my names

“Tania Lu Müller-Kaul” is on my birth certificate. I go by “Lu” since all the other names are too complicated and nobody knows how to pronounce them. “Tanja” was one of the most popular German names in my generation, so I’ve never liked it much. Good that my parents chose the shortest middle name they could find!

Pronunciation hint for Americans: try something like “Lou Miller Cowl”, that’ll be closer than the “Miller-Cool” I recently heard.

My names are also frequently misspelled.   

“Mueller-Kaul” is the correct way to get around the Umlaut problem, but often I see “Muller-Kaul”. I’m not blaming people who didn’t know grow up with strange European characters… of course they think “ü” is just a weird-looking “u”.

“Lu Müller-Kaul” is on my business cards. I’m wondering whether I should have the newest ones printed as “Lu Mueller-Kaul” instead, since that is how I can be found online.

What do you think? Do you have problems with your name(s)? How do you get found on social media?  Please leave a comment!

12 thoughts on “my names

  1. Well, sharing your last name, I have an opinion about this. I would recommend “Lu Mueller-Kaul” für the new business cards.

    Like people who travel the world much benefit from names everyone can pronounce, representing yourself with letters most people on this planet know and feel familiar with is making life easier for everyone dealing with you. Another reason is this: you can’t have Umlauts in many online applications (e.g. email addresses). So to stay consistent in online and offline spelling, use “Mueller-Kaul” offline, too.

    An emotional reason is also: People who didn’t grow up with the particular Umlaut they see on your business card are automatically on uncertain territory as to how to speak to you, as they don’t know how to pronounce your name correctly. I don’t like putting people in a defensive position or onto uncertain territory right at the start of a conversation. I probably would even consider adding the phonetic spelling to the business card to put people at ease!

    And just to tell this story once more: Whenever I want to visit the US and am filling out the ESTA application form, I have to use the “Mueller-Kaul” spelling, as it won’t accept the “ü” anyway. I find it funny that they also warn you about misrepresenting your name accompanied by a threat of legal action, since I couldn’t send my application off if I tried spelling it correctly… but – whatever!

  2. I’d go with whatever returns the best search results. It’s all about SEO, right? Thanks to your already dynamic online presence, you’ll likely be known in the history books as “The Amazing Lu” or epynonymously as simply “Lu.” The world will of course know of which Lu everyone is speaking.

    • Thanks for telling me, Michelle. That settles it… I will slowly get rid of the umlaut and make it “Mueller-Kaul” everywhere. Including the header of this blog!

  3. I would go with Mueller.

    1 in 20 people know how to pronounce my last name. I have a parenthetical on my website bio and in the video where I introduce myself. No help at all for someone who first receives my biz card.

  4. I’ve been thinking of changing my last name to something easy. Like Mueller.

    You should totally go with Mueller because everyone knows “Bueller’s Day Off.” Just say, “Mueller, like Bueller but with an ‘M’ ” and then laugh politely when they make the joke about “is it your day off?” People will NEVER forget you!

  5. The problem with pronunciation is that people don’t even hear the correct pronunciation, even if you tell them several times… I’m sure that’s the case with you, Matt.
    Our brains transform unknown patterns into the ones we can recognize… and then we try to say it like it sounded in our mind, and of course what comes out is far, far away.
    So “Miller-Cowl” is the closest I can get within American English.

    The better my accent in English is getting, the less I’m able to pronounce my last name… I have to stop, set my mind to “German mode” and say it.

    What people hear though, is weirdly something like “Myuller-Cower”.

    I usually introduce myself with “Lu” and if they ask for a last name, I say “yeah, that’s where it gets complicated… “.

    People talk about me as “Lu” and I just heard that even some orthopedic surgeon (who I never even heard of) was asking the patient “Oh, so you’re seeing Lu?” when the patient mentioned Rolfing.

    I had no idea this was such an engaging subject!!! 😀

  6. See, there’s where we are getting to what scottvedder pointed out from the start:
    “you’ll likely be known in the history books as “The Amazing Lu” or epynonymously as simply “Lu.” The world will of course know of which Lu everyone is speaking.”
    – the orthopedic surgeon already knows… 😀 and I’m sure he’s not the only one.
    I think it’s so engaging because we all struggle with “Müller-Kaul” on some level.

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