How Do You Pronounce Doiron, Anyway?

One of the most common questions I am asked is how I pronounce my name. I published this explanation last year but have decided to run it again since it remains a source of confusion.

When you grow up with an uncommon surname, mispronunciation is a lifelong companion. Doiron is a French name. There are lots of Franco-Americans in my home state of Maine. The name refers to the village of Oiron in the Poitou region of France. Long ago, one of my ancestors somehow acquired the surname d'Oiron. In the language of Michel de Montagne, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Chevalier this translates as "from the flyspeck of Oiron." Somewhere over the centuries, the apostrophe was misplaced, and we all became Doirons. I doubt it ever occurred to the original Monsieur d'Oiron that his American descendants would spend their lives suffering through endless mispronunciations of his elegant monicker.

In my life I've been called just about everything: Doron, Dyer, Drier, Dye-run, Dry-run. The most common variant was, and is, Dorian (as in Gray). The American tongue has difficulty wrapping itself around the French diphthong. I am sympathetic to this handicap although I sometimes wonder how Agatha Christie managed to create a world-famous Belgian detective with a surname almost identical to my own, and yet somehow hostesses in restaurants continue to page me as, "Darren, party of two."

So Hercule Poirot has been of no help. (Sometimes, I fancy that if ever I have a son I will name him Hercule. Either that or Elvis Aaron. One or the other.) The truth is I respond to nearly any sound that roughly approximates the six letters in my name. Shout Doo-run-run! and I'll know you mean me.

In fact, my name has been mispronounced so regularly, in so many different ways, that I have stopped bothering to correct people. What does it matter, after all? I know you bear me no malice when you call me "Paul Do-iron." That pronunciation isn't so far off the mark actually. I'll take it over most of the alternatives.

My great aunt Oline (pronounced O-lean, like the no-fat cooking oil) used to pronounce our last name Dwerron. Being much older and Frencher than me gave her considerable authority on the matter. But asking your average American to look at the name Doiron and make that mental leap—"Oh, of course, it's Dwerron, like that dwarf from Middle Earth!"—seems like an unreasonable expectation to me. 

Truth be told, not all of us Doirons pronounce our names the same anyway. I’m sure I have a distant cousin who calls herself Darien, like the Connecticut township. And who am I to say she's wrong. It's her name as well as mine.

For the record, though, it’s Dwarren.