WTF, America? You’re Saying It Wrong.

I love being unique.

I am a person. I am of Eastern Indian descent. My parents gave me a traditional, Eastern Indian name. It’s a simple, beautiful name. Five letters long. The meaning suits me well.

The problem? People who don’t want to take a moment to read my name or try to pronounce it correctly. Seriously, people. It’s MY F-CKING NAME. No, you can’t shorten it (it’s five letters long, for chrissake!). No, you can’t call me (insert Anglo name here). I find it highly unprofessional/disrespectful/ignorant/pathetic when people tell me my name is too hard to pronounce.

It's okay to be different. Don't be ashamed of it.

But you know what makes it worse? Those fellow brown people who allow these ignorant morons to mispronounce their names to the point that they begin to introduce themselves to others brown people with the same affected tone. I met a great (brown) guy at a party one night–great personality, good-looking, etc., but I couldn’t get over the fact that he introduced himself to me as ‘Ka-PEEL’–not ‘Ka-pill’, as it’s meant to be pronounced. I had to walk away after I asked him why he mispronounces his own name–‘It’s easier for the Americans. My name isn’t normal, you know.’

Americans are striving to give their kids new and original names. Failing that, they try to spell them differently to set their kids apart (Madison becomes ‘Madysyn’ or some other BS like that). We can’t be proud of being different? Why can’t we be proud of having a heritage that values names & having a language & culture that dates back thousands of years? Just because it makes you uncomfortable when you have to correct people so they can say your name correctly?

Nothing wrong with being different.

When I meet people (& I get out there & meet a lot of people on a daily basis), my name often gets mispronounced. I know, it’s different. I patiently (& kindly) correct them. And you know what? People always make an effort if they know there is an expectation. Try it out sometime.

And remember… If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.

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30 comments on “WTF, America? You’re Saying It Wrong.

  1. Sahil says:

    your name is 5 letters long? Surely its not Angry right? 🙂

  2. Umm totally and whole heartedly agree with you. My first name is as common as it gets, my last name is really weird even by indian standards, but i like it. I like to spell it out for people (indians or westerners) who dont know what my name (first or last) means or how its pronounced in fact i think it makes for an interesting ice-breaker.

  3. The BMC says:

    My name is only 4 letters long…and I can’t even tell you how many times actual desis (ABCDs, FOBs, in-betweens, doesn’t matter) pronounce my name as if it was…French (?!). Not that hard, people. Even after I tell them how to say it numerous times, they still butcher it. I’m not carrying a baguette under my arm. i don’t get it. But I think it’s hilarious (yet sad) when desi kids dumb down their own names when introducing themselves to others of their ilk, though.

    As for my gora friends, I just have them pronounce my name exactly as it reads in English. No need to make it too hard for them and have them pronounce it all desi-style (never mind the Arabic way). Hilarious, however, when they go ahead and correct other goras how to say my name. I then tell them, “Yo, it doesn’t matter…you’re all saying it wrong anyway.” My friends understandably get mad, but after 5 attempts of trying to pronounce my name correctly they give up. Weaning them off of chicken tikka masala is a more worthy battle to fight anyway.

  4. Reena says:

    I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW IRRITATING THIS IS!! And, not so much for the non-desis. They just need correction, and I’m sorry, if they say “I can’t pronounce it, it’s too hard” , then they’re out. It’s the desis! I had a friend in h.s., who, when we first met, introduced herself to me as “Pa-laaaavi”. I had to tell her to start saying her name correctly and insisting others do as well. Seriously, what IS it with desi subservience?? Grr. I love you, ABG.

    • Lots of love right back at you!

      And I have no idea. I was talking about religion with a good friend of mine (this rarely happens, trust me), and we talked about how there are religious zealots in almost every religion (people taking interpretation/interpretation far beyond moderation), and she (a Christian) & I could not come up with an example of a fundamentalist Hindu. Are we ALL pushovers? Sigh.

      I see another blog post topic…

      • Sahil says:

        Completely unrelated but there are enough fundamentalist Hundus in this world – the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, RSS, the Narendra Modis, the Varun Gandhis the Thackerays etc. Unless ofcourse you were talking of specific people that you knew in personal life.

        The Indian “subservience” to the goras I believe comes from having grown up in a culture where fair is considered lovely.

      • justme says:

        Reena Says: …”what IS it with desi subservience”…And You come up with: “could not come up with an example of a fundamentalist Hindu. Are we ALL pushovers?”…!!! Was kinda enjoying reading the blog up until this point…what on earth is that remark supposed to mean!? You come across as intelligent going by your other remarks and blog entries- so what’s this about? You made a connection between desi subservience – and not being able to think of a single fundamentalist Hindu and therefore were we ALL pushovers! That is so many shades of stupid I don’t even know where to begin (perhaps start with your lack of rudimentary gk – seeing that you identify so strongly with your “kinsmen”, I am surprised you’ve never heard of the BJP, the Ram Sena, Shiv Sena and their ilk!) Moving on…

  5. Shruti says:

    hmm, i feel this. I’ve written poems about my name. But you know what? Part of assimilation/aculturation to America means that my parents didn’t raise me to speak either of our languages, which means I’m really self-conscious saying anything Indian because I don’t know how to say it. Seriously, I would avoid saying my name because I didn’t know how to really pronounce it, or it was really hard for me to say it the way my parents do. My mom is south indian and was born in the states, and my dad is a bengali immigrant. I’m just saying, I feel like how whiteness forms our community, it makes sense that a lot of desi folks are more comfortable using an American accent to say their own name. Me, I tend to say it in a white way to white people, and in the right accented way to brown people. That’s the way it is. Whatevs, at this point, I’ve claimed all pronunciations as my name. i mean if they’re out there, might as well make them my own, right?

    • this…

      I have the same issues. In fact, when I was 5, I didn’t speak up and tell my teachers the were saying my name wrong until my parents showed up for open house. Then, my parents tried to get them to say it right– but they couldn’t, and I couldn’t push the issue (as a 5 year old). Now, I have a pretty anglicized version of my name that I go by 90% of the time. I don’t like it, but it’s just the way it is… And I don’t know how to fix it.

  6. rez says:

    Hey! Feel your pain…

    We made a short film about this EXACT topic. Check the trailer and everything here: http://www.itwaswritten.ca!

    r
    e
    z

  7. Gene says:

    Angry,
    So people can’t pronounce your name correctly? And it’s only 5 letters long. I think I know what the problem is. I count 6 letters….Minnie, if that is your real name. Don’t be so angry, brown girl. It may give you frown lines and distract from those incredibly beautiful eyes. Naa, not a chance in hell. By the way, if I don’t understand the pronunciation of someone’s name I simply ask them to spell it for me. Most people appreciate the respect but I have been called a dumb-ass before for that and many, many other reasons. I hope my punctuation is correct, especially the apostrophe. Thanks for the blog & all the rest. Your pictures take my breath away.
    Just an old guy who has a great appreciation for exotic beauty and beautiful eyes.

  8. Mahfooz says:

    Always a mission to get a non-Asian person to get to pronounce your name correctly, and eventually you just get so disheartened that you don’t care anymore. That’s where I am at the moment, getting them to fix their pronunciation of one word seems to be harder for them than for us to learn the whole English language.

    • It’s a damn shame, isn’t it? Sadly, I find that as America seems to be sliding down the ranks in academia (and most everything else), the ignorance, self-centeredness, & condescension toward anything ‘different’ grows. I’m scared to see what America will be like in 50 years. Something needs to change.

  9. Sachin says:

    I grew up in Southern Virginia, lived in New York, Stockholm, Paris, Bombay and Ahmedabad. Guess what! In every place I’ve lived, they ALL pronounced my name differently. Sorry, I’ve never seen it as a big deal. Hell even in India, the difference between Bombay and Ahmedabad is easy to spot.

    This is a tempest in a chai pot. The smug superiority of most of you commenters here is like a stereotype.

    • justme says:

      Thank you for the one remark I could identify with! People – Indian and others – mispronounce my name and yes I correct them. My name’s from Sanskrit and the exact pronunciation of one particular syllable can flummox even desis – what of it? Many other things are tied to my sense of identity and self worth besides my name. Why the jaundiced eye towards someone who can’t pronounce it right/ changes it/wants to keep it simple and shortens it/lengthens it/anglicizes it/ desifies it? Definite storm in a etc….but it’s your blog and your right so who be me!

      Just wanted to add – though I disagree with some of your remarks/observations, there’s this spirit and chutzpah in your writing – keep it up!

  10. Maggie says:

    Reminds me of how people try to tell me what ethnicity I am…being a mixed race person. Idiots!

  11. Milap says:

    My problem is that I have no idea what’s the right pronunciation anymore. Blame Americans. 😦

  12. Anglo says:

    Non-native English speakers do the same thing to my and others’ anglo names. Who gives a fuck? Get over it.

  13. bumblebee611 says:

    Did any of you “get over it” commenters actually read her post? Angry emphasizes that she simply wants people to TRY and she is happy to patiently and kindly correct anyone to help him/her pronounce her name. I feel much the same way, with a 4 letter Indian name that ought to be downright easy for most Americans, but is invariably pronounced incorrectly. I don’t get angry at anyone for mispronouncing (even repeatedly), and I don’t even always bother to correct people (depending on how much I am going to be interacting with them), but I do try to pronounce it correctly myself when I introduce myself. More importantly, it is nothing but racist when people who would make untold efforts to get “Madysyn” or even “Thierry” correct cannot be bothered to try my four letter, two syllable, no silent letters, no aspirated sounds, etc. name. Don’t kid yourself that it’s the same thing when non-native English speakers try their best and mispronounce a name; there’s no way my parents would ever tell a Deborah or a David they don’t have to bother to pronounce those names correctly because they’re just too hard.

  14. rez says:

    Forget the big screen (for now, lol). Here’s the YouTube full version:). The film deals with people changing their names to “fit in”.

    Enjoy!

  15. Marcia says:

    I am totally feeling you. My name is Marcia, (you know Garcia –just replace the “G” with an “M”). My mother named me Marcia (Mar SEE uh) and that is what I want to be called.

    Through the years I answered to both “Marsha” and Marcia. I finally realized and was actually told that I should be called by my birth name. Plus I like the way Mar SEE ya sounds.

    I try to be a bit more understanding with those who are meeting me for the first time and automatically pronounce it “Marsha”. I correct them and we move on.

    What irritates me is when I people that I prefer “MarSEEya” instead of “Marsha, they insist on calling me what they feel like calling me. The reason: Well this is what I’ve known you as all this time, blah, blah, blah….”

    I have a friend Maria who decided to change her name to Merlina. Once she told me, as far as I was concerned, she was Merlina from that time forward. I mean, WHAT’s SO HARD?!!! >:o(

    I guess the bottom line is, my family and FRIENDS call me Marcia (MarSEEYa), and those who don’t give a……..those who just don’t care, call me Marsha.

  16. Another angry brown girl says:

    Lol I googled why white people are so stupid to mispronounce easy names on purpose (its because they’re secretly a little racist) and found your blog. I think I love you.

    Reminds me of when they introduce the indian guy from big bang theory and before they say his name they’re like “uh-oh here goes nothing…”. His name seriously sounds the way it looks. I don’t hear them saying that shit about the white girls name.

    • Of course not. America is known as one of the most ethocentric countries in the world… And it shows.

      I think it’s hilarious that you used that search term & came across my blog!

  17. Jonathan says:

    I’m an Indian guy and a Christian guy so please don’t take our Lord’s name in vain with cussing and blasphmeing using my Lord Jesus Christ’s name. Not all of us are liberal. We will get mad and we will correct you the first time around. The second time around, we will deck you.

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