What's in a name?

-A A +A
By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

The editor of my first newspaper had been an assistant editor for over 34 years by the time I entered her newsroom.

Over the course of the four years I worked under her as a reporter, I learned many, many things about life in a small town weekly newspaper. Perhaps the most singlehanded important tidbit has proven tried and true for almost 30 years: don’t get the name wrong.

“People will forgive you for errors,” she told me, “but it’s hard for them to forgive you when you mess up their name.”

That’s why I’ve asked people I’ve interviewed, “How do you spell Mary?” (I’ve learned it could be Merry, Marie-but pronounced Mary, Maree, Mari, Marey or Mareigh.)

You never assume when it comes to someone’s name.

That’s why after eight years as the editor of the Williston Pioneer, I’m coming clean with how to pronounce my last name.

You think you know my last name and how to pronounce it?

I doubt it.

At the Peanut Festival, someone I’ve known and socialized with for over six years introduced me to a friend and absolutely butchered my last name.

If you’re reading this, friend, know I forgive you. I mean, it’s not exactly Smith or Jones, is it?

However, I really thought people who know me, knew how to say my last name: a good Dutch name that I took on eight years ago when I married Too Tall.

When I get phone calls at the office and the caller mispronounces my last name, I know first of all they do not know me and that I’ve never spoken to them because I do know how to pronounce my name.

My last name is not Broeck.

My middle name is not Ten, nor is it my maiden name.

My last name is Ten Broeck. Dutch. Two words. One name. Just like Van Dyke or De Vries.

Broeck is not pronounced Bro-eck, even though it looks like it should be. Nor is it “Broke”.

My last name, phonetically, is “tin brook.” (Ten if you're north of the Mason-Dixon line.)

There’s debate, even among Too Tall’s family, about how to spell the name.

Some family members put the words together, as in TenBroeck.

Some leave a space between the words, as we do, while others lowercase the b, Tenbroeck.

No matter how it’s written, it’s pronounced the same and means, just as you expect, from the brook or literally from the Dutch/low German translation at the creek (to den broek).

Too Tall’s family came to New York in 1659, settling what is now the Albany area. Back then it was two words, just as we spell it.

I think that’s pretty cool that he knows his genealogy back so far. I, on the other hand, only know of my paternal family roots since the mid-1700s when they left Wales for North Carolina.

Ten Broeck is fairly common in New York, although not so much in the South. Except Ten Broeck, Ky., near Louisville; Ten Broeck, the thoroughbred racehorse immortalized in song and the mental hospital that bears the name.

Plain and simple – Ten Broeck.

Or so I thought.

A few years ago, a customer came into the office. A native of Belgium, he asked how I pronounced my name.

When I told him, he shook his head.

“No, no, no,” he said, explaining he was from the northern region close to the Netherlands.

“It is Ten Brrrrooook,” he said rolling the r and making it sound like oo as in coo.

“Look,” I said. “It’s hard enough to get people to say it my way without changing the game now. I’ll stick with Tin Brook.”

Ay yi yi.

What I should have done was kept my maiden name.

How can you screw up Roberts?

Don’t answer that.

Just call me Carolyn.