Spelling My Name | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Spelling My Name

We sometimes make hotel reservations over the phone. We usually speak in Spanish, but unfortunately, my name is pure English: John Wood. This causes difficulties for Spanish speakers.

For example, the letter "W" is used infrequently in Spanish, and then mostly in loanwords, such as "waffle" and "sandwich." The sound of the letter "W" is nearly identical to the sound of the Spanish "gu," as in "guacamole," pronounced wahk-ah-MOLE-lay.

The double O is even more rare. It sounds like the Spanish "U," but the word "Wood" sounds to Mexican ears like woo-id. John Woo-id. Difficult to process on the first try. When giving my name over the phone, I'm often asked to repeat it several times.

My first name is commonly heard in Mexico, but spelling it is another matter. No letter of the Spanish alphabet has a sound that corresponds to the English "J." The closest you can come is "ch." Moreover, except in "ch," the letter "H" is silent. It always appears at the beginning of a syllable and it always is followed by a vowel. So spelling my name "John" looks just plain wrong.

The result is that when checking into a hotel, it's not unusual to see that they're holding a room for "Jhon Guid." Chon Woo-id.

Update: Young Mexicans use the American loanword "Wow!" When they use it in emails or text messages, they spell it "¡Guau!"