The Orthographic Tales of Hoffmann

It is not likely that most people (except for diehard Dodgers fans) were paying attention to the movements of Dodgers minor league outfielder Jamie Hoffmann.

Hoffmann, who played briefly for the Dodgers last year, found himself in spring training for the Yankees through the arcane mechanism of something known as the Rule 5 draft. (If you already know what it is, I won't define it again. If you are truly curious to learn what it is, you can read about it here.)

The Yankees had to keep Hoffmann on their 25-man roster or offer him back to the team that owned his rights previously, i.e., the Dodgers. And, today, the Yankees decided to send Hoffmann back to Los Angeles.

However, Hoffmann was apparently not known well enough to the Los Angeles Times. Kevin Baxter's Fabulous Forum post referred to the return of Jamie Hoffman. (Screen grab below in case it got fixed by the time you read this.)


The Times wasn't the only offender. The Dodgers own website actually had the name spelled incorrectly for several hours of the day, although it has been fixed now. However, I saved a screen capture of the typo earlier in the day. (Although it came out a bit small.)


Typos like this are honest mistakes, although if you have a surname like mine (see above if you forgotten), it is all too common. Those of us with German names often get cheated out of our second n.

The best I can figure the reasons for this are:

  1. The -man ending is much more common than -mann, or at least more famous (compare Dustin Hoffman to Jamie Hoffmann or compare "Timmerman" against "Timmermann" in Google.)
  2. The -man ending phonetically sounds correct.

As far as I know, the first Timmermanns that came to the United States dragged their silent n across the Atlantic with them in the 1830s, settling in Illinois, where they were free to practice their own religion, start their own farms, and revel in their extra consonants.

The -manns of the United States are starting to become more prominent. On the left, there is MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann. On the right, there is Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann. That is likely the end of the similarities between those two people.

The inspiration for the headline to this post is Jacques Offenbach's opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann). The opera is based on short stories by a German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann.

Fortunately, opera fans are more familiar with German. And they would never misspell the name of the work. Would they?

I suppose I shall press on with my quixotic, or perhaps simply pointless, quest to get people to spell my surname correctly. Or maybe I'll just tell people to call me Bob.

More by Bob Timmermann:
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