We’ve all either been there or witnessed it, someone introduces themselves, the other person makes a confused face. Now, a considerate person would ask how to pronounce the name and make the effort to learn it, but sadly in most cases the person nods and mispronounces it. A lot of people with names that are considered difficult find it hard to actually correct someone when they’ve said it wrong, sometimes it feels embarrassing, and other times it’s just awkward.
My name isn’t difficult to pronounce in any way shape or form – it’s Fatima (fat-i-ma), but even I’ve had people say it wrong. I’ve also had many friends who have had their names mispronounced to the point of no return, and it’s just plain rude. Especially when someone’s taken the time to actually explain how it’s said.
Some of you reading this might be wondering if this issue is even that serious – it’s just a name.. right? No, your name is more than just a word that is said, it’s your identity. We live in a world where people learn how to pronounce difficult names like Daenarys or Tchaikovsky, which are both not written how it’s said – but people have made the effort to learn them.
Some times I think it’s a racial thing, I don’t pull the card out for no reason, but I’ve witnessed white people pronounce the most difficult eastern European names known to man, but then struggle saying ‘Bushra’ or ‘Hibo’ and it brings into question why they do. Is it a stigma? Or to do with the attitudes that we raise our children on? Honestly, I don’t know, there might be some massive sociology study done on this, but I’ll have to research it later.
I come from a Somali background so names are really important to us, a lot of my immediate family are named after other family members. So it all comes from a meaningful place, when you add that and the fact that our communities tend to be Islamic – our names are kind of important to us. So when someone doesn’t even take the time to learn how to pronounce it, it’s kind of dehumanising.
Yes, some of our names aren’t the easiest to pronounce, especially the ones that require you to use parts of your throat that you wouldn’t unless you have ever learnt to pronounce Arabic letters. But taking the time and at least trying can make a massive difference. So don’t be a dick and mispronounce our names on purpose.
TLDR: If someone has a name and you don’t know how to pronounce it, just ask them. Don’t ruin the name their parents gave them.