Once, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, I for the first and only time met two Basques. They spoke both Basque and Spanish. Izaguirre is a Basque name. It was my chance to find out what it means.
“What does Izaguirre mean in Basque?” I asked in Spanish.
“Ah, Izaguirre,” one nodded knowingly. “It’s a last name.”
There are great benefits to having a rare and unusual last name. First is the fame.
“I’m the most famous Frank Izaguirre,” I recently said at the dinner table. I was referring to how the first Frank Izaguirre hit on Google is actually me, Frank Izaguirre. Even though we were in the middle of a meal, my sister immediately got up, went to her room, and brought back her laptop. I enjoyed watching her humiliation when it turned out I actually am the top hit. In the Images search you can see several pictures of me trying to look like a traveler or a writer.
A strange last name is renewable source of entertainment. One of my best friends, someone I’ve known since freshman year of college, still doesn’t know how to spell Izaguirre. Every time I’ve seen him try it’s been wrong. Izzaguirre. Izaguire. Izaguirie. I keep his name misspelled in my phone too.
I also remember submitting a very clear phonetic pronunciation to be read during my college commencement, but the lady calling the names still said something like, “Iza-meh-meh-meh.”
And I know there’s still more fun to come. One of my great motivators for breaking into the travel writing market is meeting other travel writers with a complete ineptitude for pronouncing Izaguirre. Travel writers almost by definition pride themselves on being worldly. Meeting such people and listening to them stumble is a major professional ambition.
To avoid such embarrasment, they could journey to the Basque country on a quest to find out how to pronounce Izaguirre. For late-career travel writers scrambling to come up with an idea for their next well-compensated travelogue, maybe that’s not a bad idea.