Having A Name Pronounced Differently Based On Your Culture

My Name Is Sarah, But How I Say It Depends On Who You Are

For minorities, there is a lingering burden to conform. Many feel involuntarily apologetic about displaying their culture or ethnicity in their face, their hair, their accent, their skin, their name.


You know at least three or four girls with the name. It's one of the names you always see on a keychain at any gift store, along with a Matthew, Daniel, and Mary. Oh, the joys of having a biblical, white-normative name. That's my name, Sarah: except maybe not the Sarah you've heard before.

My parents intended for my name to be pronounced like "Sah-ra" (like "Zara" with an S). It's still spelled S-A-R-A-H. In fact, it's just the Arabic pronunciation of the same name. But the two pronunciations fundamentally shaped my experience and how I view myself. I wonder if my parents knew, with me growing up in New Jersey, how unlikely it would be that others would actually call me Sah-ra. My true name. Did they know I wouldn't correct the teacher calling my name from the roster on the first day of school? Did they realize that I'd be one of two (sometimes three) Sarahs in my elementary school classes and that I'd be referred to as Sarah A., rather than Sah-ra, to distinguish myself? I wonder if they knew how weird it would be to not know what mixture of sounds would be sung each time I hear "Happy Birthday dear..." when I sit in front of the birthday cake.

Maybe they didn't know. Or maybe they knew, and they were intentionally trying to make my life as a first-generation Indian American girl easier. You know, help me assimilate a little better.

I don't look like the other Sarahs I know. I've never felt like one of them. At the same time, I feel different from other people who were given names that align with their ethnicity (not better, just different,) There are weird feelings that are inherently built into my experience, and I can't exactly explain them to people who can't relate.

It's normal for me to have two real names. Two names that I consider are really me, at my core. It's natural for me to introduce myself as either Sarah or Sah-ra, depending on who you are. If you're family or a family friend, I'm Sah-ra. If you're anyone else, I'm Sarah. At some point very early on, I decided it was too difficult to have to tell every single person that no, they're wrong, it's actually pronounced this other, stranger way. Can you imagine doing that every time?

So that's why I'm also regular, plain-old Sarah. She's thoroughly absorbed into me.

Is it OK that my identity at any given moment is determined not entirely by me, but by those around me?

But then, isn't that how we all live? We, as American children of non-White, non-Christian, non-American parents, who feel like we don't really fit into any one category?

My name is a channel through which I recognize my various identities. The mix of complex cultural identities that first-generation Americans experience is a subject that I don't feel entirely qualified to write about. But I know that in my personal experience, it feels like all of my identities are bubbles deep underwater within myself, and they are constantly and simultaneously trying to rise to the top. It feels like when I say my name as Sarah, I am pushing my Indian and Muslim bubbles back under the water and allowing the American bubble to emerge on the surface. It's like they can't all show at once.

I definitely experience privilege with my name. I know there are hundreds of thousands of first-generation children in the West with phonetically-ambiguous names. Even my two older sisters have unique, non-Western names. I am privileged in the fact that no one has ever mocked me for having a "strange" or hard-to-pronounce name, and I can't say my "struggle" is really much of a struggle at all. It's not.

For minorities, there is a lingering burden to conform. Many feel involuntarily apologetic about displaying their culture or ethnicity in their face, their hair, their accent, their skin, their name. They struggle to justify their inherent differentness with proud displays of Westernization. It's unfortunate, but we often change things about ourselves for the comfort of others. It's our way of saying: see? We're one of you.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that I'm grateful for my name and all of its beautiful sounds. I like that it manages to show various sides of myself simultaneously. But in the end, what's in a name?

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18 Things To Know Before Dating A Firefighter

You'll learn how to tell the difference between different kinds of sirens.

There are just certain things you are going to want to know before dating a fireman. In my experience, I had to learn along the way. But at the end of all the calls, constantly smelling his gear in the car and sometimes even cancelled plans, I sure do love my firefighter!

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons To Date A Country Boy

You were promised a list, so here it is:

1. If they are even within 20 minutes of the station, they will always leave you to go on a call.

No matter the circumstances, if you have a fireman on your hands, he will jet to the car and be on his way.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Date A Police Officer

2. Meeting nights are not something you try and fight with them about. They are going to leave and you do not have to like it because it wasn't up to you anyway.

I have learned that these nights are not optional. Yes, other people miss them, but not my firefighter.

3. No matter where you are or what you're doing the minute they hear a firetrucks horn, they're looking for it and hoping they're not missing anything good.

You will learn the lingo. Structures, fully involved (the good stuff) smoke alarms, cat in a tree (ehh I mean they are fireman...soooo still good stuff).

4. They know the exact difference between an ambulance, cop, and, of course, a fire truck siren.

Which means that you will have to learn, too.

5. You’ll have to accept that when he has to do hall rental cleanup, you're going with to help.

You fold the chairs and he stacks them. And Im talking at like 12 a.m.,1 a.m.

6. When you come around the firehouse, there will be jokes made and they'll mess with him about you or even you about him.

Honestly it's a giant bromance going on and they prey on this kinda stuff.

7. At first, you won't really have a name to the fire guys. Until you're around long enough.

You'll just be Boyfriend's name's girlfriend.

8. The fire pager goes where he goes.

Next to the bed, in the car, next to your bed, your living room, EVERYWHERE. And even if it's not the real pager, it's the dog app that I can never remember the name of so dog app it is. (Say that really fast to get the full effect).

9. They will probably wear their station shirt/apparel at least 4-5 days a week.


10. If you've got a good one, you're always put first. The list will always go "You, the firehouse, me, everyone else."

But secretly they always want to put the firehouse first.

11. You will learn and know more stations, trucks, members, and chiefs than you will ever want to admit.

Unbelievably true.

12. When you're driving and you see a fire station, you'll have to look at it.

If its an amazing building, you'll have to remember the name. And then you'll have to tell him about it. And then you've just proved number 11 correct. Add it to your list.

13. Never make plans while he's on a call. You can never know when he'll be back.

Even if the calls are short, they could stay at least another hour washing the trucks and being boys, of course.

14. In case you didn't understand the severity of the first one, if you are on the phone and you hear the pager go off in the background, just tell him you love him and hang up.

Because if you don't, he will. "Got a call, Love you, bye." Mid-sentence is always what you want to hear.

15. You'll never want to watch "Ladder 49" again.

You will cry like a baby and then want to make him quit.

16. Outside of the stations, fireman tend to forget that fire isn't a toy and it's pretty damn hot.

*Playing with the lighter fluid or burning things on the stove*
"No it's alright, I'm a firefighter."

17. You will start your own station shirt collection.

From NYFD memorial shirts, a station from where you're vacationing even acquired old shirts of his, you will have started your own pile of station shirts.

18. You can't get angry or upset when he is unavailable because he's going to go to the firehouse for the fifth time that week, or if there's another fire prevention thing to do.

You can't be mad because he's doing what he loves and also because a man in a uniform isn't too shabby.

There are a lot more things to know before dating a fireman, but the rest you'll just have to learn along the way.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things To Know Before Dating Someone With Anxiety

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Drag Queen Soju Brings Attention To Ignorance Towards Asians In America

Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media.


A recent episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race," which is currently in its eleventh season, opened up a conversation about the treatment of Asian Americans in the drag community. During the episode's "reading" challenge, in which contestants jokingly exchange insults, Silky Nutmeg Ganache "read" Vietnamese-American contestant Plastique Tiara by repeatedly shouting what she claimed was the word "hurry" in Japanese. After asking what the word meant, Plastique responded, "I'm not Japanese!" as the other contestants laughed. Fans took to social media to express disappointment in the ignorance of Silky's joke, causing other "Drag Race" contestants to weigh in on the situation.

Soju, a Korean-American drag queen who also competed on season eleven, tweeted, "I'm Korean and plastique is Vietnamese" following the episode. She later added, "This isn't about dragging @GanacheSilky this is about educating. All of us can learn." Soju emphasized that she does not believe Silky is racist, but her read was still racially insensitive.

Soju stated in another series of tweets, "If my friends and sisters don't take my heritage and race seriously, then the problem is on me for letting these 'jokes' go on for too long... I've never had a problem for enjoying and celebrating Asian culture. But statements and jokes to degrade us is just not cool." In response to a reply on her tweet, she also added, "this is and always will be educating society about the reality of how Asians are not being taken seriously in America."

Fans praised Soju for bringing attention to and addressing the issue. Many Asian fans, in particular, were able to share their own experiences in their response to Soju. Jokes like the one made by Silky have always existed in the experience of Asian Americans. While the joke itself may not appear too harmful on the surface, it reflects the general perception of Asians in America. Asians are ignorantly treated as a monolith rather than as a diverse group with diverse backgrounds, and Asian culture is often presented as an amalgamation of cultures (mainly East Asian) as well.

Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media. Both her and Plastique Tiara's appearance on "RuPaul's Drag Race" have given positive representation to LGBT+ Asian-Americans, and it is especially encouraging to see her using her platform in the community to help educate others.

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