The name game

I don’t think I have a particularly complicated name, but the good people at Starbuck’s have a world of trouble trying to nut it out.

My name is Phoebe, and while it isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to spell it certainly isn’t as complicated as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, which is the name of a real person by the way – look it up.

But for some reason, no matter how clearly and slowly I say it I always end up getting a coffee with some bizarre word written on it that is supposed to be my name.

After ordering my grande skinny latte last Tuesday I joined the queue of other, half asleep commuters waiting for their morning caffeine fix. I was certain that this time I had said it clearly enough and would receive my Phoebe coffee. As soon as I saw the barista pick up the cup and squint at it quizzically I knew that no matter what came out of his mouth, that drink was mine. But even I was stunned when I heard him say ‘Filet’. Yes… Filet.

Sharing the same name as the quirky dopey character from Friends is one thing, sharing the same name as a cut of meat…. is another. And all of a sudden the image on this post makes a lot more sense.

Honestly, I have heard it all. In fact at my last job I had a section of the notice board dedicated to these name mishaps. I would cut them out of letters or printed emails and put them up for the world (my colleagues) to see. Highlights include: Choebe, Fee Bee, Foibee and Debbie.

The name Debbie is so often mistaken for my name that Matt and I would joke that he had a second girlfriend. For months his friends and family would routinely call me Debbie, even people we would run into on the street: “Carl, this is my girlfriend Phoebe” …“Nice to meet you, Debbie” …“No, it’s Phoe… Eh… nice to meet you too Charles”.

I tend to think it is the combination of a silent P and a Ph instead of F that throws people off, maybe that and the large number of vowels.

At first, my solution to this problem was to start giving another name, but my friend Katie has told me that no matter how complex or simple your name is, people will still get it wrong.

Katie found herself standing at Starbuck’s while someone screamed out ‘Stacey’ over and over until she realised they were referring to her, and more recently one of her good friends spelt her name wrong on a wedding invitation.

I’m fairly certain that even if I change my name to ‘Spoon’ the situation would not be any better, mainly because I would have to address the confusion about why I am named after a stirring implement and well-loved snuggling position.

The upshot of it is that my friends have a great time adopting these new Starbucks versions of my name and I find myself now being called ‘Phibby’ at work. Unfortunately, it seems that this is just one of those things that Katie, Apichatpong and I will all have to live with.

I know I’m not alone here… what names have you been mistakenly called by? What bizarre way have you seen your name spelt? Let’s unite and make reading a book of names part of Starbucks basic induction training!


Phoebe Lee Profile Image

Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through InstagramFacebook and YouTube.


11 Comments on The name game

  1. Julie Ball // May 16, 2014 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    I married quite recently and my maiden name, I understood why I had to spell it because it was quite uncommon. However, now my surname is Ball. Yep. Ball. Like a soccer ball, bouncy ball, any type of ball really. This is one of those words you learn in day care “B for Ball”. Well I get ‘Paul’ ‘Pull’ and ‘Bull’ and I spell it out to them as “B A double L L” …and they let out that sigh of “oh” ……’yes “oh”, now don’t you feel dumb??’ is what I think and giggle at on the inside.


  2. Hey, I was just on Google & noticed that you used my drawing. That’s cool! I’m glad you like it. Just to be safe though, can you make sure to credit to me instead of
    Here are some more if you want to check it out

    Thanks 🙂


  3. My name is Misti Dawnn.

    I turned in my graduation application and diploma name form with Misti Dawnn. When I picked it up, the lady said, “Oh, we fixed your name for you.”

    …. Um, gee thanks. Can you unfix your fix?

    I’m about to graduate from Grad school, and I’m wondering if I should even put my full official name..

    What ya think?


  4. My name is Kristenia (pronounced just like Christina, the second “i” is silent). Goodness gracious the pronunciations and spellings I get. I have actually had arguments with teachers and long discussions with bank tellers that YES that is how you spell my name, they did not spell it wrong in the system, and yes it is pronounced just like Christina Aguilera’s name.

    I get kris-ten-ee-ya, kristen-ee-a. People will also automatically shorten it and call me Kristen or Kris. They use to ask before shortening but now they will even just call me K without a second thought.

    What makes me laugh the most is one year I got a card from my dad. My parents were divorced and I believe it had to have been the 1st or 2nd time writing my name as I’m sure my mother did it all before. He actually spelt my name something like:



  5. Oh let’s see, My name is Tina, I have been called, Gina, Lina, Dina, Trina, Nina, and Zena….I like the Zena one the best, because of course I am a warrior princess HA!


  6. Try a Chinese name like mine… “Jun Jie”! I’ve given up and I go by JJ, but that gets messed up too.


  7. I have to say, I massively object to the whole Starbucks name ons cup idea. We’re not friends/colleagues, why do you need to know my name?!

    Incidentally, I used to be a Smith & people always got my name right. Now they always get it WRONG. It’s Pirt, but I’ve had Purt, Pert, & even Pritt & Pint! Drives me nuts.


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