My Name Is Nipuni; You Can Also Call Me Nina, And Here's Why
Politics and Activism

My Name Is Nipuni; You Can Also Call Me Nina, And Here's Why

That foreign student who chooses a Western name while abroad: don't blame them. It's for the common good.

My Name Is Nipuni; You Can Also Call Me Nina, And Here's Why

I am in the University coffee shop. It's 8:20 a.m. and I have stopped by to get breakfast and coffee before heading to the library to get some work done before class. Behind me is a long line of students, some back from a jog, some on their way to their 8:30 a.m. lessons. My turn arrives and I bid good morning to the lady at the register.

"Can I get a caramel macchiato and a whole wheat bagel with jalapeño salsa spread, please?"

"Of course," she smiles as she writes down the order, "What is your name?"

I hesitate for a split second before replying, "Nina."

My full name is Dumingu Kankanamage Nipuni Poornima Gomes.

I go by "Nipuni."

These days, I also go by "Nina."

Let me tell you a story:

Growing up, I never considered using a name that was not my own for the sake of the different name being easier for others to pronounce. My parents always told my older sister and me to be proud of our names, and to teach people how to pronounce them rather than shying away from them. Our names are part of our culture, our heritage, our parents said. They came with a certain sense of pride that we had to preserve at all costs as Sri Lankan immigrants in this foreign land called Honduras.

My name, Nipuni, which is my true given name ("Dumingu" and "Kankanamage" being my father's family's prefixes - a long standing tradition that many Sri Lankan families still practice), was not too difficult for my Spanish-speaking classmates to pronounce. The prefixes were never used in any document but my passport. Save for some interesting nicknames that came out of it (mostly related to poop), "Nipuni" was what everyone called me.

In elementary school, I had a friend named Ricky. He and his family were Chinese immigrants. Eight-year old me thought it a little odd for a Chinese person to be named "Ricky," but never really cared. Ricky was a good friend at the time and, in fifth grade, when he told me and our other friends that his family would be moving to another country, I felt quite sad. One day, during the last few weeks of school that year, Ricky confessed a secret to our classmates and me: his name was not really "Ricky," he said, it was something else (which, although I remember as clearly as the light of day, I will refrain from writing here).

Very few of our classmates could pronounce Ricky's real name. Those who couldn't immediately began making fun of it. One of the last memories I have of Ricky is his tear-stained face and angry expression as he said that he wished he had never told us his real name.

Several years later, in my junior year of high school, I had a Korean friend who used a Latinized version of his real name, as well as an entirely different name, depending on the situation. He did not tell me what his real name was until much later. The day he told me about this name, I felt betrayed. In my mind, all this time, he had put me at the same level as those people he considered not smart enough to be able to pronounce his real name.

In college, I began to meet people from several nationalities and ethnicities. I also began to realize how common it was for people to go by names different from their own. I admit I was that one extremely annoying person who asked, "No, what is your real name?" when I met international students who introduced themselves with a name that sounded "too American" to be true.

Due to technicalities, all my official documents now contained my full name rather than just "Nipuni Poornima Gomes." It has always been a treat to watch professors confusedly eye the roster on the first day of class when pronouncing "Dumingu Kankanamage." I went by "Nipuni," and wouldn't have had it any other way.

Gradually, however, it became more and more tedious to teach people how to pronounce my name. Sometimes people became uncomfortable, and some even told me things like, "you don't have to be so condescending," even when I did not mean to be condescending at all. On other occasions, people continually misspelled and mispronounced my name and wouldn't budge even when I corrected them.

I began to feel as if I was just the girl with the hard-to-pronounce name, the girl who (apparently) sounded condescending when she told her name to people who had a hard time pronouncing it...

One day, when someone asked me what my name was, I replied, "Nipuni. You can also call me 'Nina.'"

Makes it easier for everyone.

Dale Carnegie wrote in his book How to Make Friends and Influence People: "A person's name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language." I read this book when I was in elementary school, and this is one of its many lessons that has stuck with me. However, let me put it in perspective:

Indeed, a person's name is the sweetest music to their own ears: the name being what that person wishes to be called. If a person wants to be called by a name other than that on their birth certificate, then everybody must respect that individual's wishes (unless the chosen moniker is something completely socially unacceptable).

Not long ago, I realized something: all this time, I have been doing the exact same thing that my Korean friend from high school did. "Nipuni" is correctly pronounced "nípüni." Nonetheless, whenever I tell someone my name, I pronounce it "nəpo͝oni."


Because it's pretty hard for nearly anybody outside of Asia to say "nípüni." It is not that I think other people are stupid, or that I do not honor the name my parents gave me; I simply value the productive conversation I can have with someone over spending five whole minutes teaching them how to pronounce my name, at the risk of making them feel inadequate.

If you can say "Nipuni," then it's fine, call me "Nipuni." If you're going to say "napuni," "nipuno," "noponi," or "niponi" instead, and never make an attempt at correcting yourself, I would much rather have you call me "Nina."

My name is Dumingu Kankanamage Nipuni Poornima Gomes.

Call me "Nipuni."

You can also call me "Nina."

End of story.

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

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B just dropped the hottest summer single yet. It's called "WAP" and we're going to get into all the intoxicating lyrics.

This song empowers females and their sexuality. These women put the ridiculous music industry female beef to bed, and I mean tucked away in a coma.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Write Down The Holy Grail Recipe Everyone Begs You To Make

Because everyone has a signature cocktail, cake, or pasta they bring to every potluck.


From back when I used to bring my mom's classic white chocolate chip cookies to preschool on my birthday to now stirring up my signature tequila cocktails at every friends' barbecue, I've always had a couple of standby recipes in my culinary rotation.

Keep Reading... Show less

Meet My Cat: Cheshire, The Stray Turned House Cat Who Lives in Michigan

I never considered myself a cat person, but Chess immediately stole my heart.

Madelyn Darbonne

In 2016, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of three grey kittens on my aunt and uncle's property. I had never considered myself to be much of a cat person, but these furballs immediately stole my heart. I got to watch them grow up until they were old enough to leave their mother's side.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Binge-Watch A TV Show —And Then Write A Review About It

Writing your favorite and least favorite things about a show could not be more fun.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Looking for a new show to binge? Stop scrolling through your options and listen.

Sometimes a good show doesn't come down to the genre or the actors involved, it comes down to the fact that it is simply a GOOD show. If any of these things sound appealing to you, you should definitely watch.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been bleaching my hair since I was in seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly, seventh grade. That's nearly 10 years of maintaining a very light shade of blonde that too-often brings about dryness and brittle strands.

Keep Reading... Show less

Chances are if you're here, you're probably interested in writing an open letter. Yay! We're excited to have you.

Of course, not all open letters are created equal. In fact, there's a recipe to writing one for Odyssey that'll get featured on one of our many verticals. When it comes to Swoon specifically (for those new around here, that's our dating and relationships vertical), we receive dozens of open letters each month, many of which are all very similar.

Keep Reading... Show less

With a new phone comes great responsibility: Do not break it! And the best way to do that is with a case. However, picking a case can be a challenge. No need to fret, I am here to help break down some of the best cases for the new iPhone SE 2020. Honestly, I think it's going to be impossible to choose!

Keep Reading... Show less

To some who have been out of the dating world for a while, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things after being single for some time. So, I asked 26 people what they think is important to know before looking for love again, here's what they had to say.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments