Names are an incredibly important part of who we are but trust me, you don’t know how important they really are until people start mispronouncing yours. It has been a struggle for me ever since I came to the US to start my freshman year of college. Back then, I understood that language differences made some names very hard to pronounce so I, like many other international students in my freshman group, got a nickname that was easy for Anglo people to pronounce.
Ever since, I have introduced myself socially with that three letter nickname to make it easy on people but also because it really, REALLY bugs me when people call me Celine, Selena or Seleenee instead of pronouncing my name properly. There are people, of course, that I cut some slack to just because I don’t have to see them regularly like nurses, beauticians or any other person that I wouldn’t go out for coffee with.
Still, many other people mispronounce my name, like some of my husband’s relatives or people who supposedly speak Spanish and when trying they just almost make me want to cry. Aside from correcting them the first few times, I never say anything again because I don’t know how to approach the topic without offending the other person. My husband tells me to let it go, but how can I when we are at a party and someone else is introducing me by the wrong name? It bothers me so much that I have to clarify my name to the new person and ask them to call me by my nickname, yet some, insist on being “polite” by calling me by the wrong name.
I would be more understanding if I had such a hard name that no one person aside from those from my ethnic background could pronounce but I know that when people are careful and caring enough, they learn how to pronounce my name and have no problem saying it correctly. Like it is the case with the many people I worked closely with at my previous job. So if it isn’t unpronounceable to English speakers, it must be that the ones who say it wrong, simply don’t care enough to learn the correct way to call me and care even less if they don’t even use my nickname when I asked them to.
To avoid that from happening to our children, not only in the US but when they go visit our respective countries, we were extra careful picking their names. We wanted something that would go well with their Arabic last name, that wouldn’t be mainstream and that it would be easily pronounced in the three languages we predominantly speak at home. Our little girl’s name is exactly pronounced in the three languages and although our baby boy’s name isn’t exactly pronounced in English as it is in Spanish, it is close enough that our boy won’t have to go through what his dad and I have.
Moreover, names are not only something that your parents picked for you, they are a big part of your personality as both of the web pages below explain. So when someone keeps calling you the wrong name, you feel like you are leaving behind an important part of who you are. I wish I wasn’t that particular about my name, because it would certainly make my life easier, but I cannot leave such an intrinsic part of my identity behind.