Pronunciations: Saying, Owning and Loving My Name

This is a guest post by Vaidehi Mujumdar. Vaidehi is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College with an interest in the social determinants of health – focused on women’s health. She is an aspiring MD taking a couple years off to work in the non-profit health sector in New York. Besides writing in stream of consciousness, Vaidehi is a lover of puns, absolutes, and Netflix documentaries. She proudly claims the title of Indian-born American, writer, feminist, science nerd, and foodie. She can be found attempting to twitter @veemuj. Like most things in life, she’s unsure but realizing that the journey is better without all the answers.

Vaidehi. V-A-I-D-E-H-I. Pronounced Vuh-day-hee.

For as long as I can remember, my name has been pronounced in a hundred different ways. VaLdehi. Vidalia (yes, people the type of onion), Veronica, even just Va…. um, like a fill-in-the-blank. It’s surprising what new concoctions people come up with those seven, seemingly normal letters.

The idea for this piece came from my recent foray into finding an apartment in Manhattan through Craigslist. As a recent graduate, I’ve been apartment searching in NYC. More recently (re: Junior year of college I found myself writing a lot. Not full sentences or even coherent thoughts. Stream of consciousness. Just to get it all out somewhere).

A friend of mine read the draft of an email I had written to a potential apartment owner, which started off with, “Hi my name is Vaidehi (I’m a female. I know the name can be confusing).”

She asked me why I needed to justify my name – or stronger yet, apologize for it. After years of explanations, emails starting with Mr. Mujumdar (Please, Mr. Mujumdar’s my father. But no, really….) and even prescriptions listing me as a male, I’m used to working on autopilot when it comes to my name or explaining how to say it or what it means.

My standard line growing up was, “It doesn’t matter. It’s fine the way you said it” in an effort to fit in, not draw any more attention, or be labeled with the differences that were already evident in my skin, my multilingual upbringing, and “strange holidays.”

I can safely say that over the years I have become immune to my name – or at least the bastardization of it. As a biologist, immunity conjures images of protection and MHCII molecules and antibodies and I could go on…But the point is that I have always been fascinated with the immune system. It learns, grows, acquires, persists and is constantly under attack. Somehow it learns to deal. To survive and adapt. But sometimes immunity can also mean exemption – exemption for normalcy. Sometimes it can signify loss – a loss of self.

Growing up in a predominately white suburban neighborhood in Virginia, the added syllables, the hesitancy in people’s voices in school, doctor’s appointments, interviews, the “that’s a hard name to say” was not only commonplace but expected. Sure I became immune to those things. I became immune to loss – of personhood, or sense, or cultural, or feeling.

I laughed when a “friend” in middle school said that when she had told a family friend my name the response had been, “Well, don’t step in it…” I laughed with her. Because what does a 12 year-old-girl who has the latest Adidas, the Britney Spears soundtrack, the stereotype of “white-washed east coast Indian” say?

Vaidehi is the second name of the main female character (Sita) in the old Hindi epic, The Ramayan. Sita’s father had an ability to transcend the consciousness of his own body – earning him the title Videha. The title in Sanskrit, meaning “liberation without the body.” Sita was then called the feminine form – Vaidehi, meaning from the earth.

So what does a 12 year old say? There’s nothing to say. Only do. Be the best. The best runner. The best student. The best performer. Then you’ll be immune. Maybe then you can transcend the body, the name, and the shackles that it seems to hold you to. Be confident. Be immune.

At college, my non-Indian friends would continuously ask me how I actually said my name, often grappling hard to shape their mouths around foreign syllables. I appreciated their never-ending efforts, reveled in the professors who said it correctly the first time, the friends who called it “fierce.”

A name that my mother had fallen in love with when two oceans separated my parents. A name that gives me the same initials as the best man I will ever know – my daddy. A name that I once uttered in an ATL club and was asked, “Girl, is that your real name?” – cue Lil’ Wayne.

But names, like all words are dynamic. Names are language. They change in meaning, in shape, and form to match the adaptations, the transformations, the growth that we all go through willingly or not. I don’t know when it happened, but Vaidehi became more than a title in an old story.

It became a community, a group, passions. It became the name whispered softly in darkness. Loving the sound of it – the timbre and nuances almost as much as the boy next to you. Finding affirmation in the fact that he said he liked it. The synesthetic conjuring images of earth, valleys, and nature in its most primal form without boundaries.

Other times it was a harsh declaration filled with pain and anger. Sometimes it was attached to a color or a value judgment. Red and blue and sometimes a kaleidoscope of muck. Sometimes just a statistic, a name on a list, or yet another social media site where numbers are more important than actual, real human connections.

More recently, it was the way my grandmother’s voice lit up when I called her in India. The way dad told me when she passed away. The way that boy said goodbye. Self-affirmation. Asking for what is owed to you. Finding a sense of place. Embracing womanhood.

College was a journey in perhaps solidifying this idea that names are dynamic. They change in meaning, feeling, and sound. They change as you change and it’s only in hindsight that you realize that it’s more than an identifier – more than just an ID tag.

Maybe I’m reclaiming my name right now. The way it is meant to be said in this stage of my life. Vaidehi. Confusing, twenty-two, first jobs, medical school, and the bittersweet controlled chaos that is this moment in time.

Vaidehi. Vulnerable, proud, difficult, a soft whisper, feminine, strong. Maybe I’m reclaiming my name. Maybe I’ve always had it. As most things in life right now – who knows?


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125 Responses to Pronunciations: Saying, Owning and Loving My Name

  1. Tony says:

    What a beautiful name! You’re right– a name is more than an identifier. It is you, it becomes a repository of memories. At 12 life may be all about fitting in, but I think as people get older we learn to naturally appreciate our differences more.

    As for me, I wish I had taken your route and stuck to my original hard-to-pronounce (but easy to spell) East Asian name, instead of adapting an Anglicized name. It took 29 years to come to that realization, and it’s probably too late to change back now. When I was 5 years old or so I thought my name was the only thing separating me from whiteness and for a long, long time I had the mentality that only superficial things separated me from being white. In retrospect what it was was privilege– the privilege that happens when racism occurs behind your back and isn’t so in your face and undeniable that you come to realize it’s lifelong character from childhood. Anglicizing my name was a part of that privilege and ignorance.

  2. You have a beautiful name, with a beautiful meaning. Best of luck for med school and all. Twenty-two is a very exciting time.

    I know that hesitancy and the dr’s office mispronunciation well.

    My name is not ethnic, just oddly spelled. I’m an “Angela with an I-A.” I have all the whiteness, middleclass and accent privilege possible (midwestern, no accent at all). And I answer to anything even close to my name, just to save time and embarrassment. Angeleea, Angeliya, Angelina, Angelica, anything. (The Richard Marx song did not help!)

    I use it to screen people. People introduced verbally will misspell it. People who read it will mispronounce it. What gets me are how many people mangle my surname, which is a common noun.

    • JBL55 says:

      I use it to screen people.

      Funny, I do the same thing.

      My first name is Jenifer, with one N. (It was my mother’s idea, which in 1955 was pretty inventive.) I won’t go into the countless times people have spelled it wrong, even to the point of insisting I wrote it wrong. For purposes of this conversation, I’ll stick to one point: I prefer to be called “Jeni” or “Jenifer,” as I really do not like to be called “Jen.”

      I have never once introduced myself as “Jen” nor signed an e-mail or letter that way. Yet people insist on calling me “Jen,” even after I’ve asked them not to.

      It’s really not hard to know how people want to be called. They tell you when they introduce themselves to you. Yet this happens virtually every day:

      Me: “Hi, I’m Jeni.”
      Them: “Nice to meet you, Jen.”

      And of course sometimes after I’ve smilingly said, “Please, call me Jeni,” some people will still call me “Jen” and immediately follow it with “Oh, I’m sorry: Jen-EEEEE,” like I’m a jerk for making such a big fat hairy deal about something so trivial.

      Over the last 57 years, I have found this process is actually a pretty good @$$hole detector. But it is a little depressing when people I’ve known for decades and who I really like and with whom I feel quite close still call me Jen, even after we’ve had this conversation about names more than once.

      As someone (Dale Carnegie?) said, the sweetest sound to a person is the sound of their own name. I would add only, “correctly spoken.”

      • Mezzanine says:

        You’d think, when you directly ask people not to call you “Mary”, they’d actually listen and not, you know, call you Mary. Especially if they’re really your friends, as they say they are.

        And yet, far too many friends not only call me Mary as a whim, or because they’ve forgotten, but will call me Mary, smiling, grinning, waiting to see what I’ll do because I’ve just asked them not to, right then, and obviously I wasn’ serious, so they just have to call me Mary, repeatedly, playfully, visciously, to see what reaction they get.

        (In this case, the reaction they get is likely to be me pushing them over and screaming at them – because it’s fucking triggering for me when people call me that, which is why I ask them not to in the first place. But no, of course I don’t really mean this thing I’ve requested. I mean, why would I?)

      • >_> Yeah. The only people who ever called me by my (intensely gendered, its meaning is “she who is —-” ) full name were a bunch of religious folks, who included my abuser (a priest, who was also a relative – some sort of sexual abuse bingo, I guess). My abuser was particularly insistent on full-naming me. Between that and the gendered name, I spent years flinching whenever called my full name. However, I haven’t had contact with any of those people in years, and where I live now (Canada) my name isn’t perceived as gendered anymore, and I’m slowly, tentatively getting used to it again.

      • JBL55 says:

        Funny you should mention “Mary.”

        A friend named Mary hates, hates being called Mare, saying “I’m not a horse!”

      • LPBB says:

        I’m coming to this discussion late, but I have also found that my name is a good a-hole screener. I’m a cis woman, but my given name is one of the most common male names in the US. It’s spelled a tiny bit differently, but pronounced the same. (Think Fraed instead of Fred.)

        Anyway, I’m used to people stopping briefly or reacting to my name, even asking how I ended up with that name (which I find insanely intrusive, but I’ve come to accept it as genuine curiosity and not intentional rudeness).

        But the ones that insist on making a joke about my name, insisting that my name is not actually my name, or questioning my mother’s state of mind are also the ones who are just assholes in general. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never ended up having successful friendship, or really even wanted to continue interacting with them after a certain point, with someone who started out by making a joke about my name. They generally out themselves as an all-around jerk later.

        Don’t even get me started on the people who insist on calling me by the feminine version of my name. I always tell people (’cause my name *is* a little weird), “You can call me whatever you want, but just not [feminine name], because that’s not my name.”

        Seriously, I’m 39 — if I didn’t want to go by this name, I wouldn’t still be using it.

      • Lindsay says:

        Seriously, I’m 39 — if I didn’t want to go by this name, I wouldn’t still be using it.

        I always hated my name when I was a kid. Too many other people had it, so it never felt like mine.

        The only reason I don’t hate it anymore is because it’s been attached to me for so long. People call you a thing for nigh on thirty years, you do start to think of yourself as that thing, even if you never liked it.

    • zaebos says:

      Well…I don’t know how to say your name….

      A struggle with strange names (strange as in “I’ve never seen this name before”)

  3. Natalie Artemyeff says:

    Vaidehi,
    I love your beautiful name! And I felt your story so personally, thank you for sharing it. I am first generation born in the United States: mother is from Colombia; father is Russian, born in a displaced persons camp in Germany. The butchering of our name was so frequent it left us with the only choices of getting upset or learning to laugh (opting for the latter, years ago my dad had a shirt made with the phonetic spellings of our name’s most common mispronunciations). But for me growing up, the frustrations tied to my name felt endless and too often exclusionary. As a kid, I dreamed of one day marrying someone with a last name like Smith or Jones, something wonderfully, simplistically monosyllabic and “American-sounding.” But with age often comes changes in one’s views. As I got older, I began to see my name as something much greater than myself; it is a story, a history. I am proud to have known and loved my grandparents who risked their lives to bring our name to this country. As a child, I wore my name like a curse; today, I wear it as an emblem. The irony (and some would argue test) came when I was in college and met the man I would spend the rest of my life with. His last name is Johnson. But my name is still, and will always be, Natalie Artemyeff (ar-TEM-eee-ehf).

  4. pheenobarbidoll says:

    When anyone mispronounces my name I assume it’s on purpose. Kimberly.( Seriously. Not a hard name to figure out. It’s as white person sounding as you can get) But it’s been mangled before and the people who shorten it to Kimmy don’t know how close to death they are. I have an Aunt who insists on Kimber, and I cringe every time she says it. And she KNOWS I hate it.

    I really don’t understand the disrespect directed at a persons name. When I’m clueless, I ask. Politely. And then I remember and say it correctly. Common courtesy is not a difficult thing to practice. Ask if you don’t know. Don’t remark that it’s a weird name. Don’t make the person feel like they should apologize for your difficulty pronouncing it. Don’t shorten it unless invited to. Easy peasy.

    • Fat Steve says:

      When anyone mispronounces my name I assume it’s on purpose. Kimberly.( Seriously. Not a hard name to figure out. It’s as white person sounding as you can get) But it’s been mangled before and the people who shorten it to Kimmy don’t know how close to death they are. I have an Aunt who insists on Kimber, and I cringe every time she says it. And she KNOWS I hate it.

      As someone who’s married to a Kimberly, I’ll bet you get a lot of mail addressed to ‘Kimberley.’

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Yup

      • Rear admiral of the admirable rear says:

        If it helps, I’m a Kimberley who gets misspelled as Kimberly all the time. I guess it’s just noticeable when people get it wrong in any direction.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        My daughter’s name is Peyton. Drives her nuts when people spell it Payton or pronounce it Patton. When I gave her that name 21 years ago, no one had really heard it around here. Now, there are a lot of 5yr-10yr old Peyton’s running around.

        She’s planning to name her daughter Nova. This from the child who spent the majority of her life ticked off that I gave her an (then) unusual name for a girl.

        Nova may not be mispronounced, but I’m sure Chevy Nova jokes will abound. Or Super Nova. So now my daughter will get to listen to a teenager girl sighing dramatically and slamming doors over a name.

        Heh.

      • Lindsay says:

        … the child who spent the majority of her life ticked off that I have her an (then) unusual name for a girl.

        Ha, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence hating the fact that I had such a common name! As a child, particularly, I was always asking people to call me something else. ANYTHING else.

        (The one consolation I had from it was that my name is androgynous … it’s far more common in girls, but there are guy Lindsays too.)

        Anyway, preteen girls are going to be mad at you for something, whether it’s giving them a weird name (Were you TRYING to embarrass me?!) or a normal name (Couldn’t you have had a bit of imagination? My friend [name]’s name is so pretty and unique!).

  5. Vaidehi says:

    Hi all,

    This is my first time submitting/posting/joining the blogosphere after years of just furiously typing in Word. Thank you so much for your responses.

    I was introduced to the poetry of Warsan Shire this year and a quote I read really stood out to me and kind of led to all of these thoughts.

    “give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” ― Warsan Shire

    Happy Monday!

    • Lindsay says:

      “give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” — Warsan Shire

      That’s beautiful!

  6. Whoo, feels like I could have written this post. North Indians have butchered my last name as long as I can remember, and south Indians aren’t much better with my first name. So when I emigrated to Canada, it just felt like more of the same, so what’s new. At least I usually go by a shorter (and gender-neutral, which is the main reason I use it) version of my name that Indians and non-Indians alike tend to manage decently enough. Though sometimes, for some godawful reason, someone tries my full name (all sixteen letters of first and last, yup yup) and I just have to stand there, cringing a little, while they struggle and squirm and give me accusing looks like I made them do it or something.

    (Also, off-topic, I have to admit I headtilted at your pronounciation guide of your name, before looking at the surname! The Tamil pronunciation is VYE-they-hee, and I was all “wait, have I been messing it up?” before realising it was a regional difference. *cough* My brain fail, I can’t even.)

    • Hrovitnir says:

      Ha. I always want to at least try to learn to say people’s names properly, and people who are used to it being mispronounced are just like “don’t bother”. :P

      I have a friend called Shieak, and I gather it’s pretty much impossible for monolingual English speakers to say it quite right (maybe a tonal thing?) because he’s like “mm hmm, good enough”. You try and imitate him and nope, it’s never quite right. Fail.

      • I can imagine several ways I’d get his name wrong from looking at the spelling!

      • I always want to at least try to learn to say people’s names properly, and people who are used to it being mispronounced are just like “don’t bother”. :P

        I usually do that with people like receptionists etc, who I don’t have to talk to regularly (I mean, seriously, I have an objectively difficult name by Canadian standards, so I feel their pain, considering I walk around fucking up people’s surnames all the time too!), but I really appreciate when friends, teachers etc make an effort.

        Also, whoo, I have no idea how to pronounce that name based on the spelling! If I had an idea of ethnicity, I might, but…

      • Hrovitnir says:

        Yeah, definitely not worth it if you’re not going to see them a lot. Though when I’m in reception (vet clinic) I generally ask those things if they seem amenable – it’s somewhere where we are known for being chatty and helpful, which is nice for us too. :)

        Shieak’s Chinese, and I’m guessing his name is Mandarin, which is tonal, so that could be why I just can’t hear what he’s saying differently.

        Most people say something like “Shek” (you know, Shrek without the “r”); the way he says it is sort of in between that pronunciation and if you said it with a long “a” (ah) after the “e” (she-ak) but closest to the first version so I just do that and try and cram a bit of an a in between. :P

      • Ooh, that’s cool to know. I’d have guessed she-i-ahk, personally (my inner Indian isn’t very inner, and it does so insist that all letters must be pronounced!). -_-

      • Hrovitnir says:

        Ah, of course!

        I am both monolingual and not particularly adept with languages but my father is Austrian and my mother is Māori so when in doubt I tend to go for those vowels since most other languages use them, and saying every letter.

        Helps when you *hear* the name before you read it, of course. :D

  7. My surname gets mangled on a regular basis (the family have misprounounced their own name for generations – go figure) and for some weird reason people seem to find pronouncing and spelling “Louise” terribly difficult. I didn’t think it was that rare or difficult a name in an English-speaking country. Though apparently it’s not half so difficult as Louis – hello, no E on the end, he’s a man, and it’s Loo-ee, not LOOie and not Lewis! He’s neither English nor USian, he’s French, kthnx.

  8. Fat Steve says:

    My surname is constantly mis-pronounced, particularly by people outside NYC. It’s Levine, and the second syllable rhymes with ‘clean,’ yet 99 times out of 100 people will pronounce it as ‘vine’ as in grapevine. Yet everyone I’ve ever met with my surname pronounces it as I do.

    • JBL55 says:

      I sympathize.

      One reason might be that James Levine, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, pronounces his name as “leh-vine.”

      When a fairly well-known person uses a different pronunciation, it can mess it up for all the others . :-)

      • miga says:

        Ah yes, but then there’s the band-member from Maroon 5, Adam Levine, who pronounces his name similar to Fat Steves.

    • Andie says:

      See, I’d want to pronounce it “Lee-vine” because when I hear Lev-veen” I think of the French spelling “Lavigne”

      • Fat Steve says:

        …when I hear Lev-veen” I think of the French spelling “Lavigne”

        Good thing Avril Lavigne married the guy from Nickelback. If she had married the guy from Maroon 5 that would have been super confusing!

  9. I’d have mispronounced it too, Steve. ::retreats to corner of shame::

    Forgot to add I changed both my names by deed poll decades ago. The surname’s my mother’s and our family’s been traced back to the sixteenth century; my good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish father was adopted, so the surname I was born with meant zip historically to me, as well as its association with him being one I didn’t want (plus Mum’s name is way cooler).

    My first name I chose because of Louis, and ‘cos I didn’t like my original first name anyway. (Sorry Mum!)

    I only let a couple of people shorten it to Lou. I’m not a Lou, and as I’ve long said, I paid good money for this name: use all the letters!

  10. oxygengrrl says:

    There were three girls with my name in my preschool class. And then I came to America, and my name was the weirdest thing ever. Add to that the fact that my parents’ fondness for alliteration meant that my first name and last name share the first two letters and you realize that almost no one in the West pronounces my name right on the first try. And yet, I’m kind of glad I grew up here, for all sorts of reasons, but the one relevant here is that my decades of helping people figure out how to say my name makes them a little more aware that the world is broader than they might think. Which can’t be bad.

  11. Kerandria says:

    Names are important, and I think that calling someone by a name that they don’t prefer/intentionally mispronouncing it is intensely disrespectful. I have an extended and shitty history with my twenty-six-letter long name; I’m in the process of changing it, and can’t wait to feel like I have the right to be called by MY name and not the one given to me by my family of origin.

    Thank you for this post; I appreciate your words and your story.

    • JBL55 says:

      calling someone by a name that they don’t prefer/intentionally mispronouncing it is intensely disrespectful

      You put it very well.

      I’m in the process of changing [my twenty-six-letter long name]

      Is that because of all the jerks who can’t be bothered to get it right, or because you genuinely don’t like it?

    • Hrovitnir says:
      calling someone by a name that they don’t prefer/intentionally mispronouncing it is intensely disrespectful

      You put it very well.

      x2[million]

  12. Donna L says:

    It’s Levine, and the second syllable rhymes with ‘clean,’ yet 99 times out of 100 people will pronounce it as ‘vine’ as in grapevine.

    Really? Even in New York? I can’t think of a single person I know who would mispronounce that name.

    • It’s funny: I was told once that lots of people mispronounce “McIver” as an i rather than an ee sound; I’d only heard it said the first way, so couldn’t take any credit for getting it right.

    • Fat Steve says:

      Really? Even in New York? I can’t think of a single person I know who would mispronounce that name.

      It’s definitely much worse outside of New York. I would say that I have almost never had it pronounced properly by anyone who called me from some sort of centrally-located call center. But even in New York, just last week when I went to a new ENT, her receptionist pronounced my name wrong, though the doctor herself pronounced it correctly.

    • JBL55 says:

      I guess you’ve never heard of James Levine, the conductor of the orchestra for the Metropolitan Opera. He is a very well-known New Yorker and he pronounces it “leh-vine.”

      • Donna L says:

        Of course I’ve heard of him. And to be honest, I’ve always thought that the way he pronounces it sounds very strange to my ears. Others call it pretentious, but it’s really his business. I have no idea if he adopted that pronunciation himself or his family used it, or whether the reason for pronouncing it that way had to do with a desire to make it sound “less Jewish.”

      • JBL55 says:

        Sorry — you said you couldn’t think of a single person who would pronounce “Levine” other than “leh-veen,” so I just assumed you hadn’t heard of him.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Sorry — you said you couldn’t think of a single person who would pronounce “Levine” other than “leh-veen,” so I just assumed you hadn’t heard of him.

        She was making the point, that people in areas like New York with large Jewish populations, would know that rhyming it with ‘ravine’ is the default pronunciation even if they were aware of the ‘very well known New Yorker’ James Levine, though I would argue that the term ‘very well known’ is not applicable to any classical conductor…and that James Levine was from Ohio.

      • JBL55 says:

        I would argue that the term ‘very well known’ is not applicable to any classical conductor…and that James Levine was from Ohio.

        Well, his career has often been front-page news, but since people don’t read newspapers like they used to perhaps that is not a good barometer.

        He’s from Ohio? That may explain the pronounciation.

  13. Bunzor says:

    I have a fairly white Anglo type of name. All my life I’ve had people mispronounce my last name (good grief, it’s also the name of a country–pronounce it like the country), and then in the last few years I’ve had people try desperately to shorten my first. Yes, it’s long. But it’s the only name I answer to. When my coworkers or boss call for me using a nickname I literally do not think they are talking to me.

    (I’m sort of deliberately trying to avoid saying my name here, but let’s just say that nicknames for my name are like calling Matthew “ath” or “thew.” If it were Matt I might answer to it.)

    When I was living abroad people wanted me to adopt a new name that was easier for locals to pronounce, since my name contains a lot of sounds not present in that language. But it’s also a “famous” name, so I felt like it was easy enough for them to remember even if it was pronounced weirdly. Better for me to hear my name being sort of butchered than to make up a brand new name that isn’t my damn name.

    I can only imagine being in that situation in my own country, told my name is too ethnic or something. Or having to go by a nickname to avoid awkward moments. It’s bad enough “as is” with my white-whitey-whiterson name. But it’s my name. It’s my identity. I thought for a while about (as an author) going by a pen name … but this is my name. It’s who I am, even if people want to change it or butcher it.

    And I never want to have any other name.

    • JBL55 says:

      When my coworkers or boss call for me using a nickname I literally do not think they are talking to me.

      I finally stopped responding when people called me by a despised nickname. Sometimes that does the trick, and other times it just makes things worse. It depends on the people one works with. Having been an IT contractor at many client sites over the years, I’ve seen all kinds.

  14. Willemina says:

    My first name is short, like, super short, but my last name is of the longer less common Anglicized-Gaelic persuasion. Unfortunately with all the vowel sounds in my first name I grew up with some pretty strange truncations, elongations, and misplaced emphases of the beats. Then there was the stellar teacher who got my first name wrong consistently, but due to similarities in the last syllable of my last name plunked it there and got it perfect. **Headspin**

    Now where I work there’s a Vietnamese lady who’s name is almost phonetically identical to mine and we laugh about mispronunciations since when people slip slightly both of us turn around.

    I do plan on changing to a longer but less likely to be butchered first name, though if I ever have a daughter she’s gonna get Deirdre’d. >:)

  15. Radiant Sophia says:

    I’m kind of envious of all the neat names. I just have “Sarah”. Of course the grass is always greener…, and nobody ever mispronounces it.

    • JBL55 says:

      Paging Anne of Green Gables! :-)

      Funny — the people I know with simple names wish their names were more ornate, and (an awful lot of the time) vice versa.

      For example, my DIL Kim has always been a little envious of her sister for having been named Danielle. If she had had a daughter, she wanted to use the name “Ashley Nicole” until I pointed out that her monogram would be ANL. As it happened, both her children were boys, so the subject never came up again.

  16. karak says:

    My ex-boyfriend was Vietnamese, and I asked him once why his mother said a very different-sounding word as his name. He explained, “It’s better for you to say a new name that’s similar to my than for you to butcher my name completely.” I never did quite get the hang of the soft “g” . Another one of my friends, who’s Pakistani, pretty much said the same thing–the soft “D” really doesn’t exist in English, so he’d rather us call him by an almost-name than the broken way we’d try to say his name correctly.

    I work at a restaurant, and we have a sizable Indian community as our customers. So many of them have their names spelled wrong in our database, or start to spell it or say it for me before I have a chance to try because “it’s hard”. My friend, your name is not hard, I am just ignorant. I spent a few hours online looking up Indian names and pronunciation and do much better, but when I mangle their names it’s my failure, not theirs.

  17. Ally S says:

    I honestly don’t know a single person IRL who pronounces my female name properly. Despite the fact that there are two ‘a’s in “Aaliyah,” people say “Aleea” instead. I don’t think it’s deliberate, and I personally am never offended by mispronunciations of my name, but it’s still weird.

    Same goes for my male name, although I no longer care about how people pronounce it because it’s not the name I identify with anymore. It does get kind of annoying when people deliberately call me “Achmed”, though as some kind of joke.

    My surname tends to be pronounced just way it should. In fact, everyone I personally know says “Syed” properly even though it looks hard to pronounce.

    • JBL55 says:

      Despite the fact that there are two ‘a’s in “Aaliyah,” people say “Aleea” instead.

      Hmmm. A friend named her daughter Aaliyah and she pronounces it “ah-lee-ah.” How is your name pronounced? What difference is the double-A making?

      I wonder if she picked the name without knowing how it is usually pronounced. I further wonder, how often might it happen that people see a name from a different culture, love the spelling, and name their child that without pronouncing it the way it would be in its culture of origin?

  18. moviemaedchen says:

    Beautiful piece – thank you, Vaidehi. Names are important, and you’ve made some very thought-provoking points that I’ll be sitting with for a while.

    I’ve got a pretty whitey mcwhite name, but both my given name and surname get mangled on a regular basis. The difficulty with my given name isn’t too surprising, since it’s a non-standard spelling that looks similar to a different but related name (both are in the ‘Jane’ family), which happens to be my aunt’s name, lol. But my surname, though short, seems to be one of those names that looks hard to say and so confuses people. I think the “ue” in the middle is the culprit (it’s of German origin).

    I’ve gotten so used to the mangling that I’m mildly surprised when anyone who learned my name by seeing it manages to pronounce it correctly the first time. I’ve also picked up the habit of automatically spelling everything out before people can ask. I suppose if I were asked if it bothered me, I’d probably say no, but I tend to downplay things that really do bother me, so I’m not sure.

  19. WestEndGirl says:

    Let me start by saying that I think it’s incumbent on each and every person to strive to pronounce people’s names properly and aim to get it right when they are corrected until they do so. Anything else is downright rude and – depending on the context – racist and colonialist too.

    But. I live, work and socialise in London with a huge sub-continental Asian population and I would have immediately pronounced the OP’s name as VYE-day-hee based on similar names (Vairi, Vaishali, Vaijayi etc) I have come across in the past. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say as some commenters have stated that if a person gets their name wrong or hesitates when saying it for the first time, it’s due to a lack of cultural awareness or laziness or rudeness. Sometimes it’s due to regional variations which even people from the country/culture of origin would pronounce differently and I’m afraid I just can’t get up in arms about that.

    • amblingalong says:

      So, I don’t think it’s fair to say as some commenters have stated that if a person gets their name wrong or hesitates when saying it for the first time, it’s due to a lack of cultural awareness or laziness or rudeness.

      I agree with you, but I actually haven’t seen anyone here say this.

      • WestEndGirl says:

        When anyone mispronounces my name I assume it’s on purpose

        I use it to screen people. People introduced verbally will misspell it. People who read it will mispronounce it.

        Pretty clear that people are assuming something negative about the speaker here.

      • Jill says:

        When anyone mispronounces my name I assume it’s on purpose

        I use it to screen people. People introduced verbally will misspell it. People who read it will mispronounce it.

        Pretty clear that people are assuming something negative about the speaker here.

        That’s because her name is “Kimberly.” An exceptionally common, easy-to-pronounce name for native English speakers in the United States.

      • WestEndGirl says:

        Jill, the second quote relates to Angelia.

        And the fact is that people are thrown by similar but differently spelt names. There is Chrystal, Kristal, Krystle, Cristal and etc etc – and depending on the background of that person, could be pronounced exactly the same or totally differently. My Greek-Cypriot friend is Kristal and she is Khrist (hard ch)-AL.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Yeah, Kimberly is about as hard to pronounce as Amy. Or Jill. And the only people to have ever mispronounced it were white Americans who had no excuse. They probably all knew 10 Kimberly’s each. I suspect it was lame attempts to let me know how very little I meant to them. Like I wasn’t important enough to get my name right. Pitiful, but not unheard of.

      • Funty says:

        Since we’ve got a small British delegation going here;

        What about those aristo types who do like to insist their name is pronounced entirely differently from the way it’s spelled?

        Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) for example?
        Or…

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_names_in_English_with_counterintuitive_pronunciations

        This is in no way a detraction from Vaidehi’s original point.
        More, “aren’t cultural differences fascinating” tinged with “punching your fair weight in a hierarchy”.

        Lady Chumley is very possibly doing it to tell us we’re uncouth and uninitiated, spelling things phonetically…the peasants. It’s all hazing and power tripping, territorial pissings and far beyond simply respecting the rights of another individual.

        Or it can also be that way.

      • Lady Chumley is very possibly doing it to tell us we’re uncouth and uninitiated, spelling things phonetically…the peasants.

        -_- This always annoys me. My name is spelled perfectly phonetically in all the languages I speak, but I still get people (usually other Indians) arguing with me about how it’s too haaaaard and weiiiiird and telling me I should change the spelling if I want them to pronounce it correctly(!!!). But tell someone to pronounce “Cholmondeley” as “Chumley” and they’re all OH NO DID I OFFEND SO SORRY. Hm. I wonder why.

      • @Funty – those names have slurred across centuries, it’s not something picked up NOW to make people feel inferior. We’re not talking Mr Luxury Yacht (pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove) here. Would you complain about the fact that Worcester is pronounced Wooster or Gloucester is Gloster?

        And frankly, even if we were, it’s their name, why should they be exempt from what everyone else is claiming here – the right to have their name pronounced as they tell people?

      • Ledasmom says:

        Would you complain about the fact that Worcester is pronounced Wooster or Gloucester is Gloster?

        Speaking as a resident of the Massachusetts Worcester, people certainly do complain about it (and about Gloucester and Leicester). They misspell it if they’ve heard it said and they mispronounce it if they’ve seen it written.
        Actually, it’s pronounced “Woostah”, but my mother came from the midwestern US and my father came from far-northern Maine, so I say it with an accent.

    • JBL55 says:

      I don’t think the issue is how someone might butcher a name the first time as much as their continuing to butcher it even after they have learned better.

      I have worked with IT people from around the world and at nearly every job site there is one American jerk who just can’t be bothered to learn the names of the people he works with. (I say “he” because in my experience that has always been the case.)

      One particularly obnoxious co-worker insisted on using nicknames of his own devising (e.g. he’d call Samir “Sam”), even if the person protested. There’s nothing like an ugly American to make a project unpleasant.

      • One particularly obnoxious co-worker insisted on using nicknames of his own devising (e.g. he’d call Samir “Sam”), even if the person protested. There’s nothing like an ugly American to make a project unpleasant.

        That is obnoxious and asshole. Wow. Also, speaking as someone who’s been given nicknames because “my name’s too hard” relatively rarely, I’ve been mortally offended every time I was. >.> I can’t imagine how I’d feel if someone did that at a workplace.

      • JBL55 says:

        I understand the previous president of the US used to coin nicknames of his own creation for people ranging from “Stretch” to “Turdblossom.” Makes me glad (not for the first or only time) that I will never have to spend any time in his presence and endure him doing it to me.

      • Fat Steve says:

        I understand the previous president of the US used to coin nicknames of his own creation for people ranging from “Stretch” to “Turdblossom.” Makes me glad (not for the first or only time) that I will never have to spend any time in his presence and endure him doing it to me.

        So wait a second…are you implying that my nickname of Stretch Turdblossom is not essentially complimentary?

    • I would have immediately pronounced the OP’s name as VYE-day-hee

      It’s not an incorrect pronunciation, just regional differences. I had an aunt named Vaidehi and we pronounced it that way (though it was often a sound between -gee and -hee, because we’re a bunch of Tamils, lol).

  20. Angie unduplicated says:

    Be unique and be proud of it. Identity thieves hate uniqueness and that, alone, is a reason to rejoice in your identity. Georgia gal promises to never, ever call you Vidalia, and I do know a boy child named after that onion.

  21. Marksman2010 says:

    Is that because of all the jerks who can’t be bothered to get it right, or because you genuinely don’t like it?

    I don’t think unintentionally mispronouncing someone’s name makes a person a jerk. Many names have more than one pronunciation and spelling. I dated a girl who named her son Mychal just because she wanted a variation. And sometimes, even after someone tells me how to say and spell their name, I’ll still screw it up (but not as an insult). I blame my bad memory.

    • JBL55 says:

      The key word in your post is “unintentionally.”

      I don’t call someone a jerk because he or she initially mispronounces someone’s name. I reserve that for those who persist in doing it and then tell the person whose name they mispronounce that it’s a burden that person must bear.

  22. rain says:

    My mother’s first name is Cveta. Once when she ordered cheques, they came back printed Greta.

    She used to work in a hospital kitchen; she got the job through friends in her ethnic community, so there was a group of them working there. There was a woman who teased them about their “funny-sounding” names, but the joke was on her, because her name in their Slavic language was “ass”.

    My surname has been anglicized, but only the pronunciation, so there’s a now silent “h” lurking in there to screw up what would otherwise be a simple phonetic name.

  23. miga says:

    All of my names are “foreign” to the US. They don’t even come from the same country, so I always expect people to mispronounce it a few times. It got to the point in high school competitions when a speaker would go “M…Mi…” and I’d just stand up because I knew they were talking about me. I used to be so passive that if people would mispronounce my name after I corrected them a few times I wouldn’t bring it up anymore. Or they’d say “your name is too hard, do you have a nickname” and I’d say “just call me whatever.” My mother’s name was misspelled on her birth certificate, she had to go back and have it changed over 20 years later. Her high school yearbook has her old spelling in it and everything.
    The strange thing is I have a second cousin whose name is also Japanese (Keiko) but her parents pronounce it differently than it was intended(Key-ya-ko). I call her by her parent’s pronunciation even though it irks me because, you know, it’s the pronunciation she grew up with.

  24. Rachel L-E says:

    De-lurking to share some of the frustration I’ve had with my name recently.

    My first name is fairly easy to deal with, what with being the standard American spelling of an Old Testament name and all (although I’m surprised by how often I get called Rachelle), but my last name is hyphenated, and, despite the fact that this is 2013 and that’s not exactly uncommon, it really confuses people. People (especially telemarketers) like to add an extra “g” and “t” to what I think is a fairly easy to pronounce Ellis Island-icized Jewish name (the first half of my last name), but the worst part of it, I think, stems from the fact that the second half of my last name is remarkably similar to a woman’s first name – when I give someone my last name, they often think I’m giving them my last, then first name. I’m regularly cut off at the hyphen when spelling my last name for someone, and don’t even get me started on airlines that don’t accept hyphens as “acceptable symbols” in my name when making a reservation, or people who don’t know what a hyphen is, or think my last name includes the spelled out word “hyphen.”

    I chose this name for myself at age 9, when I decided to include my mom’s last name (which she never changed) along with my dad’s. Part of me longs to change it – to just my mom’s last name (my dad’s name is the one that sounds like a woman’s first name), or to something else entirely, like Smith, but the rest of me desperately wants to keep it, both as a sort of rebellion against those who always take it upon themselves to shorten it for me, and as a way of maintaining my own self.

    • Revolver says:

      the second half of my last name is remarkably similar to a woman’s first name

      Oo oo, me too!! If it’s not “I said LAST name” from the person, it’s the assumption that it’s my full first name, like MaryBeth or AnnaBelle or whathaveyou.

      • Rachel L-E says:

        Ugh, yes. “I said LAST name.” “That IS my last name.”

        Also, because the name in total is so long, the last letter or two of my first name often gets cut off on things like enrollment sheets when last name is listed first, so the assumption is last my first name is the second half of my last name, and “Rache” is my middle name, because that makes sense.

  25. Donna L says:

    As I got older, I began to see my name as something much greater than myself; it is a story, a history. I am proud to have known and loved my grandparents who risked their lives to bring our name to this country. As a child, I wore my name like a curse; today, I wear it as an emblem.

    I feel the same way about both my middle name (which was my mother’s family) and last name.

    My last name is a reasonably common and recognizably Jewish last name (at least in this part of the USA), with an unusual spelling that happens to be the original spelling of the name, although the vast majority of families with that name in this country have simplified and Anglicized the spelling by dropping one particular consonant. Which means that in my entire life (and I’m over 50), I have never once — ever — had anyone spell my name correctly without my telling them how it’s spelled. Which can be quite frustrating. And rather embarrassing when I was a child, since other children used to make fun of the spelling, and at least a couple of teachers told me that I was spelling and/or pronouncing it “wrong.”

    And yet, I’m quite stubborn about not changing it, and so is my son, at least so far. It’s how my family name has been spelled for at least 190 years (which is as far back as I can go, where the family came from in Lithuania), and it’s remained the same so far, through everything, so why should I change it now? Even though it’s been misspelled regularly from the very beginning of our time in the USA: many years ago, I was able to find the ship passenger list showing the arrival in New York City on July 9, 1888 of my paternal grandfather (then 13 months old), with his older sister and parents — they first lived on the Lower East Side (of course!), in a tenement building at 176 Suffolk Street that still exists today. And the family name is already misspelled on that ship passenger list, in a specific way (all the correct letters, but in the wrong order) that still regularly happens even now. But my great-grandparents and grandfather and father kept it nonetheless, and I will too.

    My middle name (my mother’s family name) is also Jewish, but is extremely uncommon. In fact, I’m quite literally the last person in the world with that name, which dates back to my great-great-great-grandfather, who adopted it in 1812 in Pomerania when all the Jews in Prussia were required to adopt hereditary surnames if they didn’t already have them. I’ve been the last one since my mother, and her parents before her; everyone else died no later than 1942. As a child, I used to be terrified of anyone finding out what it was, because it was so “weird.” Now, I’m proud of it, and wouldn’t give it up for anything. My son has even talked about making it his middle name, too. Even though I’ve also never experienced anyone spelling it correctly. Or pronouncing it correctly if they see it writing.

  26. Fat Steve says:

    Anyone here like me prefer a shortened version of their name? (Fat Steve is not my real name but for the sake of this, let’s pretend it is.)

    I hate it when people call me Steven, when they’ve been introduced to me as Steve. In particular there is one of my wife’s friends who calls me Steven which makes me so uncomfortable because it implies some sort of intimacy that she calls me a name that my wife doesn’t even call me.

    • Rachel L-E says:

      I’ve had a similar experience, but in the opposite direction. Rachie is something that only my family and very close friends call me. I had a friend, however, who, like you, only went by a shortened version of her name – fine! But she then took it upon herself to introduce me to people as Rachie rather than Rachel, and then made fun of me when I told her it made me uncomfortable for people I didn’t know well to use that nickname that felt so intimate.

      • Andie says:

        I feel similarly about being called Andie. That’s a friend and family name only. My tenth grade home room teacher called me Andie once and I nearly jumped across he desk

      • JBL55 says:

        she then took it upon herself to introduce me to people as Rachie rather than Rachel, and then made fun of me when I told her it made me uncomfortable for people I didn’t know well to use that nickname that felt so intimate.

        That is what so much of this comes down to: the only person who gets to say what you want to be called is you.

        One sure-fire way for a sales clerk to annoy my sainted mother-in-law (1916-2008) was to call her by her first name instead of Mrs. Lastname. Granted, part of that was due to the era in which she was born, and many people today hate being called Honorific Lastname (it makes them feel OLD), but I’d rather be corrected (“Please, call me Firstname”) than show disrespect when addressing an older person whom I do not know.

      • I had that happen about a decade ago with a bank teller. It wasn’t just that he used my first name when he was prolly fifteen-odd years younger than me; it was that he made stupid jokes about the fact I was depositing money, and used my first name repeatedly.

        I froze on him and said “It’s MS [lastname]. I don’t recall giving you permission to use my first name. Do I have to put a complaint in to your manager?”

        He collapsed in a little puddle of apologies.

    • Jasmin says:

      Yep, that’s my fiancé’s name, and he’s had to correct several women (usually coworkers) because that level of intimacy, like you said, made him uncomfortable. Only I (and family) can call him that!

    • Hrovitnir says:

      Yeah, I just call people by what they introduce themselves by. That said, NZers tend to be chronic shorteners – my partner uses his full (very common) name, that a vast majority of people shorten and he’s fine with, but his family calls him by the full name (as do I).

      Since I’ve been with him, I habitually use the full length of someone’s name unless *they* call themselves by the shortened version (not just everyone around them), because it piques me that we automatically give people nicknames.

      • JBL55 says:

        I just call people by what they introduce themselves by.

        Yup. You can’t go wrong with that approach.

        But it’s amazing how many people either aren’t listening (particularly amazing from people in sales) or want to demonstrate some strange show of “affection” by using a nickname you either don’t use or really dislike.

        And then you’re the one who is wrong for simply asking, with a smile, to please use the name you already provided. Sheesh.

      • Hrovitnir says:

        Oo, oo, that reminds me of a customer service course I did that taught creepy shit like using someone’s name because you read it on their card. Just, no.

        And of course it should be glaringly obvious that if someone corrects you when you do something “friendly” like shorten their name that you take it graciously, bloody hell.

        I am the polar opposite of what those old fashioned courses teach, as is my direct manager, and people love it because we are actually approachable and helpful. It’s actually surprising how few people are uncomfortable with our relaxed style (in presentation and conversational approach) even out of very conservative people. I’ve had so many perfectly put together older ladies complement me on my 1/4 inch, bright red hair. :)

      • Marksman2010 says:

        I had a cashier call me “guy” yesterday, which is some of the most irritating shit in the world to me. I don’t care if you don’t call me “sir.” You can even call me “man” or “bro,” but don’t go with that “guy” shit. Intentionally annoying, is what I thought.

      • Fat Steve says:

        I had a cashier call me “guy” yesterday, which is some of the most irritating shit in the world to me. I don’t care if you don’t call me “sir.” You can even call me “man” or “bro,” but don’t go with that “guy” shit. Intentionally annoying, is what I thought.

        The only person I know who isn’t bothered by that is my friend Guy.

      • Hrovitnir says:

        “Guy”? That is bizarre. That said, I tend to hear that as kind of dismissive/mildly rude in any context, never mind customer service. :P

      • JBL55 says:

        Re: Guy —

        I often hear waitstaffers refer to a table of customers as “you guys,” and while it can be endearingly casual in some restaurants with some customers, other people in other places can find it really insulting.

      • Hrovitnir says:

        Hmm, yes, “you guys” is a bit different to “hey, guy”. But there are definitely circumstances where it’s not appropriate.

        It’s certainly one of those things where it’s useful to be good at reading people/situations. I err toward hypersensitive, but I feel lucky that reading people is so intuitive to me that I didn’t realise until I had experience with people who really couldn’t.

      • One thing I find oddly amusing is when receptionists refer to a doctor (be that a GP, specialist or vet) by their title, yet the person in question isn’t like that. I certainly don’t call anyone by their title when they call me by my first name; the idea makes me bristle slightly. Plus given the off-topic chat that goes on with most of my doctors/specialists/vets, calling them Doctor-so-and-so would seem kinda silly.

  27. Andie says:

    Myself, I have never had much problems with my name beyond people wanting to call me ” ohndrea” (thanks, 90210!). My last name is one syllable, and pretty straightforward.

    I have only heard my daughters name pronounced properly once, by an old Scottish woman. In its proper pronunciation it’s supposed to be three syllables (tee-air-nee) but most people pronounce it “teer-nee” or, to my chagrin, “tyranny”.

    I’m pretty sure we pronounce my younger daughters name wrong, as it’s spelled like the president and should be “ray-gun” but we pronounce it “Ree-gun”

    • Fat Steve says:

      I’m pretty sure we pronounce my younger daughters name wrong, as it’s spelled like the president and should be “ray-gun” but we pronounce it “Ree-gun”

      IIRC in The Exorcist they pronounced it similar to your daughter, so yours isn’t necessarily ‘wrong.’

      • JBL55 says:

        I think that name was spelled “Regan,” as in one of Lear’s dreadful daughters.

      • Fat Steve says:

        I think that name was spelled “Regan,” as in one of Lear’s dreadful daughters.

        Why ‘dreadful’? She merely did what her father wanted, then was a bit aggravated when he abused her hospitality by filling the place with his filthy followers. She ended up getting poisoned by her sister so at the very least she is only middle ranked in the dreadful category.

      • JBL55 says:

        I was simply distinguishing her from Cordelia. I suppose it could be said Regan was slightly less dreadful than Goneril, but they were both pretty nasty characters, just like their father.

  28. Leah says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s making me reconsider changing my name at work to make things easier. I feel that another solution should be to assert the difference in my name. I’m not sure how to do that without coming off as angry or arrogant.

    My name is Leah, pronounced ‘LEE-uh.’ I am being confused with a co-worker, Leigh (LEE). I get her mail (can people not READ???) and I think she’s been getting compliments for my customer service! Sigh.

    My name has always been mispronounced. I used to be teased by being called Princess Leia (LAY-uh). When I studied abroad this is how they pronounced it–perhaps that is the correct Hebrew pronunciation? It irked me to hear it that way because of childhood memories.

    My last name is worse. It’s long, has several sets of repeated letters and it is similar to a Hispanic name. It’s actually Spanish (from Spain). The best part is, I’m not Hispanic or Spanish. Thank you, adoption. Many people get confused when first seeing me–why is she blonde? Or they assume I speak Spanish. Or they assume that I will appreciate their childish, racist Americanized bastardizations of Spanish. No, no, and not at all.

    I have taken to over-pronouncing both names–to emphasize the spelling–and then immediately going into the spelling. Gah, does that get old!!! I feel like an English Schoolmistress drilling vocabulary into the heads of her vapid, apathetic pupils: I’m a bitch, and this is pointless. It will probably still be spelled wrong or my erroneous heritage will be Hispanicized (Is this a word? Well, if you can be anglicized…why not?).

    I also used to wish my name were something like Mary Jones, Kate Collins, or Sue Brooks. It’s just such a hassle. Wish I could just say my name and people would know…”yes, Ms. Pepsi Dove Sketchers, oh, no need to spell that. Now, what’s your date of birth?” …mainly, because I’m lazy.

    From time to time, I consider changing all three of my names. What to do…? What to do?

    • moviemaedchen says:

      I got name-teasing as a kid too. I used to go by my middle name, which is a beautiful name but unfortunately rhymes easily with a number of words that can be used as insults, and I heard them all. So I started going by my first name. But now I miss my middle name, which was also my grandmother’s name and has a lot of meaning in our family. I don’t know if I’ll go back to using it – I’d like to but people have known me by the other name for so long now it feels awkward to change.

      • JBL55 says:

        My mother was given the same name as her mother, so she was called by her middle name, but when she went to college, she switched to using her first name.

        Her family continued to call her by her middle name, but everyone else called her the name she preferred to be called.

        Make the change you want. Better sooner than later!

  29. Meg says:

    Great post. You have a beautiful name with a great story behind it! You’re right – our names are more than just words; they’re also the collection of our memories and experiences. Add me to the list of people with a Whitey McWhite name that others still manage to mess up – it’s Megan. There’s no R in there; Morgan MyLastName is a different person and we spent thirteen years in school together never knowing who people were actually speaking to or about. No A or H either, no uncommon pronunciation like “MEE-gan”. I’m with you, Fat Steve – I prefer a short form and I hate when people call me Megan after I introduce myself as Meg. My own parents and partners don’t call me by my full name; it does imply a weird kind of intimacy for people to use a name those close to me don’t even use. I think calling someone by a name they don’t prefer or writing it off as “too hard” without any effort to learn it is just disrespectful.

    • JBL55 says:

      When I see the name “Meg,” I assume the person’s name is Margaret, so I appreciate the distinction.

      Funny thing about Margaret: maybe it’s just the people in my circle, but the vast majority of Margarets I know prefer to be called Margaret. One friend goes by Meg, and I’ve met a Peg here and a Peggy there, but the other dozen or so I know are Margaret, doggone it, and that’s all there is to it. :-)

  30. N says:

    My first name is Nadene. But as I am Australian, most people will say it as my mother intended it – Nuh-deen. Or N’deen (I went through a stage of spelling it that way). But most USians will pronounce it Nay-deen. Which drives me up the wall. Of course everyone wants to spell it with an i rather than an e (after the d) but I blame my mother for that.

    I am wondering how the heck someone can mispronounce Louise though. Being that Louise is my middle name…

    • JBL55 says:

      One of my favorite people in the world is named Nadine, pronounced just the way you say your name is not. I would hope I would not drive you up a wall if we ever met, and I would try very hard, but sometimes I have brain cramps.

      For example, I knew a number of Eileens (but no Elaines) when I lived in NJ, and when I moved to Maine I immediately met four Elaines: three in church and one at work. I embarrassed myself more than once — I’d try to do a mental stutter-step when I greeted an Eileen or an Elaine (“wait, this is …”) but sometimes I just wasn’t quick enough and would get the first syllable wrong, which at that point is just too late. I’m okay now, but boy howdy, was that a difficult transition.

      So if we ever meet, I apologize in advance. :-)

    • Chris says:

      I’m Irish, and I would pronounce your name NAY-deen if I read it (rather than heard it, that would just be ignorant). I’ve met women in Ireland called Nedine/nadine, and the name comes from an Irish placename in Co. Kerry, Néidín. A beautiful town, by the way!

  31. Fat Steve says:

    The point is, people can pronounce their names ‘worng’ if they want to and that’s their name. That actor out of the classic Sharknado, Ian Ziering, pronounces his name EYE-an, unlike 99.999% of Ians on the Earth. That doesn’t make him an idiot or unbearably pretentious, as the eye rolls when certain people pronounce his name EYE-an imply.

    Also I know three people, two cis men and one cis woman, one of the men is called Jamie, the woman is called Jaime, but pronounces it like the first man, and the other man is named Jaime spelled like the woman but pronounced HY-mee.

    Your name is what you want it to be. I mean if you want, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, to call yourself He3nry with a silent ‘3,’ that’s up to you. However, if I have a Western name I’m not going to go apeshit if someone from a call center in South Asia can’t pronounce it. As I said before, my name is regularly mispronounced by people who aren’t New York Jews, so I can see how it would be exponentially harder to pronounce for non-Westerners.

  32. Taylor Serenil says:

    My RL last name is a variant spelling and pronunciation of a semi-common traditionally white last name, and almost never gets pronounced properly on the first try because of it despite the fact that if you actually look it’s (in my opinion) reasonably phonetic. It also confuses people because there are two other relatively common last names that it’s similar to, one with fewer letters, one with more. When proper spelling is an issue (especially over the phone) I pretty much expect to have to spell it.

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