Monday, September 28, 2009

My Russian name

While Cochrane is a pretty famous name in the United States, though it might be spelled without the "e" sometimes, I have found that many people in the U.S. don't know how to pronounce it.

I remember answering the phone when I was little:
"Hi, can I speak to Milton Coachryan?"
That's when I would hangup. It had become obvious that the person was a telephone solicitor because they didn't know how to say our last name.

You can imagine that if native English speakers often can't pronounce my name, native Russian speakers would have a hell of a time. So in Russia, to native Russian speakers, my name has become Kimberli Kochreyn (spelling) - with my last name pronounced "Coach-ryan". This mis-transliteration of my name has gone on for so long that I now just let it slide and recognize it as my name, but I have been able to trace back the missteps and see how it happened.

It all started back in September 2008, at the Russian Consulate in Seattle. Of course, I filled out the visa application myself and didn't think to put the transliteration of my name in Russian, even though I had figured it out. After waiting for about an hour for my visa, they called out "Cauchryan" and I sat in my seat for a little bit, until I realized it was me they were calling. I couldn't figure out why or how they could mispronounce my name so badly, until I looked at my visa. On the visa my name is in Russian and English. The English to Russian transliteration had been literal and ended up looking like this: Кимберли Кочрейн. Literally pronounced, "Keem-byer-lee Koach-ryan". On my original visa, the mess up seemed fine. They used my spelling of my name in English and their spelling of the Russian, so I thought, ok, no problem.

Yet, when it came time to apply for my year long visa, I was no longer filling out the application and the person applying didn't look at the original spelling of my name, rather they transliterated the Russian back into English. Making my name look like this: Kimberli Kochreyn. The second year long visa application just used the spelling from the first, so, in effect, in Russia, this is my name.


  1. I'm sure that happens more often than not to people who travel to, move to, or work in, a new country. My Grandpa Wasko had a similar experience when he immigrated to the United States from Hungary early in the 20th Century. They say the original name is Vasko - OR Vaskovich....Which was translated to WASKO and it stuck!!!

  2. I can see why it stuck. Unless you are really pushy about it, I'm not sure your host country cares one way or another if their interpretation is your "real" last name.