Thank you, Steven Spielberg

10 May 2006
5:30 PM


Sometimes I get frustrated because people here can’t say my name. Of course I shouldn’t. After all, Ryan is a name in English and the people here speak Spanish. Moreover, my two-syllable name holds a few tricks, like “y” as a vowel and the schwa sound in “an.” Plus, Ryan starts with r, which means that letter should be lightly trilled according the Spanish pronunciation rules.

All of these are reasons I expected people not to be able to pronounce my name. Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived and heard people saying “Brian” flawlessly. Ah ha! I could leverage that ability to get people to say me name. Those attempts go like this:

CHILEAN. What’s your name?
ME. Ryan
ME. Close. Ryan—like Brian, but with out the “b.”
CHILEAN. Ree-yen?
ME. Ryan.
ME. Yes.

Many English names have simple Spanish equivalents. Michael is Miguel; Joe is José; Mary is Meri or María. Other equivalents are less obvious. James translates as Jaime, but also as Santiago (check a Spanish Bible and you’ll read about the disciple “Santiago, brother of John.”) Ryan has no such equivalent. One professor in Bolivia proudly told me that she asked some people and found out that Reneé is my name in Spanish. I told her that I wouldn’t believe it until I heard a Brian being called Breneé. She nonetheless continued to call me Reneé, “because you have to get used to your name in Spanish.” No one else has heard about that Reneé rubbish.

Recently I have had an epiphany with my name. This is proof that solutions come from the strangest places. Now introductions go like this:

CHILEAN. What’s your name?
ME. Ryan. Like Brian without the “b.”
CHILEAN. Ree-yen?
ME. Ryan.
CHILEAN. Rrrye-ahn?
ME. Ryan. You know, like the private who was saved in that movie?
CHILEAN. Oh! Ryan?
ME. Yes.
CHILEAN. (laughing) Ha-ha, saving private Ryan!

I had no idea that Spielberg’s war flick Saving Private Ryan would become my favorite movie here in Chile. I thought it was good, of course, but now I find myself referencing it all the time (albeit as Rescatando al Soldado Ryan). Whatever works, though. My hat’s off to Mr. Spielberg for making life here a little easier.


haha. I love it.

ps. Erin doesn’t have a good spanish equivalent either.

Erin Greenberg

on May 11, 2006 11:23 AM

Ah Renee, how I’ve missed you :>

your sister sent me your blog info and i am very pleased to find you are still both ridiculous and hysterical- really, it makes my day

Maureen Tate

on May 11, 2006 1:52 PM

Leave a comment