(back by popular demand, this earlier blog post is worth repeating!)
What’s in a name? Often a lot!
Take my name for instance. “Lida” is of Dutch origin and is the same as the name of a dear family friend of my parents. Recently, I had a conversation with a gentleman who repeatedly struggled to pronounce my name. As he continued to try to get it right, he began to giggle when he couldn’t pronounce my name correctly. He kept giggling, apparently entertaining himself. Then he started getting silly and singing the “Banana Fana Fo Fanna” song as I listened … unamused.
I gently offered a suggestion, “You can remember it as: ‘You can lead a horse to water’…” That didn’t seem to help. I was still called Lydia, Lisa and Linda for the remainder of our conversation.
Names are very personal. Whether your name is easy to pronounce (“Bob”) or more complicated (“Lida”) it is your unique calling card to the world, chosen by your parents. Some names carry history, legacy, special meaning or ethnic significance. Our world is global – in person and online. Today it is more common to encounter names that seem unusual to us.
When faced with a unique and hard-to-pronounce name, here are some suggestions:
1. Respect that the person’s name may have religious, cultural or personal significance. It’s all right to ask where their name comes from, but don’t mock the name or the fact that you struggle to pronounce it. Often, someone with a unique name is proud of the history and significance of the name and could share an interesting story!
2. Try for a mental match in your mind to help remember the pronunciation. My example (above) is one option, or try “Preeta” is pretty; “Ramone” was a popular band in the 80’s (Ramones); and “Suni” is sunny.
3. If the name is challenging to pronounce phonetically, ask for help. This isn’t the first time we’ve been asked to repeat our name. Someone with an unusual name is used to having it mispronounced, but appreciates being asked to clarify.
There is a lovely young lady who does pedicures in our local nail salon. Her nametag reads, “Dana” and she is from Mongolia. Recently, I asked her if Dana was her American name, and if so, what is her native name? She proudly told me her name in Mongolia is “Dahfka.” I said to myself, “Oh, like Kafka!” Every time I see her in the salon, I make a point of saying, “Hello, Dahfka!” and she is elated!
Elizabeth Suarez says
Thank you for reposting this article. At our household we live this predicament with my hubby’s name (Clettes). You can only imagine the comments and sarcasm the people state. It irritates him and I see it as disrespectful; especially that he is a Junior. Besides, your name is easy to pronounce; ask any Spanish speaker. You pronounce the ‘i’ and ‘a’ as you pronounce your beautiful name. From my end, my name situation is people wanting to abbreviate it. How dare you call me ‘Liz’, ‘Lizzie’, ‘Beth’. When I correct them, they just say: ‘Well, Elizabeth is just a long name.’. Guess what is my great grandmother, grandmother and my mother’s middle name. So it isn’t going to be abbreviated.
Thank you for letting me vent. 🙂
Lida Citroen says
Thank you for your comments, Elizabeth!
Jeannie Freis says
Great article. My name is Jeannie, and I really dislike being called Jean, Jenny, Jeanine, Jennifer, or people who work with me daily who can’t spell my name. (repeatedly write something else in email) I always notice those who make an effort to spell my name correctly.
Lida Citroen says
I agree, Jeannie!
I am Elizabeth too, but my parents and family called me Lily from the day that I was born. As I got older, it caused some problems.
Whenever I told people that my name was Lily, short for Elizabeth, people always called me Lizzie. There is nothing wrong with the name Lizzie, but it is not my name. I always corrected them, but many people persisted. I would eventually ask them to stop calling me that, and they would look at me in bemusement and say “but Lily can’t be short for Elizabeth!” It wasn’t that they couldn’t say my name, they just refused to do so. Now I have ended up using the name Elizabeth, because people can’t accept the name Lily, and I get the same response as the Elizabeth that commented previously.
Lida Citroen says
I hear you, Lily! Since I stand at 6’1″ tall, whenever someone asks me if “Lida” is short for something… I look at them and reply, “There is NOTHING short about me….” Thanks for sharing your story!