Apparently, apathy is a big trend here at Northwestern. (I know, I know…and I don’t care.)
I understand being apathetic about world politics, what goes on in your dorm, or even what you have for dinner.
But the way people pronounce your name? If you care about one thing, kids, this should be your issue.
Lately, I have run into a problem with the way that people pronounce their name in their native language versus the way we Americans can say their names.
I’ll illustrate with four examples (if you’re reading this and your name is mentioned, feel free to comment with thoughts on how to rectify this problem):
1. Seva. He’s Russian. When he says his name, in his Russian accent, it sounds like “S’yeh-va,” but the syllables are said so quickly and Russianickly that they sound like one. When Americans try to say it “properly,” they’ll say “See-ehva.” I have talked to Seva about this, and he does not like that pronunciation. I told him that I, an American who is proud of her accent, could not physically say his name the way he likes it. Would he rather I say “Seh-vuh” or “Say-vuh”? “Say-vuh,” he says.
-Side note #1: When I asked Seva to try to pronounce his name in an American accent, he first could not do it. Upon further trying, he made Americans sound incredibly stupid. I forgot how, though.
-Side note #2: This is pretty much the best story I’ve ever heard. Let me first introduce the players. Seva: you may remember him from such stories as person #1, and side note #1. Jason: an AEpi friend of Seva’s. Random older guy in AEpi (we’ll call him ROGIAEP): sorry, I forgot his name. You can’t win them all.
ROGIAEP [to Jason]: “So, tell me, do you pronounce your name ‘Seh-vuh’ or ‘See-ehva’?”
Jason: “It’s ‘See-ehva.’ AND, it’s ‘Jason.'”
2. Yeji. She’s Asian, in my journalism class. First day of class:
Journalism professor: “How would you like me to pronounce your name?”
Yeji: “I don’t care.”
JP: “Well, is it “Yeh-jee” or is it “Yay-jee”?
Yeji: “Either one is fine.”
But why don’t you care? You should care! It’s your name! It’s the only thing you’re guaranteed to own for the rest of your life…well, hopefully.
3. Suzanne. She’s English. Like, from England. She’s the news editor at The Daily Northwestern on the nights I copy edit. She pronounces her name “Soo-ZON,” the British way. Consequently, when calling her, most other [extremely American] people in the newsroom also call her Soo-Zon. I refuse to butcher my American accent in such a way. To me, she is “Soo-zan” (rhymes with “you man”). If I pronounced it the British way, it would be a disgrace to my American ancestors who fought to get independence from England. (What? My ancestors lived in Poland? Oh…)
4. Shari. My beloved next-door neighbor from Long Island. Shari fits under this category of people speaking in foreign tongues because, quite frankly, she is from New York. She says “I sawer the sign” instead of “I saw the sign,” and “fah-ren” instead of “foh-ren” (foreign). Her name, she says, is pronounced “Shahh-ree.” My Chicagoan mouth cannot bend that way, my friend. I say and will always say “Share-ee.” She says “Shari” and “sharing” differently, when in fact, they are the same word.
So…a few things to keep in mind.
-If your name is foreign, and you live in America, deal with it. It will be mispronounced. But don’t try to think that your American friends will figure out the proper way of saying it. Come up with an easy American way to stay it, stick with it, and like it! That’s the best we can give you.
-You also should care about how your name is pronounced. Unless it’s too complicated and you have not done bullet point #1.
-If you’re from the east coast, when you’re in Chicago, you may as well be from another country. ASSIMILATE!
-When in doubt, take the easy way out: “Hey, you! Can you pass the salt?”