I was born Pamala Ann Praser (PRA-zer). My siblings’ first or middle names came from grandparents, but not mine. When I asked my mother why I was given that name, she replied that she just liked it—Ann is also her middle name. But notice the spelling of my first name. Mom said she thought the three A’s spelling of Pamala would be easier for me to learn than the normal, Pamela. Did she have a premonition about my intellectual ability? And so began a lifetime of correcting teachers, employers, banks, government entities, and others who didn’t think I could spell my own name. To reduce the number of times I had to correct the corrections, I started using the shortened version, Pam.
But nicknames soon replaced Pamala. From an early age, my father called me Boomer—something that I supposedly called myself when I was learning to talk. In elementary school, a gym teacher evoked raucous laughter when he misread Praser, and called me Pamala “Eraser.” Luckily this name didn’t stick. But a friend’s father noticed my initials and started calling me PP. My wonderful friends caught this and began asking (you guessed it), “Does PP gotta go PP?” PP morphed into “P” and stuck until I moved away in sixth grade. In High School my nickname became “Praze,” short for Praser. My Spanish teacher also joined in, changing the Spanish pronunciation of Pah-MAY-luh to Pah-MAH-luh . . . as in Palmolive Soap. UGH.
After college, my initials came back to haunt me. My first car’s license plate arrived. Horrifyingly, and not by my request, it read “PAP 183” and became known as the “Pap-mobile.” No explanation needed—SHEESH! I married in 1979 so the plate made no sense, especially since I took my maiden name as my middle name: Pamala Praser Anderson. Luckily, we moved to Pennsylvania in 1983 and that license plate disappeared. I also stopped using the full “Pamala Anderson” (if possible) because of the images of Bay Watch that came to mind when people of a certain age heard that moniker.
Enter genealogy. My paternal grandparents, Edward and Marie (Supenova) Pracser, immigrated from Slovakia to the United States in 1920. Although the “c” was supposed to be silent, their sons, Elmer and Joseph, experienced their teachers’ mispronunciation of their name as PRAK-ser. Pressures to assimilate and appear more “American” caused my father and uncle to remove the “c” in Pracser. However, my grandparents continued using the original spelling.
I always knew either spelling was pronounced as PRA-zer—until I met my father’s first cousins, Dušan and Milan, in Slovakia in 2014. They pronounced the Pracser name as PRAH-cher! So . . . I learned that my grandparents had changed the pronunciation, even if they didn’t alter the spelling.
Several years ago, I decided to go back to the original Pracser spelling in genealogical articles and on Facebook (where my family first noticed). I didn’t understand why my father and uncle would change the spelling of their surname, and I wanted to honor my immigrant grandparents. (The fact that my grandparents and great grandparents all changed their surname from Konas to Pracser on their ship’s manifests is another mystery for another day!) And then I got it. People began introducing me as Pam PRAK-ser Anderson! But I’m sticking with Pracser, especially now that I know “What’s in MY name.”