If you’ve never heard my name pronounced, you probably think it rhymes with rod.
When my father immigrated to the United States, he added the a to his Lithuanian surname, Brod. He thought the extra vowel would make Brod seem less strange. Unfortunately, neither he nor the rest of his family—who happily adopted the new spelling and rod pronunciation—could foresee just how much fun the guys in my junior high school would have calling me “broad.”
Then I had an idea: Why not change my name?
Broad, however, was my family’s name. It was the name on the sign above the Detroit five-and-dime my father owned. Legally changing my name would also involve a trip to court, which would trigger more ridicule when the other kids found out I had done something so drastic just to avoid teasing. So, I thought, why not alter just the pronunciation? “Broad, rhymes with road,” I started telling people, from teachers on down to my classmates. I told my parents about the switch one evening at dinner. They just smiled and shook their heads. They knew even then that there wasn’t a lot they could do to change my mind—and I learned the advantage of reframing the facts in a way nobody had considered before.
The name stuck. I became “Eli Broad, rhymes with road.” Some of the teasing continued, but it didn’t really sting anymore. I had changed myself. I liked my new name. To me it seemed strong and refined. I still say, “Rhymes with road,” when I introduce myself to people ...