To most people I encounter, I have a wonderfully (or not so wonderfully) difficult name. For those of you who’ve never heard (of) my name and don’t know how to say it, it sounds something like this: Sa ‘roo ja nee. Got it? Maybe? Take your time, practice a little, I’ll wait.
My name is of South Asian origins, and is not a totally uncommon name on the Subcontinent or in the West Indies, there’s even a shopping district in New Delhi named Sarojini Nagar. In the States however, no one else has it. It’s virtually unheard of here and that makes me appreciate it so much more. I was named after the famed Indian poet and political activist Sarojini Naidu. While that makes it an incredibly hard name to live up to, I still love it and say it as often as I can (Is this asiago cheese? Oh, for some reason, that reminds me of my name Saroooojini), without coming off as a complete jerk. I don’t speak too much Hindi unfortunately, but I’ve been told Sarojini can mean a few different things: of the forest, or of nature, or my favorite, from the dirt grows the beauty of the lotus. Yeah, beat that, Jennifer. (Note: I have nothing against anyone named Jennifer. In fact, I’m envious because I’m sure all Jennifers lead much less complicated phonetic lives than I do. Furthermore, I’m ABSOLUTELY sure not one Jennifer on planet Earth has ever been stopped by someone who demand she explain what her name means in minute detail. “Jennifer, huh? What does that mean? Does it have a meaning?” You’ll never hear that conversation.)
Most people, upon seeing or hearing Sarojini for the first time inevitably throw their hands up in fear and say, “Your name is WHAT?” They back away, as if to say, I don’t want any trouble here. Some people are slightly more diplomatic and instead say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.” They try to repeat the same sounds that came out of my mouth, this time displacing, replacing and deleting vowels and consonants like it’s nobody’s business. “Sigourney? Serengeti? Sasquatch? Sa..sa…sa… I know! I’ll call you ‘S’!” This has really happened. it did not go over well. It’s like their brains get scrambled and short circuit and they no longer know how to speak any form of human language. The ability to control the movements of their tongue and lips get relegated to a small part of the ancestral primordial ooze which still hides deep, deep in the recesses of the mind. Right before my eyes, intelligent adults turn into single-celled organisms faced with two choices: slither away or evolve.
I try to simplify my name and say the four syllables very slowly and then let it sink in a bit. They nod their heads, and I nod my head, and we slowly nod together in agreement. Not so bad, right? They nod some more. I make elaborate, yet soothing hand gestures like I’m conducting a mildly schizophrenic cat symphony (Shh…take it easy) and continue repeating the unfamiliar sounds, making sure to emphasize the softness of the ‘J’ in the ‘ja’ sound. I often give positive feedback (Good try. You can do this! You went to college!) to help with the process. After several attempts, most people get it. The others? The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Uh, no. It’s Sarojini.”
“Sa rooooo ja neeeee.”
“Umm. What? One more time.”
“SAH. ROO. JAH. NEE.”
“Oh.” Several moments pass. “Do you have a nickname?”
A heavy sigh of anguish escapes my throat.
“Call me Suzi,” I whisper, as I hang my head in shame.
Yes, it’s true. For most of my life, everyone has called me Suzi. My parents, my sisters, my friends… everyone. My parents swear they don’t know the origins of this nickname (“I dunno…someone just started calling you Suzi”) but I’m sure they’ve got something to do with it because no one in my family has ever used Sarojini. I couldn’t even spell Sarojini until I was in the second grade (Thanks Mrs. Biederman!). As long as I can remember, I’ve been Suzi.
And while I still genuinely like being called Suzi because it feels familiar, safe and well, easy, these days I much prefer my given name because it feels authentic, like the real me. I started using it more and more in my late twenties and it felt good to hear it come out of my mouth, and not just see it occasionally on my passport or ConEd bill. I eventually grew attached to it and soon enough, saying, “My name is Sarojini,” became as easy as saying, “My name is Suzi.” I own it now. This is me. Hello. My name is Sarojini and I do not have a nickname.
A question I often get is: Why did you even have a nickname? I have tons of friends with difficult names and it’s totally cool! Well, you darling soul, I grew up during a particular time in our history in the late 70’s, early 80’s, when children of immigrants were raised to assimilate as quickly as possible, not stand out or be different. Immigrant parents didn’t want any added difficulties for their children in a very, ahem, American society and “ethnic” names were viewed as a hindrance to their success, not an asset. Keeping difficult names represented an unwillingness to get along. We didn’t hold hands and celebrate our differences in the 70’s. The result? Beautiful, culturally-indigenous names like Dao-ming, Vaishali and Bihai became easy-to-say American names like Debbie, Vicki and Beth. They became approachable, likable and conformist. Non-threatening. Homogenized. Brown, but not too brown. Friendly. Just like you.
This practice is, thankfully, starting to die out, but it hasn’t completely disappeared. Listen, it’s hard to give a phonetics lesson every single time you meet someone new. Some people with not-so-easy to say names choose an alternative. If I’m not in the mood to have a ten-minute conversation about my name and my entire identity, you better believe I’m going to introduce myself as Suzi. I know folks without difficult names often wonder why someone with a name like mine would want to deny their heritage and take on a false identity, especially in this day and age. Wear your culture as a badge! It’s a post-racial society, right?! Uh, no. It isn’t, actually. More importantly, that isn’t the point of taking on a more accessible name. If everyone wants you to use your nickname because they can’t be bothered with the effort to say a name with more than two syllables, you eventually oblige. It wears you out. It’s exhausting. Sporadically, I still employ the use of my nickname and even that gets shortened to Sooz. But more to the point, I can say from experience that it’s not about denying who we are or trying to be someone else – more American or something abstract and tangible at the same time. It’s the immigrant story of trying to fit in; trying to be more like you, or to be perceived that way, at least. I’m sure you’ve heard some obnoxious (read: racist) person say, “I know that Indian guy’s name isn’t Peter. Come on!” What those obnoxious people don’t get is that although it makes his life a tad easier, Peter didn’t adopt a nickname for his own sake; he knows how to say his name. He changed it for your sake.
So, the next time you’re wondering why the Korean gentleman at the coffee shop – whose native language is not English – goes by the name of Frank, wonder no more.
409 thoughts on “The Art of the American Nickname”
I think your name is beautiful and I’m glad you’re “owning” it now. Suzi doesn’t suit you as well as Sarojini does, based on the picture below!
Thanks so much! I really appreciate the note.
My name is Amber Michele. My mom had my name picked out before she graduated high school (1963, I was born 1966). My grandfather nicknamed me Shelly b/c he could not remember Amber (it was such a “strange” name back then). My family calls me Am or Ammie. The names that people have used b/c Amber is so difficult include: Heather, Amanda, April, Angie and Angel. Anyone younger than 30 have no issue with Amber, as it became very popular in the late 80’s through today. I answer to what ever someone calls me, if I think they mean to address me. Names are really just for the physical (Human) usage, on an energetic level (Being), we do not need names (or words for that matter). What a fun and interesting post! Congrats on bing Freshly Pressed too! PS Just saw an article about strange baby names and if the should be Illegal (o f all things to worry about, seriously!) I love the sound of non-Anglo names and how they feel when you say them. I think everyone should have an outstnding name and if they do not like it when they grow up, they can always change it! :o) Amber
This was a really cute and insightful post! My name is Courtney, so I never had to share my name’s origin or pronunciation. But with a Finnish last name of Maki (pronounced “Mackey”) people always pronounced it wrong when reading it. The first time it was read correctly was actually last week when I was in the London airport and they called my name at the service desk! I was shocked! 😉
Thanks! Please know that (obviously) I feel your pain.
Oh man I can’t even tell you how much I can relate to this post! My name is Marisa (not like Marisa Tomei who I was actually named after). But it’s Mexican Ma-de-sa. No one can ever say my name, I have no clue why because it’s easy to me, but most just don’t get it. My brother couldn’t say my name when he was younger so he’d call me Esa, well we added the M in and now I go by Mesa. Yes I still get “Your name is Lisa?” or they pronounce THAT word in Spanish (mesa like a table) and it’s a big pain in the ass. So I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from and I really loved this post!
Thanks so much! What’s hard to explain is that there may not be an easy English translation or pronunciation that will make everyone happy. I know they try their best, but in the end, everyone will do what’s easiest, you know? But my advice is to stick to your pronunciation of it and others will follow.
you can survive it, suzi! hahah! having a different name makes your mark in this world i guess. nice work! ;p
What a fun post. I have a standard kind of Christian name–Kathryn–but having traveled a good deal in Asia, I know how hard the pronunciation of names can be for foreigners. Especially when you move to a new country, meet a bunch of new people, and have lots of strange sounding names to not only pronounce, but also remember.
When I was living in Haiti, I wrote a post about names you might enjoy called “Re-naming America?” http://www.reinventingtheeventhorizon.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/renaming-america/
Thanks for the comment and for the link. Madison is not my favorite name, but at least it’s easy to say? Poor Rhodes!
oh hey i have a friend named sarojoni (one letter different than sarojini!) back in middle school. It’s not that hard to get: sa-ro-jo-ni… i never understood why people pronounced her name all weird. I mean it sounded exactly like what it looks like. The J is not silent! I guess because it’s not a common name they expect it to have some kind of weird pronounciation 😛
Yes! The J is not silent y’all!
I love this post! I have a simple name Kari (usually spelt carrie). Although people have no problem saying it my conversation usually goes:
“My name is Kari”
“How do you spell that C-A-R-R-I-E?”
Thanks! I guess we all have name problems!
I knew a guy who had moved from China to Canada and his name was Larry. When I asked him if that was his actual name, he said that it wasn’t, but his Chinese name was so difficult for Westerners to pronounce that, one day, he just decided to start calling himself Larry. He’d read the name in a book once.
It’s a shame, really, because it’s not like someone’s name, no matter what it is, should be THAT hard to say if we all just pay a little more attention. 🙂
Great post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
Thanks so much! That was my point and I hope everyone could hear that. It’s not about my name being special or that I’m special and pay attention to me me me, I just want the same respect everyone gets.
Honey, my family came here in 1921 and nobody can say my name, or spell it. After over a century of my people’s presence in the US, to the point where we’re one of the biggest immigrant populations HERE, the `merigans still can’t spell Italian names. If it isn’t John or Mary Smith, their heads bluescreen on them.
@ fireandair – Don’t you think that’s just a LITTLE bit presumptuous?? I’m sorry if you’ve been offended by American’s butchering of your name but we’re not ALL name illiterate. I fancy myself a name lover and enjoy discovering and encountering new names…. I might not know how to pronounce it immediately but I’m not one to give up, and move on, disregarding someone’s heritage as simply “foreign” and therefore of lesser importance. You have a right to be bitter but lumping us all together as self-absorbed Johns and Marys is really no better than “us” lumping “you” together as “guidos” with odd names
Holy crap, who pissed in your koolaid?
I’m not trying to be hostile, I just don’t like being stereotyped as a “merigan” who is uncultured, any more than you like having your name spelled wrong.
If your family moved to the US in 1921, then either (a) you were born in Italy, are 90+ years old, and we should all let you say whatever you like because you are the most tech-literate, sassy nonogenarian ever, OR (b) you were born in America, ARE American, and should stop pretentiously talking about Americans as separate from yourself and universally mentally handicapped. I’m thinking (b) is more likely.
If you need to reignite your faith in your compatriots (working from the (b) thesis), head to the area near San Antonio, Texas, where third-generation Czech immigrants still speak Czech. That language, which I am learning now as an expat, is murderously difficult…I feel sure someone there cab stay cogent long enough to pronounce your Italian given name, shockingly challenging though it may be.
Dát lidem trochu více úvěrů.
Ciao! I have a Lithuanian name Lina (I am named after a flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, which in Lithuanian is linas) which is too hard to pronounce correctly even for my italian boyfriend. They call me Leena while my name is with short “i” and the accent originally goes to the end (on “a”). So we all have our flaws, no matter the origin or migration, don’t be too harsh on people. 🙂
Congratulations to Sarojini for a beautiful name, an interesting post and being freshly pressed!
You have a beautiful name too! And yes, we are all a work in progress and I try to be patient. I try. 🙂
Thanks so much!
I teach at an English school in Korea and they give the kids English nicknames. I have a handful of kids that use their real names but most of my classes are full of Kevins, Daniels and Jennifers instead of Si-Hyuns, Yi-euns, and Mi-Kis. They do that for the same reasons you write about, to help the foreigner teachers and to help their kid assimilate to an English speaking environment. What’s even funnier is a lot of their English names have nothing to do with their real names. But sometimes I wish they would just use their real names it would help me practice my Korean.
Sometimes the American tongue cannot handle certain sounds. I get that. But I don’t get not trying or giving into that apathy.
I am loving reading all of these – post and comments included. I have recently relocated from the US to Hong Kong and I am loving learning both the local names (Ting Ting, Tat Ming, Shaojin) as well as the creative “assimilated” ones – I have personally met Hong Kongers who go by Twinkle, Octopus, Goatee, and Banana. Hey – if you are going to choose a name, why stick to Jennifers and Johns? I am indulging in the opportunity to fill my address book with whatever name by which you choose to introduce yourself!
@daintyc – When I was in grade school, everyone in language classes had to pick names from that culture to use in the class. For example, in French class, I was Simone even though my given name, Katherine, does have a French equivalent.
This reminded me of a friend I had at school. Her English name was “Alexandra”, and that was her name in the school register, but everyone just called her by her Polish name, “Ola”. Because, simply, that was her name. 🙂
Gongrats on being Freshly Pressed!
Here’s something you could try on the next Jennifer you meet. Ask her if she knows if her name means “white, smooth or fair” or that it’s derived from the Cornish name Gwenhwyfar.
Judging by your profile pic, either Sarojini or Suzi looks good on you.
Thank so much!
I used to be mini- embarrassed by my middle Chinese name. Already had a Chinese surname and English first name, it was enough.
But later found out my middle name translated as “orchid”. Yes, very lovely and exotic for a Canadian-born. Every parent should tell their child, the meaning of their name especially when the name is overtly different language than the dominant culture/language.
But having both a foreign-born name and Anglo name can have dual advantages. My partner uses his German legal first name whenever he is in German company/travelling in Europe, Hans-Jurgen.
It helped me relate even a tinge better when I worked for a German engineering firm with alot of ex-pat German engineers in Canada for a short time.
Thank you so much for your story. I loved it and I totally agree. Embrace your name and don’t be embarrassed. Make them pronounce it! Eventually, they’ll get it.
Love it! And true. I will try to be bolder when encountering ethnic names. I also didn’t realize Indian was mainly a U.S. term, or had a negative association. Thanks for the cultural education! -abi
Thanks! And I should have said it’s a Western term, but you get the point. I wouldn’t say it’s something offensive, but South Asian is preferred.
My full name is Elena (El-eh-na) and I thought I had it tough. Nobody ever gets it right, so I’m Ellie (which people (including my friends) still spell wrong). Good to hear about someone with the same (though worse) problem. Very informative article. Cheers!- Ellie
Thanks Elena! If you prefer Elena, make them say it.
I live in South Africa and this has happened to a lot of people. The saddest story I have heard is a friend of mine who was renamed in preschool because the teacher wouldn’t take the time to learn how to pronounce it properly. This name stuck and even now as a grown woman she is called it by friends and family. Really sad.
That’s terrible! I’m sorry to hear that.
I totally appreciate your post. My name is not ethnic, but it’s uncommon and I’m always having to correct people. Now that I’m older I embrace my name but it’s still so easy to just say “call me Sheli.”
I think you’re name is pretty and you should start introducing yourself by your full name. Try it. Who cares what’s easy?
Enjoyed reading ur post… Glad to know that u prefer giving ur actual name 🙂
N Congrats for being freshly pressed 🙂
Thanks so much!
My friend has an equally hard to pronounce name. Not really because of his heritage but because of his parents’ imaginative brains. And yes, he uses the nickname to escape all the explaining. 🙂
You know,this is creepy because I was reading the first few paragraphs already planny on how to reply and I got to the bit where you said ‘as long as I can remember I have been suzi’ And I was like ‘what?’
My name is Susie but I hate the spelling it’s so,so boring so to all my friends,when they’re writing my name I insist on being called Suzi because I just like it. Susie makes me think of some geeky kid way back in the old days but Suzi makes me think of a normal person.
I congratulate you on your choice of nickname!
Thanks Susie, I mean Suzi!
I love this post. I am a Jennifer btw…and whereas I don’t get asked often what my name means I do have hispanic in laws who are from Panama and the majority of them have trouble pronouncing my name. And I always get emails addressed to Jenny. I am Jeni. Ok so not near as much of a difference as Sarujini and Suzi. Your name is very beautiful. What a blessing to have a unique and interesting name 🙂
Author, http://www.victimnomore.wordpress.com and http://www.whereismyreallife.wordpress.com
Thanks so much for all the love, Jennifer! And I have nothing against Jennifers… 🙂
Haha, really good post! I have the same difficulty with my last name (and occasionally my first name too). My last name is ‘Ghosh’, and everybody pronounces it wrong until I decide to put them right!
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed by the way.
Well, thank you Ms. Ghosh!
My name is stephanie and it has always been shortened to steph. Since my name is so common I didn’t have a problem with it until I got married and took my husbands last name. Now I am in the same boat as you sort of, people are afraid to say my new last name or I have to repeat it 10 times and even then, sometimes people do not get it. I think its pretty simple, but these days people make names more complicated then they are. Its klinicki – clinic-eee. I think americans are just obsessed with nicknames and/or making things easy. Love the post and I like your name as well! 🙂
It’s the fear that gets me, too! They don’t want to try. I honestly think they don’t want to be insulting, but I don’t see it that way at all. Not trying to say it is what’s insulting. And thank you!!
Excellent post. I must admit… I’ve run across a related issue in my work for [a major American tech company], which employs a large number of Asian or Asian-American workers – I’ll see a person’s name in an email thread and have no idea if it’s a man or a woman. This obviously doesn’t affect how I do business with them, but it can create some awkward pauses or phrasing when I try to refer to them in emails to others. I’ve met dudes named Adwait and Venky (both with Indian or Nepalese surnames) who I initially assumed were women in their emails, based solely on their first names.
I made the opposite assumption with your post. Sarojini is a name I’m obviously unfamiliar with, and now that I think about it, the terminal vowel should have made me think it was a female name – but I read your post assuming it was a male name (even after you made the comparison to a woman named Jennifer).
For my part, I try to make the effort to call people whatever they prefer to be called. I’ve seen it on a smaller scale with my friend Daniel who absolutely detests the name “Dan”, as well as an old friend from college, Jayshika, who wouldn’t suffer any shortening of her name, but would, on occasion, go by the self-imposed nickname of Rani. And she was a bit of a queen, so I suppose it made sense.
That’s all I ask; a little effort. Thanks for the comment!
Very interesting article! Enjoyed reading. I have a sibling who has a chinese name that is very hard to pronounce, so we came up with an american name for him. Same thing with my brother, but we didn’t change his name. Alot of people pronounce it “Sean”, so its kinda his nickname now. XD I got lucky, with a simple name. haha “Jeremy”
Look forward to reading more!
I like your given name, it has character. My name is Amber and strangers are always asking me why my parents gave both me and my sister, Candi, “stripper names”.. haha at least you won’t have to have THAT conversation 😛
Ha! The grass is always greener, I suppose?
I never gave much thought to the many years I used my nickname “Johnny” while in the automobile sales and leasing business for over fifteen years. It made my name easy to remember by call-ins to whether automobile dealership I was working for, at the time. The name had a ring to it in being “Johnny Rigo.” Most cases the prospects would ask for “Johnny Ringo” a well known western name in Texas. In those years, using the nickman helped a great deal in raising three step-children, and sending two of them through college. Thank you for the sharing, and congrads on making this top slot on WordPress.
Thanks so much! And thank you for some perspective. It’s nice to hear why others prefer nicknames.
Wow, I can relate…I love your description of how people almost back away from you upon hearing such a CRAZY (their words — not mine) name…like “Um, yeah, that’s just too much trouble. Thanks anyhow…”
I’ve been Mickey Mouse and Michelob all my life. You can imagine how much I love that!
I feel you, Mikalee! (Your name is cool by the way.)
I agree with you, Makalee. While Catherine is pretty simple, my last name, Gryp, is such a pain to spell out to people. And then explain (Well, it’s Polish…). The funny thing is my last name used to be Grypzby or something like that (sad that I don’t know the spelling exactly), but my grandfather chopped off the ending to make life simpler. It does make life simpler… but it’s sad to lose that history.
When I have to give my work email address – which is Cgryp@…. it seems short and simple, but people just can’t figure out why I have a “y” in my name. Most times I just get their email address instead 🙂
And, to add to the irony – I spelled Mikalee’s name wrong in a comment about names. Sorry 🙂 Total mistype!
It’s so amazing how many people have stories about their names. This is great, and also so interesting because we all live in a world where this conversation is possible. That’s kinda great, right?
I once knew a girl from Hong Kong who was a freshman at an American college. After several weeks of trying to go by her real name (which most of us in the group thought was beautiful, even if we were having trouble with it) she anounced she was going by an Engilsh name instead. Maybe all of us Americans just need some pronounciation lessons, or perhaps more patience.
Both! And courtesy. Yes, courtesy helps.
1. I never get why people have such a hard time. You just take a minute to listen and make an effort. I made a great first impression with a former boss who was originally from Jordan by, the first time I talked to him in person, saying, “OK, forgive me if I don’t get it right, but . . . .” and I made a conscious effort to pronounce his name correctly, from what others had told me, and he smiled and said, “Exactly!”
2. My last name is “Hathaway.” It’s a common enough English name, but people have a horrible time with it. “Hattaway?” “Halfway?” “Hardaway?” “Hawthorne?”
3. I wonder how many people know what “Jennifer” means (“white glove,” it’s a modernization of Guinevere, which is related to Genevieve in French). They probably ask what it means because there’s the whole phenomenon of *allegedly* made-up names among certain populations in the US.
Effort. That’s all I ask. After a while, with a little practice, anyone can say anything. Just takes a little effort.
I think your name is awesome!
Thank you Awkward!
My last name is English, but it’s uncommon, so many people mispronounce it and when they want to fill out forms for me I just give up and write it myself.
Technically, my nick name is Nick. Good post!
Thank you Nick!
Loved reading this post! It’s fascinating to me to hear stories like yours, because I’m the complete opposite … my given name is just Katie (not even Katherine, Kaitlin, etc). Nobody ever mispronounces my name, and 99% of the time, they spell it correctly, too. It’s so common, it drives me crazy (like in kindergarten when five of my classmates shared my name!) That’s why I go by my middle name, Gwenelle, online – still easy to pronounce but much more unique!
On the other hand, my husband feels exactly the same way you do … no one can say “Padraig” correctly, and they look askance at him when he introduces himself as “Paddy” (they hear “Patty”), so oftentimes he just goes by “Pat.”
By the way, congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
Thank you so much Katie! I appreciate the love!
I hated being “John.” And my parents never cared for any of the nicknames of “John,” so they always got mad if anyone tried to call me “Jack” (which really is a nickname for “Jacob,” anyway) or “Johnny.” I’d use my first and middle name–Charles–to sound “fancy,” so one of my HS teachers used to call me “Chuck,” which I always liked.
I gave my kids names that have some variations in them.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anyone’s name, even John! It was just an example and I hope you don’t feel singled out.
But overall, your name is whatever you prefer!
I write a lot of “heavy” topic posts, so it can be quite refreshing to read one like this. It’s easy for anyone to relate to, and most of us have some insecurity about our names at times even if we like them.
I have one of the most boring, typical names on Earth (first and last). I like my first name, and no one has trouble pronouncing it, but I’m a character so I have still been nicknamed dozens of times by every different group of friends I’ve had, and at work, and at volunteer activities. Michael is my actual first name. My favorite of the nicknames was Sparky.
Suzi is a short, attractive nickname, but by looking at yours written (with my middle of the U.S. upbringing) we would have called you Sara Jane.
Thanks Sparky! Sometimes I get Sara-Genie, which I find hilarious and cute. I don’t mind it because at least they tried, right? Sara Jane would be fine, except that I do not at all look like a Sara Jane. Then again, I’m no Suzi, either.
My name is Fernanda, and I know exactly where you are coming from, my best friend is Sarada. We had the same French class in middle school and our teacher shortened her name to Sara and she said mine Feranda. I am VERY proud of my name, as is she, but sometimes the butchering is horrible, so I go by Fernie… Kills my parents though.
Oh! I feel you! School was the worst. I wish I had a recording of all of those botched jobs. By the way, both of those names are beautiful. Use it!
A very fascinating post. Extremely relatable too. However, I don’t really have an American nickname. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Canada in the last decade or so. I remember seeing a lot of governments ads for multiculturalism. The town that I grew up in has a very large Indian population, so people had no choice but to learn how to pronounce these names. Though I admit that my sister and I have very similar names, so similar in fact that people can’t tell the difference. People have come up with nicknames, but they aren’t very English. Srutika turns into Tika and Sruchika into Chika. Even with out the nicknames, Srutika is pronounced in a very Anglophone way. I’ve been saying it for so long with an English accent that I don’t think I even know how to pronounce it with an Indian one anymore.
I have the same problem. Those sounds can’t be reproduced in english very well. All you can do is try your best.
You’ve given us all something to think about … and I thank you for teaching me how to pronounce your lovely name!
Cheers, and congrats on being fresh pressed 🙂 MJ
Thank you so much MJ!
This is the best post I’ve read in a long time! Like so many new admirers I’m sure – I simply cannot wait for future posts! You’ve earned my subscription 🙂
I appreciate the love! Thanks so much! I will do my best to deserve the praise.
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
I know a Ritu. Throughout high school, she let people get away with calling her REE-two. But when we got to college, I think, she started correcting people to pronounce it as Rih-too or Rih-tu. Luckily, this was a not difficult for me because I’m fairly good with accents. But it was very interesting to see the switch happen.
As for me, my name is Marivic (Mah-rih-vik), and people butcher it to no end: Maverick, Mary-vick, mari-VICH, Mary, Mahr-ee-vique. It’s amazing.
Thanks a lot! Maverick? Aye-yi-yi!
Yep, I totally agree. My first name is Rhiannon. It’s pronounced Re-ann-un; I’m named after a song by Fleetwood Mac. You’d think that’s not so hard to pronounce but you’d be so surprised how many people struggle with it (by struggle with I mean butcher). “Renanen?” “Re….. um Reee…. um…”
And of course after pop star Rihanna came around, anyone who saw my name shouted immediately, “Wow, your name is Rihanna!?!” Umm no, clearly my name ends with -nnon. That is not a silent ‘n’. It never fails!
Oh no! You’ve been tortured your whole life! I think you might have to write Stevie Nicks a letter! It’s still a super-cool name, but I’m sorry everyone butchers it (What?! It’s a famous song, everybody!). I feel your pain. I really do.
But you’re not really a name. Sarojini is just as good as anything else people would call you. You are your thoughts and actions.. After my family immigrated here, they cut down our very Polish last name from fourteen letters to a modest five. I wouldn’t go back to the old name. I’m not my heritage, my culture or my race. I’m not anything other than what I’ve done since I’ve been alive.
I’m aware that there are complicated cultural issues at work here but I just don’t feel like there is any right side to be on. Everyone should be proud of where they come form but nobody should let it interfere with where they are going.
I think that’s a great philosophy. Good for you! I’m not there yet.
i totally understand. my whole life i can remember the teacher trying to pronounce my name. it was always “Christine? Christina? Christian? ” over and over. And i was often in that annoyed state where I was “Actually, its Christin”. Then they would look at me like, why is it spelled “Kristen”. But I enjoyed the article, it is very real.
Thanks! I love how they tell YOU how you should spell your name. That’s priceless.
While I can’t personally relate to this, my boyfriend is also Indian and his name is Joy. As you can imagine, he gave up in elementary school and goes by ‘Joe’ now. So I feel you! Great post.
I feel for him! Thanks!
Wow, and here I was thinking “Suzanne” was too much for most people! Cute post, & pretty name. 🙂
-Another (not actually) Suzy
If all of the “Suzi’s” or “Suzy’s” or “Susie’s” in the world got together, we could start our own country, I think. A really awesome country.
I just returned home from a trip to South Korea where I was visiting my brother. He teaches English there and I was thrilled to get the chance to visit his and his girlfriends classrooms. Heres the shocker…when I saw the kids names listed on the board I saw names like “Judy, Luke, Christopher, Steve, and Lucy”….I guess they do this to make it easier on the Western teachers. I found it a bit sad. It was like they were being taught to leave behind their heritage as a way to get ahead, as learning English does in South Korea. (This is the schools policy, not the teachers’) I was told it would take too long to take attendence! What? I’m with you….keep what is yours and love it. Don’t change to make everyone else comfortable. Although….I have to say I was a little amused with one tiny 10 year old boy’s choice; Hank. When I hear that name I think of a tough-guy type…judging by the little guys personality…I think he nailed it!
Oh no. I keep hearing this story, over and over. It makes me sad, so sad, but maybe it’s not our place to be sad for decisions other people make? I’m hoping that makes me feel better about it, but I doubt it. I wish they could say their names, and then we Westerners would repeat it back to them perfectly, but as I know from experience, that doesn’t happen. I guess they’re avoiding the trap I always get myself into, once I say, “Hi, my name is…” But, in the end, they’re children and we shouldn’t be teaching them at young ages that it’s cool to change things about yourself to suit other people.
But yeah, it makes me sad. Thanks for the story though! It goes on everywhere.
Hi there! I totally agree with everything you say in your post. As a foreigner (with a very common Hungarian name), I chose to give not only pronunciation classes for those who ask my name but also a cultural one as well. When they say “Sorry?” or pronunce it the wrong way, I always repeat it and say where it comes from and what it means. Most of the time, it works. When not, I simply give up and let them pronunce it badly.. but at least I know I’m unique. 🙂
Have a nice day!
Réka (listen to it here: http://hu.forvo.com/word/r%C3%A9ka/ The first is pronunced by me.. lol.. i recorded it more than a year ago :D)
That’s great! I’m optimistic when I hear stories like this. Thanks! Have a nice day, too!
Its like what avatear do you use…
Great article. I read your name and I want to pronounce it SAYRO-JENNY, but I am sure you have heard worse. I completely sympathize – My name is Melchiorre. I usually taunt people with my name and challenge them to pronounce it. I give everybody a chance and my last name , which is very short in comparison- Fina -is what I end up being called many times.
In case, you’re wondering: MEL – KEY – OAR(roll the r if you can). Or just call me Mel.
Thanks and I love your name.
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! This was a lovely post.
It reminded me of a (late) friend of mine from high school. His name was Yatin Dave and each year at least two teachers would insist TO HIM that “Dave” was his first name. Seriously – did they really belive that they knew his name and he did not?
That was in the early 80s, but I suspect that this: “I grew up during a particular time in our history…when children of immigrants were raised to assimilate as quickly as possible, not stand out or be different” could be said of almost any decade.
Sadly, you’re right. Thanks for the story and for the note.
What a great post. Very thought provoking. I never considered why or how annoying it can be for you to have to explain your name over and over again. I have a very un-ehnic name and people still mess it up.
Thanks! Everyone has a name story, right?
Loved your post!!! My last name – Ortega – is not very unique. It’s almost as common in Spanish speaking countries as Smith… okay maybe a little less common than Smith but you get the point. Every time I pronounce my name the correct way (roll the rrrr) I get weird looks. It’s almost as if it’s offensive to say my name correctly rather than Americanize it. I never say my name Americanized until people ask. I’m proud of my culture and no amount of miss pronouncing can take it away. Glad you decided to embrace your given name because it’s beautiful and says a lot about you.
You better keep rollin your rrrrr’s! Thanks so much!
My wife’s name is “Hae”, which is pronounced “heh” but English being my first language, I would always say it as “hay”. This was no problem to people in Montreal but people in our new home, Niagara, cannot seem to be able to wrap their brains around either. So I loosely translated her middle name to “Jade”. Strange how “Jade” is eisier for the locals than “Heh”, eh?
Seriously? That’s nutty and lazy! Lazy brains!
White girls have this problem too (sometimes). For me it’s with my last name, which is pronounced ho-en-tan-ner. But it’s spelled Hohenthaner. It’s German, and although I actually live in an area of the United States that is very highly populated by the descendants of German immigrants, my last name is frequently butchered.
My entire life, the first day of school was always the same. Class roll call:
Teacher: “Trevor Helmer?”
Teacher: “Devin Hotton?”
Teacher: “Crystal…uh…Crystal Ho….”
And then the teacher would ask how to pronounce my name, really mess it up and call me by a different last name every time he/she tried to use my last name for the rest of the year. Or at least until Christmas. After which they usually just called my Crystal H.
My personal theory is that people panic at the extra ‘h’s. Of course even if a person never sees how my name is spelled I’m still often called Holenthaller or something like that. (Even though there are no ‘l’s in my last name.
I try to explain that the ‘h’s are meant to be aspirations (a release of air) and nothing more but the mispronunciations persist. I don’t mind all that for the most part. Especially when I first meet people. But I have friends that I’ve known for years — decades even — who have never bothered to learn how to pronounce my last name. I suppose a last name doesn’t come up that often (so I can only feel your pain in part since for you it’s your first name) but, seriously?
On another, more adorable note. My mom, Elda (who was named after her grandmother) was called Tutti until she was at least six. She didn’t even know her name was Elda until she was enrolled in school. And my best friend, Delorise (whom I call Dee) is called Lizzy by her entire family because her middle name is Elizabeth and apparently in the South people go by their middle, rather than first, names.
Also, I am a grand-master nick-namer. I would probably call you Rojah if you let me. Cause it almost sounds like Rosa and my sister’s middle name is Rose and, well, I’m a nerd like that.
I’ve never really had a nick name myself, cause I won’t let people call my Chris — that’s a boy’s name.
Omg! Thanks for that. Everyone has a name story, for sure.
I always try to pronounce the names of the people I meet as well as I possibly can, even if it takes a few tries to get it right. If one human mouth can form the sounds, then so can any other mouth.
One problem is that some countries have their own Romanizations for their languages, which, if adhered to strictly, can become unreadable in another language. I know a mainland Chinese guy in the US whose surname is 許, which in the PRC is romanized as “Xu”, but since everyone botches that, he went with the Wade (Taiwan-style) spelling of Hsu, which Westerners are a little better at. I support the idea of letting people respell their names based on the language of the place where they live.
Jean, I once knew a Japanese 蘭 (“Ran”) whose name also meant ‘orchid’, and while she didn’t have much trouble getting people to pronounce it, everyone she met thought it sounded like a man’s name. She loved the visual complexity of the character with all those horizontal lines — now there’s another problem: getting people to appreciate the beauty of names in other alphabets!
There are many layers to this issue, for sure. I’m intrigued by the idea that even the initial spelling of one’s name in English or other languages might cause all sort of other problems. Translations aren’t always accurate and as you said, there probably isn’t any consistency if you’re interchanging between numerous languages. That’s enough to drive anyone insane. How should I choose to represent my name to other people who do not understand it? It’s so interesting! Thanks for that!
And yes, if one human mouth can form the sounds, then so can any other mouth. I couldn’t have put it better myself. So, I didn’t.
Wow. I feel for you. People mess up my name (Bethany) too. I’ve gotten Stephanie, Brittany, Emily(from my own cousin no less), and Bessy.
Keep using your beautiful name!
Thank you and you keep trying to get people to say yours too!
U have wrote such a wondeful article…my name is pradnya, i live in uk and i can v well relate to you. Very well expressed.
I bet you can! Thank you so much!
Love this! I’m so embarrassed that my husband is one of those annoying Americans who think that people should change for them, including their name. We had a neighbor named Atanacio. My husband decided he should be called “Al.” Now, every person my husband introduces to me with an ethnic look and an American/English name I question, “Is George your real name, or is it Jorge?”
Thanks! Maybe you’re open-mindedness will rub off?
If you’re going to go through the trouble of having a nickname, it should be better than “Suzi.”
I’ll give you the choice of one of these:
Oh, Johnny Lollipops, obviously.
Bahahaha, great post! My favorite line: “What those obnoxious people don’t get is that Peter didn’t change his name for his own sake; he knows how to say his name. He changed it for your sake.”
I can relate to you absolutely. My Korean name is “Yoory” (pronouned yoo-ree with a rolled “r”) but I think my mom predicted the difficulty this name would pose for my American-filled future, so she named me “Angella” instead and kept “Yoory” for my middle name.
Ah, how we ethnic folks love getting asked “So what does your name mean??” I usually give them the nice version “Oh! Well, in Korean it means beautiful glass crystal” instead of the alternative….”It’s a Japanese jargon term for content and a genre involving love between women in manga, anime, and related Japanese media!” Fail.
Thanks! That was too funny! “Foreign” names are expected to come with exotic translations, right? That never fails to crack me up. Maybe I’ll start saying my names means “Out to lunch.”
This made me laugh out loud, AND think of this:
It’s true. At least your name isn’t Michael Bolton.
Ha! Thanks!! Best scene EVER.
YESSSSS! I was looking to post that too. Exactly what I was thinking!
As the owner of a set of monosyllabic European-style names, I can only sympathize based of the monstrous mis-spellings inflicted upon the Dutch by mainstream North America (“There’s a space there, and THAT one is capitalized, NOT that”)… but sympathize I do. A well-expressed line of thought indeed.
Thank you. Some of us are luckier than others!
In my family we go by so many nicknames, I’m surprised my daughters know their names. I love my name, even though it’s now associated with a massively destructive hurricane, (Katrina) and always have. But I’ve also gone by many nicknames over the years. In fact, half my high school class knew me as Kitty and didn’t even know my real name. I love my nicknames as much as my real name. I find no shame in either. Kudos to you for for embracing your real name. It is beautiful. Great post!
Every person should go by whatever they prefer, you know? Thanks so much!
Loved your post. I live in New Delhi, India. And I have the exact opposite reaction to my name. Even though I’m Indian to the core(yes, I have been asked if either of my parents are Russian or German) I am often asked if I changed or use my nickname in public.
What’s my name? Tanya. :p
I Guess The Grass Is Greener On The Other Side. 🙂
The grass IS always greener, right? Thanks for that.
Loved your post. Actually made me smile, and practice the “Sa rooooo ja neeeee” from the safety of my cubicle.
No, thank you!
I can totally relate to your post. While my first name is very American and (in my opinion) boring, my last name is unusual. Well, unusual as a last name that is because it is also a lovely first name. I, too, have had people insist that I don’t know my own last name (like momsomniac’s friend Yatin) and even argue with me about it. My favorite name story… my high school Spanish teacher couldn’t figure out which of my names was first and which was last. So he asked me, “Do they call your father Mr Karen or Mr Ruth?” My answer? “Most people just call him Jim.”
Ha! Teachers don’t know everything and you and I know this very well.
Sometimes I wish my parents had given me a different name–they wanted something unique (understandable, as I already had two cousins with the same name…on the same side of the family no less) and boy did they manage that. There are so many little frustrations that go with having a relatively uncommon name–the constant pronunciation and spelling lessons, the awkward pause as a new teacher gets to you on the class list, everyone telling you how pretty your name is (yes, that bothers me. Try hearing it from every other person you meet for 26 years and see if you don’t get tired of it) and you can never, ever find one of those ‘personalised’ pens/keychains/combs/etc. without getting one specially made.
So these days, I go almost strictly by a nickname because it’s just much less hassle. People still get the spelling wrong, but since that rarely comes up, going by a nickname helps me feel more ‘normal’. Some people don’t even know what my full given name is. And that’s fine with me.
I feel you, I really do! You should do what feels comfortable and what feels like you.
Great post. And you have a beautiful name. 🙂
Great post and one I can really relate to. I came from Colombia and my full name is Clara Elena. When I was little one of my sisters combined CLAR + ENA and made Clarena. Well it sounds fine in Spanish but when you pronounce it in English well their goes the flair. In Elementary & JR High my name was slaughtered by mean kids . I was called chlorine, bleach, Clarence, and well you get the picture. By the time I started high school I chose to go by Claire much to my uncle’s dimay; he thought I was trying to deny my Spanish roots when all I wanted was to be called the right name for once. Finally when I met my husband he asked me my real name and I told him my full name; he said it was the most beautiful name he’d ever heard. So then I went by Clara..and soon after we had a baby girl and my husband said he loved my middle name so we named her Elena. Thanks for sharing this!
I have been there! Thanks for reading!
And thank you for the beautiful story.
I gave myself a nickname…..My racing number is 71 so I call myself HUNTER71. I guess it is not a nick name if you make your name longer, is it?
I LOVED this post, and not just because I totally related to it (I go by the Spanish pronunciation of my name, which throws people off). You’re a fantastic writer, and you articulated the endless struggle of patient pronunciation lessons really well. Kudos.
I’m so glad I found your blog through Freshly Pressed. I look forward to reading more of your work!
My goodness. Thank you so much!!
It is true that as you get older you appreciate being different, and you accept you name as it was given the day you were born! I sort of resented my family for giving me such a weird name: Chie, and I thought about adopting a nickname in my teens, (which I describe it as the time when we all want to do the same things everyone else is doing). But I stuck with it and I am happy for being different now. Although I did enjoy some time of being normal when I worked for a brief period in Japan and did not have to correct anyone’s pronunciation but got annoyed when I heard someone calling my name and realizing he was calling someone else! So there it goes… and that is why my daughter’s name is just as wonderfully ethnic as her mom’s 🙂
Nice! Good for you, embrace it. Thanks for that!
Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.
I too have one difficult to pronounce name: ilknur– so I usually get asked if I have an easier-to-pronounce nickname. For years I refused to have a nickname; mostly because coming up with a nickname was hard and I could not decide on one. Then I thought… why have just one? And why make it sound like a “traditional” name? Now, I go by either “ironbreaker,” or “the barbarian” and insist these nicknames be used, should my legal first name prove itself too difficult to pronounce. However, I noticed — and much to my disappointment– after providing the alternative means of addressing me, people try so much harder to pronounce my legal first name.
Thank you! That is a fantastic idea and I should use it IMMEDIATELY. Creativity goes a very long way, doesn’t it? Love this.
LADY!!! I feel you on the name thing. My name is Brett, and I’m a female. This is beyond anybody’s capacity to perceive. “Is that short for something?” “Wait what? Your name is Brittany?”
Drives me nuts. What could it be short for? UGH!
That’s a great name! WHY WOULD ANYONE QUESTION THAT? We are doomed.
I have to agree with some of the posts I’ve read, your name is awesome.
And don’t feel to bad, even thought I know you don’t, my last name is a piece of cake and Americans still can’t pronounce it.
Is your last name “A Piece of Cake?” Because THAT is awesome. (And by the looks of things, ALL Americans should be able to pronounce it.)
Thanks so much!!
What a great post! 🙂 I’m glad you’re owning your name! You go, girl!
My name is Jennifer, it’s a variation on Gwenhwyfar, it means several things,including White Fairy, White Fay, White Ghost, White Wave, White Spirit, etc. It’s an old Celtic word. The exact origin varies depending on what books or websites you read.
I think a lot of people use nicknames, I’ve been called Jen, Jenny, Gin-ni, Gin, and when my brother was little, I was Ninfer.
Sometimes I wish I had a less common name, but it’s interesting in its own way. Besides, my middle name is much more interesting so that helps. (My maiden name was Smith btw, Jennifer Smith.. yea…)
Man! You are hilarious had me in stitches
“Sigourney? Serengeti? Sasquatch?
That Chinese guy Peter didn’t change his name for his own sake; he knows how to say his name.
Anyway My Name is MATHIOZY pronounged Machozy (Swahili for Tears). My pet name that my brothers used to call me was MATHY and it stuck since I started using it at school when the teacher used to try to call out my full name at school MATHIOZY LISIKA-MINSENDE. So unfortunately I accommodated. I think I want to own my proper name again. Plus today I was told twice by two strangers that I should stop trying to accommodate people cause they can’t say my name.
your post is awesome stay true to yourself 🙂
Thank you SO MUCH! And your name is awesome too and every person you come in contact with, should know that. OWN IT lady.
Hello! its really a nice article. Some of us actually picked nicknames just for the fun of it back in my formative years..
Your name is your identity. Don’t let others decide your identity for you. By the way, Sarojini is a beautiful and unique name. 🙂
Thank you for that!
Before I was married my maiden name was Janet Stead and even that got mispronounced. The Janet part was fine although people who don’t listen still call me Jenny or Jane; but the Stead part was always pronounced wrong. It’s Stead as in farmstead or homestead or Hampstead, how hard can that be? But people insist or saying Steed like it rhymes with reed; it doesn’t. If you say it right it rhymes with bed and head. It’s sad that people can’t be bothered to learn to say someone’s name right. It’s lazy and bad mannered in my opinion.
That was my main point. LAZINESS. I just want a little effort, is all. In a multi-cultural society like ours, we have to accept there are going to be all kinds of people with all types of languages and modes of speaking with all kinds of names. We have to be more flexible and accepting.
I can relate for a different reason… I have a perfectly nice, pretty first name, but unfortunately people seem incapable of saying the whole three syllables of Pamela, and people would actually get angry if I asked them to please not shorten it to Pam, which is either a sound effect or a spray to keep food from sticking to pans; I’ve never been able to figure out which is worse.
I finally gave up and came up with my own nickname of Elsa.
Pamela (or Elsa! 🙂 ), people are always trying to call me Kris, and whenever I correct them and remind them politely that my name is Krista, they look offended. How dare I correct them?!
Ah! The laziness is infuriating! Pamela is NOT hard to say and neither is Krista. Yes, how dare you know what your OWN name is!!!
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
About names and assimilation into American culture…I’m an American, living in Prague, learning the Czech language and it’s really interesting to look at American surnames from this perspective. I see that my friend’s last name is actually ‘Beautiful’, and someone else’s surname is ‘Bread’, and yet another person is ‘Teenager’. It’s interesting to consider that some people whose families immigrated long ago and who have these fun names don’t know what their names mean or how to pronounce them. Congratulations for staying in touch with this part of your identity.
That’s great! I’m sure many people would love to know what their names mean and to connect with their ancestral homeland. Losing the culture of my background is what I fear the most. That’s why my name is important to me. Thank you so much!
I know exactly what you are talking about I was an ESL teacher for two years and I gave my Korean students a nickname. It is definitely something that is more popular in the west but don’t Indians give each other nicknames amongst their friends?
Also, Me and You and Everyone We Know, great. Pooping back and forth forever….how can someone think of that?
In all cultures, friends give friends nicknames, right? My point is that it’s important to me, for whatever reason, that even if they use “Suzi,” I want everyone who knows me to know what my real name is.
I know! It IS great. Pooping back and forth. Genius. I love that movie.
Hi Sarojini! :))
Nice posts, made for an interesting read.
Thank you for writing this! My name is Tredena. I am a white girl (this shouldn’t matter). My parents always called me “Niki” (or “Nicole” if they were mad), my middle name. My mother is also named Tredena, and they have a rather flimsy excuse why they named me the same. I have had exactly the same encounters over my name. In grade school, on the first day of class, I remember shouting, “Here!” before my teacher could fumble over my name. Only recently have I begun to use the name, and having to explain that there is not a good story behind it, everytime.
Family names are the best. More reason to love it. It’s a very cool, unique name and you should use it and make people say it, if that’s what you want. Once they say it a few times, they’ll get it.
I had the same problems in school. It went all the way up to college. It doesn’t get easier.
Fun post! I think it’s great that you’re embracing your given name. Surprisingly, I’ve actually had a little of the same trouble with “Anne.” I know, you’d never guess that that was likely.
In France, absolutely nobody could understand “Anne” pronounced à l’américaine. After months of: “What’s your name?” “Anne.” “What?” “Anne” “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” – I just decided to pronounce it à la française. “Ahn.” Discouragingly, I found that this lead to almost the same conversation:
“What’s your name?”
“I don’t understand.”
“That can’t be your name. That’s a French name.”
“OH! You mean ‘Ahn’.”
I absolutely agree that people should make an effort to understand and use your name – even if it’s a name that is difficult for them. As someone who adores language I get particularly frustrated by people who aren’t even willing to try. That said… I think it’s important to remember two things when people mangle our names:
1) If your name comes from a different linguistic background than that of the person you are talking to he might not actually *hear* the sounds you are saying. He might honestly be giving it his best effort, but because he never heard those phonemes as a child his brain is processing them as completely different phonemes.
(This is what leads to those oh-so-fun conversations:
A: My name is Jawn
A: No. Jawn.
B: Yeah, that’s what I said. John.
And repeat. Person A hearing a huge difference between the two names and person B honestly believing there is no difference.)
2) More and more studies are coming out to show that our brains process names and proper nouns differently than common nouns. Hearing someone’s name and attempting to remember and repeat it actually uses different parts of the brain than hearing “cat” and it triggers different psychological responses.
I think you may actually have been close to dead-on right when you said: “It’s like their brains get scrambled and short circuit and they no longer know how to speak any form of human language.”
We gave our second daughter a trendy Catholic name–Gianna, Italian equivalent of Jeanne or Joanna–and we get all sorts of interesting variants on that. First, it’s commonly pronounced “Gee-ahnna” in its Angliciized version, but the proper Italian pronunciation si really almost the same as “Johnna” in English or “Jeanne” in French. Half the time, my wife ends up calling her “John.” I call her “Gi.”
Anyway, people will get from Gianna:
“Gina?” “No, Gianna.”
“Guyana?” “No, Gianna.”
“Brianna?” “No, Gianna.”
. . .
I confess, I would probably be guilty of starting with “Gee-ahnna,” the Anglicized version. But I would have made the correction when I found out I was wrong.
I like “Gi” as a nickname.
I’ve had first-hand experience with issue #1. i was in speech therapy as a kid, and I thought my therapist and teachers were insane at the time. I’d pronounce the sound as they told me to, but I couldn’t hear any difference from how I’d said it before.
It’s crazy isn’t it? You’d swear you’re hearing one thing and then one day you realize – oh, no – wow – that’s something else entirely. Bizarre what the brain can do.
It’s particularly fun for anglophones trying to speak French. “Dessous” and “dessus” are antonyms, but the “sus” sound doesn’t exist in English so to Americans they sound like the exact same word.
What a wonderful post. I’ve got a pretty bland, generic Christian name (Krista) and although it’s not that hard for people to say (well, it is, actually, but that’s because everyone wants to call me Kristen or Christine or Krystale or …) I refused to go by the nicknames people call me, like Kris and Krissy. I love my Christian name, and I wouldn’t want to be called anything different.
Anyhow. This post isn’t about me and my name, but I wanted to say thank you for the food for thought!
Indian is a widely accepted generic term used in the United States – and not readily used elsewhere- to describe a very large, ambiguous ethnic group
You’ve not been to the UK, then?
Oh shit. I can just imagine myself being the one to ask you what your name means and not being able to pronounce it first time and having the ten minute conversation… Damn!! Sorry!! No hard feelings &c… Even though I’ve got a difficult name myself. The Sarah part is easy and common or garden enough (five Sarahs in my class at school), but then comes the Ménage. My sisters married and escaped; I don’t know how my brothers and their children cope with it, but I just admit its ridiculous. It IS, ridiculous, even to French people. It’s like being called Sarah Blowjob or Sarah Missionary Position or something. I spell it out but still get letters to Sarah Minge. I’m simply filling out a form and some middle aged (not to say that I’m not middle aged, because I am) woman tells me ‘I tried that,’ and I smile indulgently and so on, and then she goes on to say that ‘the trouble is one of you always gets left out’. But she doesn’t tell me which one. Don’t bother to look at my blog by the way, because it doesn’t exist yet. I can’t work out how to do it.
Actually, if it can make you feel better, “ménage” is not the French equivalent of blowjob or any sexual position but of “cleaning” or “housework” :=)
I can relate because my first name is Phenola. You can just imagine what I’ve been called. Until I became an adult, I went by my middle name, LaVerne, because 1) it was easier for most to prounce and 2) most people asked me if I had a nickname. LOL I have a ton of relatives who still do not know my first name is Phenola. Thanks for sharing. :>)
I like your name. 🙂
But can I just say that it’s just in the western region that people have a hard time saying different names. I have noticed that they have a hard time reading words/names phonetically. I work in a daycare and there’s this family that also came from India. They looked at their last name for what felt like eternity. It was “Bandyophadhyay” which quickly evovled to “BAnja-banja”. They always asked me to read it for them (my co-workers) and often was called to the office from my room for a quick tutorial before they phone the family. I had to make sure they know how to pronounce it. I found it very disrespectful for them to make a moniker out of their last name.
But I am so proud of you owning your name. I wish I had a more Filipino name than Janis. But I still love it nonetheless. 🙂
Fantastic post! Thank you for all you’ve said here. I love your writing style and honesty too.
I know exactly what you’re speaking of. My name is Nyanka and people butcher it all the time! I do have a nickname (kizzy) but only my family members use it. I love my name and appreciate it because there’s no one around to confuse me with.
Hi, my name is what, my name is who, my name is Slim Shady.
Actually, I see that “Michael” isn’t as popular as it used to be. It is still, however, commonplace and boring. Hi there, Sarojini. Nice to meet you. You have a great blog here.
I was lucky enough to have a very generic, popular name but my parents decided to spell it different – Kristi. Occasionally people will call me Christine or Krista or Kristen, but they almost always spell it wrong. I’ve always wished that I had a more unique name and I love to hear those beautiful names like Sarojini!
Wonderful post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂
I have a friend whose given name is “Ching” but she prefers “Becky”. Now “Ching” isn’t really hard to pronounce, so I don’t think she changed it so everyone else in the world wouldn’t have difficulty saying it. I appreciate this post in that you express how you’ve come to love your given name, but your tone is really accusitory. “Fuck off”? Is that really neccessary?
I totally hear you. If she prefers Becky, then she prefers Becky. Great. But she probably (since I don’t know her, I can only assume) changed it so she wouldn’t be the “other,” which is the same thing as what I’m talking about.
The ‘fuck off’ is necessary for some people, yes. But it was directed to only obnoxious people who don’t care, not the general population or regular folks who try and put in a genuine effort to be conscious.
I’ve never had a nickname. My life has been an unfulfilling one.
Great post, one to which those of us with hard-to-pronounce names can relate. I have friends I’ve known for years who still don’t quite know how to say my German surname. The last syllable especially throws people off.
Sarojini is a beautiful first name.
One of my co-workers is also south Asian aka Indian. She’s about to have a baby and it’s a boy.
We were talking about naming today. I find the Indian system really interesting, the child gets the fathers first name as their last name. How cool is that.
Anyhow she wanted to give the boy a name that started with N. Her first choice, Nikhil, but that got quashed when the majority of us pronounced it as in Nickle. Then she told us about Neel which Is Telagu for blue, and the variation Neil. We’ll see what she names the boy.
I really enjoyed this post. Though, I’m afraid my nickname story is completely different. My real name is Madison. Growing up, there was not a year of school where I wasn’t placed in a classroom with another Madison, Maddison or Maddy. My younger sister has always called me Mimi, because Madison is a difficult word for a toddler. Fortunately the nickname stuck. Now, I don’t have to turn my head so much in the supermarket when others are calling for a friend with the same name as me.
Btubs, do you mind checking out my blog? MimiNation. It is new and I have virtually no comments, readers, likes, etc. Thank you. (:
Thankfully I received a name that wasn’t too hard to pronounce. I know a lot of my friends have this problem.
I like your name! And enjoyed reading your story:) I can totally relate to it. My name is Galina and when I came to US I thought it would be easier to go as Gala… well, for years I had to spell my name every time I picked up a phone… when I left that company I decided to use my full name… worked like magic:) I don’t have to spell it again!
Great post, congrats on being FP…
I love your name, I think it is beautiful… I work with students, and I think it is so important to embrace ones given name, I make it a point to learn how to pronounce each persons name. Mainly because of respect… if I can’t take the time to learn how to pronounce a name… how can I get to know my students. I have had to ask multiple times, but that is the only way to learn. Embrace your name, make people learn how to say it… it is all about respect.
I heard a story from a man I worked with years ago… his name was Juan… when he was in 2nd grade, he came home from school and told his mom and dad his name was John… his teacher “changed” his name because John was the English version of Juan. While I have always believed that names are important, that story made me believe it even more. Never stop embracing your name.
I totally understand where your coming from. I am African. So when I came here I switched my middle name and my first name. Here my first name is the middle name I used back home and American (Judith) and my ethnic name is my middle name. It made my life EASIER!!! Till someone will ask me, “what’s your middle name?” Same with my last name, I usually tell people not to try to pronounce it… :-)!
another spoiled brat immigrant. By the way, your parents came here to steal jobs and Leprosy and all other things disgusting to the US. I dont want you in my country stealing jobs , thinking you are god’s gift because you are the new shade of brown that my white country became from all the ilegal aliens like your parents. How dare you insult my English Colonial ancestors by complaining about our names ? India ., the shit hole country you crawled out of is your country.not the US
My ancestors did not create this country for you , the nasty Indians Hindus etc who are vomiting themselves onto US soil with stolen visas etc. quit whining about how bad the Anglo-Saxons are , and go back to your own over populated caste system country.
by the way, The US is not an Anglo Saxon country and has not been for hundreds of years. Perhaps if you weren’t so arrogant and self centered you might know that it has always been a country of many nations, mostly white.
also remember you are negorid and not asian or white. You are darker then most black americans and yes we real Americans notice.
Great post! As a Jessica, I can’t exactly relate… except that I go by Jessie and people still feel the need to shorten that to Jess and J. I usually say “Only my mom calls me J!” (Dad, on the other hand, calls me Jessica. He named me, he can do what he wants.) I don’t know if I’m outwardly insensitive (certainly not intentionally) about learning names I’m not used to, but I will certainly take care in the future to be more aware of it and not settle for “Pete” unless all else has failed.
I can completely relate. My parents gave me a very unusual name, one whose spelling tends to confuse EVERYONE and even though I tell people it is easy to say (“Just think, R-O.”) they continue to be unable to pronounce it properly. I also love my name and even though its difficult for most people, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Your name is beautiful and I’m glad that you find strength in it!
Loved reading your post! Congratulations on making the front page!
And, my parents gave me a first name that is already a nickname. Your nickname, just spelled differently. 🙂
Wow, your post totally made my day today.
People have been having issues with my name practically since birth which led me to have issue with it too. It is only these past few years that I’ve come to appreciate and LOVE my real name – Nellwyn. It is a very old English name and not even ethnic of any sort so I really dont get why other people find it so difficult to pronouce a 2-syllable name. And when I spell it out they get even more confused! When I was younger they’d put me in the boys’ list at school because the school thinks it’s a boy’s name. No, it’s a girl’s name meaning “light and bright friend”.
I still go by my nickname coz like you said it feels familiar and safe. I have been using my real name now because my nickname sounds like “weener” when pronounced by caucasian Australians the first time they hear it. Really now, how hard is it to pronounce a short e??
Your name is beautiful! Although I have a common name like Robin and can’t relate to your blog too much, no one in my home town calls me by this name!
This is awesome! People have such a hard time pronouncing my name too! I usually end up saying.. call me whatever as long as it sounds like you are calling me.. because I, too, have to respect thier culture and that my name is simply too hard to pronounce for them. A lot of people just end up calling me ‘na’ or ‘nana’ or ms.park in the end though.
I especially hate it when I go to starbucks and they say, what’s your name? I feel like I’m holding up the line so I end up saying.. “Just put me down as Park.” Embarassing! Great post! Thanks for writing! 🙂
Hey, my name is Danielle. I may not know what it is like to not be able to use your real name, but it is frustrating when you are called Daniel or if a child can’t say your name. One of my friends at school couldn’t say my name until he was in the third grade. Another friend couldn’t spell my name for a year! I may not know what it is really like, but I really thought that that post was full of feeling and insight. You should be a writer.
God! My name is only “Julee” (spelled that way) and I get people spelling it “Julle”, “July”, “Juliee”, etc. At least they can pronounce it. Depending on where you live, some folks just can’t seem to help shortening your name to the shortest possible syllable. Thus, “Jool'”. Lovely. Your name is beautiful and if you pronounced it for me twice I’d be able to say it perfectly. I have some weird affinity for sound. Too bad we’ve never met! I’d never short it to “Suzi”. In fact, I’m not a big one for nicknames. Thanks for the post. Very entertaining.
This post is hilarious and I can totally relate. My name is Iman and even though it’s only two syllables, I get all types of crazy pronunciations (like I-man and E-men). I didn’t really appreciate my name until I got older, but now I love it. I’m pretty stubborn about people pronouncing it correctly since my name is way too short for a nickname. Thanks for shedding some light on why people choose to use nicknames.
No only the first name is difficult to pronounce, sometimes last name is also a problem for foreigner.
I can so relate to this! My name is Raweeha (Raah-wee-haa) and I’ve had people call me all types of rubbish! Imagine, someone once called me “Ro”! Which is why I understand “Suzi” must be so frustrating! That aside, awesome post there 🙂
Sarojini to Suzi… how I do pity you Indians living in America. And I sense some heat from your American bloggers who can’t take any criticism when it is implied that the world view of the average American is quite under par. Having said that we are all pandering to the average American intellect – Indian call centre workers change their names so that it causes less confusion to the Western customer. When you call up about charges on your credit card you’d probably be more comfortable dealing with Gordon rather than Gayatri. Shame…
Nice thought provoking post. If I’m going to have kids, I’ll give them unusual names. It’s special. For some it’s just a name but it’s more than that.
I think your name is beautiful and I’m glad you’re “owning” it now
I completely agree with this post, my name is not particularly difficult (Catalina), but my teachers all struggled saying it whilst reading it off the class roll.
But, nicknames are a societal convention, and I guess it is a demonstration of the level of affection someone has for you by how much they shorten your name…… Or that’s how it is here in Australia. Thank you for your post Sarojini ^_^
That’s how nicknames work in most of Latin American too, the might shorten your name or make even longer as a term of endearment. Most people I know would make the effort to pronounce your name correctly the first few times, but after a while if they feel confidence they’ll give a nick name or use one they heard from your family or older friends, and go back and foward from your name to your nickname (nikenames in some cases like mine it’s almost 6 or 7)
It was an informative, light and funny post to read, and I liked it.
Congrast on been freshly press by the way Sarojini
You are awesome and I loved this post! Believe it or not, my last name – Herzberg – even tends to lead to a 10 minute convo! I, and my last name, are of German descent and I cannot tell you how many people try to add and/or delete letters! Luckily (I guess) my parents chose an easy first name..Brittany. The world can never have to many of those – right?! Anywho..I really enjoyed your writing style and story! 🙂
Your name is beautiful. Incidentally it is also the name of a popular clothing market here in South Delhi where I’ve been living for the past several months (Sarojini Nagar). I clicked on your post about nicknames and was happy to see something familiar to my new home town. I love how all of the long, complicated, and unfamiliar names of people and places here in Delhi are starting to assemble themselves in a more accessible position in my brain now that I’ve been seeing and pronouncing them on a daily basis. The unfamiliar is becoming easier and more comfortable. Just a little.
My attention was also piqued by the subject of the use of the word “Indian” to refer to a person’s nationality. Categorizing, identifying, labeling or grouping people based on their country of origin has been very interesting to me lately since I’m living in a place where people are from all over the globe for the first time in my life. I had never had to identify myself as “American” before. It’s weird. I like seeing what other people think of all the categorizing. Anyway, I like your blog.
i agree! i’m also living abroad and the whole concept of nationality and identity has become quite interesting to me too! especially as i’ve just moved from spain to germany and my jewish grandmother hasn’t quite gotten over the fact that i now live in germany. and while i did get a little twinge at signs saying “verboten” for a couple of months, now i’m enjoying experiencing it all! interesting life…
This is such a great post!
I feel you… in my case it is my last name that is hard to pronounce, so that many times I become “Luis Apoloya” or “Luis Apolinar” instead of “Luis Apolaya”… and yes, it gets frustrating.
Sarojini is an awesome name. My best friend also happens to be “Indian” and her name is Sudhanjali – she grew up as Anji, but I’ve always liked Sudhanjali better. 😉 Great post.
Your name is beautiful! Although I have a common name like Robin and can’t relate to your blog too much, no one in my home town calls me by this name! Thank you..
Seriously, a great post… Being an Indian and living in India people sometimes find my named amusing and difficult to pronounce…. They spell gee…ten…dra for jee.. ten..der. Sometimes I find it offensive as I seriously love my name. Congrats for being freshly pressed
I think you have a unique name.. 😀
so enjoy it, although some people can’t speak it well..
I’m glad someone is proud of their name. I’m proud of mine. I’m a third, meaning my father and my grandfather had the same name as I, but it did stop with me. No one ever says my name correctly, and so I’m Manny because it’s quicker (but not easier, Manny Panty anyone?) I did, however, make my grandmother cry when she found out that I did give my son the middle name of Manuel (I just couldn’t have a fourth). Surprisingly, I am the only one of my family, my essentially large, hispanic family, to give one of my children my grandfather’s name. I’m glad I did, even though it was my wife who chose to give everyone of our children a grandparent’s name for a middle name (I have no middle name, nor does any of my immediate family).
Oh, and by the way, I understand what you mean by Indian. I hate when people think my race is hispanic. My culture is hispanic. There are a multitude of races that are. I am a mutt in the matter of races, but I am also hispanic.
I agree with you that a name is who we trully are. It’s better to introduce our real name than our nick name. If I live in US, may be they will be difficult to say my name correctly. My name is Sungsang (spell it: Soongshang). Sungsang means “I was born upside down”. It has been such a burden for me. When I meet new people, they always smile at my name. May be they think it’s a funny name.
My name – as you’ve probably guessed by reading this comment – is Larissa. Up until 4/23/11, it was Larissa Young. Now it’s Larissa Horvath (woot!), ‘cuz I got all married up and stuff. But anyway.
There are enough people who get it wrong for me to comfortably say that NO ONE gets my name right. On a daily basis. For the past ….ever, I’ve been in customer service. You know that’s fun.
“What’s your name?”
“No, LArissa. With an L.”
“No. La. Rissa. Like Clarissa but without the C.”
“Oh! Okay, thanks Melissa.”
Other – surprisingly common – ones I get are Bertha, Ursula, Florissa, Flerissa, Lourissa, and the ever-popular Melissa/Marissa. I try so hard to say it in two syllables, “La (big pause) Rissa”, but it just doesn’t work. It’s on business cards!! We’ve exchanged emails!! IT’S IN BOLD CAPITAL FUCKING LETTERS!!!!!
Yet……. people can’t get it. And that’s why I was very, VERY hesitant to change my last name. “Young.” “Oh, like ….Not Old.” “Yep.” “OH HA HA YOU SO FUNNY YOU COULD BE YOUNG FOREVER.”
Anyway…. Hi, I’m Larissa. Nice to meet you. 🙂 And I like your name, it’s pretty. 🙂
I know how you feel. Everytime a person tries to read my last name they freak out and are immediately scared to pronounce it when they get to the fourth letter. It’s actually a simple last name too!!
thanks for oyur share!
Ah I was just about to write a post about names and then I clicked on your post (which actually is so much better than mine is going to be/would have been). I love that name by the way, it’s beautiful.
My name’s Nidhi and it is impossssssible to get people here to pronounce it. I don’t really get why it’s so difficult since it’s just nid-thee essentially. For all of grade school I went by “Needy.” It was terrible, and each time someone would talk about helping the needy, I would absolutely hate it.
I’m Indian too (Telugu), and I’m curious as to why you don’t call yourself that? And what do you refer to yourself instead? Is it because people tend to group us all into one lingual/ethnic/racial category without recognizing how diverse India really is?
Love this post! I am a big fan of names that are different from the American norm. Then you don’t have to ask your friends “John who?” or “Which John?” Which then leads to not a nickname for John, but rather a description such as “you know, John with the curly hair” or “tall John,” “my ex-boyfriend’s friend’s brother John,” etc. But if they say Sarojini there’s no need for a follow-up description. Bravo!
On another note, I teach English in South Korea and the line about Koreans and English names is so true. 99% of my students have English names. I feel bad for them that they feel like they have to change to conform to western names and lose that piece of their cultural identity. However, I realize that it was probably started because the native English speakers teaching them have a hard time remembering two first names for every child. But, even in Korea there are many common names. I can’t tell you how many Min Ji’s or Jun Young’s I have, so I suppose their chosen English name distinguishes them from the others.
Nice to know you, Sarojini 😉
Our family like many, had nicknames for all of us. Not sure how, but mine was Booper, or Boop for short. It was all good and well, until now as I am entering my 50’s my family members still call me it in public. Awkward.
Great post and congrats on being freshly Nicknamed, I mean Freshly Pressed.
Have a great day,
This is such a great post very interesting! Keep it up!
I work with a few people from India. They too have names similar to yours. I have to admit it was unusal to learn how to say their names, but once you get to know them, and learn their names, they are some of my best friends there. I think your name is just as beautiful as theirs, and you’re showing great pride in who you are. That’s admirable. Keep it up. The world needs more people that are proud of who they are,
very well written – and i’m also glad you’re owning your “real” name. i made the mistake of connecting to my middle name (lakshmi) when i was quite young and using it for everything – which now means whenever i give my email out, etc, it leads to this sort of long conversation.
i was also interested in what you said about using the term “indian” – i don’t live in the us and haven’t for some time, and i have never heard anyone else say it… i started to wonder what to say…
anyway, very interesting – thanks! 🙂
Woah, so many comments to this one! But I guess it doesn’t hurt if I share my bit – I don’t have an ethnic name, but a name with two parts (of which neither is ‘native’ to any country). Not only does nobody bother to say the second part of my name (which annoys me a lot), but nobody can spell my name anywhere. It doesn’t help one bit that I have a surname that actually is very simple, but it’s foreign, so people get that wrong too. Being a person with a long name, which everyone constantly misspells or shortens to their advantage, I couldn’t have related more with what you said: “If everyone wants you to use your nickname because they can’t be bothered with the effort to say a name with more than two syllables, you eventually oblige.” Except I try not to, I really do. Thanks and keep up the good work!
I like names like yours because they are so originial and no one else has them, really unique. Great post!
I can also relate to this haha, my name is D’mi. It’s supposed to be influenced by the french because I have many french ancestors, but it doesn’t mean anything in french unfortunately. A lot of people say it VERY differently, and there’s only been a small handful who have actually said it right the first time! (It’s pronounced Deh-me if you’re wondering) 😉 Others have pronounced it like Dim-ee, Dim-i, Dim-ean, and D-mi.
I like the title and content.
Your post reminds me of a kid in the 4th grade. He was from China and his parents moved to Mobile, Alabama of all places the summer before his 4th grade year. Mrs. Glisson, our teacher, struggled with his name on the first day of class, but he soothed her by saying in broken English that he was working on choosing an “American” name. Halloween comes and goes, and by Thanksgiving he chose Sonny. It fit his personality, but it didn’t “fit” him, really. I wonder now if he stayed with Sonny, or if he tried on a few other names, or if he just gave up, or rather, reclaimed his own name. Beautiful post Ma’am.
I’m Malaysian Chinese and my name is Tze Hui. (pronounced “zii huey”) Coming from a multiracial country (consisting mainly of Malays, Chinese and Indians), we ALWAYS have a phonetics lesson while being introduced to each other! Like Hi, I’m Tze Hui. zii huey… You are? Sa..ras…wa…thy… . haha.
But I totally understand how you feel! Sometimes I wished I was named Mei Ling or something that EVERYONE could get it right the first time. I use a nickname, Erin, to those who can’t really pronounce Chinese names, but the name hasn’t stuck on me yet. I will always be more “Tze Hui” than “Erin”.
anyways, great post!
Such an inspiring article…
So I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from and I really loved this post!
This article contents is very attractive.
Its nice that you have a very unique name. Is not even too short nor too long. 😀
Ohh come on!! Your 2nd grade teacher’s name makes yours look like a pea. Seriously, how do you say “Mrs. Biederman”.
Fear not, I face the same issue as you.
totally cool! I was in the states as a kid, about eleven or twelve *I’m 26 now*, and my name is Prinandita Adhika. even I had some difficulties saying it when I was younger. but fortunately, my school friends and teachers managed to pronounce it correctly. well, some of them failed, but it’s understood.
oh! from where I come, we don’t really use a last name. so I had Adhika as my last name, while my father has Oetarman as his last name. and people go, “Is she really your child?”. 🙂
I never liked nicknames much, until I put my business online, then I just had to have one. It’s Jewels. That’s also the name of my business. Also after I had my daughter everyone wanted to call her something other than her real name which is Matina. They wanted to call her Tina, or even Martina (of course after the tennis player), but i wasn’t having it at all! I would tell them if they can’t call her by her name, then don’t say her name at all. Her last name is even worse it’s Stamatakis. There’s got to be a million way to pronounce that last name, that is for some people. Personally I always hated nicknames, but I guess there are some circumstances where you really need them:-)
nicknames,it’s so funny.
in China ,people also have nickname, such as 小明（xiao ming)`
and connect with the decades ,建国（jian guo).19th 50 a special time when the China established.
I like this article “The Art of the American Nickname” It has characteristic article!!
my name is Jennifer, I don’t even know what does it mean, when we had our first class, our teacher ask about our English name, and I name me Jennifer cause I think Jennifer lopz is so sexy. and my Chinese name sounds like sunglass. So every time people ask about my name, I say my name “mo jing” sounds like sunglass in Chinese. They always ask” what? Why your parent name you such a strange name.” so later, I and one more character in my name. Every time i introduce myself by using my nickname, or English name. But I still like my really name. It just suit for my personality. it actually means” not that quiet” but not sunglass. And I am an external person.thank you for your story
I think I’m quite good at pronouncing names. My form at school is very mixed racially, as was my set last year. None of the teachers could pronounce Chad’s full name (Cheradenine), but I didn’t have any problems. And Tinomudaiche they all just called Tino. I don’t know, I think because I read a lot as soon as I see a name written down I can work out how to say it.
My name’s Miriam, and people have a lot of difficulty spelling it. I’ve never understand that. Also, I get called Mariam, or Marian or whatever, way too much. It ALWAYS gets on my nerves! 🙂
I know someone who called me Jenny for a whole *term* because I got so fed up of them calling me ‘flute girl’ (they couldn’t remember my name), I just said, “Look, call me Jenny or something.” So they did.
Congrats on Freshly Pressed by the way!
Sarojini is a beautiful name and identifies as a strong woman! Stick to it!
In Hongkong we are ment to choose a western name when we turn 16. The name is then official and also noted in the passport. Since the Movie Matrix was famous when I had to choose, me and most of my friends are now named Trinity or Neo. 😉
In Australia we shorten names when we like someone. If we knew you, but weren’t good friends we would call you Sarojini, if we were your friend we would likely call you Saro or Jani. Perversely, we can also add an ‘o’ to the end of a name if we like you; John= Johnno, Rob=Robbo etc. We know this actually makes the nickname longer than the original name, but thats just how it is, we can’t help it! One of the earlier posts commented on the fact that Aussies pronounced the name Nellwyn so it sounded like weener. I tried and tried but to my ears my Strine pronounciation sounded nothing like weener! It made me wonder if when people hear the wrong pronounciation from other accents it isn’t intentionally wrong it is just that both sets of ears can’t hear the other properly…
Even simpler names have a tendency of being messed up. For most of my primary years people called me Saaami, and then it evolved to Sammy and hence back and to from the original pronunciation. Now even I am confused as to how to pronounce my name, nowadays I just spell it out and let people choose their preferred output.
🙂 some of them have like that choosing name , nick name and real name . sometime i use to say easy name. 😀 so good .!
Great post. I agree with you wholeheartedly. A person should be referred to as they’d prefer and others should do their best to use and pronounce the name correctly. Additionally, I learned the value of my name when I married and did not take my (then) husband’s family name. I explained to him “This is my name and is the way I am referred to and I’m not changing it. It’s mine. I own it.” That being said, I often make up “nick names” for my friends as an endearment. It might relate to their actual name or to a trait. As long as they are OK with it, it sticks. One person is “Zen Man” because of his Zen-like calmness. Some call me “Scotch” because of my fondness for the beverage. And so on.
Congratulations on being FP!
You should learn about the Filipino art of nicknames. They’re more fascinating.
Sarojini, you have a lovely name and I like it (by the way, I spent half of my life growing up in Southeast Asia and I am familiar with Asian names). I too have an ethnic name but it is my middle name.
Haha, my sister had these problems 😉 My name’s odd, too, but I don’t care if people call me Danny, Diana, Deean, etc. I’ve just learned to look up when I hear anything that starts with a ‘D’ and has some vowels and an ‘n’ in there 😛
i just came by your article and it get my attention. i thought i’ld leave my first comment just to appreciate the hard work you done.
Sarojini is a beautiful name…I’m so glad that you’re “owning” it.
And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!!
I actually can memorize the spelling of your name and pronounce it perfectly. mainly because how do I pronounce my native language (Indonesian) is how you pronounce my name
… err, I don’t know how to explain it. in America or other country English-speaking language, Sarojini pronounced with SAH ROO JAH NEE, whilst in my country, it also pronounced Sah roo jah nee.
my name is Nadia, btw x3 it pronounced as NAH DEE YAH, but most of foreigners pronounced it as now-d’yah, which makes me giggle for some times, heheh
I like your name, btw. it’s unique 😀 being original way much better than being what everyone is..
… err, my bad. in my country, it is pronounced with ‘Sa ro ji ni’..
As someone whose name (Laureen) gets mangled a lot (“Maureen?” “Lorraine?” “Doreen?”), this post made me chuckle out loud. Love how humorous and refreshingly honest it is!
I love your name by the way, it’s beautiful 🙂
Sarojini is one of my favorite names. If you are having trouble with that, I wonder what ‘ghummakkad’ is going through!!!
Good post and congrats on being freshly pressed.
Usually I dislike it when people say ‘I love this post’ and scoot off. When I read such comments I wish they’d stayed around long enough for me to ask them WHAT they liked/loved about it.
I almost did the same here. But then I remembered my angst.
What I liked was not that you have had troubles with your name (naturally I wouldn’t like that, who would..?). What I liked is you spelling it out- loud and clear- that you use your nickname not because you wish to deny your ethnicity but because you can’t always sit conducting impromptu phonetics lessons.
What I love about the post is that you are proud to wear your colors on your sleeve. You cannot speak Hindi..? In that case I wont use any with you. 😀
It feels good to read this. I always have liked those who are assertive.
We must be relatively the same age. My parents DIDN’T name me after my grandfather (Giuseppe) because they knew how hard it would be in school for me, knowing the intolerance of others. Here I am now, Joseph, with several nicknames (my family is a crazy lot). I totally get you. Great post.
This is one of those ‘grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ scenarios… as I’ve always been envious of those with ‘interesting’ names.
In saying that I have no problem finding kitsh little nicknacks with my name plastered on them so… you win some, you lose some!
What drives me out of my tree are anglo people naming their anglo children anglo names, and deliberately misspelling them to be trashy, not due to culture. Sxot? Os’ka? Those poor kids end up with common names, that they still have to spell and can’t get silly kitshy crap for.
I love your name, and I like that it was given to you because it’s also the name of a person who accomplished great things. My parents were immigrants to Canada and my name is an out-of-date religious Italian name, “Annunziata”. It was promptly changed on the first day of kindergarten because my teacher, also a new immigrant fresh off the boat from England, decided I would be “Nancy” from then on. Like a lot of my friends with their names from our parents’ country, we were subjected to a kind of ethnic name cleansing–but I honestly think my new nickname spared me from a few tensions in the playground during my childhood. Now I always use my given name professionally but tell people to call me by my nickname. If I like them.
I think you have a cool name…
If I would have to choose, I’d pick a two words name. But we all know our parents are the one who gave us name. My mom had picked a nice and very short name. It’s “IRA”….:)
A girl I work with is from India and I’m one of the few people she knows who can spell her surname correctly. It’s 13 letters long. Whenever I encounter a name which I believe might be one of her peeps (as she refers to them), I ask her how to pronounce the name. I like the way foreign names roll off the tongue most of the time, even if I can’t pronounce them myself. You should absolutely embrace who you are and what your name represents to you (not necessarily its meaning though, since that seems to be varied – lol). So forget Suzi. There are plenty of us mono-syllabically monikered people around who aren’t even worthy of a nickname.
Great post………..”Love It”
well people often left the ‘z’ when pronounced my name to ‘Shawi’ rather than “Shazwi”….in my culture “Shawi” is almost to a vegetable name……..even I laugh when I heard people said it..
Hah, that’s funny. I have a pretty normal, Swedish, first name: Ida. Now, most people who aren’t from a Nordic country will read that differently than from how it’s pronounced. I would say Eda, or Eeda (since I is pronounced like E in Swedish). However, it’s struck me that why is Ian pronounced like “ean” but Ida isn’t? Another typical Swedish name, Inga, is also pronounced as if it starts with an “e”. Why am I the exception that makes the rule? It’s caused me many turns of correcting people when living abroad.
Although my surname’s made it even more difficult for me. It’s Håkansdotter, which means Håkan’s daughter (Håkan is my dad, very old Swedish way of doing it, they still do it in Iceland, but no, I am not Icelandic). No one can ever pronounce it, which is fine, although one lady from the electric bill company took first price in mispronounciation: “Is this miss…. miss… Honka donka?”
It’s easier to put up with mispronounciation, I suppose, when you’re the one choosing to be in a different country. If nothing else, it makes for some pretty funny stories.
I’ve had so many nicknames over my lifetime I now am obligated to respond to just about anything… lol
Having been (gulp) married to an Indian (from Delhi), divorced from said Indian, and remarried to an Egyptian, with all the requisite name changes, I can totally relate. It takes everything I have not to just walk away from people (or not to smack people when they can’t pronounce my husband’s name – It’s Amir, you fool. It’s not that hard) when they just don’t get it. I, too, think you have a wonderful name. Continue to fight the good fight. Or, well, don’t. Whatever makes your life easier!
It was a sad day in college when the ultimately cool guy down the hall, Huang, started going by Howard because he felt as though he needed to Americanize to fit in.
I have lived in two places that LOVED nicknames. I worked running crew boats in the oil patch of south east Louisiana. Cajun country and EVERYONE had a nickname. My favorite was the one given to a young guy. called “Spot” because “everywhere he goes he leaves one.”
I also lived for three years on the French Riviera. In the expat community nearly everyone was given a nickname. I was “American Richard.” There was also “Aussie Greg,” “Big Andy,” “Little Andy,” “Big Nose Andy,” and “Aussie Andy.” Then there was “Bad News Eddie” not to be confused with “Kiwi Eddie,” or “Edenborough Eddie.”
Nicknames are essential in some cases.
This is such a great post! I am a high school English teacher and I have often come across hard to say or “ethnic” names in my classes. I always make the effort to learn how to say the name correctly and many students have thanked me for it, saying that their other teachers just gave them “nicknames”. That is so sad to me. Bravo for owning both “your” names and using them when you like!
I have loved the post and the comments! I think Sarojini is a lovely name.
It’s also easy for me to pronounce, given the plethora of names on the African continent.
I’m from Kenya and my middle (and preferred) name is Mutheu. Easy for most Kenyans to pronounce it, but unfortunately, not for most Americans and Europeans… so I tend to go by Naomi.
Most of the time though, even we down here can’t get ‘English’ names right. We’ll butcher up Sean and say ‘see-an’, while others like Charles will get ‘dialect’ nicknames like ‘Kyalo’ (pron ck-ya-lo). Confusing, I know haha.
I love your name..I haven’t seen the picture people were talking about..but i happen to like unusual ethnic names. You don’t know how much I have to go through everyday. You see, I’m a south Indian, and my last name is 5 letters, but for others, really hard to pronounce. For example, my school was having a program where everyone gets up and sings. Sorta like a talent show but more like American Idol. When I was going up, they called my name..but pronounced my last name as if I were Spanish. I had to stand there for like, 5 minsutes?, helping the announcer pronouce my name. It was embarrasing.
Beautiful. I also have a name that is uncommon, although anciently(is that a word?)uncommon, being Aramaic. What is it you ask? Shera. I have only come across a few others. My sister once heard it as she listed to an audio Bible for a class she was taking. Although I was never able to pick up a souvenir keychain with my name on it, I have always liked that it was uncommon. So when my daughter was born, we passed down the gift. Naming her Kenna, although McKenna or some version is more common, plain and simple Kenna is not. For that I am happy, and she thinks it is equally cool when she hears the familiar statement “wow, that is different, what a pretty name.” Although from my understanding if you travel across the sea to Ireland, you might find a few Kenna’s!
Funny…when I go to Starbucks I never know what they will write on my cup, Sharon, Shannon, Sheryl, Sherrie, Sarah….
Congratulations on being unique and special!
I have my own theory on names that I should probably blog about. In the meantime I will just say, I’ve only met one Jennifer I liked. And that was just last week, soooo technically she is still on probation.
Maybe even weirder is discovering I have been mis-pronouncing my OWN name for decades. Caitlin. Now a popular name, no one had it while I was growing up. I went to Wales and found that there it’s pronounced Cawth-lin; in Ireland Catch-lean…I could call myself catch, I suppose, but I think not.
I say it Kate-lin….but it’s not classically spelled like that.
My partner’s name is Jose. Not too tough, you’d think…Two colleagues have called him Juan or Javier. I call them dicks.
Great post — and lovely name!
My name is Elizabeth. You can call me Liz 🙂
I abhor a nicname. Well, the one I was given in particular. My name is Nicole and my family has always called me NIcci, even though I hated it, wanted to be called Nicole and had told them so since I was 4. I don’t know why they named me Nicole to just always call me Nicci. I am not a Nicci. Hating it so much I moved out before highschool was done, changed my name and moved away. I have been Cole ever since.
Names are funny.
Oh the curse of being Indian! 😛
Hi Sarojini you have a lovely name and it’s quite sad that it has gone from there to Suzi (reminds me of Helen-like characters in Hindi films who always play the role of a vamp/moll) sorry no offence meant! 🙂
Hope someday you find more people who can pronounce your name without having to contort their American tongues in weird ways !
embrace it!! what a beautiful name. there were seven Laura’s in my year at school and i always wished to be something more exotic!
Your name is beautiful. Your story so well written and on point. I have had lots of nicknames,too. My parents started it by calling me Doris. HUH??? My boyfriend called me Sandy. He didn’t like Doris or Isadora. Kids in school were mocking my name all the time so I used Izzy but felt like a boy.
Like you – when I grew-up – I decided to just own my name. It is what it is. Now, I love it except when people ask, “Are you a Dancer???” UGH …!!!!
Great post …
Oh wait, it does not even matter sometimes when you have an excepted “English” based name. I always get folks calling me Carrie. Right, like there is an “A” in my name, and then add, like the movie, right? Arggh, but oh well. Very cool post! (and I love the sound of your name).
Half of my family is Vietnamese, and I have great-aunts who’ve likewise gone from using names likes “Kathy” or “Dolly” to their real, Vietnamese names.
My boyfriend also has a name with a meaning in Sanskrit (and the amazing looks that go with it, IMO), which I personally love. But yeah, it does get annoying when you have to introduce yourself twice to every person you meet… 😐
Totally get this..my name is Samina and I’m a British Asian, I’ve literally just given in and get people to call me Sam. That way, it’s easier for them and less of a headache for me!
I love this post, even though my name (Elisabeth) is pretty boring and typical for a European girl. Actually I feel like this is the real Me. But maybe this is just because I’m named after the former empress of my country. haha.
However. Nice post.
Great post! I really enjoyed reading it. I have loads of friends with longish names and none of them shorten their names.
You have very beautiful unique name!
I have a pretty uncommon name but it’s not completely unique to me either. My name is Sarasi. Australians tend to stretch the A’s for longer than necessary though. I also have a friend who always spells it as Serasi. I find Sara a bit boring but use it for my professional purposes but like to go with Saz myself.
You did a great job of communicating what it is like to have to go through this experience, one that the majority of people don’t have to contend with and don’t even imagine goes on. Your real name is quite lovely, and I’m going to practice saying it several times in hopes I meet someone of the same name someday.
As a child, I hated my name : Mildred. It sounded old! It is a family name. But all my peers had names like Becky, Amy, Wendy, etc. So, Mildred was wierd. And people didn’t know by my name whether to expect a boy or girl. My family always called me Millie. But for some reason, despite hating my name, I always went by Mildred. Then, oneday I came to work at a place that had another Mildred working there. She was an older African-American woman. She stated, that she was there first so I needed to pick another name. So, I started going by Millie. The name suits me. I am a perky person, so it’s a better fit. I get better responses with it. If I had used it in my childhood years, life may have been different. LOL
I really enjoyed reading this post! Surprisingly, my parents (who are both immigrants) named me something very off culture for them; however, my last name is always an issue. “Majano” ….I always dread the pronunciation tutorial each time somebody hears it..
Don’t even need to switch countries for it. I’m an Indian too. My parents gave me a Marathi name -Sayali (pronounced – Saa-yuh-lee). But we live in a non-marathi speaking state. And the end result is the same as yours. “Saheli?” “Saloni?” “Shayeri”? “Sherlee?” “Sonali?”….
If they get at least two syllable right, I let them use whatever they want to. If I have that after living in the same country, it is definitely something beyond race, nationality and culture. It is just simple human nature of laziness towards anything new.
I know exactly what your talking about. But I was never fond of nicknames, unless it was a joke. Gotta love who you are!
i reelie love your name, its so pretty!!
My name is Bob. I guess my parents wanted to prepare me if I was dyslexic. HA.
Ah, sister! I’m sure that you have massively, massively more name hassles than I do, and I’m not trying to say I’m in the same boat, but I, too, trespass on cultural norms by having–gasp!–four syllables in my name. It’s “Mary Ellen”. Seems innocuous, right? An easy name to live with in a predominantly English-speaking country, surely?
Ah, the first day of seventh grade, when suddenly school records were computerized, and I was in a new school full of suburban kids who were called Debbie and Vicki and, yes, Suzi! Oh, brave new world, in which all 7 teachers — 6 periods plus homeroom — had me down on their green-and-white striped printouts as Mary. They called the roll, asked what we wanted to be called. A Richard said he was called by his middle name, Kent, and that was fine. A Robert might have been a Bob or a Bobby, no problem. We had no obviously non-Anglo-Saxon given names in the room, though we had some humdinger surnames. And then they’d get to me.
“Uh-huh. ‘Mary Ellen’.”
“So… you want to be called by both names. Is that right?” (Or sometimes “Are you sure?”)
Then they’d note this remarkable, unheard-of name on their list, and call me “Mary” the rest of the year anyway.
Now that I live in England it’s easier; the British are so terrified of incorrectly addressing anyone for fear of giving offence — I think it’s a class issue — that they do not usually shorten names; in my experience, they try harder than people in the US to get names right. (And there are enough British people with roots on the Subcontinent that such names raise fewer eyebrows here than most places in the US anyway.)
But as for Americans who respond to “My name is Mary Ellen” with “Nice to meet you, Mary”, well, if they can’t say “Mary Ellen”, if they just don’t have the neurons to handle a double name — Amazon, this means you! — then I’ll go with initials instead, thanks, and be M.E.Foley .
Sarojini, I know my name isn’t in the same league as yours, but I join you proudly in the Sisterhood of the Four Syllables.
What a great post. You did a wonderful job of explaining the “American Nickname” trend. I am Latina and my name, although not difficult to pronounce, is pronounced differently in Spanish and English. I absolutely like my name in Spanish; not so much in English; so I totally identify with having to give the 10 minutes long explanation on why I pronounce my name Caroleeena and not Carolina as it is spelled. Yes, many times I just skip the whole culture lesson and just pronounce it in English, like the state; specially if is someone who I won’t be seeing much of like the receptionist at the doctor’s office.
A name should indicate character and personality! A loving parent bestows a name that should make their child aspire to great things!
My parents named me “Bob.”
I love them anyway.
I find it fascinating. As someone having a fairly common name that is still constantly being misspelled/incorrectly pronounced etc, this post just goes into something that is just so bizarre at first but then makes complete sense once you give it some thought. I have so many friends with “double” names, and I generally ask them which they prefer and go with that. It’s completely natural for them to prefer their “anglo” name as well, I bet a lot of people have had fun coming up with a name too.
Generally I just let people call me whatever they like, but I always introduce myself as Jasmine. People call me the most bizarre things sometimes, and generally I love it. 🙂
Great post! I experience this all the time. My name is Khadijah (Kuh Dee Juh), an Arabic name. It seems like almost no one can pronounce it. Even when it seems like they’ve finally got it, it comes out wrong and I just end up saying, “Call me Kaycee.” (My last name starts with C) I can’t remember who started calling me that, but I know I got it back in preschool. I like the name. I think it’s cute (hence why it’s Kaycee to me, not KC), but it seems like the hardest thing to do is say my name for some people.
Two friends of mine also have the same problem. They’re Japanese and have traditional Japanese names (Minako [Mee Nah Koh] and Sakura [Suh koo ruh]). They’ve given up trying to teach their names. If someone doesn’t get it right after three tries, it’s either “Just call me Mina” or “Just call me Cherry” (her name means cherry blossom and she has red hair). Three syllables cannot be that hard.
By the way, your name is very pretty.
I don’t have a name that people get confused with as much as yours but my name is Roan (pronounced Ro-in) and I have been called Rowan and Ryan along with other things such as Kim! (which makes it even more annoying for me especially considering I’m a boy :/). I think your name is really nice and I loved this post 🙂
My father assigned you a nickname, regardless of your ethnic origins; you got a name, and that was you, to him. All out of love (and also probably partially so he’d remember something to call you as your name would probably slip his mind; he loved people and met tons and never wanted to forget anyone). So much so that at his funeral last month, we passed out name tags at the door that read: “Hello, my name is _______, but Cliff called me ______” It was really interesting to see what he came up with for people and helped everyone get to know each other. However, the best part was when my younger sister started going up to people who didn’t fill out the “but Cliff called me…” part of their name tag, and asked “Did you have a nickname?” If they said yes, she’d write it in for them or encourage them to do so, but if they said no, she followed up with “Well he must not have liked you very much.” HAH!
Sorry, had to share.
Wow! From Sarojini to Suzi! I’ve always been fascinated by names since a young age, and I always want to know what others’ names mean. I’d rather learn to pronounce somebody’s unusual name than giving them a common nickname.
I can relate to this partially, both my first and last names are Arabic, and in my passport it’s written in French spelling. Until recently, I’d been writing my first name in English (Bushra), because that’s the way my mother taught me to spell it. But my last name has always been the same, as my mother couldn’t come up with an English spelling for it. I even wanted to change my legal papers so that the spelling would be as it is supposed to be pronounced, but when I learnt that it would take a long time to be changed, that is if it is approved to be changed, I started using my name as it is written in my legal papers (Bouchra).
I’m fine with this transition, but I don’t know how others will pronounce it — especially when I go to an English speaking country to study.
Sorry for writing such a long post, but I wanted to ask a question, is it considered rude in the US if you try to correct somebody’s wrong pronunciation of your name, especially if they were a teacher or professor?
LOVE this! People are getting so lazy! Enough with the nicknames and the acronyms! Damn them to hell!
I used to hate my name. Its long and people get it wrong. Then I learned that my name comes from my grandmothers and greatgrandmothers. While some people can’t figure out if I’m male or female, Cameron or Cameroon-my name reminds me of my history. Sort of like the patterns in Irish fisherman sweaters or those found in native American beadwork. I feel the push of them behind me and sometimes it makes me feel stronger. They are a part of a great cloud of witnesses that I will one day join. God bless.
Amusing and thought provoking post. I have an unusual name with no ethnic association to it, and much of this sounds familiar.
I have to say I am confused by your comments about the term “Indian”. I don’t think the term Oriental is a good comparison, because India is a country. However, your comment about losing your “damn mind” tells me that this is a sensitive issue for some people, and of course, generalizations based on ignorance are never a good thing.
I just tried looking up the term Indian, and found some alternate terms used: Asian Indian, East Indian, and South Asian, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable using these terms without taking a class on the subject. I definitely don’t want to offend anyone, so I will be sure to ask individuals their thoughts before using the term Indian to refer to them.
I do understand that there is a distinction between nationality, culture, ethnicity, and race. My Anthropology professor was always saying that there is only one race – human. =)
Wonderful post! My name is Ma’ata Tukuafu, a vowel-filled Polynesian name. In Hawaii, I mostly don’t have any problems with people pronouncing it. But when I lived for 10 years in LA, I compiled a list of all the variations that folks would come up with, and I filled two pages. The good news is that there will be no identity theft for me… Much aloha!
Your writing is as eloquent and fluid as your name; that is in no way sarcasm by the way your writing style really is superb.
Screw Suzi. I like Sarojini. It’s lovely. My real name isn’t Eva…my real name is one that is commonly abbreviated, and I spell it in an uncommon way. People that haven’t met me sometimes confuse me with an Indian man…and a very American female. Oh well. What can ya do.
What if your name was Rose and you didn’t like it? How would you pick a nickname then? Sarojini gives you options. That is always a good thing. Most of the comments above seem to bear this out. Great post.
I loved this post, I love this topic. My siblings and I grew up in the time period you describe and people always asked my brother Jorge if they could call him “George.’ Um, no, it’s not his name!
Name butchering is something of an American tradition. Even though my family has been here since before the colonies became the United States, people still choke on my last name. Sometimes they throw in an extra letter or two or leave some out (“Lambruiser”…seriously? I’d never hurt a fly, let alone bruise a lamb). On the plus side, a common nickname for me has been “boss”…having people call me that doesn’t feel half bad.
Sarojini ur name is beautiful and i love it. i also share the same name trouble.. my name is jailel. u pronounce it jay-leel . people mis pronounce my name time and time again and becomes irritating and reading ur post makes me proud of my complicated name
Fun, funny, and clever! Great post! And I can even appreciate your issue, from a slightly different perspective. Although I am of English/Irish heritage, and so don’t have a cool ethnic name, my maiden name was “Choate.” The ch is pronounced like the ch in children, but you would not believe the number of people who can’t figure that out! And as for spelling it…doesn’t seem so difficult, but that was always a challenge too…Nothing against my family name, but I was so glad to get “Gibson” when I got married. The only thing anyone can do to butcher that is substitute a “p” for the “b” in the middle. But it still works!
Thanks for a fun read!
I semi-feel your pain, my first name is Aubry and even though it is a english name no one ever gets it right at first. Was that audrey? amber? ally?… the list goes on. And my parents had the bright idea to drop the common “e” so I very rarley get it spelled correctly, even when it is right there, at the bottom of an email. I do love how it looks without the “e” though, so I forgive them.
On the bright side, we use my mom’s last name, Heimsoth, as a screener for tele-marketsers. If you can’t say it you don’t actually know us!
“Can I speak to ms. Holm…” click
BTW I think your name is lovely, and thanks for the education on the word “Indian”. I always use it to decribe people from India, like I would use Canadian, but I didn’t realize there was a negative connotation.
What a beautiful post. A name is such a large part of your identity and is really odd if you are called something different to who you are. My given name is Lucille and I have always been called Lucy. Apparently Lucille was my elder sister’s idea as she felt that Lucy was a child’s name – but it is really odd having an official name and your other one and with the family myth of one day you would be old enough to ‘own’ it. A bit like having an alter ego …..may’be it could be my super hero name! Not content with that I am also a twin and although we don’t look alike in any way we still got called twin 1 and twin 2. I think on the whole we human’s like to put people into boxes and if you don’t fit into the right box for us we will shoe horn you in anyway. Hmmm…. that last thought is making me like both my names more….may’be I might use them inter changeably just to avoid the boxes…
Way to own your name. Wear it proud!
Well hello Sarojini! Sar ooh jah nee! I very much appreciate unique (or different) names. My name is Leighanna. Not Leeann. Not LigHahna.Definitely NOT liguini (as in, linguini, the pasta, but without the ‘n’). It’s actually pronouced Lay-anna. You know how horses “neigh” and Santa rides in a sleigh? Like that. hehe!! The butchering of my name was so bad when I had moved to a new school in 11th grade, that I decided I’d go by Annie. After about a year of subtle training of friends and teachers, I was finally able to go by my given name. Ahhh, that’s better. Thanks for your refreshing post, Sarojini! You are kind enough to have allowed all of us with name frustrations to vent a bit!
Great piece – I really enjoyed it. The bit about the name Jennifer reminded me of the taxi scene with Bruce Willis from Pulp Fiction:
Esmarelda: What is your name?
Esmarelda: What does it mean?
Butch: I’m American, honey, our names don’t mean shit.
Loved your follow-up about the crazy, racist commenter too. What an asshole…
Anyway, congrats on the notoriety of Freshly Pressed.
(Top Baby Boy Name, 1960)
My name is Jessica, or Jessie for short. In Kindergarten a boy named August asked the class to call him Gus. I stood up immediately, thinking we were allowed to change our names in Kindergarten, and asked everyone to call me Stephanie.
My teacher said Jessica is a nice name and that I should keep it.
No one in my life has ever asked me the meaning of my name, but I think if that whole name change thing would have caught on in Kindergarten, no one would have asked me about the meaning of Stephanie either.
Thanks for the post. I love your name and glad you are starting to use the whole thing!
My name is Sunshine. With a name like that, there is no room for nicknames lol. I think the worse part about my name is the one question everyone asks…. ‘No, really, what’s your name?’ lol That being said, I like your name, it’s different. Different is good. 🙂
For a country with so many people from different backgrounds, America is really bad at dealing with even slightly unusual names, especially if they are more than two syllables.
My name is Marika, and I have the problem of sounding really similar to common names, so instead of being completely flummoxed, people tend to just assume I said something… “Marissa?” “Marina?” “Melissa?” “Maria?” “Margaret?”…. “Makita?” “Matika?” and even the people who get the letters right don’t pronounce it right (It’s a Hungarian name). I have had a few nicknames from people over the years, (Mika and Mari most commonly) but most people struggle by with it how it is.
Most of the time now I just ignore it. Some people aren’t good with names, and there is no point getting irritated and frustrated, and frustrating and embarrassing other people, when in the end it doesn’t matter as long as we know who we’re talking to.
Wow! I for once feel lucky to have such a lame name! Thanks for sharing;)
it seems everyone who has a name, can relate to your experiences. and they ALL want to connect and tell their story! lol. actually, i find it charming to read all the responses to your post
i’ll not bore anyone with my tale, but needless to say i wasnt born a ‘zombieking’
fab post, and congrats on the deserved attention that being ‘freshly pressed’ brings. +1 subscriber
Americans don’t like anything complicated. Heck if everyone could be called Joe or Jo it would fit males and females and sound the same! We are a crazy society. I know that when I named my kids I picked names that had one syllable for the very reason that people screw it up no matter what.
I have the same problem in India!!
My name is Charis (pronounced Ka – ris) and almost everyone who hears it here for the first time has another entirely different way of pronouncing it.
So I use my nick name a lot- which is Storm 🙂
Nice and fun post… Thanks so much!
I think your name is pretty too, but I’ve always been the worst at pronouncing names. And, my name doesn’t really let people give me a nickname… unless they wanna call me “Sar”, or something like that.
Had this conversation with a friend of mine whose name Carlotta. She told me people called her Carla for a long time but blames herself for allowing it and not correcting them enough times. I love your name, never change it! Its beautiful 🙂
and for the record, people still mess up my name Ali (I know, its unbelievable)
Thanks Sarojini — by the comments your great writing generated you have made a difference. I teach health care at the college level and my desire to travel the world and meet people of other cultures gets satisfied every semester (without the airfare) by our diverse student population. On the first day of class when I call role, I allow plenty of time. Everyone gets to be called what they want to be called. Being hard of hearing makes it especially “fun” for me, but I’ve realized there is an advantage in that for the entire class. With as much humor and humility as possible I ask for patience from Haymanot and Saowaluck, and repeat until I get it right. By the time I get it EVERYONE gets it! It’s one small but clear example of why every person should leave the country to complete their education. It’s a wonderful thing to get over ourselves! Thanks for your help. Ron
Your name sounds wonderful, don’t let anyone who won’t call you by that get you down! And hey, I am from Asia too, except I’m Chinese. My name is Zi Yan and more often than not, many non-Asians would end up calling me “zzzzi Yarn” I guess we are all used to saying the names of people within our own culture/race that we are not proficient at pronouncing names belonging to another group of people. This is completely understandable though.
I knew a guy who had moved from China to Canada and his name was Larry.
Wonderful post! I can understand how it’s hard for you to explain to people how they pronounce your name – after a year at an international school I’ve learned that people adapt to the way others pronounce their names, even my own. “Line” – which is not a line, but my name just pronounced different. I’m glad you like yours, it’s beautiful!
SO funny about nicknames because I have to go by “Jack” instead of my full name Bragging Jackass.
What an entertaining post!
It was actually informational, being that I’ve never really thought about how it might feel for someone to have to forcibly adopt a nickname.
My name is Britney, simple, easy. Never had a problem with pronunciation. However, because I’ve always gone to school with at least ten other girls names Britney, Brittney, Brittany, etc. I’ve been forced to have to always say my last name with my first.
The reason why my blog is entitled BritneyCraig 😀
So, everyone seems to be really proud of you for your name, and all that. My name is Troy? I like my name. There aren’t a lot of Troy’s. Although people sometimes call me Tray which I find loathsome (not because they get my name wrong, but because I’ve known several Tray’s and they were each awful; thus, word association).
But um, I am going to disagree with you, and I hope you don’t get upset with me or something? I am not trying to start a fight, but offer my opinion. 🙂
First, there are some English and Anglo-Saxon names that we have trouble with ourselves. Most first names are relatively known and common (just like your name doesn’t have trouble in India, we don’t have trouble with Mark here). But look at last names and this becomes very clear. I have a common last name and its often mispelled. I know many, many people with last names all of Western Europe descent and all have major trouble with people enunciating it or spelling it.
And I am sure that in India a name like Troy might have to be repeated. My last name would probably trouble them. I don’t think this is about Americans being slow or purposefully offensive or anything like that. I think that most people (I am sure there are some jerks) who are trying to understand your name but its different. Its origins come from a different culture and different language than our own. So its hard. Just like if you were handed a list of Chinese names or Afrikaans names (those are some of the craziest names and spellings I’ve ever seen; I had a really good friend from South Africa) you’d not be a pro at interpreting them. Does that mean you’re disrespectful? Perhaps, if you don’t understand it in the wrong way.
But overall I am sure it just means that its unfamiliar and new to you and challenging. Now, nicknames are a way to personalize something for people. You are embarrassed when you say your nickname. But the person asking you for a nickname is embarrassed as well at their own inability to catch onto and speak your name. But its foreign and sadly outside of their reach and mental graph. Instead of awkwarding you out with their failed attempts they want to make a connection with you, whether it is business or personal or some other, and they don’t want to leave a bad impression on you when they continuously fail to grasp your name. That is why they ask for a nickname. It’s not a rejection of your cultural roots or what your name stands for or anything of the matter. I’d argue its the complete opposite. Despite your foreign name and exotic looks they still are trying their best to forge a relationship of some kind with you and they are trying to do so without completely tearing down the opportunity by getting stomped to the floor by your very unique name.
Now people can be rude when they ask you about the meaning of your name. But they can also be curious. People have asked me why I was named Troy (and if it was after the city). But the reason they focus so intently is because other cultures do put a lot of thought into what their names mean. So a particularly stand out-ish one likely has a meaning behind it. And as you said, it did! But in American culture we pick names usually because we like them and the way they sound. Sometimes it has more depth to it. Usually, it doesn’t. That’s why our names are mostly easy to pronounce and we don’t ask what Jennifer means. We know it means the parents thought it was a nice name for the baby and that was pretty much it!
And lastly, you seem to begrudge your nickname Suzi because it crosses paths with your roots. But I think if your parents and family all call you by Suzi, then you shouldn’t let it worry you? Aren’t your roots your family? Yes, you may have an Indian cultural heritage, but I’d imagine you’re even more directly linked to your family. If they don’t see it as disrespectful or an issue to call you Suzi (and they were the ones who named you in the first place) then I don’t think Suzi should be looked at as an embarrassment. I mean, if some of the people you’re closest to, your blood relations don’t feel it is an affront to give you a nickname, then I don’t think you should view Suzi in as negative a light as you seem to.
I really hope I don’t sound like a jerk, or cause a fight. I honest to goodness just wanted to state my opinion and maybe give you some perspective on us bumbling Americans and why we are having issues with your name.
thanks for your share!
enjoy your story very much!
it is a nice place!i love it ,too.
it is a interesting place~~~
But I like your name, Sarojinni.
*Note, I didn’t refer and I remembered your name once I read you know!? 😉
It’s so specially, the only name for you.
People tend to called me “Zi Jing” instead of “Zhi Jin”, which should be pronounced as “ž”, not “zi” and “jin” not “jinggg”…So my friends just called me “Jin” or “žJin”, makes simple for them…@.@
Great post!! =)
So much on my mind, nicknames are not just a moniker but can have a personality which may be how one is known and not just referred. Mine is no different and as many started at youth when I was in 5th grade. I’m loathe to say the name now and I cannot have it any longer as over the years it has grown into so many things that have nothing to do with me of course and that is well, ok, and good but… it’s a marketing term, it’s a stuffed toy. It is at least no longer me and at best it is its own phenomenon. The chance that each new one came from the original is hardly likely. However there are many with the name now not born when I was dubbed shmee. But its aparently Darth Vadar/Annikan Mothers name and has been immortalized in the JTHM cartoon by a kid a bit younger than me from the other side of the tracks whos imagination, dark and satirical, has spawned a very healthy cult following of many of his characters, including a trauma sponge toy names Shmee. Now, what do I do? What does one do when what they thought was theres has grown beyond and is nothing of them anymore. It’s ok and I’m ok with it – a life of its own and what an amazing life indeed.
But what about me? 😦 (enter heavy sigh-satire-gasp-gaze)
I dont have any nicknames on the Internet. I always choose my right name 😉
Hahaha I love this post not only for the bitter humour but also for the truth of the matter.
I used to have a similar problem when I stayed in Canada for a while and I still remember it took me like an hour just to get my second grade teacher to learn my name and another to get the spelling right xD
My birth name is Nicole and my nickname is Nikki. I have no idea why my mother even named me Nicole. I have never been called that. When I went to kindergarten, they put a name card in front of each child’s seat. I looked and looked and couldn’t find my name. I turned to my mother in tears, asking why I didn’t have a chair. She laughed and pointed me to the one that said Nicole.
Cool post, Indian Girl 🙂
Love this! Your name is gorgeous, by the way. My name is Bryn (it rhymes with Lynn). People called me Bryan, Brianne and Byron. I always wondered to myself, “Doesn’t anyone know basic phonics?” Great post, and congrats on Freshly Pressed!
This is a great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, but more than that, congrats to Freshly Pressed on a major score with your post. WOO!
I identify with you in two (seemingly) simple ways:
1. My name is Alicia. People still don’t get it. Uh-LEE-see-uh. I get Uh-lee-shuh, Uh-LIS-ee-uh, Uh-LISH-uh, etc. Even after I’ve JUST said it. It’s like an inability to properly repeat what was JUST heard. It’s crazy. In university, I saved myself the drama and answered to Uh-LEE-shuh. I was satisfied to have my name pronounced correctly in Spanish class. Now, I’m back to being anal about it. My name is not the complicated, and you WILL pronounce it properly. *shakes fist* YOU WILLLLLL!
2. I cut the processed hair off of my head over 5 years ago. All natural. Feels like I’m owning ME. Every little bit of me. So what if people don’t like the natural texture of my hair? Too bad. It’s on my head, and if they want, they can look away. Fiiiiine by me. *stomps foot* HMPH!
Your post is interesting.
You have a beautiful name. Atleast for we Indians. 🙂
I think you have a beutiful name! Uncommon to most I’m sure but I would think that would be wonderful. I have a very common name and when I graduated high school 6 people I graduated with had the same name! It was terrible! And what was worse when teachers called on us we were called as #’s and I got #2. EWWWW! ANyway, Your name is great it even sounds beautiful when I say it.
This just confirms my intent to NEVER NAME ANY OF MY FUTURE KIDS A BIBLE NAME! (Unless it’s Jael, which isn’t that unique probably because that particular character took matters into her own hands and drove a tent stake through an enemy commander’s temple…)
In the community I live in, if you don’t have a unique name, you get saddled with one. “John? Which John? Tall John? Fat John? Tattoo John?” *chuckles* Bless your parents for not naming you Mary!
I very much understand! I also have an odd name that doesn’t fit with the way people wish to view me–partially because I’m white, but my name is of African origin. Just as people don’t expect Asians of whatever nationality to have what are considered “western” names, they don’t expect very Midwestern-looking people to have names they most likely haven’t seen before. I, too, cut my name down to a nickname for the waiting lines in Panera or the short introduction to someone I won’t see again.
I’m glad to see you’re owning your name now. One of the few things I applaud my mother for was her firmness that I would use my WHOLE NAME as a kid; she hated it when others would try to shorten it. I really appreciate that now, when my name (and the inevitable need to answer “how did you come by that?”) is a ready-made icebreaker.
Sah-roo-jah-nee! It’s not as difficult as everyone makes it seem.. I think when people don’t grow up around another culture, it makes it more difficult for them. I grew up around a predominantly Hispanic culture and I’m able to pronounce words in many different languages with no problem–even Chinese!
P.S. South Asian is new to me. Thanks for the correction!
Good post! and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
I have the opposite situation. My name is Lonnie and often people think it is a nickname.
My name is Jennifer…and yep, you’re absolutely right. To be honest, I didn’t find your name hard to pronounce at all. I think some people are just stupid and, sadly, they just don’t know it.
This is a wonderful post, Sarojini! I’m a former elementary school teacher and I would have pronounced your given name correctly, and made sure that your classmates did so! Your name is a part of you and it’s not fair that you should be called something else for the sake of conformity!
My sister-in-law is from Hong Kong and my daughter’s best friend is from India. Their parents knew that the family would eventually be immigrating to the US, so they gave their children American names. They are named Carol and Pat and both constantly get asked if their given names are nicknames! It’s a no-win situation!
I used to work in a lumber yard for several years. I did a lot of work in the sawshop, so they called me Sawman.
Wonderful post, Sarojini!
I’ve got to quote you here: “If everyone wants you to use your nickname because they can’t be bothered with the effort to say a name with more than two syllables, you eventually oblige.”
Hell, some people have a hard time saying my name, it’s a very common name: Alan. I once had a supervisor call me “Alex,” even after correcting him so often I just grew tired of the effort. I’ve even had people who, after seeing my name in print, spell it how they feel like spelling it (“Allen” and “Allan. I did, however, meet an “Allyn,” which I thought was pretty cool).
But I don’t have it as bad as you, and definitely not as bad as my fiancee. As a Nigerian Yoruba woman, her name’s so long (Aisat Oluwatosin Adenike Ogunyoku), she shortened it to two syllables (Oluwatosin became “Tosin”) that people still mess up. I was guilty of that, too, when we first met.
You captured exactly how our introduction to each other went:
“Hi, I’m Tosin”
“My name is Tosin.?”
“Ahh. TOLL. SUN (SON)”
“No. TOE. SIN.”
Several moments pass. “How do you spell it?”
Thanks for this post, Sarojini!
My name is Tiphannie, and though the pronunciation is common, the spelling always gets people. I love when someone is taking down my name and I say Tiphannie, and quickly start to spell T i p… and they scramble to erase the “ff”s. I have always disliked the over use of common names such as Tiffany, Brittany, Chelsea, etc… I love meeting people with unique names and envy them sometimes though I do love the spelling of mine.
Such a fantastic post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and for the record, I think your name is beautiful.
My coworkers and I were just talking about this… Americans think foreign people have weird, unpronounceable names and that they all sound the same. I think when people of different nationalities come to America they make fun of our names because we ALL sound alike: Christine, Christina, Christie, Christy, Caroline, Carolina, Carole, Courtney, Brittany, Brittny, Britney, Brittani, Brie, Brianna, etc etc etc.
If I were from China or India, I would make fun of our lame names too. 🙂
I totally related to your post. My name is Evelina. Pretty simple. “Ev-Uh-Lee-Nuh.” People have called me everything from Evil-ina to Evangelina. All ask me if they can call me Evey. I always say no. I love my name. It was my grandmothers name. Everytime someone takes the trouble to pronounce it correctly it keeps her alive. Your name is both unique and melodic. It IS who you are – revel in its beauty.
A few things occur to me:
1) American people are naming their kids more and more uncommon things these days (suri, apple, etc). I have definitely had american students with very unusual names.
2) There’s another side to having a very common name — I think this is an incredibly post about the unique challenges of being named something very common: http://www.andrewmiller.net/2011/07/17/namespace/
3) I think most people are just trying to be gracious and understanding when they ask you multiple times about your name. I think it would be worse if they didn’t try. Also, I have been in the reverse situation many times with names that are not from my culture. For every moment we have to assimilate the first time we hear that name, our ears become more attuned to the sounds of another culture.
4) It makes me a little sad when the people in call centers from India change their names to sound more american. I know why they have to do it, but I can’t help but feel that I’d rather just know their actual name.
hi R.! I just want to give my two cents why call center agents from offshore give american sounding names. I think it’s for the same reason that american sounding names would be easier to pronounce or understood by clients. I have worked in a call center as well and have had experiences when the caller would look for an american agent which I quite understand. Some, not all, would prefer talking to agents who have English as their first language. 🙂
Was that the tail end of a Boeing 727? Love it! I’m a plane nut… As for the rest of the post, I love that too. Thanks so much.
Wonderful post.I think your name is beautiful.
Born in London to Polish immigrant parents, I had to witness people squirm when confronted with my consonant-heavy last name. I remember ONE teacher during my school days who managed to get it right. My mother, whose first name was also tricky, would book appointments at the hairdresser under the last name Adams. I, too, have borrowed that trick and when reserving anything, Anglicise my name to Smith. But never in a million years would I change my last name…
i love this! its so true!
Great post. I’m teaching English to elementary school children in South Korea and they have us assign them “western” or “English” names so they can better communicate with foreigners. Right up this post’s alley.
Screen is very good-looking, the article is very good!!!!!
Oh, I think you have a unique name. In a good way, of course. I never really experienced what you have, but I knew some Americans or other foreigners who went to Indonesia to learn the language and then changed their nicknames simply because it’s difficult to pronounce for most Indonesian. I had a friend named Seth, and he always introduced himself as “Seto” to Indonesian because Indonesian language doesn’t have the sound /θ/. Another foreigner I knew named Nate, and he changed his nickname to “Noto” because it’s easier for us to pronounce it!
Sarojini, your name sounds lovely. It’s interesting how people deal with hard-to-pronounce names. You give an easy nickname to save others from getting their tongues in a twist, while they try their darnedest to pronounce it right as a courtesy to you. At least it all stems from mutual respect and consideration.
I can relate to this so much. My parents named me specifically so I would have a Vietnamese name that Americans could say. My middle name was originally supposed to be “Quynh,” but they changed their minds to a simpler “Lan.” My first name, “Vy,” looks like it’s pronounced with a long “i,” “vai–” but it’s actually “vee.” Thus every time I meet someone new, I have to correct them a million times: “It’s ‘vee.’ Like the letter. With a long ‘e.'” And after all the trouble my parents went through…
My Mom’s version of this isn’t quite as extravagant as yours. Imelda became Imee which became Amy. So most her American friends call her Amy. Thanks for the post!
Haha it has happened to me as well. I’m Indian, and they call me Savay-Tweh. 😛
Amazing writing i must tell you 🙂