The One With the Silent ‘G’

“Guhhhhnadinger,” my third grade classmate attempted to pronounce my last name as he handed me my name tag. It was the first time I realized there might be something wrong with my last name, and that I would struggle with this deformity for the rest of my life.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher pronounced it with a hard “g” at the end, and although my classmates corrected her, technically it was correct. In fact, even though most of my immediate family pronounces our last name with a soft “a” and second “g” at the end, most of the rest of the family pronounces it with a hard “A” and second “G.” And according to my dad, this is the closest pronunciation to the original spelling.

It’s a rather simple last name if you take away the German “G.” Instead of “Gnadinger,” you would have “Nadinger,” and I think everyone would know how to pronounce that, but it’s that damn “G” that throws everyone off. Anytime I attend a conference, go to the pharmacy, or any place that must check me off a list, I always introduce myself as “Gnadinger … G… n…a…d…” Always.

It comes naturally. And growing up, I thought how easy it would be if I didn’t have this German conundrum. Apparently, when my German ancestors migrated here in the 19th century, they changed the spelling to make it more “American.” Yet they couldn’t get rid of the silent “G.” Continue reading