Lack of singing skills aside, this girl has a good point. I’ve actually been thinking that I should needlepoint “That’s not my name” on a pillow. I mean…might as well use those high school needlepoint club skills, right? (You know you’re jealous that you didn’t do needlepoint in school, don’t even lie)!
At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “I’m not really sure where this is going” or “That seems like a personal problem.” And maybe you’re right. Maybe it is a personal problem but “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”. Plus feel free to stop reading at anytime (Actually don’t, but I have to pretend to be tough, so please indulge me)
Anyways… Why did I subject you to that horrid song? Because I wanted to set the scene for my struggles with people butchering my name. You see, I have a unique first name. Some might say that’s it made up (They’re probably right). Legend has it that my dad heard it somewhere, didn’t know what it meant but still decided to name his first-born said unique first name. Thanks daddy-o! Frankly, I’m waiting for the day when someone tells me that it means poop in his or her native language. Until then, when people ask me what it means, I either say, “I don’t know” (if I’m in the mood to be honest) or “It means beautiful flower moon-child, warrior of the Sun and richest woman to walk this Earth”. And to top it off, my name is not necessarily an Anglophone name and I live in an English-speaking country. So you can imagine the looks on people’s faces (typically Americans) when I first introduce myself. Honestly, it’s entertaining to see the range of emotions that people experience when I tell them my first name.
First, you have confusion. They can’t believe my name isn’t Jane or Becky (or something similar) so it throws them off. Second comes repetition. No, but like seriously, what’s like your name? (I’m not sure why this person sounds like a valley girl in my head, but go with it)
By now they’ve confirmed their fear, which is that I have this ethnic sounding name that they have never heard in their life. Now the third step varies on the individual. For some, the confusion turns to bewilderment. I’ve gotten comments ranging from “Is that your real name? (As opposed to my stripper name, sir?)” Or “Wow, I’ve been hearing all sorts of weird names lately!”
In what world is that ok? Imagine if someone walked up to you and said, “Hi, my name is Elizabeth” and you responded with “I’ve been hearing all sorts of mundane/common names lately”.
Then there are those who try really hard to prove how familiar they are with ethnic names. They mention their semester studying abroad in Ghana or Nigeria and how it was such a beautiful country. And then they repeat my name back by trying to add extra flavor to it, like my name’s some bland chicken that needs an extra kick of Adobo. Listen bruh! While I appreciate your effort to show how cultured you are, there’s no need for all the extra tongue rolls. My name is just a simple 2-syllable name.
Oh and FYI, I’m neither Nigerian nor Ghanaian, but nice try though!
We also have those who decide that my parents must have been confused when they named me and take it upon themselves to give me a more appropriate first name. I’ve gotten people whose suggestion was close enough to my first name (I usually roll with those), others who gave me a name that was even more complicated, and the few who decided “Fuck it! I’m just going with whatever I want.” Lady at the playground, I’m talking about you. I’m still trying to figure out how you thought my name was Nancy?
But the most annoying of them all are those who try to correct me on my own name. Hum excuse me, but I’ve had this name for over 2 decades. I’m pretty sure I know what it is. The other day this lady at yoga asked me for my name and I told her. When she looked up my name in the system, she saw my last name and said “Oh, so that’s your first name (referring to my last name)”. When I said, “No, the name I originally gave you is my first name”, she looked at me like I was crazy. In her mind, I was clearly confused about what first and last name meant. She then asked me if I was sure that was my first name. I had to walk away because I was not feeling very nice and didn’t want to end up in the viral video “Angry black lady cusses out delicate White yogi who did nothing wrong”.
You can see why I clearly need yoga!
There was also the guy who straight up told me that a) My first name wasn’t real and b) I was pronouncing incorrectly. The nerve!
Now I get it. If your ear isn’t trained to hear certain sounds, it’s difficult for your brain/tongue to reproduce that sound. So for the most part, I’m not mad at the people who make a genuine effort to say my name but just can’t. I’m even more impressed by those who get it right. But please, do not attempt to tell me what my name should be or what it is. You will get slapped (in my head, but still…)
So, if someone introduces him or herself and uses a name that you’ve never heard before, don’t act shocked or surprised. Ask them nicely to repeat it. And don’t be afraid to ask more than once. Honestly, I’d rather you ask me several times than for you to start calling me Nancy. It will be really embarrassing when I’ll have to tell you that you’ve been calling me by the wrong name for the last 10 years.
Don’t say things like “That’s a weird name” or say, “That’s an interesting name” but linger on the interesting as if you’re trying to say weird but know better. Descriptors such as unique or distinctive are ok, but beautiful or one-of-a kind, are preferred!
Also, don’t try to be cute and say, “Oh, it kinda sounds like [insert something that it sounds nothing like]”. No it doesn’t, so stop right there! And whatever happens, do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to tell the person that their name is wrong. It’s their fucking name. I think they know what it is.
Oh, one last thing! Stop sending me e-mails and misspelling my name! My name is included in my e-mail address and my signature. Those are not typos. That is how it is spelled. I always double-check how to spell someone’s name when I’m sending an e-mail so please give me the same courtesy. Otherwise I will purposefully spell yours wrong. Petty I know but I don’t care *shrugs shoulders*. This one person used to constantly misspell my name so every time I e-mailed her back; I would take out a different letter. So Jane* became Jan, Jae, Jne, Ane until she got the message. And eventually she did. Just a tip if people keep misspelling your names in e-mails. I’m just sayin’!
P.S: I’m thinking about starting a support group for people with non-American/English first names. If you’ve ever experienced any of those things, let me know and depending on the interest, we can start a movement people. I’ll bring donuts to the first meeting!
*Not her real name