it to sound like laden, and my dear grandmother gave it a strong French accent, which Aunt Della attributed to grandma's early years growing up under French influence in the Middle East.

Once in Ireland, a grizzled fellow I met in a countryside pub asked about my name.  In awkward confusion, he said: "That not be Irish, be it?"

"No," I said. "Lebanese."

He drew back in obvious horror.  "Do you know Khadafi?"

"The world isn't that small," I told him.  Not that it mattered that much although we did have one thing in common.  Nobody could spell his name, either.


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