Last week during the United States Democrats’ National Convention, I practiced all week, “Comma’ + ‘La’= Kamala. Kamala, Kamala, Kamala.” I hadn’t realized during the primaries, even as she was one of my top picks, that I was saying Senator Harris’ name wrong.
I have seen women and men confidently correct a new acquaintance when their name is said incorrectly. It can be tricky to make that correction though, and in interviews, I have seen Senator Harris mention that she doesn’t mind when people mispronounce her name because it has happened all her life. I know some people do care.
My college friend, Siobhan, was told by her mom to just figure out how someone new was going to say her name so that she could remember to answer to it. That is a lot of emotional labor to put on a teenage kid.
So, I particularly loved this vignette by the actress, Uzoamaka Nwanneka Aduba, that popped up on YouTube for me one day.
If you’re not at a place where you can watch this, Uzo tells her mom when she is in middle school that she would like to be called “Zoey.” And, her mom says, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
The names people are given and the names they choose matter. As I enter a new school year and this new COVID-19 world, this was a helpful reminder for me.
Do you have a name that people mispronounce? Do you have a hard time getting some people’s names right? How do you deal with that?