A little while ago one of my close friends wrote a Facebook post about how she found herself letting people’s inability to pronounce her name slide by like it was no big deal. Her post moved me to share my experience.
Hi, my name is Nidhi Singh. I was born on October 30th, 1997 in Wichita, Kansas. That particular day also happened to be Diwali, an Indian holiday commonly known as the festival of lights. As a result, my parents decided to give me a name that represented what the holiday was about.
My name “Nidhi” means treasure which embodies the part of the holiday that encompasses gift giving and the blessing of good fortune from Goddess Lakshmi. When I was little kid, I loved my name! I loved the fact that it had such a deep meaning and story behind it. However, that pride did not last long.
As I entered elementary school, I realized that not everyone shared the same love for my name as I did. Bullies tormented me throughout first and second grade, making fun of the fact that my name was hard to pronounce. They would say things like, “are you an alien? Why is your name so weird?”
Those insults eventually turned into my new perception of my name. I didn’t like my name anymore. I didn’t like the fact that it was hard to pronounce for some people. I didn’t like how most people struggled to spell my name correctly if I didn’t help them. All I wanted was to have a “normal” name. One that easily rolls off the tongue and doesn’t trouble anyone. I felt that way about my name for several years.
Despite the fact that my friends and family would constantly tell how cool they thought my name was and how interesting the story was behind it, in the back of my head I always thought about how easy it would just be to be like everyone else. As I got older, my life got busier and I tucked away from the insecurity of my name in the back of my mind.
This past fall, I started college and as many college kids do, I started to indulge myself in daily Starbucks Frappuccinos. The first couple times I went and the barista asked me what my name was, I would tell them my real name.
And without question, almost every time my name was spelled wrong on the cup and pronounced extremely off when my drink was ready. At first, I blamed myself because I thought that I didn’t spell out my name for the barista at the register correctly. So, I began to spell out my name to the barista every time I went to Starbucks.
Even with me spelling out my name for the people that worked there and verbalizing how you pronounce my name to them, they continued to call out versions of my name that I was foreign too whenever my drink was ready.
At first, it was kind of funny, something for me and my friends to laugh at while we did our homework. But eventually, it just got annoying. At that point, I decided that whenever I go to any place that asks for my name, I would just say my name is Nikki to make things easier.
Now I know that some of you reading this might not think that having your name constantly mispronounced is a big deal. Well, to me, it is. Because although some people may disagree, your name is a huge part of your identity. For people to constantly mess up your name and then not care because they are in a hurry or its just “too hard” to figure out how to pronounce is incredibly disrespectful.
Imagine if your name was Stephanie and people constantly called your Sophia. At some point you would get fed up with correcting people constantly and just give in to the fact that the world doesn’t care about stupid formalities like taking 10 extra seconds in the Starbucks line to learn how to say a customer’s name. Now, I am not salty at Starbucks or for any company that mispronounces my name. I am mostly upset at myself.
I allowed people to mispronounce my name for years and I never did anything about it. I just let it happen because I thought I was being impolite if I corrected someone. Typing that last sentence out now makes me realize how ridiculous I sound. How is it impolite if I ask someone to not call me something that isn’t my name? It isn’t. In fact, it is impolite of the other person to not care that they have mispronounced my name. It has taken me several Starbucks Frappuccinos to understand this fact.
So, I write this to anyone who struggles with people mispronouncing or misspelling their name the same way I did. Take pride in your name and do not be afraid to correct people like I was. You are not being impolite or rude, you are simply asking to be addressed in the way that fits your identity and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.