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Monday, February 10, 2014

What to do when people don't pronounce your name correctly

For the first five to six years of your life, everyone you know calls you by your name. They don't mispronounce it, because they know better. 

And then you start kindergarten and your teacher calls roll for the first time and calls you a different, but similar name. It's not your name, really, so you correct her.

Repeat this every year for six years. Then go to junior high and repeat it six times a day for the first two weeks of school, every semester. Lasts for three weeks, seven times a day in high school each semester. By college, you've given up. If your professor calls you Laurie, you're excited that they even know you exist. 

My name, as is evidenced by the blog name and header, is pronounced AHHHnna, like Madonna and sauna and marijuana. It is spelled: Anna. 

Everyone calls me Anna like banana and manna and Havana. It took me a decade or so, but I get it.

Here's the deal. It was my Greek grandmother's name who was killed along with my young aunt by a drunk driver the year before I was born. My parents loved my grandmother. Her name was: Anne. In Greece, that is pronounced AHHHHnna, but in America everyone called her Anne and she went with it. My parents wanted to honor me with her name so they "made it easier" by changing the "e" at the end to an "a". As you probably have guessed, it wasn't necessarily easier. Just a different mispronunciation. But I never just went with it, because I didn't get it.

As a young child, you don't think that people are reading your name as they would in 98% of the English-speaking communities. All you know is that they are saying it wrong. So you correct them. You get older and people start calling you a snob and you don't understand, still, because it is your name.

Then you just go with it 30% of the time.

Some ways I have learned to handle the mispronunciation of my name:
1. Answer to Anna (like banana)
2. When people ask for Anna (like banana), say, "This is Ahhhnna."
3. Say your name when you answer the phone or immediately when you call someone before it gets awkward: "Hi Anna (like banana)." "Hey Steve, this is Ahhhnna. I was wondering if we could go over these edit corrections" (because I am super professional).
4. Start going by "Lady" or "Amazing" or "Supafly" because, hey, why not?
5. Smile, because DUDE, people actually know who you are. 
6. Realize you have a lot of names, more than most people, and revel in it.
7. Tell people that they can call you whatever they want, just not late for dinner. I totally just made that up.
8. When your DAD calls you by the wrong name, give him some slack. Even though it was HIS mother you are named after. 
9. Have a piece of chocolate and chill out.

Did you know that I toyed with changing my name in college? I wanted everyone to call me "Beth" (because my middle name is Elisabeth). It lasted for three days. 

When I lived in France, everyone called me Ahhhhnna. On our last night, we all decided to speak English together for the first time (in four months). Everyone's accents and voices sounded so different, but especially weird was that everyone started calling me Anna. Nope, still Ahhhnna.

So, SHATHEED, chin up. Even though your name is spelled Shithead and everyone laughs during roll, you and I both know you are SHATHEED. Life is good.


3 wise comments:

jfbast said...

everyone pronounces our German last name wrong (Bast = B ahh sh t) and when I pronounce it to others they act like they don't know who i am talking about. even my kids pronounce it the way their teachers do. ? ah well, we're american and we'll answer to almost anything.

Amy Y said...

Are they finally getting it right though?! I think every little girl Anna (banana) wishes she was Anna (ahhhhna) now

Stephanie Coltrin said...

I never knew your middle name is Elisabeth. My Anna's (pronounced like banana) middle name is Elizabeth. You'll see we spelled it with the z. It took me forever to decide between the s version (traditional in Germany, my ancestral heritage) or the z version, the way I knew most people would inevitably spell it. You can see I took the easy road on that one! Now if I could get people to stop assuming I'm saying Hannah when I refer to my daughter. Why does everyone assume a girl her age (16) should be a Hannah and not an banana?