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Opinion: Say My Name Right

Rania standing outside
Photo courtesy of Rania Abushakra

Most people would agree that names matter. A person’s name is a part of who they are and is often based on that person’s language, culture, heritage and identity. Some names are “easier” to pronounce than others, but all still deserve effort and respect. When people forget our name, mispronounce it or address us using names that are not really “ours,” we feel dismissed and disrespected. We may also feel upset and be under the impression that we are not valued as highly as those with “simpler” names.

For as long as I can remember, people have constantly mispronounced my name. I completely understand that the name Rania, which means “queen” in Arabic, is not really a common name. However, the majority of people, instead of asking me how to pronounce my name, jump to calling me what seems the most convenient to them, like Raina or Rhonda. Oftentimes, they are adding letters to my name that are not there to begin with. I have also had people call me a nickname like “Ran” without my approval, and let me tell you, I seriously cannot stand it. Those who truly know me understand that I have a justifiable expectation that people say my name correctly, or at least put a thoughtful effort to ask what my name is without going to what is easiest to say. If they fail to do that, I have absolutely no shame in correcting them.

If you encounter a name that is new to you, instead of making assumptions of how it is said or how “uncommon” it is, it would make more sense to ask for help, correct yourself when you make a mistake and respect the name as well as the person. Changing a person’s name for your own convenience is unacceptable. Putting an effort toward pronouncing someone’s name shows that you care.

I speak from personal experience when I say this: if someone is mispronouncing your name or giving you a nickname without your consent, always correct them and make them understand that it will not be tolerated if they keep calling you by something other than your name. I know that it can be awkward sometimes to interrupt people while they are talking, but please do it for your own sanity and self-confidence, kindly tell them the proper pronunciation and spelling — your name is important and deserves to be said the right way.

It is always worth remembering how different people prefer their names said, even if it requires more effort. Taking time to pronounce names correctly conveys common courtesy and inclusion, as well as a willingness to treat everyone how you would want to be treated.

By Rania Abushakra, Staff Writer

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