I Almost Never Had My Name Mispronounced Until Now
Lifestyle

I Almost Never Had My Name Mispronounced...Until I Studied Abroad

Apparently I'm not the center of the world--and neither is the U.S. That's a good thing.

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When my parents named me Zachary, they did so because it wasn't a very common name back when I was born. Apparently, lots of other new parents at the same time had that same idea, because now my name is very common. A benefit of this is that I've never had to go through someone mispronouncing my name.

Actually, that's an overstatement. I did have it mispronounced once or twice: by a substitute teacher in high school, who was, I believe, from Bulgaria. This is small potatoes, however, next to what was the norm for many of my classmates. My hometown (Quincy, Massachusetts) has historically been demographically very white. This has changed over the past generation or so with a tremendous amount of immigration, much of it from eastern Asia; thus Quincy now has a lot of people my age whose parents were born abroad. I attended Quincy public schools from first grade to twelfth, and one constant was that, while most of the teachers and administrators were not from recent immigrant populations, many students were. (In fact, the student body of my high school was about half Asian-American, half otherwise.) This involved a lot of cases of students' names being mispronounced during attendance. (In fact, a Latin American girl's last name was actually mispronounced during graduation by the Vice-Principal, who did not catch himself.) So, I was very lucky; except for that one Bulgarian sub, everyone knew how to pronounce the name Zachary.

That changed for me here in Argentina, where I'm currently studying abroad. Whenever strangers say my first name aloud (for example, when my name is called so I can get my order in a cafe), it is almost invariably pronounced with the stress on the second syllable and the "ch" pronounced as a "ch". This initially bamboozled me. The name is so omnipresent in the U.S. (at least in my experience), and the U.S. possesses such cultural capital (you ought to hear how pop music back home invariably plays in business places here in Buenos Aires), I would have naturally assumed that people would recognize it.

Why am I fixating on this? Well, of course, a person's name is kind of important, and hearing it mispronounced is a little jarring. Getting used to it, I suppose, is just another fruitful culture shock of being abroad, and, for that, I'm very grateful.

The big thing, though, is that this is one little example of how we estadounidenses (especially those of us whose parents were not born abroad), though our prevailing culture has indeed come to take over the world to a great extent, need to be conscious of cultural diversity. What to us is obvious and normal may not be so in other parts of the world. Our country prides itself on being a nation of immigrants and having sufficient cultural space for love of diversity. This is a very beautiful thing, and experiences like mine are a good way to be nudged along on the path of not forgetting this.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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