How I Learned to Find Beauty in My Unusual First Name
My name is Orit (pronounced Or-eat), to which the most common response upon meeting someone new is, “Can you say that again?” or “What?” I then proceed to repeat my name 2-3 more times, in a slower speed while emphasizing each letter.
Having always been the recipient of the perplexed expression, where my new acquaintance wonders how the heck they will ever remember my name, I know that’s my que to tell them my “cute” trick to say it right. I say, “Do you want to drink or eat?” but together, ‘Or-eat’. “Ahhh, I get it now!” they say excitedly.
Growing up as 1st generation American in L.A. to Israeli parents, I always hated my name. In Hebrew, it means “small light.” I hated roll call in school or any other place that would call out your name. Not only was my name going to be mispronounced, it was a stinging reminder that I wasn’t a Jennifer an Amy or a Stacy. I always knew when the teacher was about to call my name because there would be a pause and I could see the eyebrow muscle scrunching up in bewilderment. And so began the commencement of the name butchering! “Or-it?” “It’s Or-eat”, I’d say sheepishly. “Oh, sorry about that,” the teacher would say. “It’s ok, I’m used to it.” I used to pray that they called attendance by last name as mine –Bitensky – was easier to pronounce than Orit.
As you can imagine, I have had a plethora of “fun” nicknames including, but certainly not limited to, Or-it, Orbit, Orits, Ortiz, OB tampons, Oreo and even Marie, which happens a lot over the phone. No idea about that one.
How I got my name is even more hysterical. I was born in May and in Hebrew, the month of May is Mai, so my parents thought to call me Maya. Although my mom liked the name, she was afraid that people would mess up the pronunciation by calling me Mayo...as in Europe’s favorite condiment. So, my mom said, “I know, let’s call her Orit!” This obviously makes so much sense as that is waaaay easier to pronounce than Maya! No concern here at all.
By the way, my sister is named Sharon and to this day, I still tease my mom about getting the “short” end of the stick; translation, not ever having found my name on some unneeded personalized souvenir.
Having my name slaughtered throughout the years, really made me self-conscious, which didn’t exactly do wonders for my confidence. I have always been extremely shy. So shy that I didn’t order my first pizza till I was 13 years old.
Until a few years ago, I lived in Israel for 14 years. You can say I got very spoiled at having my name pronounced correctly for so long. No longer did I cringe at having my name called out in public. Needless to say, it brought me great pleasure as well as help restore my love for my name so when I moved back to the States, I was no longer bothered by the endless mispronunciations.
As time passed, I eventually grew to love and appreciate my name. Instead of associating it with being weird, I found beauty in its uniqueness. And hey, I never really had to say my last name to identify myself because who knows more than one Orit?
Do I love hearing my name pronounced Or-it? No, I sure don’t! However, now I am able to laugh about it. I even let my family call me that as a joke and it genuinely makes me smile.
Hopefully if you had any confusion on how to pronounce my name and were too embarrassed to ask, just remember, “Do you want to drink or eat?” Or-eat. If all else fails you can always call me by my Starbucks name, Maya.
Orit Bitensky is a Jane of all trades, corporate by day, aspiring entrepreneur by night. She is currently honing her communication skills by serving as the VP of PR for her Toastmasters Club. A self-proclaimed Urban Gypsy you can always find her daydreaming about her next trip, stand-up comedy, live music shows and what’s for dinner.