Can I call you “X”?

Why Pronouncing Names Matters

Ever been in a situation where you’re unsure how to say a co-worker’s name? It happens. So, you might’ve asked, “Can I just call you something easier, like X?” Seems harmless, right?

But here’s the thing: by suggesting a different name, you unintentionally put your comfort before theirs. It’s not about disrespect; it’s more about avoiding the embarrassment of saying their name wrong.

Imagine this: Your co-worker’s name feels like a tongue-twister, and you’re worried about messing it up. So, you offer a simpler name, thinking it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal.

Consider this: Names are more than just words; they’re a piece of who someone is. Your co-worker’s name isn’t just a label; it’s tied to their culture and identity. By sidestepping the challenge of saying their name, you are not showing them respect. I know this hard to understand, so I have resources to illustrate the importance.

So, before you default to a nickname for this other person, think about the person behind it. Instead of shying away from the challenge, attempt to say  their name. Sure, you might stumble a bit, but your effort shows that you respect them.

In the grand scheme of things, choosing authenticity over ease is a small but powerful way to embrace diversity. Your attempt to say their name, even if it’s not perfect, shows respect.

I too am guilty of using someone’s nickname, but I know better now. My friend, who is Taiwanese American and she offered her nick name JC and I took it. With all the education I am learning about Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, I will make a big effort to say practice and remember their name and spell it right.

Name Significance

Proctor and Gamble have a campaign to address this simple solution with awareness. This 1 minute video is a powerful video illustrating the importance our names in the Korean Culture. This video makes me cry every time because I have listened to so many Asian Americans who have felt insignificant starting with not being able to have their own name. 

Creating Belonging, Starting With A Name

Everyone has a name — and from birth through a lifetime of introductions, it becomes the cornerstone of our identity. For many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), their given names carry an even deeper history and significance. But bias, indifference, and unintentional mistakes can lead to misidentification and mispronunciation. This film hopes to elevate the importance of a name, and how meaningful gestures — like pronunciation and understanding its meaning — can create a greater sense of belonging for us all. Join us in celebrating AAPI names, together, and opening the door to belonging.” P&G

Just because people don’t complain, doesn’t mean they like it.

I can tell you countless stories across cultures of how disrespected they feel for people to not even try to say their name. Here is a comment from Thai and White American. Think about the pop culture stars and star athletes that have non-anglo names that people learn to say their names.

I’m tired of people not making an effort to get my ‘difficult’ name right

“I’m sorry you ‘didn’t quite catch’ my name but no, it’s not okay for you to give me a different, ‘easier’ one instead. My issue is not with those who mispronounce my name – I’ve come to expect that now and it isn’t like I don’t also mispronounce names. No, my issue is with people who don’t even make the effort to get my name right after being told the correct way to say it. Or worse, those who go one step further and decide that instead of learning to pronounce my name properly, they will instead rename me to something easier – usually an ‘English’ name.

I have had to battle to get my name pronounced properly all my life, with some luck but a lot more defeats along the way. Some of the major defeats came in my teenage years, where life is awkward enough as it is without being publicly embarrassed by teachers and students butchering your name daily. I heard pretty much every kind of variation of my name, and with some people (especially teachers), no matter how hard I tried, they would never get my name right. Even those that knew or taught me for years. I will never know if it was ignorance, maliciousness, or simply teachers having to remember a lot of students and their names.

A name being mispronounced may seem like a small thing, but when that mispronunciation is extended to a large number of people on a regular basis, it is exhausting. It also exacerbated my already-present feelings of difference and ‘otherness’ – not an easy thing to deal with when you’re a teenager. Teenage life is already riddled with enough angst and awkwardness, and my teenage life was made that much more difficult having to also navigate two opposing cultures. On the one hand I had my traditional Arab culture that didn’t always allow me to do the same things as my friends. And on the other hand, I had a British culture that encourages young people to go out there and ‘live life!’ and make mistakes. Shahed Ezaydi from the Huffington Post

Renaming others is a microaggression

For more information about Proctor and Gamble’s campaign, click here.

For full article from Shahed Ezaydi from the Huffington Post