While I was growing up, I used to wonder if names were a curse.
Why did I have to have a name that virtually everyone mispronounced? And I mean whether they heard it spoken or actually saw it in print.Oh, DENNIS was easy enough, although some people took the liberty of trivializing it by calling me "DENNY" (always people who did not know me).
The real problem was coping with the various unbelievable ways of pronouncing a simple, two-syllable, Scottish name like LYTHGOE (spelled LITHGOW in Scotland).
Many people had trouble with the TH. (Easy enough - just say LET'S GO, only with a lisp.) They said LIS-GO. Or LYTH-GO.(the Y pronounced like EYE) Often, the TH was left out entirely, producing LYE-GO. Occasionally, it was LITZO, and several times LEGGRO.
The one I hated the most, though, was LIFCO. It seemed so terribly unenlightened, since the L and the O were the only correct letters.
For a while I would immediately correct people who committed such a sin, saying it slowly for emphasis. Most people were nonchalant about it. Whenever I could get away with using only one name, I would drop the one with the TH.
Later, in restaurants I discovered that reservations were less likely to go astray if I made them in the name of DENNIS, as if it were my last name.
In high school I attempted to capitalize on the name and turn it to my advantage, literally, by using it as a campaign slogan: LYTHGOE WITH DENNIS FOR PRESIDENT.
It seemed like a great idea for posters and brochures. People commented favorably on the clever use of the name and the brochures went like wildfire. But I lost the election.
Afterward, people STILL mispronounced my name.
But I've become accustomed to all that. Now I am glad to have such a distinctive name. If anyone says, "Are you related to So-and-So Lythgoe," I automtically say "Yes," because there are so few Lythgoes that I KNOW that if there is another one - anywhere at all - that I am definitely related.
It is better after all to be unusual. And LYTHGOE allows me that privilege. I have become so mature that I prefer it to Smith and Jones. It is almost part of my personality to resist being just one of the crowd.
That is why with my return to Utah that I have become suddenly, jarringly aware of all of the first names that are endemic to the culture. At the risk of offending sensitive readers, I am going to pass on to you the names that seem to have the most popularity.
Many first names begin with L, for both men and women. There is LaVarr (the managing editor of this newspaper), LaMar (a florist for whom I picked flowers as a youth), LaVell (BYU's football coach), LaMont (former city commissioner), Ladell (former coach of BYU's basketball team and the Utah Stars), LaDean (can't think of a real person at the moment), LeGrande (the family doctor who delivered me), LeRoy (a junior high school teacher) and LuZell (husband of my old singing teacher).
The feminine equivalent is Laneen (my son's former girl friend), Lucinda (Mormon pioneer), LeCarol (local cosmetics saleswoman), LuJean (my brother's sister-in-law), LaRue (wife of a church leader) and LaRae (wife of the guy who almost married my sister).
As a kid I remember DeLos (a neighbor), DeMont (a conceited jerk), DeVere (a conservative farmer), DeWitt (three or four people that I see every day), DeMar (the milkman), and DeWayne (the corner druggist).
I could go on, but I won't. You get the point.
The reason I'm bringing all this up is that I am glad that I don't have both my own tricky last name and one of these unique Utah names in combination. I could have easily been named LaMont Lythgoe, or LaGrande Lythgoe, or LuZell Lythgoe or LaDell Lythgoe, and any of them would have been worse than what I have.
Before Marti and I got married we tried to plan names for our children and fell into uncontrollable laughter one day going through the phone book and coming up with such alliterative combinations as Elmo and Delphido Lythgoe.
So I'm mellow about it now.(LaMellow Lythgoe?) Although Marti and I do occasionally toy with the idea of making ourselves blend a little more into the culture by legally changing our names to LaDennis and LuMarti.