They Call Me Mr. Pastis

My last name is pronounced “PASStiss.” It’s Greek. I don’t really care how people pronounce it, but most people who say it for the first time give it a French twist:   “pahSTEES.”

It’s not a problem, because few strangers try to pronounce my last name on a day-to-day basis.

Except my eternal nemesis:

The Safeway clerk.

For reasons unknown, someone at my grocery store has decided that when the clerk hands me my receipt, they should glance at the name on my Safeway card, and say, “Thank you, Mr. Pastis.”

Except it doesn’t come out that way.

Instead, it’s “Thank you, Mr. Uhhhhh” followed by a pause long enough for me to read all of the headlines on the front page of the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News.

And that’s when my stomach starts hurting.

Not because they’re about to make my name sound closer to “Pepe LePew” than “Pastis.”  But because I’m going to have to interact with another human.

You see, I’m a guy who will avoid sneezing in public to avoid the danger of some stranger around me saying, “Bless you.”

A few weeks ago, the exchange reached a new low.  Instead of the usual French-sounding “pahSTEES,” the Safeway clerk handing me the receipt gave my name an entirely new twist:


Yes, pasties.  For the innocent among you, take a few moments to “Google Image” that one.

Of course, I should have let it go at that.

But that would have been something normal people do.  And besides, I have a history with these Safeway clerks.

So I replied.

“It’s ‘PASStis.’  Not ‘pasties.’  ‘Pasties’ are something that strippers wear to cover their nipples.”

It’s here that I should tell you something you’d probably have no reason to otherwise know:

Safeways can get really quiet.

I believe I heard crickets as the clerk handed me the receipt and put the last bag in my grocery cart.

She did not ask if I needed help taking my groceries to the car.  She did not thank me for shopping at Safeway.

She just looked down as I shuffled out of that Safeway in shamed silence, the back wheel of my shopping cart squeaking all the way.  And all I could think was one thing:

My comedy is far ahead of its time.

81 thoughts on “They Call Me Mr. Pastis

  1. When I saw the word “pasties”, the image that came to my mind was NOT the oh-so-tiny scrap of fabric with the ubiquitous tassels, but the meat-and-potato-filled staple of every red-blooded Midwesterner — the pasty (pronounced “PASS-tee”). Since my mind does not regularly visit the gutter, “PAY-stees” was not even an option. For the record, until you clarified it, I was pronouncing your name “Pah-stiss”.

  2. I was way ahead of you for this story. I could see that train coming before it left the station. Mr. Pasties indeed. What’s the big deal with nipples anyways? Guys have them too, for God’s sake! Maybe you could draw a few on Pig. Remember when Mort Walker got into trouble with Miss Buxley’s belly button?

  3. didn’t the crocs call you mr. pasty one time? do you get your ideas for the crocs behavior from real people? …the crocs do seem to be a rather accurate caricature though.

  4. LOL! They were all probably thinking “How does he come across that kind of information?”

    Hey, 1st comment!

  5. Now that’s funny. Love reading the blogs, Mister Pastries.

    I have a similar response with my last name. It’s a Romanian name. It is pronounced “Skirt + oo.” Skurtu. Simple, right? Nope. I get Skuhtru, Skootre, and then the very common occurance is that people somehow see the R at the end, “Skurter.”

    My favorite one at Safeway is “Thank you Mister Screw Too.”

    Screw you too! 🙂


  6. All I can do is snicker at that one. I’ve always wondered if pasties hurt when you take them off. You know, like a bandaid.

  7. I know how you feel. People constantly mispronounce my last name (it’s pronounced RAY). And although I’ve never been in a situation that brought everything to a standstill like you did (way to go dude!), I have however watched people repeatedly misspell my name as I spelt it out to them.

  8. The real indication of your genius is that you are able base the superiority of your humor on the befuddled non-response of a Safeway clerk. Subtle and refined…

  9. Unfortunately, people do not have the common courtesy to pronounce peoples’ names properly. I have a Spanish last name, in which not only do they misspell it but, they add words that they believe should be included in it. Why? The reason is that people are fundamentally retarded. Politicians are full of shit when they say the American people are educated and can understand complex issues. The truth is that we cannot as a whole understand it. Only a small minority can and the politicians are not even part of that minority.

  10. Your comedy is right on time!! Hilarious! Try having your name be Bonney Teti; I’ve had it pronounced “Booney Teets”!!!

  11. Excellent post. I laughed out loud at “pasties.”

    That’s good they didn’t ask you if you needed help out. I get irritated by that, especially when I only have one bag of groceries.

  12. I have often wondered what the correct pronunciation of Pastis was. I have also wondered how many times you were called “Pasties”. Both questions answered at once; I only wish I could have been there to die laughing in the middle of the quiet Safeway.

  13. You remind me of Hyacinth Bucket (pronouced “bouquet”) of Keeping Up Appearances.

  14. Maybe you should go to the Safeway wearing pasties and give a visual demonstration. That will teach em!
    Although might be a little easier to change your last name to Smith.

  15. Pasties are also delicious meat pies from England. There are two pasties, but only one is edible.

  16. If it makes it easier, you can always say your name rhymes with ass-kiss.

    Oh, and if you think I’m sympathetic about people mispronouncing YOUR name, you should hear what they do with “Tucciarone.”

  17. I laughed out loud at this. Indeed, your humor is clearly ahead of its time, but I’m thankful that I get to appreciate it!

  18. I feel your pain, Mr. Pasties. My maiden name is Greek and a wee bit longer than yours. I grew up in Louisiana where there are many French names but hardly any Greek names (just ours I think). No one could pronounce it. At a clinic, waiting our turn for vaccinations, the nurse came out and called out, “Mrs. Crackerjack, we’re ready for you!” My mother, a true Southern belle, gathered us children up and no doubt shook her head at the wisdom (folly?) in marrying a Greek man.

  19. “Safeways can get really quiet.

    I believe I heard crickets as the clerk handed me the receipt and put the last bag in my grocery cart.

    She did not ask if I needed help taking my groceries to the car. She did not thank me for shopping at Safeway.

    She just looked down as I shuffled out of that Safeway in shamed silence, the back wheel of my shopping cart squeaking all the way. And all I could think was one thing:

    My comedy is far ahead of its time.”

    I laughed so hard…
    I really miss my time at the Grocery stores…

  20. Oh man, I *hate* that damn Safeway policy.

    The pause is the worst part of it. If they’d just butcher your name and hand you the receipt it’d be one thing, but there’s always that pause where the clerk gets a constipated look on his/her face as they attempt devine a pronunciation.

    Remember when the clerks were forced to say “hi” to you when passing you in an isle? I think they stopped that after a lawsuit. (Male shoppers were mistakenly assuming the female stock clerks were flirting with them)

  21. Rofl. Wow. Just wow.

    I have a similar problem with my last name, thusly I have a similar story (although less comical and leud).

    My last name is Kettell, which is pronounced as Ke-Tell. Some people pronounce both t’s, which is a bit more like Ket-Tell (almost two words when spoken), but at least that’s close. Somehow, however, 99% of the people who say my name decide that it should be Kettle. The spelling is totally different when you think about it, yet I’ve had lengthy discussions with people who are trying to correct ME about how to say my name. Like I wouldn’t know!

    My most embarrassing story comes from when I was in 3rd grade. It was a school assembly and students were being given different academic awards for the year. My turn comes and the principal calls me up, pronouncing my name as Kettle. I’m already used to this, so I’m getting ready to stand up and walk up to the stage, when suddenly my friend decides that’s not good enough. From halfway across the gym, she suddenly yells out, “It’s not Kettle, it’s Kettle.”

    The whole gym went silent. Keep in mind that this is a good 300 kids, ranging from the ages of 5-14. Yet, there was not a single sound. The principal just stared, going completely red in the face. Then she quietly apologized on the mic as I dragged myself up to the stage, feeling about an inch tall. Of course, once she apologized, this started the quiet giggles.

    To this day, I still don’t know if I feel more sorry for myself or my poor principal who probably got teased about that for ages. She got corrected, in front of the whole school, by a 8 year old.

    Thusly, I normally just let the name slips go now. I can totally sympathize, though.

  22. “She just looked down as I shuffled out of that Safeway in shamed silence, the back wheel of my shopping cart squeaking all the way.”

    I cannot stop laughing at that image! The wheel squeaking is such a great touch. Well done, Mr. Pasties.

  23. Well, I have impressed myself because whenever I have read your name, I have read it correctly. And I really hate that whole Safeway thing to. I think you shoudl have walked out with your head held high. Of course it is even better when the clerks mispronounce an obvious name – my street name for example. At Microcenter they confirm your address when you scan your credit card, and every darn time they mispronounce my streetname. I live on Breasted. How difficult is that one. They try to make it into Bree-Asted.Every time. We always have a comeback similar to yous, but of course, a bit the opposite – “It is Breasted, like in strippers are often big breasted:.

  24. You could have the name changed on the card so it says “Pastis (rhymes with Ass Kiss).”

    That should solve the problem.

  25. Pasties are also a filled pastry case, commonly associated with Cornwall, United Kingdom. It differs from a pie as it is made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional Cornish pasty is filled with beef, sliced potato, turnip and onion[5], and baked. They were a very common lunch among the iron ore miners in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula over the 1800 and early 1900’s. There are several restaurants in the U.P. that sell pasties.

    Of course if you don’t know that, as I didn’t, and see a large billboard advertising “PASTIES NEXT EXIT” it does make you wonder what kind of place Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is.

  26. There is one word in the English language that will bring sudden silence to even the loudest of rooms. People cannot continue talking once this word has been uttered – it is the verbal equivalent of a mute button. Only the crickets dare sing when anyone invokes the power of the word: NIPPLE.

  27. Tom Waits’ “Pasties and a g-string” will never have the same meaning….

  28. Dude. You must shop at the same Safeway as me. Cuz, like I went there the other day for red peppers, cucumbers and dried green lentils. Only, they didn’t have green lentils, they only had, like grey lentils, or something like that. And so I asked this guy who was wearing a Safeway smock and wandering around like he knew something about the vegetables and stuff, and he was like: “what?”

    So I feel for you, man.

    Hey also, this entire swarm of moths started attacking the screen door on the back of my apartment. And I’m, like, not sure how to handle that. Cuz while I was watching them bang their little insect heads against my screen, and I’m thinking ‘Hit it you little bastards!!, Go!!’ and then all of a sudden I see this swarm of moths carrying away some small baby that I recognize to be my neighbor’s kid. And I’m like worried, cuz like I think the kid is kinda cute, only the parents have no freaking idea how to handle a kid and I think they might be treating it like a hamster or something. No I’m not kidding, I think they have like a Habitrail or something in that place for the kid to amuse itself, cuz I never hear TV or videos and the kid doesn’t seem brain damaged like if it was a hippie kid or something.

    Anyways. I’m worried about that little kid. And I think his name is Larry or Horatio or something like that.

    And I’m wondering if you might check with your Safeway clerk to see if they’ve seen that kid lately, or at least the parents or something. It would be rude of me to knock on their door, so you’re my best chance to contact them.

    Do you mind?

  29. I just thought of a way to reverse the death of print–the newspapers should have a tabloid section. In a way they are already doing this with Parade magazine. It is sort of a mild tabloid.

  30. Okay . . . I need to start working at this joint just so I could laugh out loud at (NOT with) my co-workers.

    I hope there were children and old folks present…

  31. Try and cut the clerks some slack (despite the obvious gaffe). They are just following some BS corporate policy. When you have to ingratiate yourself to strangers all day sometimes witticism is not very well received.

  32. The same is happening in Europe. It seems like companies everywhere are trying to viciously personalize everything. If I remember right, Starbucks tried to do this a couple of years back.
    Are you required to put your real name on a Safeway card though? I think that you can get away with signing it “Mr. H. Pants”.

  33. didn’t you write a whole week of strips once where the crocs interacted with you and called you “meester pasties”?

  34. Won’t you write a book with all these little stories? I swear, I would buy it!

  35. I guess it’s the USA – UK crossover, but in the UK pasties are a type of snack food with potatoes, carrots encased in a pastry outer, once used by miners as a self-contained lunch (Ginsters is a UK company that make these). Why a stripper would use such food products to cover herself is a little odd unless at a food-fetish strip show – or indeed the method of fixing them to the body – but the image did make me smile, so thank you!

  36. Perhaps you should start shopping at Ralph’s, at least for a little while.

    If the innocent are gonna Google Image, they need to turn “safe search” off.

    …not that I’m the Voice of Experience, or anything.

  37. Oh my gosh!! I laughed the whole time while I was reading this. I’m still laughing. To be honest I always thought it was pronouced PAYstiss, but never Pasties. I love the picture you painted after you corrected the clerk. Even the squeaky tire on the shopping cart brought a tear to my eye.

  38. I’m with you on this one. Few things drive me nuts mroe than people calling me by name like they know me. In fact, during various summer jobs back in high school and college, I made it a point to wear someone else’s name tag so I could separate those who really knew me from those who just thought they were clever.

  39. That

    I can’t believe no one laughed! You truly are a comedian ahead of his time…at the safeway where you shop anyways.

  40. This one started as a mild chuckle…then my stomach started lurching with involuntary motions, as I made guttural noises…and I kept up this most uncomfortable sensation, which was accampanied by tearing eyes and difficulty breathing normally, for the remainder of my reading session.

    I recommend that you label future posts, “Warning: May Cause Uncontrollable Giggling.” I mean, really, as a former lawyer you should know better.

  41. Be careful when you visit Texas. My person record for the number of people to simultaneously offer a post-sneeze “bless you’s” is 7. I should have jinxed them all so they couldn’t have talked the rest of the day.

  42. OMG! That is the best laugh I’ve had all week! Thank you for sharing, Mr. “Pasties”!

  43. I’m proud of myself for always assuming the proper pronunciation of your name. Wooo, BA in English and MA in Writing has gotten me somewhere.

  44. It is very annoying when people mis-pronounce my last name, I mean, come on it’s not my fault it has a silent J in it!

  45. Man I know how you feel. My name is John Cunt and you wouldn’t believe the trouble that causes

  46. Too funny.
    Hey, you ever been called “Stephanie?”
    Seriously, I went to college with a ‘Stephane’ from Quebec. Poor guy *always* got called Stephanie.

  47. what if it actually IS pronounced PASTIES and YOU are wrong. apologies may be in order.

  48. Nooo! I thought pasties were those things you eat! I google-imaged it at work. Now my cubicle-mate AND his friends are looking at me strangely 😦

  49. Oh, so it’s not “PAY-stees” … I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all this time … well now I know :0

  50. i feel your pain, the silent s in my name throws those Safeway people too, and this is in a country where french is the second language [fail].At least my first name isn’t on the card, it’s greek and impossible for people to get right on the first try. I try to run away before they muck up my name, wish they would just stop.

  51. My last name is ‘McInerney’, which is Irish. We always tell people it’s pronounced, “Mac and Earny’. But of course, until we got rid of our landline phone, $%@&*#$ telemarketers pronounced my last name in so many different ways. I’d hear ‘Macnery’, ‘Makierney’, ‘Makininerny’… It gets so annoying…

  52. At the grocery store Vons in Los Angeles they make the cashiers say your name every time. Mine is Mr. Ogorzalek, which obviously is a bit awkward looking to day the least. But no matter how they pronounce it I always just tell them they are correct (“Mr. O’Gonzalez” was a classic which gave birth to my alter-ego, Juan Patrick O’Gonzalez, the Irish-Mexican Produce Bandit). Most of the time I get a wide-eyed “Oh my god, did I really say it right!?” expression. And I smile and feel like I did some good in the world. But now I feel like I’m missing out on some good comedic interaction. So next time it happens, I’ll have to ask myself WWSPD?

  53. You know, I only check out your blog about once a week after reading the comics, but I need to do it every day, because you brighten it with stories of just how gutsy you are. I wish I could speak my mind like you do. If I were in line with you, I’d shamelessly start laughing.

    My last name is Robinson, so I can’t say I feel your pain, but I can say I’d have the decency to make a better attempt at pronouncing other people’s names.

    Please never stop saying stuff like that, and please never stop telling us when you do!

  54. I think you don’t have to bother confessing about your little addiction anymore, lol I also have that problem with people mispronouncing my last name – Smith.

  55. our safeway card is in my wife’s name, so i can shop in relative anonymity without the yahoo behind me knowing who i am. of course, i don’t earn any ‘value points’ or whatever, but i cut’s down on junk mail and am not profiled by safeway’s system.

  56. Mr. Pastis, I’ve followed your comic strip since 2000. That was back when I was twelve and your comic was in the back of the Sunday Paper. Now, I’m twenty and you’re on the front page. I love how you roughly illustrate these blobs of characters that you’ve created, effortlessly amusing; and not to mention, your comics are actually funny.

    Regretfully, I have grown up to be a safeway clerk. A Randalls employee who’s forced to quickly search for a last name on their receipt and then blurt it out in fear of being caught by a secret shopper.

    According to Randalls this is supposed to make the customers feel more welcomed and personalized.
    But honestly, who gives a rats a$$ about whether or not some random check-out clerk at a grocery store knows your last name? It’s not like we’re competing with Cheers. And what about the people who just want to shop discretely? Is it too much to ask to be left alone and unannounced while buying tampons or exlax? So, really, I’m not sure what ground this policy is trying to cover but if its depersonalizing a person’s own last name by a mispronunciation, then don’t worry. Safeway has got it covered. 😉
    I love you Mr. Pastis. You’re brilliant.

  57. The other day, I mispronounced a Greek last name at work, and the man corrected me, and I was falling all over myself to be extra polite to make it right. And it made me think of this post.

  58. If only the National Enquirer had been there to capture your expression in that moment of silence!

  59. oh my lanta…i haven’t laughed that hard in a very long time.

    poor, sad, humorless safeway clerk. i would have laughed my ass of if you had said that to me.

  60. As a fellow person with an extremely difficult last name (which has the kicker of being hard to spell on top of being hard to pronounce), I feel the pain of my fellow commenters as well as yours, Mr. Pastis.

    First off, Starbucks has given me numerous spellings of “Gina”. I understand there’s Geena, Jeanna, etc., but they get creative by including new letters and dropping the original ones. You never cease to amaze me, baristas.

    Second, I’ve seen the butchering of my last name “Ciorciari” all 23 years of my life by those outside my family/friends circle and those who don’t have a grasp of the Italian language. Believe me, I help by giving the two correct pronunciations (the Italian one – hard Cs, no silent letters – and the Ellis Island one, the original butchering – core-cee-are-ee) – that’s your free pass. After that, you are expected to remember said pronunciations.

    Thank you, telemarketers, teachers, professors, bosses (past and present), and cashiers for enlightening me on the many new ways my names are pronounced/spelled.

    PS – No Stupiding Allowed

  61. When I Googled the pronunciation of your name, all l I really wanted to know was if it was “Steffin” or “Steven.”

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