What's in a Name

I'm asked the origin of my surname often. Some say, it's the double vowel (aa) that gives it a Flemish or Dutch sound. Double vowel names are not uncommon in Europe, but they are much less common than Johnson or O'Brien in the U.S., although the automaker Saab with its double vowel (aa) might argue that because Saab is a huge name in America. 

Others insist, Saavedra must be Scandinavian, but its actual origin is in the far warmer climate of north central Spain. I'm telling you this because there's a great website online that helps writers learn the pronunciation of difficult surnames. It's a great site for those in the creative field, who meet people from all sorts of countries in their quests to develop stories. Smith is easy to pronounce, but try pronouncing the surnames Aiyegbeni or Ouaddou, which belong to world-class soccer players. This website makes it simple to get the name right before you use it conversation!

If you wondered, the name Saavedra (hear pronunciation above in video) is a Galician surname from the Northern part of Spain. It means..."hall and old main house" in Latin. Apparently centuries ago a family lived in an old rather large house and the Saavedra surname stuck. It is perhaps best linked to the author Cervantes de Saavedra, who wrote the literary classic Don Quixote. It's a monster of a novel, but I managed to read it a couple of times.

The surname isn't easy to pronounce. I don't roll the "rrrrrS" when I pronounce my surname like in the video, but at least I learned the meaning and origin of my surname, my father's given name.

When writing short fiction stories, I feel that having a clear understanding of one's own origin is another tool when crafting particular characters and scenes, allowing me to extrapolate Prose from real provenance and personal cultural experiences.

It's a writer's ethnic honesty of who she or he is that then connects readers to the saga. Writing with a sense of origin to me is much easier than trying to be something that you are not. I doubt I will ever write a story about a German pastry baker even if her name is easy to pronounce.


Larry Saavedra