Life Lessons
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Sounds Like Target

(Photos from left to right: Margit Brandt, Fashion Designer. Photo courtesy; Margit Pearson Gray, Margit’s Grandmother. Photo courtesy Margit Detweiler; Saint Margit of Hungary. Photo courtesy; Margit Detweiler. Photo courtesy Margit Detweiler/; Margit Mutso, Architect. Photo courtesy

“It’s Margit. M-A-R-G-I-T,” I say. As I always do, I emphasized the “I.”

The barista doesn’t look at me, but I watch him scrawl out “M-A-R-G…” on the familiar white cup. He pauses for a moment. He continues with his Sharpie, “A-R-E-T.”

It happens almost every single day, but for some reason, today, this misspelling seems hilarious. A little blip in his brain told him, “No, what you’ve heard her actually say is wrong, go with what you know.”

Hi, I’m Margit. It sounds just like Target. In fact, that’s the only word that rhymes. Or I might say, “It’s Margit, like Supermarket, but with a g instead of a k.”

I actually love my name. It’s weird. It’s funky. It makes people stop and scrunch up their nose. It’s a cross I have to bear.

In fact, it sounds exactly the way it’s spelled. Go figure. People want to say Margeet. Market, Morgan, Margot, Margie, Mar-GET. Nope, it’s MAR-GIT

I actually love my name. It’s weird. It’s funky. It makes people stop and scrunch up their nose. It’s a cross I have to bear.

There was never a magnet, a t-shirt, a tiny Jersey Shore license plate that just said Margit. My sister Sara and my brother John had missing or included “H’s” to sneer at, respectively. But it was like my name just didn’t exist.

I used to collect creative spellings of my full name (couple Detweiler with Margit and it’s a doozy). This was back when I worked at a newspaper, when people used to write letters to the editor.

TN658_MARGIT_MISSPELLINGS_720x720 (Photo: Margit Detweiler/

In a bit of name-reclaim, I’ve taken to creating my own syllabic inventions: Midgemadge Douglesmasher. Morbid Deadwater. Mop-Up Dingleberry.

But there’s something to be said for having a unique name. Identity theft gets a little trickier. It’s an easy conversation starter. Your name is usually available on social media sites.

On Twitter, I was “MidgeMadge” until I noticed the woman using @Margit hadn’t been active for at least two years. Seeing that she lived in Germany, I had my Mom, who speaks a bit of German, write a note to her asking if she wouldn’t mind relinquishing her handle. Turned out she was a 70-something year old woman who ran a little chocolate shop in Aachen, Germany, and was more than happy to give up her name. After all, her name was Edna, not Margit.

I’ve been fighting for my name for as long as I can remember.

For some reason, when you have a long, unusual or differently spelled name, people really want to abbreviate or cute-ify it. “Can I just call you Marge? Or Mags? Do you go by Maggie?”

I really don’t, asshole.

Ok, I can’t lie: I let Marge slide, because it sounded like a saucy diner waitress and there was room in my life for that persona. But honestly I’ve never understood why people struggle with calling me, me.

There’s something to be said for having a unique name. Identity theft gets a little trickier. It’s an easy conversation starter. Your name is usually available on social media sites.

I once worked on a very intense content project headed up by a woman named Margaret. She was a lovely, albeit glamorously absent-minded sort. Heavily perfumed. She only ever called me the almost French sounding Margeet. I corrected her a few times but ultimately gave up. I figured out that this was her way of distinguishing the two of us, as my name was dangerously close to hers. Even when other people in a meeting called me Margit, she called me Margeet. Soon, as to not offend Margaret, everyone called me Margeet.

People who know me well do, in fact, call Margarets Margit, to which I fist pump the air and claim victory. I guessed this is a situation she wanted to avoid.

One day however, I called to Margaret a message on the phone and when her voicemail beeped, I panicked for a second or two, and then said, “Hello, this is Margeet…”

A low point.

As far as I can Wikipedia, Margit can be Hungarian, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish. I’ve known a scant few other Margits in my life — one in college, a drop-dead gorgeous blond who wore pigtail braids and kind of lived up to the Scandinavian stereotype. The other was a well-known PR executive, who happened to be consulting for the same company I consulted for at the time. And I got an email intended for her from the head of the company. Of course I immediately corrected the CEO’s mistake, but it actually resulted in a valuable discussion with him about my project. Thanks, other Margit.

They do exist. There are several actresses, a few fencers, an architect, a very groovy fashion designer, even a Saint.

I was named Margit for my Mom’s mother, Margit Pearson Gray (my middle name is Ruth for my other grandmother) who died several years before I was born.

“We wanted to honor her by giving you her name,” says my Mom. “And we were kind of traditional — people tend to name their older daughter for the mother’s mother.”

TN658_MARGIT_GRANDMOTHER_270x270 (Photo: Margit Pearson Gray, Margit’s Grandmother; Courtesy Margit Detweiler/

My great-grandparents were from Landskrona, Sweden. They’d named their daughter Margit, not because it was a family name, but because my great-grandmother Maria Persson (updated to Pearson at Ellis Island) allegedly had a friend named Margit.

“That’s my theory at least,” says my Mom, an art historian and professional genealogist. “I have not found another Margit in our history. ” And she’s taken it way back to a Matts Hakanson in 1666.

“Did she have the same problems I had with her name?”

“Oh yes, one of her best friends was named Margaret. She was always having to spell her name. There weren’t too many Margits in Prairie Village Kansas.”

I’d never really thought about the fact that my grandmother probably faced the same daily scrutiny. By all accounts she was a beautiful, fun-loving home ec. teacher with a wicked sense of humor. I wish I knew her, but sharing her name, and knowing she, too, was a Not Margaret, gives us a bond from beyond.

“Your name is not Swedish.”

So there I was last year at the Future of Storytelling conference, sipping at a juice box, and a guy who had been listening in on me explaining my lineage to someone else, butted into our conversation.

I said, “Excuse me?”

“I don’t know that name. And Swedes take naming very seriously.”

Names are like ethnic background; people are obsessed with pointing a finger at who you really are.

“And you’re from Sweden?” I couldn’t hide my sneer.

“Well, originally Spain, I moved to Sweden last year. But I know this.”

Before I could say, “F you pal,” he pulled out his phone and pulled up some Swedish name app and tapped away feverishly. “Oh, huh.”


“I guess it is Swedish.”

“Yup.” And with a smile, I very politely whispered, “BUSTED.”


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