26 Apr
Hey, You!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

This is the most ridiculous question ever but I don’t know my cleaning woman’s name. She has pronounced it for me several times but she has such a thick accent that I can never quite get it. I once asked her to spell it so I could put it in my phone but what she spelled seemed to have no correlation to how she pronounced it. At this point, I’m totally embarrassed to ask her again. She is really good at her job and I don’t want to insult her. Please help.


What’s in a Name?


Dear Name,

You’re kidding me, right?  Not only do you have to pay these people, but now they have a name?  And if I’m reading between the lines here accurately, a non-American one at that.  Some people have nerve.  I’m really starting to understand why our forefathers, welcoming the off-the-boat immigrants to Ellis Island, just Americanized their names.  Because they foresaw this exact problem, and they didn’t have our foremothers, The Mouthy Housewives, to turn to.  It’s amazing that the country didn’t implode.

But I definitely see your problem.  If immigration comes knocking (you’re not in Arizona, are you?) you want to be able to pronounce her name correctly.

So here are your options:

Have a friend pop by while the cleaning woman is there.  Do one of those half-assed introductions, “Oh, let me introduce you–this is my friend Charlotte, and this is- ” and then be seized with a coughing, sneezing or some other kind of involuntary fit that will allow you to suspend the introduction and hopefully the cleaning woman will take over.  This is tricky because you’ll have to make sure that you’re coughing/sneezing/seizing quietly so that your friend can actually hear the name.  Repeat with as many friends as necessary, alternating fits.

To take it up a notch, insist that one of your friends hires this woman.  This way, the friend is tasked with finding out her name, its etymology and reporting it back to you.  The obvious benefit to this is that someone else does all the work.  The possible problem is that perhaps none of your friends is looking to hire a cleaning woman right now, but that’s because they are not thinking of The Greater Good.  You should probably report them to Homeland Security.

Another idea, only if you’ve tried everything else (including consulting a psychic) is to ask your cleaning lady directly.  Say something like, “I’m really embarrassed, but I’m having a hard time pronouncing your first name.  Can you say it again, slowly?”  This has the benefit of implying that you have absolutely no problem pronouncing her middle and last names, as well as the names of all her ancestors and pets.

And if all else fails, just call her Supreme Goddess of Cleanliness.  Or Heidi Klum.

Good luck,

Marinj’kah, TMH

14 Responses to “Hey, You!”


Comment by SuperDixieK.

Why not ask her if she has a business card, that you’re really happy with her services and would like to recommend them to your friends?


Comment by Elizabeth.

I’m way more blunt than most people I guess. I’d just ask and let her know that I seriously suck at accents… and then give her a basket of homemade cookies to make up for sucking.


Comment by PeggyBristerHS.

Or you could simply ask her to write it down for you.


Comment by leaking crazy.

create a nickname – you know, like whatever the word for maid is in her native tongue. she’ll probably like that.


Comment by Wendi.

When I worked in an office building a long time ago, we used to write “basura”–the Spanish word for trash–on our old boxes so the cleaning people would take it. Unfortunately, one of my coworkers thought “Basura” was the janitors real name, and tried greeting him that way one night. Didn’t go over well, to say the least.

Nicole Reply:

Oh that is too funny, and sad


Comment by Erin at Im Gonna Kill Him.

At least you have to do the ‘hey, you’ to your cleaning lady and not your father-in-law. I am still unsure about what to refer to him as so I default to ‘you’ or nothing at all.

Tell her to write her name on all the cleaning supplies that she likes so you can make sure to keep purchasing them.

Or make your husband figure it out! Men are oblivious to the social awkwardness that ensues from these situations. My husband still does says humiliating, like “WHOA!” if someone utters a name more complicated than John.

Nicole Reply:

That was gonna be my suggestion, always make my husband do the “dirty” work.


Comment by Ashlie - Mommycosm.

I’ve been there many times. We spend a lot of time in Aruba and they have unusual names…or unusual ways of pronouncing common names. I am ignorant and only speak English. What I’ve found?
I apologize for being a stupid American, literally…then hand them a piece of paper and pen to write their name down. It totally works. And they appreciate my honesty over butchering their names and/or saying Hey, you;)
Good luck!


Comment by GrandeMocha.

My cleaning lady’s name is Cash. That’s what I write on the check. The last 3 have requested it.


Comment by seekingelevation.

For the next important holiday, have your child (right? You have a child, right?) make your cleaning person a card. Write the name of the volcano on the front of it. When you present her with it, tell her, I’m sorry that my jerk of a son can’t write your name correctly, but actually I had some trouble with it, too. Do you mind writing it down for us?


Comment by dusty earth mother.

Maybe you could have an actor friend come over and pretend to be an immigration officer. He could rough her up a little bit (just a little, this isn’t Guantanamo Bay, for heaven’s sake) and demand her name repeatedly until you understand her and then say, “Oh, sorry, wrong person.”

What? Desperate times call for desperate measures, people.


Comment by Simona.

ask to see her social security card.
she doesn’t have one?
how silly of me.
never mind.


Comment by mom, again.

I suspect the reason the spelling of the name & her pronousnciation don’t seem to match may be that letters sometimes indicate different sounds in different languages. & languages that don’t even use our letters sometimes get spelt really oddly when someone unfamiliar with either the language or our letters tries to make them fit.

Take the name she told you for your cell phone, & find someone else who speaks the language to help you figure it out phonetically.

or, hell, spell it out for us here, tell us her nationality, & someone here might be able to clarify it.

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