• kimbansi

Say my name, say my name (correctly)





When my parents welcomed their first born child into this world and lovingly bestowed a name that means 'peace' on this precious little baby, I'm sure they didn't foresee years of mispronunciation, jokes and confusion. My sisters name is Aman (pronounced uh-mun) and every time someone pronounces it as A-man (as in one man), I cringe. I can't imagine it being particularly fun going through your teenage years, where insults are already sought out thick and fast, to have your name serve as a ready made package for people to make fun of. However, is it really that hard to get right? If you can pronounce 'umbrella' you can surely pronounce 'uh' of Aman correctly and if you can pronounce surnames like 'Goldman' you can definitely get the 'man' bit right- so what's with the lame attempts at pronunciation? Laziness? Is it that you see it is a brown woman standing there so it must be hard to get right?


When I'm dancing in the club and I see the same people who consistently mispronounce Indian names perfectly reciting the lyrics to Despactio complete with tongue rolls and some Latin flair thrown in, I cannot roll my eyes far enough back into my own head. It also never ceases to amaze me how not having dark skin seems to make your name instantly easier to pronounce. I've never come across someone who hasn't made the effort to pronounce 'Niamh' , 'Sean', 'Xander' or 'Ciaran' correctly, despite these names not looking like what they sound like. Mysterious.


On the flip side of this, if you want your name pronounced correctly you need to make it explicit and not shy away from it. My mum made up my name, Kimdeep, and it is so easy just to go around pretending the second bit doesn't exist- the amount of laughs I've heard when people find out that's my full name is  uncountable. But to shy away from it would be to shy away from my identity (and also the fact it makes a sick pun for my blog name.) Yet I see people time and time again acting as if a 'deep', 'preet' or 'jit' of their name doesn't exist, hiding it away like it's a secret not to be shared. I also hear my friends and family, making their names more palatable for people to pronounce, often going for the what it looks like in paper pronunciation.


At my last job, a lady from customer services with a so-called hard to pronounce name, always introduced herself to customers with the correct pronunciation of her name without hesitation and the first time I heard her I was in shock and awe. This was because for years I heard people turning names like 'Jas' (pronounced as 'Jus') into 'Jaz' and even people taking on whole new 'English' names to make it more palatable for others. For instance my mum was given the nickname 'Babs' at work years ago and it stuck over her actual name. I'm sure every person reading this can thinking of someone they know who has become known as their 'english' name over their real one.


The British Museum recently got in trouble on twitter, after one of their curators during an 'ask the curator' twitter q & a, tweeted this about the labels:

... We aim to be understandable by 16 year olds. Sometimes Asian names can be confusing, so we have to be careful about using too many. — British Museum (@britishmuseum) September 13, 2017

When people understandably were like wtf , she then responded by giving and example of said 'complicated name' to which people were able to spot the obvious mistake:

E.g. the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy is known as Avalokitesvara in India, Guanyin in China, Kwanum in Korea and Kannon in Japan. — British Museum (@britishmuseum) September 13, 2017
If the curator's claim that "Asian names can be confusing" and way too long, how'd she fit all of this into one comprehensible tweet? https://t.co/gOrKKxP21u — Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) September 13, 2017

This horrible exchange only goes to show how people have talked themselves into not making the effort with names they deem 'other.'

Now, you might not care if someone pronounces your name wrong, but for some it's tough having to change something so central to your identity for the sake of others. So next time, if you're bothered by the way someone says your name, don't be afraid to correct them and don't be embarrassed by a name that might feel 'different', because it's yours and there's no need to be ashamed about having a different culture or background to your peers.

you: Asian names are hard you: I love the music of Tchaikovsky you: Schwarzenegger movies are great you: my fav Targaryen is Daenerys — 아주맵게 해주세요 (@noahjussi) September 13, 2017
Brown girl Kim
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