What’s In An Assumed Name?

Learned Foot [pen name] discusses discovering Learned Foote. [pen name well, blow me down – it’s a real name. Who knew?]

I don’t have that problem, so much – there are actually three Mitch Bergs in the Twin Cities that I know of, and for many years one of them worked in IT. He must have been older than me; while we never met, I knew plenty of people who’d worked with him at Control Data.

My dad, Bruce Berg, had it weirder. There was another Bruce Berg in Jamestown, North Dakota. My dad was a high school teacher; the other one was in Human Resources at the factory on the north hill. To make things confusing, they both lived on the 700 block of 2nd Avenue – one of them on the north side, the other on the south. Every time there was a blizzard, we’d get inundated with people calling in sick; likewise the other Mr. Berg got plenty of calls for help with homework, I’m told. The funny part? In a town of 15,000 where everyone knows everyone, I’m not sure that they ever met.

The top three most maddening things about my name?

3. Oy, Avay: People assume I’m Jewish. Berg is, obviously, a common Jewish surname. As it happens, it’s also quite common among goyim in Northern Europe as well; it’s German, Swedish and Norwegian for “Mountain”; like every goy named Montaña, Montagne, Vuori, Gornik, Núi and Planina, my anscestors were from the hill country. Apparently. It used to cause both yuks and consternation when I was at KSTP-AM back in the eighties; I got the occasional anti-semitic call, even a death threat or two. I’m about as Jewish as a bacon cheeseburger, but this being right after the murder of Alan Berg, I didn’t entirely laugh it off.

2. Punt This: For years – I do mean years and years – I’d say my name on the phone. People would audibly light up; The Mitch Berger? The Vikings punter?” And no, just because he left the Vikes in 2000 doesn’t mean it’s over; my place-setting at the company Christmas party this year? Yep – the place card was for “Mitch Berger”. Next year I’ll wear a Steelers’ uniform and run with it. As it were.
1. Screw “U”: When I give my name to people on the phone or in person, I usually go “Name’s Mitch Berg, B E R G”. That’s to avoid the one question in the world of which I’m the sickest; “Is that B U R G or…”. In all my years, I have ever once met a single Burg with a “u”. I’m sure they exist, but good lord, they are scarce; there are probably as many people who spell it “Byrg”. There must be 50 Bergs for every Burg in the world. And yet every single time I don’t spell it out letter by letter, I kid you not, people guess “Burg”. Will it never end?

Not a huge problem, obviously. Just had to get it out there.

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11 thoughts on “What’s In An Assumed Name?

  1. A little over a year ago my wife and I checked out a house on the Parade of Homes. The woman representing the home bulider looked familiar to me. Turns out we went to high school together and I told my wife “This is Wendy, Mitch Heberg’s sister.”

    My gal said “Mitch Hedberg? Of the NARN?”

  2. I keep getting asked if I am related to the former mayor of St. Paul. I tell them He’s EI I am IE.

    But that didn’t stop me back in 1989, when he was first elected. I was bartending at a bar in Northern Minnesota and when they posted the election results I looked up and said “What do you know, Dad pulled it off” I had the whole place convinced my pops just became mayor. Never mind he would have been only 13 when I was born *laughing*

  3. I know of some videographer/tv show producer/camerman/something or other who has my first and last name, who is associated with Boston’s WGBH tv station. I’ve never had someone confuse me for him, just that we are by far the two most frequent returns in Google when my name is googled.

  4. Oh yeah, and I learned many years ago, when someone on the phone asks me for my last name, I spell it instead of saying it, because they invariably write or type an S instead of a C based on pronunciation.

  5. my last name is Black, and I still get people asking me “how is that spelled” Um, Blaque?

  6. I have three first names – the last being Davey. I always spell it out, because everyone omits the E. And you have to put a hard pause after the V when you spell it, because it can sound like one long V. Alas, with three first names, I am forever called Dave. Telemarketers are my favorites: “Well Dave, if we can count on your support for $15.00 (for some police or firefighter’s union)…”. Dude, people I have never met, and are begging me for money should be calling me MISTER Davey – and if you can’t show the courtesy of getting my first name correct, then here’s some dial tone for you.

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