Rodo Sofranac – Writer, Teacher, Translator, Consultant

About Rodo

Rodo: That's my First Name

“Hi, my name is Rodo,” I say.

Right away, I can see the surprise and quandary in their eyes. They’re thinking of one of the “funny” adaptations—usually roto rooter, or, since moving out west, rodeo. They’re dying to say it—you can see it in their eyes—but are polite, most of the time.

“Ja trebam do kupim dva tikete za Beograd,” (I need to buy two tickets to Belgrade.) I told the ticket agent at the Jugoslavia Air Transport (JAT) office in Podgorica, Montenegro.

“To košta sto-dvadeset euro,” (that’ll cost 120 Euros) he responded.

“That will be fine,” I nodded and handed him the money.

“Molim te kako se zoviš?” (Your name, please?) he asked.

“Rodoljub Šofranac,” I answered.

The agent lowered his head, typed out the ticket, and then handed it to me.

Then the agents said, “Štoje nju ime?” (what’s her name.)

“Susan”, I replied.

“Kako se to piše?”, he asked.

I spelled Susan for him. Once again he lowered his head, typed out her ticket, and then handed it to me. With that, we had our tickets for the beginning of our return trip home.

As I turned to show the tickets to Susan, she said excitedly, “Do you realize what just happened?”

I thought about the money, date and time of the flight, and wondered if I had done something in error.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“This is the first time in the thirty years we’ve been together that I heard you use your full name in Serbian.

“Then, the ticket agent didn’t even ask” and that’s when Susan really got giggly, “‘Which is the first and which is the last name? What kind of name is that? How do you spell that? Where did you get that name?’ You just said your name once. He asked no questions, gave no side comments, and made no mistakes. Instead he asked how to spell Susan. Ha!

“I love it!” she concluded.

Research in social-psychology tells us that our names are the most significant identifiers, the greatest personal labels we wear throughout life. Others may mislabel, politicize, or in other ways mess around with our age, ethnicity, religion, political persuasion, or even gender. But let someone mispronounce our name, and we really show our sensitivity. We treat it as a spit in the face. Heaven forbid somebody calls us by a name other than our actually one—well, we just won’t answer, even when it happens within the family.

Every person, no matter what their name is, has loads of stories about their name.

How did you get your name? What was the thinking behind it?

What do you really like to be called? Why?

How have people misused your name?

Who was the first person you met that had the same first name you have? How did you interact with him or her?

Do you have a nickname? What is it? What’s the story behind that one?

I have over fifty nicknames, or should I say, people have made fun of my name in over fifty different ways.

Let’s count them: There is Rodoljub, Rodojub, Rodoloop, Rodojob, lube job, Rodeo, Roto rooter, or just Rooter, Rhododendron, or just Dendron, Rodney, or just Rod, Roto tiller, Robo, Rodough, Nodo, No-dough, Nogo, Nomo, Rolo, Rado, Rudo, Redo, Re-do, Rudolph, Rudolpho, Ruške, Rondo, Hondo, Rambo, Hojo, Rulè, Rudi, Rogo, Rocco, Rofo, Roho, Rojo, Roro, Rod-o, Ron, Bobo, Coco, Dodo, Gogo, Frodo, Rodl, Skit, odor, of course, Zero, Ro, and even more simple “R”.

Sure there a lots of ways to make fun of my name. The most frustrating part is that there has been no new way for many years.

Whenever I meet someone for the first time, it’s pretty much the same scenario.

“Hi, my name is Rodo,” I say.

Right away, I can see the surprise and quandary in their eyes. They’re thinking of one of the “funny” adaptations—usually roto rooter, or, since moving out west, rodeo. They’re dying to say it—you can see it in their eyes—but are polite, most of the time.

Therefore, I hear, “My, that’s an interesting name.”

You know what interesting means in this application. It’s a euphemism for strange, weird, funny, odd, peculiar, or just plain dumb. Like, “That little baby looks interesting.” Or, “Hmm, this soup tastes interesting.” Or, “Wow, that’s an interesting smell.”

So, whenever I’m required to introduce myself, my interesting name forces me to stick to the same interesting script.

“Yes, I do have an interesting name. Yes, it dose sound like roto rooter, but it’s spelled with “d” like rhododendron.”

Yep, when it comes to a name like Rodoljub Šofranac, I could write lots of stories about it. Since I’ve been called so many different names, I have at least that many stories I could write about those names.

Let’s see, I could write about why I was named Rodoljub. Or, why I shortened it to Rodo. Or, when I tried to change it to Ron. Or, the four years I was officially called Rudi. Or, the three years I team-taught with Rhoda. Or, the two times Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon made millions laugh, at my name’s expense. Or, the first time I discovered Rodo spelled backwards is odor. Or, when my sister, with the beautiful name of Maria, introduced me to her friends at her workplace, Roto Rooter. Or, why my wife wouldn’t let me name either of the boys Rodoljub—wait, that’s one of her stories. Or, all the nicknames I’ve had. Or, how I still get nervous and hate introducing myself. Or, the introductory occasions I’ve said “That is my first name.”

Let me start with the story that’s the easiest or most difficult, humorous or most painful, depending on the mood I’m in.

I was about ten years old when a friend of mine talked me into joining the Boys’ Club. We had been in the U.S. two years by then, and like most all of my ventures around this time, I pursued becoming a member without input from my mom and dad.

“Just think about how you’re going to pay for it,” my mother would remind me.

My father’s constant caution was, “I can’t make decisions for you. If I did, and things went wrong, then you’d end up blaming me then.”

Membership was free, and how many decisions could go wrong at the Boys’ Club? So, my friend and I went off to join.

“Ok, boys,” the desk attendant said. “I’ll sign you up. You’ll have a membership card. All you need to do is show this card every time you come, and then you may go right in and have a great time.”

“Sounds like fun to me,” I thought.

The attendant started signing up my friend first, and the first question was “What’s your name.”

My wild anticipation in joining the Boy’s Club evaporated faster than an Arizona raindrop in July.

Oral mockery of Rodoljub was humiliating. By then, though, I learned to handle short term humiliation. Writing my name on a card and showing it each time will make the humiliation ongoing and forever. So much for having all that fun at the Boy’s Club.

My choices were either to not join the Club, or change my name.

It was my turn to get singed up.

“What’s your name?” the attendant asked.

I could have been asked the same question by an interrogation squad to feel the same panic attack. So, with as much courage as a flustered, ten-year-old, funny-named, immigrant could muster, I started to spell it out.

“R-O”, and then I paused.

“R-O what?” the attendant asked.

“R-O…..R-O…..R-O-N,” I answered, ready to faint.

“All right, Ron,” he replied. “What’s your last name?”

That quickly I became Ron Sofranac. That quickly I chose to change my name. Heck, that’s what my father wanted me to do, make my own decisions.

When he completed it, the attendant handed me my membership card. There it was, in black and white—actually blue and white—my new name, Ron.

I felt relief and entanglement, renewal and regression, liberation and separation; those damn conflicts, paradoxes, and ironies that seem to ensnare every aspect of my life. But, being ten years old, I went into the Club to have some fun.

When I got home, I proudly showed my new membership card to my sister and mother.

My sister looked at the card and said, “Who’s Ron Sofranac?”

“That’s the name I used to join the Club. I’m going to use it from now on,” I proclaimed we new found daring.

“I don’t think Papa’s going to be happy about that,” she responded.

“Well, I don’t care. I’m tired of that stupid name of mine. You have such a nice name, Maria. I have this stupid name Rodoljub,” I lamented. “People sing your name and laugh at mine. From now on, I’m Ron.”

When my mother came home, she didn’t need to look at the card to verify my membership. She just needed to verify that it didn’t require any expenditure of money to join. I assured her it didn’t.

The real costs weren’t realized until my father saw the card.

Rodo's Interactive Approach

For over five decades, I have worked with people of all ages, from expectant parents to the seasoned elders. I have taught in school at every level—pre-school through doctoral programs. With the young, I focus on language acquisition and human interaction. My presentation style is “direct engagement”. That means I’m very comfortable starting with questions, from me to the audience or vice versa. This allows learners to be an integral part of the presentation, direct the content, personalize the learning experience, and even teach.

I use my eight (and more on their way) award-winning books to help participants discover how to live, learn with, and love language. They have opportunities to explore communication through five development areas—listening/observing, speaking, reading, writing, and even putting words into action. All eight books are also aligned with the English Language Arts Standards (ELAS) of the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

1. Aguila Branch Library – MCLDAZ
2. All Saints’ Episcopal Day School
3. All Together Theater – Tucson
4. Aprende Con Amigos – Portland, OR
5. American Slavic Association
6. Arizona Humanities
7. Arizona Trail Association
8. Association for Supportive Childcare
9. Boulder Creek Elementary PVUSD
10. Bridger Elementary School – Portland
11. Bullion Plaza Museum – Globe, AZ
12. Cactus View Elementary – PVUSD
13. Café au Play – Portland
14. CCCS Flagstaff
15. CCCS Phoenix
16. Casa Grande Public Library
17. Chaparral Elementary – WESD
18. Children’s Cancer Network
19. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
20. Chino Valley Public Library
21. Christian Family Care
22. Cole Canyon Elementary School
23. Concepcion de Maria – Honduras
24. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation AZ
25. Cornell University – Ithaca, NY
26. Desert Springs Elementary – PVUSD
27. Desert Star Elementary – Surprise, AZ
28. Desert Trails Elementary – PVUSD
29. Desert Voices
30. Dennis Elementary – Springboro, OH
31. Echo Canyon Elem – SUSD
32. Eddie Johnson – HHSM
33. Educational Endeavors
34. Ensenada Mission
35. Fireside Elementary – PVUSD
36. First Things First
37. Getashen School – Armavir, Armenia
38. Gila Bend Public Library – MCLDAZ
39. God’s Garden Preschool
40. Grand Canyon Association
41. Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona
42. Habitat for Humanity Prescott
43. Happy Hooves
44. Head Start Peoria – CCCS
45. Helping Hands for Single Moms
46. Home Fur Good
47. Homeward Bound
48. Hope Fest Prescott
49. Hope Village
50. Ignacio Conchos – Roosevelt SD
51. Janus Youth Programs – Portland, OR
52. Jewish Community Center Valley of the Sun
53. Joy Bus
54. Keiki of Kanu O Ka’Aina – Hawai’i
55. La Camarilla Child Care
56. Literacy Connects
57. Local First Arizona
58. Longview Elementary – Osborn SD
59. Madison Heights Elementary
60. Madison Rose Lane Elementary
61. Madison Simis Elementary
62. Make Way for Books
63. Maxine O. Bush Element – Roosevelt SD
64. Mentor Kids USA – North
65. Mentor Kids USA – South
66. Mercury Mine Elem School – PVUSD
67. Mtn. View Elem. School – WESD
68. Mohave County Public Library
69. Moyo Babies’ Home – Uganda
70. Murrieta Public Library
71. Music Together Phoenix
72. New Pathways for Youth
73. North Phoenix Kiwanis
74. Palomino Elem. School – PVUSD
75. Pancevo Elementary – Pancevo, Serbia
76. Paradise Valley Christian Preparatory
77. Parents as Teachers – CCCS
78. Patagonia Public Library
79. Patagonia Montessori School
80. Patagonia Elementary School
81. Perry Branch –Library – MCLDAZ
82. Phoestivus
83. Phoenix Children’s Hospital
84. Phoenix Rescue Mission
85. Phoenix Public Market
86. Podgorica Elementary – Montenegro
87. Pipeline Worldwide
88. Puerto Peñasco Elem. Schools
89. Read Better Be Better
90. Read On Phoenix
91. Resurrection LC Preschool
92. Riverside Traditional School
93. Ronald McDonald House
94. The SAE School – Georgia
95. Sage Canyon Elementary
96. St. Monica’s Preschool – Uganda
97. St. Paisius Orthodox Monastery
98. St. Vincent De Paul
99. S.A.L.T.
100. Serb World
101. Scottsdale Public Library
102. Shaw Butte Elementary WESD
103. Solano Elementary –Osborn SD
104. South High School Alumni
105. Southwest Human Development
106. StandDown
107. StreetLightUSA
108. Sun Kids Preschool – PVUSD
109. Sunnyslope Elementary – WESD
110. Sunrise Elementary – DVUSD
111. Sun Sounds Arizona
112. T.G. Barr Elementary – Roosevelt SD
113. Tempe Public Library
114. Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development
115. Tutu’s House – Kamuela, Hawai’i
116. UMOM
117. Montessori Education Center of Hawai’i
118. Volunteers for Veterans
119. Wakiso Christian International Academy – Uganda
120. Welcome to America Project
121. Your Someday Is Today
122. Yuma Public Library

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