my employees refuse to call their coworker by her real name

A reader writes:

One of my long-term staff has a common, easy-to-pronounce Indian name, but since well before I was hired, she was given a nickname: a westernised version of her name. We were chatting about my (slightly unusual) name one day, and she expressed that she hates the nickname, wishes people would just use her real name, and that she’s never felt confident asking people to do so. I offered, as her manager, to handle this for her, and she agreed, stating that she’d be grateful.

Responses were mixed but generally negative, and many of the team are refusing to call her anything but the nickname. The general consensus is that it’s “prettier” or that her name “isn’t very feminine.” When asked directly, she finds it difficult to be rude, so will only say that she prefers her full name. It’s now at the point where I’m having to inform my new senior manager that the nickname isn’t appropriate, because staff members have informed her that the nickname is preferred.

I had a conversation today with one team member about this, and she informed me that unless she’s told by the person with the nickname that she “only wants to be called by her other name,” she will continue to use the nickname when speaking about her to coworkers or clients, or directly to her. I feel that this is vastly inappropriate, but without my staff member having the confidence to address this more strongly, there doesn’t seem to be much I can do. That said, it seems disrespectful at the very least.

Should I push further on what, to most of the team, is a minor issue, or let it go and hope that my team member can stand up for herself?

This reminds me of last week’s letter from the manager whose employee was harassing a coworker about her prosthetic limb.

That manager needed to use her authority to put a stop to something offensive, and so do you. You don’t need to talk anyone into behaving respectfully; you need to tell them that it’s not optional.

Your staff members’ behavior here is, frankly, disgusting. They want to westernize someone’s name because her actual name isn’t “pretty” or “feminine” enough for them? No. That’s not an option, they’re being offensive and racist, and you need to require them to behave respectfully and not like the giant assholes they’re currently being.

Talk with each of the offenders individually and say this: “We’ve talked about this before and I erred in not being clear enough — Parvati’s name isn’t Polly; it’s Parvati. She’s asked that we use her correct name, and that’s what you need to call her going forward. I need you to be vigilant about respecting that request and calling her Parvati from now on.”

If you get any of this crap about “not unless she tells me herself that she only wants to be called by her real name,” stamp that out immediately. Say this: “No. I’m telling you clearly right now that she has asked to be called Parvati, and that I expect you to do that — and I expect you to do that without giving her any trouble about it. Can you agree to do that?”

You’re asking that last part — “can you agree to do that?” — because you want the person to commit to it here and now … and if they’re still reluctant, you want to find that out before you end the conversation.

But you absolutely, 100% need to do this. Your employee has told you very clearly that she prefers her given name, and you cannot allow her colleagues to decide to westernize her name for their own comfort. Get it stopped today. Seriously, this is horrible.

{ 913 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Christopher Tracy

      Right? I’m so disgusted by the people at this workplace. OP, you need to start firing people. The first person who does this again after you tell them to stop, let him or her go. See how quick the rest of them will fall in line if they know their job is on the line.

      Reply
        1. Aurelia

          Calling someone a name that they made clear they hate (and isn’t even their real name to begin with!) should indeed be a fireable offense. The employee went to the boss about the issue, the boss made it clear that the other employees need to call her by her real name, end of story.
          If the coworkers continue to call her by a nickname she hates, they’re being disrespectful and making the poor employee very uncomfortable. The employee should not have to share a workplace with those insensitive jackasses.

          Reply
        2. Just a guy

          Calling someone by a nickname she doesn’t like is harassment, and harassment is a fireable offense. Then yes.

          Reply
        3. Lablizard

          No, but insubordination is. A manager has instructed an employee to stop doing something disruptive to the team. If the employee refuses, that is insubordination

          Reply
    2. madge

      Seriously. This is when I’m glad Alison doesn’t shy away from strong language when it’s needed. OP, your employees are definitely being assholes. Who gives a fig if this isn’t a big deal to them? Unless you want to be known as the manager who tolerates racist behavior, let them know this is a zero tolerance issue.

      Reply
      1. designbot

        I bet the employees don’t even realize it’s racist (because a lot of racism is born of ignorance) and have never thought of it through this perspective before. If the manager would be willing ot call it what it is, I think it could go a long way. “Your refusal to use an colleague’s correct name after being requested to do so simply because it is an ethnic name is a racist behavior, and if I allow it to continue then that could be seen as a hostile work environment for her. If you continue to do this, keeping you around is a liability for me. Do you understand?”

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          I think they know it’s a “mean middle schooler” trick, though.

          But yes, it would probably be much more effective if the manager approaches it for this framework. Lay it out for them, in a reasonable, “You probably haven’t thought about this,” way.
          Maybe even say, “Have you thought that perhaps your refusal to use her real name could be sending a message that she HERSELF is unacceptable to you because of her ethnicity?” As if it hasn’t occurred to them.

          But I’d be doing so w/ a deeply cynical (though hidden) point of view, because I absolutely think they know what they’re doing.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            Even if they don’t, I seriously doubt somebody who fights for their right to use a wrong name because it’s more “pretty” or “feminine” is going to be receptive to learning about their own internalized racism.

            Reply
            1. TrainerGirl

              +1000

              Anyone who asks someone to change or alter themselves for that person’s own comfort needs to be redirected, and fast. I’m African American, and have been asked not to wear my hair in its natural state because people don’t find it “professional” and because they prefer it to be straight. I don’t think any manager would approve of this either. These employees need to understand that their preferences don’t matter one bit and get over themselves.

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            2. Tyrannosaurus Regina

              Yeah. It’s great to hope people will have a series of epiphanies and learn to be less terrible, but the important thing is they STOP the behavior 100%. Maybe they can wrestle with their internalized racism on their own time.

              Reply
        2. Amy

          I’m not a giant fan of this approach because it’s got the wink-and-nod embedded in it — you know, “you and I know this is political correctness gone wild, but we gotta pretend like we mean it.” Just being plain will do fine.

          Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            What? I did not get that from the comment at all. I guess it is all in the delivery. If the underlying tone is “we’ve got to comply with this BS, wink wink nudge nudge” then yes you’re right that’s how it would come across. However, OP sounds like she was genuinely horrified about the situation, just as many people would be (myself included) and so her tone would be “This is not acceptable. I have zero tolerance for this stuff. I cannot have this going on in my office, period” which would send the correct message. Also, I thought it was pretty plain as it was. What did you mean by “just being plain will do fine”?

            This is not in any way “political correctness gone wild”. This is the accurate response to a ridiculous display of racist ridiculousness.

            Reply
    3. Mazzy

      Err., it’s not racist, its ethnocentric. They aren’t limiting her opportunities or acting like one race has superior characteristics than another. They’re just using a name from a dominant culture, which is ethnocentric. If they treated her like lesser of an employee because she was Indian, then that would be racism.

      Reply
      1. LawBee

        they’re saying that her name is ugly and not feminine simply because it isn’t Western, and they’re doing it deliberately. That is racism. It may – and I say MAY – be unintentional, or that kind of lazy racism where the person perpetuating it just can’t be bothered enough to check herself, but make no doubt – it is racism.

        Reply
        1. Strazdas

          “they’re saying that her name is ugly and not feminine simply because it isn’t Western, and they’re doing it deliberately. ”

          Correct.

          “That is racism. ”

          Incorrect.

          Whether its intentional or not does not matter. You are using wrong world to describe the action. The correct world is ethnocentric as pointed out by Mazzy.

          Reply
          1. AW

            Mazzy said they weren’t acting like “one race has superior characteristics than another” and LawBee pointed out that they are by acting as though her name is ugly and unfeminine or “inferior”.

            The point about intent being unimportant was an aside. This is racist.

            Reply
      2. Annie

        But they are treating her lesser than. The LW states that the employee told them that she prefers her full name not the nickname yet they keep calling her by the nickname. They think their nickname is prettier and more feminine based off of western values.

        Reply
      3. JadeShrew

        They are actually acting that one group’s characteristics are superior – they have decided that they prefer her non-Indian nickname, and will insist on calling her that rather than treat her in a personally and culturally sensitive manner. They are also limiting her opportunities by refusing to treat her as an equal entitled to her own proper name.

        These kinds of behaviors are the same that underlay calling all Pullman Porters “George.”

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Wow, I had never heard of that so I just googled it, and found this gem that seems like it should be too ridiculous to be true!

          “Many passengers called every porter “George”, as if he were George Pullman’s “boy” (servant), a practice that was born in the South where slaves were named after their slavemasters. The only ones who protested were other men named George, who founded the Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters George, or SPCSCPG, which eventually claimed 31,000 members.”

          How is this not the plot of an SNL sketch?

          Reply
      4. Sultana

        They ARE treating her as if she’s lesser than, by refusing to give her the basic respect of calling her by her given name.

        Reply
    4. M-C

      I wish it was truly insane – unfortunately we’ve all seen this in action :-(. Thanks AAM for answering so clearly!

      Reply
    1. Van Wilder

      Seriously. I don’t recall if I’ve ever seen Alison write “giant assholes” on here before. Well done, LW’s team.

      In addition to being racist, they’re also being sexist because it’s not actually part of a woman’s job to have a pretty, feminine name.

      Reply
      1. BWooster

        I once saw Allison swear in the comments about some sexist tropes and I was quite taken aback because I’d never seen her do it before and I was thrilled. You tell them Allison. An asshole needs to be called an asshole. No point sugarcoating it.

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Ha, I don’t think I ever have before.

        Although I just wrote an answer to another letter this week where I also use the word (in a totally different context and where there isn’t an alternative to profanity that will work) and now I’m wondering if people will think it’s the launch of a new profane Alison, which it is not. (I mean, I’ve always been highly profane, but just not generally here.)

        Reply
        1. Elder Dog

          As a pretty profane person myself, I’ve always found profanity to far more effective when it’s rare. When my boss or employees have never heard me use it before, and I suddenly use something very mild, I get heard very clearly.

          Reply
          1. Phyllis B

            Elder Dog, I hear you. I am not prone to profanity (I confess to an occasional “dammit”.) I always told my kids that profanity is a lazy way of expressing yourself. So when I DO swear, they know it MEANS SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (BTW, my kids are all adults now. I would never use profanity in front of my grand-children or other children.)

            Reply
        2. AW

          Well, the behavior described in this letter is really outrageous and since there’s context to why you’re using it in this other letter as well, I think most people will understand that the profanity is due to the letters you’re responding to, not a change in your attitude.

          (I hope that made sense; I’ve been having some trouble getting my points across in written communication lately.)

          Reply
        3. Jane Gloriana Villanueva

          As much as some profanity can be entertaining, I think we’re all pretty happy you show us regularly how to ‘use our words’ to best advantage. In this case, it’s nice you call a spade a spade a-hole in the abstract discussion of Why This Practice Should Die, but you’re hardly advocating for the manager to approach Jerk Staffmembers and call them names to their face when demanding improvements in their workplace behavior. I really like the point designbot made above about the hostile workplace. Again, more proof that that clear, direct language can really change a situation. Profanity has its place, especially when used rarely, and even more rarely in the workplace… no matter how much I swear at my computer.

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    2. sunny-dee

      I really don’t want to be devil’s advocate, but if the woman really has never told any of her coworkers that she doesn’t like the nickname, is it possible that they think the OP is stirring up problems needlessly? The woman has apparently never brought it up, and if I were calling someone Jenny and then my manager said, “Jennifer hates the nickname Jenny, and you should never call her that because it’s offensive,” I’d probably ask Jenny, and if she didn’t say anything, I’d go on calling her whatever everyone else called her. Like when Rachel kept trying to call her boyfriend Joshua because she didn’t like Josh.

      If there are other indications that there are problems on the team, then yeah. But it could be that they think the OP is blowing something way out of proportion based on her own preference and really not realize that “Jenny” has a problem with the nickname at all.

      I’d especially want to know if the coworkers are asking her and she’s saying the nickname is fine and then expecting the OP to enforce not using the nickname.

      Reply
      1. Elsajeni

        OP says that, when asked directly, she “will only say that she prefers her full name” — so it sounds like, while she may not be saying “Yes, I want you to stop calling me that nickname immediately,” she IS saying “I prefer that you not call me that nickname.” That should be more than enough.

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        1. Kimberly

          In total agreement why should this person have to JADE about her name. It sounds like the bigots (who the LW needs to pull up short YESTERDAY and call what they are doing by its proper name) would argue with her about her name. When people call me Kim, I tell them My name is Kimberly. Most of the time that is the end of the discussion. It should be the same for this woman.

          I will give people who are newer and were introduced to her with the nickname 1 break only if they say something like – I’m sorry. I was introduced to her as Polly and didn’t know better. From now on I will use her proper name. (and give them a bit of a break as they switch names in their minds. That can be hard to do) If someone tries to justify them changing this worker’s name – they should be written up and or fired.

          I don’t believe for one second they don’t know they are raging racist jerks. In my experience people who say my cultural norms trumps yours know exactly what they are doing.

          I would cut slack for people who can’t pronounce a name exactly correctly due to accents. I’m from Texas – When I say Liam I can not put the combo burr and brogue that my PEI, Canada cousins put on the name. It comes out with a Texas drawl. They accept that.

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          1. Sam

            This is highly tangential and I appreciate and agree with the main point of your comment, but is there somewhere I can find a recording or something of what you mean by the pronunciation of Liam? As someone who loves accents, I’m intrigued.

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      2. SarahTheEntwife

        “she expressed that she hates the nickname, wishes people would just use her real name, and that she’s never felt confident asking people to do so. I offered, as her manager, to handle this for her, and she agreed, stating that she’d be grateful.”

        This seems pretty cut-and-dry. And while it also wouldn’t be ok to refer to Jennifer as Jenny if she doesn’t like the nickname, the racial element here really can’t be ignored. This isn’t someone being called by a common nickname that it turns out they really don’t like; this is someone being given an Anglicized name because their coworkers can’t be bothered to respect their actual name.

        Reply
        1. Jen X

          I’m actually dealing with a slight version of this at my work. My legal name is Jennifer, which I’ve only ever used in legal/formal situations. Otherwise, to family I’m Jenny (such that my cousins didn’t know that wasn’t my legal name), and the rest of the time I’m now Jen — which is my preferred name. Don’t call me Jennifer or Jenny, please and thank you very much.

          There’s a manager who has called me Jennifer a few times, and I’ve said it’s not the name I like, and she’s countered by saying she likes it. Well, whoop de shit. It’s fingernails on a chalkboard when I hear it.

          Fortunately, we have a good relationship and she mostly calls me Jennifer as an accident or when she’s trying to bug me, but even still. (And also fortunately race isn’t a factor in this, and it’s not being done as a power move on her part.)

          Reply
          1. Nighthawk

            I’m so glad that my managers have all been mature enough that they haven’t ever tried to “bug me”.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              Seriously. Or who have decided that they’re entitled to call me a name I don’t go buy simply because they think they know better than I or my mother what my name should be.

              Reply
          2. Librarian of the North

            I deal with this upon occasion as well. Legally my name is something akin to Britney and I go by my middle name, think Scarlet, in all situations but medical. Sometimes a coworker or acquaintance will see mail or something addressed to me and think it’s funny to call me Britney. It is not. I think it is incredibly disrespectful and I refuse to answer to it. I changed my name because I prefer it and mentally/emotionally it distances me from a painful childhood. Of course I never tell anyone that because it’s personal and I shouldn’t have to explain myself, but it truly is like nails on a chalkboard.

            Reply
            1. calonkat

              Librarian, you should seriously consider changing your name legally to what you prefer. My mother has gone by her middle name her entire life (her first name is shared with her mother, so it was easier when she was little to use her middle name). Now that she’s getting on in years, the medical field cannot seem to call her by her middle name at all. If she’d changed her name years ago (wedding, divorce, these were excellent opportunities) her life would be so much easier now.

              Reply
            2. Marisol

              The devil in me wants you to look the person calling you Britney square in the face and actually tell them that: “Fergus. The reason I don’t go by Britney is that I had a very traumatic childhood, and hearing other people calling me by my first name reminds me of all that trauma. Do you still think it’s funny?” and then watch them squirm. But of course that that wouldn’t work in all situations…

              Reply
          3. Strazdas

            Well Jennifer is your legal name, so your manager is calling you by your legal name, which is required in official talks to begin with. In your position i think the easiest think would be just to legally change your name to Jen and remove all confusion in both family and work.

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            1. ArtsNerd

              It’s certainly not required in “official talks” unless you’re talking about legal proceedings? Plenty of people have legal names totally different from their professional names. I’d guess hundreds of thousands.

              There is no need for Jen to legally change their name to “Jen” (which is a pain in the ass) simply to accommodate their supervisor’s inability to change their habit.

              Reply
            2. hmm

              I’m not sure what you mean by “required in official talks.” It’s appropriate to use someone’s preferred name in even the most formal workplace conversations. I can’t imagine a scenario (other than perhaps testifying in court) where use of one’s full legal name is required in verbal communication.

              Reply
            3. Chinook

              “Well Jennifer is your legal name, so your manager is calling you by your legal name, which is required in official talks to begin with. In your position i think the easiest think would be just to legally change your name to Jen and remove all confusion in both family and work.”

              This confuses me. My mother follows the tradition of having a very common first name (Marie) and has never used it for anything except legal documentation. She has used her middle name all her life and has never had any issue with anyone needing to use it for “official” communications (and she did all sorts of legal and political stuff where that could have been important). If someone had told her that she is required to change her name in order for people to use the name she has commonly gone by, I think they would have gotten an earful of how that is disrespecting her linguistic culture where this is the norm (and almost no one uses their first name otherwise there would be a world full of Josephs, Maries, Elizabeths and Jeans.

              Reply
      3. KRM

        That’s not fair. The co-worker doesn’t feel comfortable standing up to her colleagues and being forceful. She has reportedly told them that she ‘prefers her full name’, which in itself should be enough.
        Also, if my manager asked me to not call Jennifer ‘Jenny’ because Jennifer said she hates it, I WOULD STOP CALLING HER JENNY. Full stop. It’s not for you to decide what to call this woman, and you shouldn’t go back and whine to Jennifer about the name–maybe Jennifer spoke to the manager because she doesn’t feel OK speaking up, especially if people have called her Jenny w/out asking if that nickname is OK with her, and then they continue on. And maybe if you confronted her about it she would feel uncomfortable and would shy away from saying “my name is Jennifer call me that”. Basically, not for you to judge. If a manager asks you not to use a nickname, you STOP using it.
        Also, FWIW, having the coworker say the nickname is fine is a completely different situation that what is actually happening here.

        Reply
        1. Tuckerman

          Definitely, OP needs to demand her staff use her employee’s preferred name. But I don’t think the employee has told them she prefers her full name. I read the beginning of the letter as describing a conversation between OP and the employee. And then this line: “[S]he’s never felt confident asking people to do so.” As I understand, OP has told her manager she wants to be called one name, but has not asked her co-workers because she is uncomfortable.

          Reply
          1. Marisol

            I read it like this: coworkers ask her, “do you want me to stop calling you Polly?” and rather than explicitly mirroring their statement in response, e.g., “yes, I want you to stop calling me that” she instead says, “I prefer Parvati,” a less direct statement.

            To me it is clear that “I prefer Parvati” implies that she doesn’t want to be called something else. But intentionally or otherwise, the coworkers are being obtuse. Of course, that is my interpretation of the OP’s letter and I could be mistaken.

            Reply
  1. Former Diet Coke Addict

    This reminds me of the OP who wanted someone to go by a different name because it would make visitors uncomfortable to see her non-Western name.

    Do your team members have a history of dodging your other requests? Because I find it horrible either way–that they’re otherwise perfectly good employees who have chosen this to be disgusting about; or that they’re otherwise problematic employees who don’t do things as they should because they weren’t requested in the correct way.

    Regardless: there’s nothing worse than dreading work because the people there don’t treat you like you deserve any respect. Please fix this today.

    Reply
    1. LadyCop

      I was reminded of the gentleman named King who had the team member looking to be offended…amazing that something like this happens, and these employees can be so oblivious to how awful it is.

      Reply
      1. Anne (with an "e")

        I immediately thought of King also. What is it with people and names? Call people by the name they prefer. The end. How hard is that?

        Today in class my seventh graders were making fun of an obviously ethnic name. I put a stop to it quickly, telling them to never, ever make fun of other people’s names. These kids are eleven and twelve. What’s the excuse of the so-called adults in this place of business?

        Reply
    2. Where's your hyphen?

      Do they have a history of dodging other requests? Yes and no. Originally that was my major issue as a new manager (and a complete stranger) to an established team with minimal turnover. That was settled fairly quickly by PIPs for the main offenders, all but two of whom are still with me. (One was fired, one quit while on her PIP). Generally the nature of our line of work is that employees tend to be able to debate and influence policy changes, which is a good thing, and currently the only dodging issue I have is when practice changes have been dictated by regulations, needing to be firm, consistent, and careful about monitoring compliance on those unpopular changes. For example, a new regulation that teapots must be assembled handle first may cause me to need to ensure that assembly isn’t being done spout-first until the new change becomes entrenched. That’s on me as a manager to be consistent, though.

      Reply
    1. Aunt Vixen

      Co-workers don’t get to decide on a name for someone else

      Exactly. In fact no one gets to decide on a name for another adult. (But the fact that it was allowed to begin with isn’t the OP’s fault, as it was long before she came on board.)

      Reply
      1. Kelly L.

        And I’m guessing that when OP initially came on board, she thought it had happened with Parvati’s consent, as some folks with Eastern names do choose Western names to go by in some settings. But now that it’s clear that it wasn’t her idea and she hates it, NOPE.

        Reply
        1. Where's your hyphen?

          That’s exactly right. I’ve been here one year, but ‘Parvati’ has been here for seven. Unfortunately a long run of revolving door managers didn’t help this issue.

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      2. RDB

        I have a name that has several nickname options, and also has a male version (I am female.).
        Thirty-plus years ago when I got my first job, my then-manager asked me what I liked to be called. I gave her the nickname I’d had since childhood. Response: “No, we already have a [nickname] here.”

        I suggested we go with my full name, instead. “No, it’s too long.” (My full name has three syllables.)

        Manager: “We’ll call you [diminutive of the male name].”

        I was 22, starting my first job, and felt I had no bargaining power, so I put up with being called a name is disliked until I found another job two years later.

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    2. BRR

      Sometimes I get the the reasoning behind someone’s unprofessional behavior even if I don’t agree with it but I can’t imagine refusing to call someone the name they ask me to call them especially when it’s their real name.

      Reply
        1. LesleyC

          How dare you. I’ll have you know that I come from a long line of Banana Hammocks and can trace my genealogy back 1000 years.

          Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        There are a lot of people who choose not to understand anything except in relation to their own preferences. “But I like it!” is the final word in any argument for them.

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      2. BWooster

        Entitlement. It happens a lot. A friend of mine got married ten years ago and kept her name. Her mother in law still sends her mail under Mrs. HerHusbandsName even though she was asked not to multiple times. People use wrong pronouns on purpose to make a point. I took over for a manager who refused to call an employee a preferred version of her first name because “That is not her name!”

        So stupid, all of it.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer

          Today’s “Ask Amy” letter was about this. After knowing the OP for 25 years, someone still insisted on calling her “Mrs. David Smith.”

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          1. JT

            OMG – I hate the Mrs. HusbandFirstName HusbandLastName thing! I get mail that way from my husband’s family and I flat out through it in the trash and don’t open it. Once husband asked about it and I told him there was no one at this house by that name and that if asked by his family I would respond the same. Seriously – why does getting married mean you lose your name, even if you take the last name you still have your own friggen’ first name.

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              1. JT

                Oh I have expressed my displeasure many, many times – for like 15 years. I was told it was wrong of me so I stopped fighting it and starting throwing everything out that came that way. If they care for me to get it, they will care enough to include my name.

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              2. JT

                Oh wait – I misread your statement and missed the humor. I thought you were saying how would they know that I disapprove of the phrase. No funny enough, I did change my last name. I am totally fine with Mrs. Myfirstname MarriedLastname or Mrs. Justmarriedlastname. It is just the using my husband’s first name as my first name thing – makes me crazy.

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            1. blackcat

              I have declined to attend several weddings (that I wasn’t super inclined to attend, anyways) because I wasn’t really invited. Mrs. HusbandFirstName HusbandLastName doesn’t exist. It would be rude for me to show up in place of this fictional person! I could never be that rude! ;)

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              1. Aella

                My mother once said to me, “Your cousin invited your grandmother to the wedding. I don’t know why, she died in 1992 and Niece only met her at my wedding.”

                My mother is Very Clear that she had not changed her name.

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              2. neverjaunty

                If you married Fergus Ricesculptor, then Mrs. Fergus Ricesculptor is your title, not your name.

                It is of course not a title you need to go buy or answer to, and people who know better shouldn’t be calling you by that title. But that’s why it isn’t Mrs. Jane Ricesculptor.

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                1. Rana

                  Not necessarily. I am Dr. Rana Maidenname in my own right, and that earned title trumps whatever supposed title I gained by marrying my husband. Addressing something to Mrs. Husband’s Names is both ignoring my pre-existing, superior, and correct title and ignoring my wishes with regards to how I prefer to be addressed.

                  Both are rude.

                  (Not to mention that if it’s really just a “title” it’s a strangely one-sided one. No Mr. Jane Teapotter for Fergus, apparently?)

            2. Kai

              This irritates me so much, too. One of my husband’s cousins knows and agrees with how infuriating it is (especially since I didn’t change my name when I married), and has sent us Christmas cards addressed to “Mrs. and Mr. WifeFirstName WifeLastName” before. It warms my heart!

              Reply
              1. chocolate lover

                Early on, my in-laws sent mail saying Mr and Mrs husband last name. Really, I think it was more forgetfulness and carelessness at the time. We had only recently gotten married, and actually discussed that I wasn’t changing my name at our wedding.

                Next time I mailed them something, I listed it as Mr and Ms wife last name :-)

                Reply
            3. Marimba Ani

              We returned that crap to sender, including a check (I’m glad we were able to do that), and they finally understood. It took about a year, including birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards. It still makes me angry that they couldn’t just call me by my name. It didn’t change! It would have taken them zero effort to just keep calling me what they’d always called me. Argh.

              Reply
              1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

                Go you!

                I’ve been fighting that battle loudly enough that we are finally getting mail addressed to MyFirstAndLast and His FirstandLast, no titles. I think they can’t wrap their heads around how the titles would work and I don’t care. Just don’t call me by his name thank you very much.

                Though, if I had my MD or PhD like Rana, I’d suggest Dr and Mr because Dr does in fact trump the Mr.

                Reply
            4. Sarianna

              I enjoy reading traditional etiquette books for fun, though I’m far from the sort of person who will ever care what anyone will wear to a ‘dinner party’–because if I’m having people over for dinner it’s most likely pizza or something out of the crockpot. If I can manage to clean my house enough to be company-presentable. Maybe next year?

              Anyway, in the traditional books, when sending written correspondence, ‘Mrs. HusbandFirstName HusbandLastName’ signals a married woman, whereas ‘Mrs. WifeFirstName HusbandLastName’ signals a widow (and sometimes a divorcée, but most of the old books I have are sufficiently modern to acknowledge ‘Ms.’ as a title(!)).

              Reply
              1. Beancounter in Texas

                Yep. It’s an old fashioned social practice.

                I kept my maiden name legally, but socially I use my husband’s because he is a little sore I didn’t change my name. It’s too much hassle and frankly, it’d make me feel like his property. It’s particularly fun when mail arrives addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Wife’s Maiden Name. :-)

                Reply
            5. Chinook

              My late paternal grandmother did this to both my mother and we granddaughters when we all got married. It was a point of frustration with us but we also saw it as one of the last vestiges of “the old country” and we weren’t ever going to get her to change her ways, so we went with it. After all, she was still going by Mrs. HusbandFirstName HusbandLastName and she had been widowed for 40+ years when she died. It was literally how she was raised to be polite.

              It became a point of initiation when my brother and male cousins got married to tell their new brides what to expect and to know that no one else a)likes it or b)will do it to her, just grandma. And they always didn’t believe us until they got their first birthday card from her.

              Reply
            1. BeautifulVoid

              Oh, lovely. (Not.)

              This reminds me, though, of when I got married and we had a married couple who were both doctors on the guest list (same last name). Since our wedding planner was also doing our invitations and advertised as being an “etiquette expert”, we asked her how best to address that envelope. We would have guessed “Dr. and Dr. Lastname”, but allegedly, the correct and/or super-formal way is “The Doctors Lastname”. Which is kind of cool, I guess. The more you know!

              Reply
              1. Shark Lady

                My favorite aunt and uncle were “Dr. and Dr. Blahblahski”, and my aunt was very particular that it was never Dr. and Mrs., always Dr. and Dr. I always loved addressing cards to them as a kid. I wish I’d known about “The Doctors Blahblahski” back then!

                Reply
              2. many bells down

                I kind of did the same thing at my wedding; my best friend and her husband were both USAF Lieutenants. I was trying to figure out how to correctly address the invite with their titles, but then I was told you don’t necessarily have to put military rank on an invitation.

                Reply
            2. periwinkle

              Basil: How do you do, doctor? Very nice to have you with us, doctor.
              Dr. Abbott: Thank you.
              Basil: And Mrs. Abbott, how do you do?
              Dr. Abbott: Dr. Abbott, actually.
              Basil: I’m sorry?
              Dr. Abbott: Two doctors.
              Basil: You’re two doctors?
              Dr. Abbott: Yes.
              Basil: How did you become two doctors? Most unusual. I mean, did you take the exam twice?
              Dr. Abbott: No. My wife’s a doctor. I’m a doctor.
              Basil (looking at the other Dr. Abbott): You’re a doctor, too. So you’re three doctors!

              Reply
            3. (Reverendish)

              This. Only I did take my husband’s name and my title is reverend. I receive “Rev and Mrs” on mail from some of our more conservative and/or confused family.

              Reply
            4. Rana

              One of the things I adore about my undergraduate alma mater, honestly, is that they reliably and correctly address things to Dr. Rana Maidenname and Dr. Husband’s Name. (We are both Ph.D.s, and I kept my name.)

              Reply
            5. Dot Warner

              Ugh, yes, I can relate. Mr. Warner doesn’t have a doctorate; I do. It’s Dr. and Mr. Warner, not Dr. & Mrs. Warner (unless he’s VERY good at keeping secrets, ha ha).

              Reply
          2. The Strand

            My father in law has made comments about my not taking his son’s name…and thus his name. The thing is that he was a deadbeat, absentee father for almost 30 years. The name was the only thing he gave, leaving his kid in poverty. If he thinks his grandkids are going to carry just his name, full stop, because patriarchy he has another thing coming.

            Reply
            1. Drew

              I have friends in that situation whose solution was for the husband to adopt his wife’s last name, rather than vice versa. It was amazing how quickly “that’s really weird” became “oh, wait, right, that didn’t use to be his name, I forgot.”

              Reply
              1. Beancounter in Texas

                At my university, two professors married and blended the letters of their last names to make a new one. That’ll be fun for the genealogists.

                Reply
          3. babblemouth

            There’s a very old fashioned tradition in France to address letters to widowed women to “Mme Veuve HusbandsFirstName HudbandsLastName” – as in “Mrs Widow etc”. I don’t know if it’s a thing anywhere else. Anyway, just after my grandfather died, I was staying with my grand mother, helping her adjust, and one of the things I did was opening all the condolences mail that came in. I was stunned by the amount of people who still used that convention! It felt so harsh to essentially read, over and over again: you’re a widow now!

            Reply
        2. Clumsy Ninja

          OMG, yes. I changed my name, but my mother-in-law still sends me mail as Mrs. Husband’s First Name Last Name – um, I still have my own first name! (Btw, the return address she uses is Her First Name Her Last Name – so I’m confused by what she does to mine….)

          On the other hand, my mother sends things to Mrs. Full First Name Last Name – despite the fact that I strictly use my nickname and have for 20+ years. Sigh….

          Reply
        3. roisindubh211

          hah. It’s *my* family that does this, especially my mom. Husband’s family have never had a problem using my correct name in post or in person.

          Reply
        4. Riki S

          This is like my MIL. I kept my last name, but she refuses continually uses my husbands last name or on the rare occasion she actually uses my last name, she pronounces my very common last name incorrectly. To be fair though, my own mother has done this a few times, and the last time was actually pretty upsetting to me. My grandmother passed away last year and in her obituary I was referred to by my husbands name. She knew damn well that I kept my name and I was actually pretty hurt that she did that.

          Reply
      3. MillersSpring

        I once worked with a German colleague named Julia. All of our American coworkers pronounced it the English way, but after traveling there I realized that she and everyone there pronounced it differently, sort of like “Yool-yah.” So I lobbied my boss and the rest of our American team to call her by her actual name–what she and her family, friends and fellow German speakers actually say. THAT is her name, not the English pronunciation. My boss was the toughest to convince until I pointed out that our German coworkers made a point to pronounce the J in his name, John, and they weren’t calling him Yahn or Johannes.

        You call a person what they want to be called!

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I’m missing something, though–did she say she wanted to be called that? I prefer being called my name in the approximation of the language that I’m using rather than having an English name stuck in there.

          Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            Sometimes you don’t correct people because you don’t want to make an issue of it. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t prefer that they pronounce your name correctly.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I agree, but I also think that it’s not wise for another person to advocate for a particular pronunciation unless that person knows that’s actually preferred, regardless of whether the advocate believes that pronunciation to be correct or not. We’ve got several descriptions of people whose preferences are not what you’d expect on this thread already. IOW, check with Julia before you start telling other people how Julia likes her name pronounced.

              Reply
              1. regular commenter

                Oh shoot, I’m so late to this. My boyfriend’s name is Michiel but he is adamant about being called Mike or Michael. He hates the distraction of people stumbling over it, asking about the origin, calling him Michelle. He has told me explicitly not to refer to him as Michiel with anyone other than his family. I have to completely cosign fposte’s comment here.

                Reply
                1. Like the Hurricane

                  Yes, this very much.

                  My name has a common English pronunciation, but it also has an accented letter and a differently stressed pronunciation in my native language. For all English speaking purposes I just use the English pronunciation. Family and native language speakers may use the native pronunciation. It’s annoying to have to explain it otherwise, and then go back and forth with me saying it, and the other person messing it up, and me re-pronouncing it with over-enunciation… etc.

                  I do have one friend from a country near(ish) to my native country (but not in the same language branch!) that has decided that he’ll pronounce it the “native” way every time. Ugh, it’s painful to listen to his version, but he’s so proud.

          2. Julia

            Actual German Julia here, and I agree. It just stops the flow if People call me Yool-ya, and I have always hated it anyway that so many Germans swallow the I in Julia. Yoo-lee-ah is actually the correct pronunciation, but for heaven’s sake, call me Julia in English.

            Reply
        2. hobbitqueen

          I have a Russian friend who prefers us to use her anglicised name because she *loves* her name and would rather hear the simplified English version than to hear friends and colleagues mangle the original. That simple.

          Reply
          1. LizM

            I’ve traveled abroad, and honestly, it’s sometimes easier to get used to the accented version of my name, than to correct people. In Spanish speaking areas, Elizabeth becomes Elisabet, and Liz becomes Lees. My colleagues tend to have trouble with “z” and “th”. It’s honestly easier to accept the accented version than to force them to trip over sounds that they aren’t used to saying in their native language. Now, if they wanted to call me Isabella, I may get upset.

            (Of course, the power and race dynamics of a white, American woman traveling Latin America are very different than the power and race dynamics of a woman of color working in the United States. So I don’t particularly want to compare my experiences to OP’s employee. Just to point out that it’s a personal choice how one chooses to be addressed when they have a foreign sounding name).

            Reply
    3. the gold digger

      I have had Chinese co-workers both at my current and at my previous job. In both cases, they identified themselves with Western names. I asked why and they told me it was because their Chinese names are hard to pronounce. I don’t know who initiated the practice – the Chinese employees or US management.

      Even if it is hard for English speakers to pronounce Chinese names, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I have asked for and use their actual names, although they might cringe when they hear my horrible pronunciation. If they asked me not to use their Chinese names, I would respect that. But so far, that has not happened.

      I have also had many Indian co-workers. Indian names are not hard to pronounce for an English speaker. So I don’t understand why anyone would ever think there is an acceptable reason to change an Indian name.

      Reply
      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        I’ve heard from Chinese people and American English teachers in China that Chinese students are told to pick Western names and go buy them. So it probably starts there.

        Reply
        1. Charlotte Collins

          I read an essay by a Chinese-American woman about this once. (Wish I could remember the title – it was years ago.) A lot of it has to do with cultural differences in naming conventions, so she pointed out that she actually goes by several names, depending upon the relationship that she has with different people, and some people do choose Western-sounding names for business purposes.

          A lot of the Asian-American kids I knew in high school were give a Western name for the US and a name based on their parents’ native tongue for family use and if they ever wanted to visit/work in/live in their parents’ home country.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            Which, when you think about it, is something people in Western cultures often do. Robert Azimuth, Jr. goes by Rob around his friends, Junior to his elderly family members, and AziMandias on AAM.

            Reply
            1. Charlotte Collins

              That was pretty much the impression I had, just that it’s more common and widespread in China. Also, I don’t know if this is still the way it is, but if I remember correctly, there was a difference between childhood and adult names. (As in, they were completely different.)

              Reply
          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            I read a similar article by a Chinese woman who explained that a person can have multiple names in the Chinese naming convention. But those names are chosen, either by the individual or their family.

            One time at work, some of us were trying to be sensitive to a Chinese student by calling her by her Chinese name instead of by her Western name. We thought that she was only using the western name as a concession to westerners, or that it had been forced upon her by our (general “our”, not us in particular) western entitlement to call people by names that make us comfortable. We thought that she’d prefer to be called by her actual name, but she explained that she had chosen her Western name before coming here and that she would actually prefer to use it. We didn’t insist on calling her what we wanted to call her, though; we went back to calling her by her stated preference.

            Reply
        2. Artemesia

          This is true and they tend to choose names that they think would be beautiful to westerners but come across as a bit odd as in lots of Rose, Lilly, Pearl, Ruby etc — names that are used as first names in the west but not so much anymore.

          Reply
          1. AvonLady Barksdale

            I once worked with a Chinese woman named Cora. I loved that so much. She said her English teacher picked it. The funny thing is she also told me her Chinese name, and it was equally lovely and super easy to pronounce.

            Reply
          2. Rusty Shackelford

            I used to work with a lot of international students who chose “Americanized” names, and yes, some of them were odd choices (like one who chose a common product name – think of something like Pepsi). But hell, it didn’t hurt me to call him Pepsi. And if he’d preferred to be called Parvati instead, that’s his business.

            Reply
                1. Jen RO

                  Haha, this is super funny to me, I never thought this (very common) name would sound like ‘dragon’ to an English speaker (because the pronunciation in Romanian is different).
                  Now I wonder what other things sound funny in English… The best one for me is the word we use for ‘how’, which always geta caught in the MMOs’ profanity filter. (I won’t type it here, you can use Google Translate.)

                2. no gifts

                  Oh man, I teach ESL at an American college and not half an hour ago a new student asked me to call him “Freedom & Liberty.” It’s good to be creative and have fun while learning a language :)

            1. Jennifer

              I saw one calling himself after a certain kind of alcohol who ended up…shall we say, departing under a cloud. I don’t know why, but I wonder if alcohol had anything to do with it.

              Reply
          3. Shannon

            Just because they’re not popular doesn’t mean they’re not pretty names. Also, I’m related to four Roses (or variants of that name), so I find it difficult to believe that name isn’t still popular.

            Reply
          4. Serin

            In my small dorm in the early 1980s, there were two girls named Helen — one from Korea and one from China. Probably every other Helen for twenty miles was at least 80.

            I asked one of the two Helens about it, and she said that the name resembled two syllables that were pretty and meaningful in one of the Chinese dialects.

            Along the same lines, I know two different babies named Kiran, both with one parent from India and the other from the U.S. If those Kirans go to India, they’ll be explaining, “My parents picked this name because it sounds nice and familiar to English speakers.”

            Reply
            1. Banana

              Oh my. I named one of my kids Kiran. My father was Indian (died when I was small). I know one adult Indian named Kiran – he’s probably in his late 30s early 40s. I liked the sound of the name more than my father’s name or any known family names and it seemed like a general ‘nod’ to my heritage.
              So I’m assuming Kiran is not a popular name for younger generations in India?!

              Reply
              1. Masschick

                Kiran is fairly common among those born in the 60s and 70s in India; maybe considered a bit old fashioned in India now.

                It means ray (of sunshine, light) and is also unisex, though maybe used for girls/women a little more in India. I believe it’s pronounced like the Irish (?) name Kieran so probably fairly popular in the US for kids with mixed ancestry.

                Reply
                1. Act

                  This is late, but one of my coworkers is a Kiran and he pronounces it like the holy book, Quran, with a short /I/ and the emphasis on the second syllable.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Kiran is a crazy-common name in northwest India and parts of Pakistan (and their diasporas), including for younger generations—think of it as similar to the popularity of naming girls “Jennifer” in the 1980s. Like most Panjabi names, it’s also gender neutral (i.e., both boys and girls are given this name, and it’s not associated with one gender more than the other), which accounts for some of its ubiquity.

                In most north Indian cultures, however, it is offensive to name a child for a living relative (it’s like you’re forecasting their impending death, which is a bit dark). So you’ll often see multi-generational jumps in the frequency with which children are given specific names.

                Reply
            2. Mallory Janis Ian

              ” . . . she said that the name resembled two syllables that were pretty and meaningful in one of the Chinese dialects.”

              I also read an article about an American woman who has a business in China helping Chinese people choose meaningful Western names that don’t stand out in any kind of odd way. She said that some common Western names aren’t attractive to her Chinese clients because the syllables sound like something undesirable in Chinese. Which I can understand; if I were choosing a name from another culture, I’d avoid ones that sound like something undesirable in English, even if it didn’t have any of those connotations in the native language.

              Reply
              1. Jennifer

                I remember in The Kitchen God’s Wife, Jimmy would help Chinese people pick out American names, and if they were a jerk to him about it he’d pick out ones they had issues saying. The one guy who was a real jerk and wanted some name nobody else has? He suggested Judas :)

                Reply
          5. BananaPants

            I’ve sent emails to a Sunshine and a Smile in our offices in Shanghai!

            I was told by a coworker from China that many of the women who choose an English nickname do a variation on the translation of their given name. So a woman named Meiying might choose Rose as her English name because a rough translation of “Meiying” is “beautiful flower”. It’s not quite as easy to do that with male names, although sometimes guys will try to figure out an English name that means the same or similar as the translation of part of their Chinese name.

            Reply
            1. super anon

              I know a Chinese guy whose English name is “Berlin” because it sounds almost identical to his Chinese name – “Bolin”. I thought that was a pretty clever way of going about it.

              Reply
            2. Anja

              An old housemate of mine asked me to help her choose a Western name. We went with “Grace” for the reason you gave above. Her name translated to something like “graceful bough” (like a main branch of a tree) so she liked it because it gave her something that people could pronounce, made her feel like she was fitting in more, yet still allowed her to stay connected with her real name.

              Reply
            3. Rana

              I once remember being very carefully and patiently taught the correct pronunciation of her name by a woman whose given name was something like Bee Hwee (rising intonation on the Hwee) and it roughly translated, according to her, as Sea Green Jade. I can imagine that it would be hard to find a euphonious English name that would do that justice.

              Reply
            4. Jo

              A Chinese friend in college went by the chosen name “Bee.” This led to the inevitable nickname of “Bumblebee” among our group of friends :)

              Reply
          6. Callietwo

            All those flower names are super popular now.. I know about a half dozen six and seven year old girls with the name Ruby alone (one in our extended family).

            Reply
            1. BananaPants

              One of our daughters has a flower name, and we know several other girls in the preschool/early elementary school age range with the same flower name. We didn’t choose it because of the flower part, we just liked the name – but she does enjoy spotting “her” flower.

              Reply
            2. Sparrow

              That’s interesting – the only Ruby I’ve ever known was my grandmother, so it’s very staunchly an Old Person Name in my head!

              Reply
          7. TootsNYC

            a young woman at my church picked July.
            April, May, June….those are all women’s names that don’t elicit much comment. Why not July?

            Reply
          8. Misc

            My mother used to teach English to international students and new immigrants. Apparently people sometimes just translated their real name into English, so results could be a little… odd as they’d lose the original context (same way translating a lot of English names into their root meanings would result in some technically accurate but still odd names).

            Reply
          9. Naomi

            This reminds me of In the Year of The Boar and Jackie Robinson, in which the main character emigrates to America and changes her name to Shirley Temple Wong.

            Reply
            1. NotDoxxingMyself

              Near where I used to work was (maybe still is) a car repair place called “Rocky Foo’s Auto Repairs”
              We figured he was a big Rocky fan :)

              Reply
        3. A grad student

          A Chinese guy in my lab told us that he had his English name picked for him by his English teacher in China, so I’d believe it!

          His Chinese name is very easy to pronounce, and in the lab we call him that, but he tells his students to call him by his English name- I’m not sure why. Maybe because there’s a fear of Chinese TAs not speaking English well, and he wants to signify to them that he won’t be like that? Which is a whole bunch of other issues, but I digress…

          Reply
        4. Mona Lisa

          We did the same thing in language classes in high school where we’d pick Spanish or Japanese names to go by in the class. I started insisting on going by my actual name after spending a summer studying in Spain and realizing that there was no reason that a Spaniard couldn’t pronounce my first name correctly.

          When I worked at a university, we had several students who were from Asian countries, and each had their own preferences. My favorite was the woman whose Chinese name meant something pertaining to the ocean so she chose the English name of Ariel so we would all remember her as “the little mermaid from the sea.” I’m horrible with names generally, but I always remembered both of hers!

          Reply
          1. Christopher Tracy

            We did the same thing in my high school French classes, though it wasn’t because of pronunciation issues. Our teacher believed picking French names would get us into the French mindset and, thus, would help us to learn the language better. Whether or not that worked was debatable.

            Reply
            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

              Since my French name invariably ended up being Émilie, I don’t think it made much difference in my case, except in the pronunciation. :P

              Reply
                1. Sorrischian

                  My high school french teacher had the same reasoning, and I’m still not sure I buy it.
                  Now for Russian, which I am currently taking, using Russian names in class makes a lot more sense – particularly since my class is all women, and because Russian has grammatical gender, for women only names ending in -a or -ya can be put into the correct grammatical forms. It’s easier for men, since men’s names ending in consonants don’t conflict with the grammar, but if your name has j, w, or th in it, it’s a problem because Russian doesn’t have those sounds.

            2. Emily

              I became Emilia, Émilie, and Emilie in language classes, too. It just didn’t occur to me to choose more imaginatively. I do recall a Spanish teacher who allowed two of my sixth grade classmates to go by Nacho and Dorito, and always addressed them respectfully as such—even when they were in trouble, which was often. The OP’s adult employees ought to take a page from Señora’s book!

              Reply
              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

                I didn’t get to choose– our names were assigned by our teacher on our first day. Sometimes they were just our usual names in French, sometimes they were completely different. Another classmate was named Lydia, but was assigned the name Solange. Who knows?

                Oh, wait. My senior year we got to choose. I think I changed to Marguerite (Scarlet Pimpernel, of course).

                Reply
                1. Jo

                  Oooh I love that book! I first read it in high school and could. not. put. it down. until I finished it.

              2. Kimberlee, Esq

                I always had to buck expectations in school, so I chose a different German name each time I took the class (many people retained the same name thru their whole German career), and I would always pick something that wasn’t a name. For a semester or two I went by Elf, which just means 11. But it’s Elf! It’s so cute. And then there was the semester that I chose a preposition, I think, just cause the word was cool.

                Reply
              3. Kelly L.

                My name didn’t translate into Spanish, so I got to pick something completely out of the blue. Might have been the only time I had a name all to myself in a class. ;)

                Reply
          2. Ife

            I always got the impression that we picked names so we got some exposure to common names in the language we were learning. When you’re learning something like Spanish or French, maybe that’s not such a big deal, but when I studied African languages that had pretty much zero similarity to English, it sure was helpful to be able to recognize a few names! Sentences in a foreign language like “Babatunde is running in a race this weekend” are a lot easier to parse when you don’t have to wonder if “Babatunde” is a name or if it’s a word don’t know.

            Reply
            1. KTB

              I used to work with a Babatunde! And I agree that names from Romance languages are less important to the language learning process. For example, I ended up being Cosette for my entire French class career due to an early obsession with Les Miz. I was a weird little kid.

              Reply
              1. BeautifulVoid

                John in my French class was referred to as Jean Valjean the whole year for the same reason as you. (The French teacher was also a musician and didn’t mind at all.)

                Back in my teaching days, I had a Babatunde…who went by Victor. As I inherited the class from someone else, that screwed up my attendance records for a while, as I KNEW a Babatunde hadn’t been showing up (because I would have remembered that name, right?), but I didn’t put it together that there was no Victor on the roster. Oops.

                Reply
          3. DeskBird

            We did too. All it really served to do was to confuse me on some of my classmates real names. I went to a big high school and was bad with names. Two years later I would go “Oh – there goes Santiago – I would say hi but I have no idea what his real name is” I have a sneaking suspicion the teachers did it so they wouldn’t have to memorize any new names.

            Reply
        5. Pokebunny

          Am Chinese, can confirm, although my chosen name was actually chosen for me by a couple of friends. I liked it though, and just ran with it. I’ve been using that name for 10 years now, very few people call (or god forbid, even KNOW) my real name.

          I think if I would have picked my own name, I’d make the mistake of picking a stripper name.

          Reply
          1. AvonLady Barksdale

            A friend chose his cousins’ names when they emigrated from Taiwan. My friend was about 12 at the time and he picked names from his favorite TV show, Beverly Hills 90210.

            Reply
          1. Joseph

            +1
            I can’t remember where I saw it, but there’s a sci-fi somewhere that makes this a joke:
            Human: “What should I call you?”
            Alien: [some super-common name like Jim]
            Human: “Is that your real name?”
            Alien: “No, but my real name is unpronounceable in human language.”
            Human: “Can’t you just say it in your own language?”
            Alien: “It’s also unpronounceable in our language.”

            Reply
            1. Charlotte Collins

              I remember when that happened, the announcement was that the decision on pronunciation was forthcoming. Then he just decided to simplify and go back to Prince…

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                The symbol thing had arisen because of a contract dispute with his label, so he used it for several years until his contract expired.

                Reply
                1. Charlotte Collins

                  That is a very artistic way to deal with a contract dispute. But I was really eager to hear how it was pronounced, and I never got to…

        1. Government Worker

          I disagree. It would be disrespectful to choose a Western name for someone else, or even to tell them that they should do it. But if someone has decided that they prefer choosing a Western name to hearing their given name mangled repeatedly, then I think it’s disrespectful to choose otherwise on their behalf.

          I work in an organization with plenty of people from around the world. Most go by their given names, and I do the best I can with pronunciation. A handful (mostly Chinese) have chosen Western names and introduce themselves by those names and have them as part of their email addresses and signatures. In those cases I use the Western names.

          Reply
          1. Bend & Snap

            I should have specified: disrespectful not to try IF THAT’S THE PREFERRED NAME. Of course I’m not advocating calling someone a name they don’t want to use.

            Reply
            1. AthenaC

              Yes – with that caveat I agree 100%. But I would disagree with you that no name is impossible if you pay attention. Some people just can’t do foreign pronunciation – whether they just can’t move their mouths that way or they can’t even hear the difference between what they are saying and the way it ought to sound – or whatever.

              Reply
              1. JessaB

                Most people lose the ability to use certain sounds not in their native tongues if they are not exposed to them after about ages 6-10 years old. That’s why learning some pronunciations as adults is hard, especially Westerners learning Asian tongues that have tonal components. And also why it’s really easy for kids to learn other languages.

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          2. Marzipan

            I had a French team member who so disliked attempts to pronounce her name with what speakers thought was an appropriate French accent (and she really didn’t) that she preferred to be addressed by the English equivalent.

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            1. babblemouth

              I’m French, and almost no one outside of France pronounces my name correctly. I used to correct people, but now just accepted it as How Things Are.

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          3. Elsajeni

            Yes, I feel the same. I also think it’s worth noting that asking someone about their “real name,” as opposed to a Western/English name, is something we reserve for certain groups, and can itself be offensive in the same way as “But where are you really from?” — it presumes foreignness based on visible ethnicity.

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          4. RKB

            Yeah, my name is Rupinder but I usually go by Ruby in casual settings and at work. It’s just easier. Academically I go by Rupinder.

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        2. Stephanie

          I sort of get the Westernized name thing. Especially with Asian languages, there are a lot more tones that aren’t really present in Western languages, so I could see see picking a Western name if you’re tired of hearing your Vietnamese name mangled constantly.

          That being said…it’s always worth the effort and I find people appreciate it if you at least try.

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          1. Julie

            On the topic of tones that aren’t represented, I used to have a manager whose name was Gilles. It’s pronounced sort of like Jill, but the first letter is a soft-G sound that exists in French but doesn’t really exist in English. He used to get upset that our US clients were calling and asking for “Jill,” so he finally just told them to call him “Gilbert.” :)

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            1. Marisol

              It exists as a phoneme, a discreet unit of sound, just not in any letter “names.” The s in measure is the same as G in Gilles. Thus endeth my moment of pedantry…

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              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                I’ve usually seen it represented as ‘zh.’ But then, I’m not sure that putting your name as Zhill would come out right either.

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            2. Ixnay Edfray

              On a total side note, at a job many years ago one of our clients was a small company with three employees. One of the owner’s names was Gilles who was from France. The other owner was Neil who was American and there was a succession of third employees who never really lasted. At least a few of them had very common names such as Joe, Mike or Dave. The third guy would usually answer the phone with the company name but without saying his name and we rarely knew the name of the new employee that month. Amongst ourselves, we would refer to the company as “Gilles (pronounced in the French manner), Neil (pronounced in a pseudo-French manner) et Potato Peel (also pronounced in a pseudo-French manner).” Or “Gilles, Neil, et Daffodeel” or whatever word-of-the-day rhymed with Gilles.

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          2. Jayn

            I’ve gotten to the point where I will just skip to giving my nickname, because my name trips people up a lot. (French, not Asian, but still tricky for most people I meet) Fortunately it shortens to something common enough.

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          3. Dynamic Beige

            When I went to China, one of the guides had chosen Celery as her “western” name. They were split on how many of them chose their name or had a name assigned to them by some westerner. I think with enough practice, it would be possible to master the pronunciation, but not everyone is going to put in that effort. One of the CEOs I work with has an Arabic name that he anglicised a long time ago, for whatever reason. But the weird thing is that he still spells it the Arabic way.

            It’s not just Asian languages. I was on a job once and the presenter was talking about misunderstandings in Spanish (I think she was a trainer they had brought in specially). I had heard one very funny example, so I told it to all the people on headset… and then she said the exact same thing. You have to be careful when ordering Huevos Rancheros because if you don’t pronounce huevo correctly, it might sound like guevo, which is slang for dick.

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          4. Analyze All The Data

            My name is Scottish, but with a less common spelling. It has two common pronunciations, either of which I’ll go by. A lot of folks from Eastern countries have trouble pronouncing it because there just isn’t the same collection of syllables in their language. I’m never offended when it gets mispronounced though, mostly because I’m so used to WESTERNERS mispronouncing it, or just straight up calling me the wrong name. As long as they have it close enough that I can recognize they’re talking to me…

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        3. fposte

          Though I’ll stick up for an Anglicized (or native of whatever country) *pronunciation* as being okay. We don’t expect, when we’re in France, for them to use an English vowel sound or English r, and I think it’s okay for people in English to use both of those, and to go with English conventions of pitch.

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        4. AFRC

          Totally agree – I was reading recently about “correcting” people’s pronunciations of words when they have a strong accent from another country. If you could understand it enough to correct it, then you understood it. You’re just being a jerk if you can’t make the slightest accommodation for someone different from you.

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        5. Elysian

          I disagree regarding no name is unpronounceable. Some names really are for non-native speakers of that language – as we age, if we don’t hear/use certain sounds in our own language, we lose the ability to hear (and generally, to use) them. That said, I think people with names that are difficult in other languages usually get that, and appreciate if you try hard and get really close. It doesn’t sound like that’s an issue with the OP though, and that this is more discomfort.

          (Said as a former teacher with a number of students with African names that were just way beyond my ability. Their parents practiced with me for a long time so that I could get as close as I could get, and were so happy that I made the effort and didn’t just give their kid an anglicized nickname, even though I could never get 100% to the right sounds.)

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          1. CanadianKat

            I think it’s the responsibility of the person (or a kid’s parent) to figure out how to pronounce their name using only the local language’s sounds. Sure, Ming-Yee doesn’t have to change her name to Mandy or even to Ming, but when she introduces herself, she should say it as “Ming-Yee” would sound in English, rather than insist on vowels and tonals not present in English. And if she does, she should be prepared for mispronunciations. People with names that have foreign sounds should take it upon themselves to figure out how to make it easier for the locals and still accpetable to themselves. (i.e. Christine from France should be perfectly fine with her name being prounounced with English sounds when she’s visiting England, and vice versa with the English Christine in France)

            (I’m speaking from personal experience. I have a name that is perfectly easy to pronounce in English – once I’ve slightly modified some of the sounds. If I insisted on the proper pronunciation in my language, hardly any English-speakers would get it.)

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          2. Cristina in England

            Yes 100%. There is a sound in Mandarin Chinese that is a cross between a j and an r and I never even got close to it. Lots of languages have sounds that just do not exist in other languages and we lose the ability to hear it and with that, the ability to reproduce it.

            And tonal languages are another kettle of fish altogether. There is a poem in Mandarin often taught to children and every word is “ma” but each one has a different tone and therefore is a different word with a different meaning.

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            1. Chroma Green

              There are four different ‘accents’ in Mandarin. And yes, the same word used in a different tone can end up meaning a different thing.

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              1. Chroma Green

                Correction – same ‘pronunciation’ of the word, because technically the same pronunciation of one word on a different accent equates to a different written word.

                P.S. I’m born to a Chinese-Filipino family, went to a Chinese school, but never learned Chinese that well because the school sucked at teaching us conversational Chinese. I know a tad bit of Mandarin, but in the Philippines the more popular Chinese dialect was Fookien (my dad was born in China, lived in Hong Kong during his teen-early adult years, and moved to the Philippines in the end – so he knows Mandarin/Cantonese/Fookien). From what I know, they all use the same words just different pronunciations.

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      2. my two cents

        For our production site in Beijing, I’d say at least 90% of the 500+ employees out of that office have self-selected ‘Westernized’ first names. It’s not so much about making it ‘pronounceable’, so much as it is about differentiation. The Thai office for OldEmployer did this too with our full names in our email addresses (first.last@company.com), but at my current employer we only get 3 initials (XxX@wrk.com) and it does help differentiate who’s who.

        But even there, I wouldn’t just GIVE someone a nickname. At the very least, ASK the person how they’d like you to address them.

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      3. LisaD

        In some Asian immigrant cultures, I’ve been told that one’s “real” (Asian) name is for family and close friends, and it is odd when westerners use it rather than the Western name. I have an intern now who uses a common American name rather than her Chinese name and when I asked her about her preference, she expressed that she prefers people to use the Western name unless they are also Taiwanese and speaking to her in her mother tongue.

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        1. Former Diet Coke Addict

          My in-laws are like this. To them, if they’re communicating in English, they’re going to give you the name they want to be called in English. If they’re speaking one of the other languages they speak, they’ll give you the name they want to be called in that language. They don’t like to mix-and-match, and they really don’t care for people opting to call them what they “ought” to be called. They’d really prefer people to use the name they introduce themselves with.

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          1. fposte

            I think sometimes people have a tendency to worry that your in-laws and their ilk are giving English names because nobody will use their non-Anglophone names, and that’s where you get people saying “No, tell me your *real* name”–they want to demonstrate that they’re not the heedless barbarians who will call everybody Mike but miss the mark by assuming that the name that got offered isn’t valid.

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            1. Ximena

              You finally put your finger on what bugs me about this interaction. I have a “weird” name too and it has always bothered me when I tell people “your pronunciation is fine” when I don’t want to go five or six rounds of the person drilling it right then. “Seriously, close enough, let it go.”)They’re “proving” to me that they’re considerate, but in fact they’re being inconsiderate–of my time, my attention, my energy. Try to get it right, but don’t make a big production of the fact that you’re trying, you know? Otherwise it’s not about me and my name and making me feel respected–it’s about you “proving” what a great person you are.

              I should add, this applies only when I’ve already said “It’s okay, please drop it now” and they insist NO NO I WANT TO. Well, I don’t, and we’ve spent 5 minutes on it. You’ve made a good-faith effort, I appreciate your openmindedness and generosity, can we conduct business now?

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              1. Jayn

                This. I can appreciate wanting to make the effort, but I’ve been dealing with mispronunciations since I was five, at this point I really can’t be bothered to correct people anymore. I’ve been using a nickname since I was 12 precisely to shortcut the process.

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              2. fposte

                I confess I know this because I was, in my misspent youth, exactly the person who would have pinned you to the wall and demanded you let me in to your secret authentic name because I was special and respectful unlike everybody else. So, sorry everybody I did this to in high school.

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              3. Chinook

                “They’re “proving” to me that they’re considerate, but in fact they’re being inconsiderate–of my time, my attention, my energy. Try to get it right, but don’t make a big production of the fact that you’re trying, you know? ”

                Thing is, I have had the misfortune of having tried to attempt a word/name and mangled to the first time only to have the other person literally roll their eyes, sigh and say “that’s okay, call me John.” If it is the first time I have heard the sound, it is going to take a few attempts to figure out where to put my tongue in my mouth to get it right. The rolling eyes and sigh just make it sound like you question my attempt and can be equally patronizing.

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      4. BananaPants

        Some of my Chinese colleagues choose Western names, others do not. In all cases where they use a Western nickname professionally, the employee chose their Western names themselves – often well before they came to work for our company. Since they chose to do so and it’s in no way required, I respect their request to either use a Western nickname or their actual name (if I haven’t spoken to them in person I base it on what they do with their email signature). Taking a Western nickname is way more common among my coworkers who are actually located in China OR who moved here as children, than it is for those from China who have moved to the US in early adulthood.

        I’ve never encountered an Indian colleague who chose a Western nickname.

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        1. Doreen

          I have – but it’s always been a true nickname , like someone named Mohan going by “Mo” , so it’s not really clear whether it’s a Western nickname or if it just happens to be a nickname shared by both languages.

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          1. KellyK

            Yep, I have had a couple Indian colleagues who go by shortened versions of their names: Ro for Rohit and Venkat for Venkateshwar.

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      5. NotAnotherManager!

        Do they want you to call them by their given Chinese name? I think it’d be fine to ask which they prefer and go with that, but I don’t see where assuming someone prefers one name and calling them that when no one else does is any less problematic. Maybe they prefer the Western name as sometimes given names are only for family use and they may feel just as uncomfortable correcting this. For because some people really are bothered by the mispronunciations in accents that can’t make some of the required sounds.

        Really, it’s such an easy thing to solve – just ask someone what they prefer to be called and go with it.

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        1. Former Diet Coke Addict

          Yeah, I’m leaning towards this one. Call people what they want to be called. Do not decide for them that they really want or need to be called by their “real” name. I think it’s great to ask what their preference is, but I certainly wouldn’t take it upon myself to call them something besides that.

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          1. Megs

            I was friends with a Taiwanese girl when we were both exchange students in high school and insisted on calling her by her “real” name rather than the westernized name she introduced herself as. In hindsight, I suspect I might have been a bit of an ass on the matter, and I know I felt a bit of smug superiority toward people who used the easier to pronounce name. I try to just take people at face value now when they tell me what they want to be called.

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          2. TootsNYC

            I agree on using the version they’d like you to use.

            I do think it’s nice to offer to use their real name, and to offer that you’re open to being coached on it.
            I can envision a situation in which your Chinese colleague likes that you make the effort to use their Chinese name when speaking directly with them but would prefer you use the more commonly used name when speaking to others about them.

            Basically, be sensitive to the person’s wishes.

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        2. K.

          Right. One of my best friends is an Iranian immigrant. She has two siblings; all three of them go by their Iranian names. One of them is married to a fellow Iranian immigrant who goes by “Mike” at work because his Iranian name is hard to pronounce – but that’s his choice. My friend, on the other hand, will check you if you try to Westernize her name (which people do all the time; she is very quick with the”It’s actually [her name], not [whatever people make up]. Thanks” with a pointed look down pat). And that’s HER choice. Call people what they want to be called.

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          1. Your Weird Uncle

            I have an unusual name – it’s Russian, but I am not, and everyone constantly mispronounces it/misspells it. To the point where my current boss said, ‘Well, if you want to be called why don’t you spell it like ?’ I had to point out that I *do* spell it like and that she misspells it. I died a thousand deaths on that one and feel like I’ve spent a lifetime apologizing for not having the name everyone expects me to have. Good on your friend for not giving in – it’s a lot of pressure, and it seems constant. I will have to work on channeling her attitude!

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            1. General Ginger

              I sympathize. I have one of those. It’s four letters, which you’d think would be simple enough to spell (how much room is there for error, really). And yet… Plus, it’s in combination with a typical Ukrainian last name that also happens to sound like a common American first name plus a suffix –think something like “Michaelenko”, so I frequently get addressed by “Michael Enko” (first name completely dropped) instead of First Name, Last Name.

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        3. SusanIvanova

          The company directory database really should have a “what do you want to be called” field. I have a very long rant that I pull out for software designers about how you cannot look at a collection of letters and make any sort of determination about which parts of the name are which. There are cultural and personal rules that you simply can’t guess. I’ve got a space in my real first name. It’s on the birth certificate and everything. If you call me by half of my name, I won’t answer.

          There’s one form at Stanford University that does that, and it’s because the database designer is a friend of mine :)

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          1. vpc

            Ours does; right after the last name / first name fields it’s got a “preferred name / goes by” field, and it shows up in parentheses in your contact information. i.e. Smith, David (Dave) or Doe, John (Tony).

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      6. Nicole

        I mean, if someone chooses for themself that they would rather go by a name that is easy for Americans to say right every time rather than hearing people mangle their actual name, that’s something I’ve seen and can respect. When they choose it for themself, and I still think it’s an aspect sometimes of pressure to not want to seem difficult or different and I dislike those pressures. When other people choose for that person, counter to their wishes. Then those people are just being assholes.

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      7. LawBee

        I’d check with them and make sure they’re ok with you calling them by their Chinese names. There are cultural reasons that may come into play. This is kind of the above situation except in reverse – going too far in the other direction – you’re still deciding what they are to be called.

        “If they asked me not to use their Chinese names, I would respect that.”
        “unless she’s told by the person with the nickname that she “only wants to be called by her other name,” she will continue to use the nickname”

        You’re still putting the onus on them to address the fact that you changed what name they are to be called. If Ai wants to be called Ann, then so be it.

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        1. the gold digger

          You know, that’s an excellent point. In the future (I have not had any dealings with my Chinese co-workers in over a year), I will ask which name they prefer I use. (IT has the Chinese names in the email address, but the sign-0ffs are with a Western name.)

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          1. SusanIvanova

            I use a sign-off to drive home the point that my first name doesn’t stop at the first space, which is not something you could gather from what’s in the email line :)

            Reply
      8. Pwyll

        My good friend has a Chinese name with literally zero vowels in it. He goes by a western name that he prefers. At work one of his employers started insisting on using his “real” name, pronounced wrong, for a few months until finally my friend sat him down and said, “My name is Tom. Stop trying to force me to use a name only used by my mother. It doesn’t make you sound more cultured, it makes you sound ignorant.” Boss didn’t take that well, but at least he was called his name.

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      9. Wendy Darling

        I worked quite closely with a Chinese student in one of my classes, and she preferred to be called by a Western name she’d chosen rather than having people horribly mispronounce her real name, which involved several sounds that don’t exist in English.

        I’ve also worked or studied with a lot of Chinese students who preferred that people use their real name, even if they weren’t really pronouncing it right. I honestly just call people whatever they ask me to call them.

        Although if they asked me to call them Princess Consuela Banana Hammock I might not really be comfortable with that.

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      10. BananaPants

        It’s pretty disrespectful to ask for and use someone’s Chinese name when they’ve asked you to use an English one. You’re presuming that they don’t want to use an English name or somehow feel forced to do so. Sometimes people were assigned a name in English classes in school and sometimes they pick it themselves, but if they choose to use it with you, it’s a pretty clear sign that they want you – an English speaker – to use it.

        In my experience Chinese colleagues are often deferential and don’t want to offend, so they may not come out and tell you that it bothers them to be called “Zheng” when they prefer that English speakers call them “George”. If Zheng has asked us to call him “George”, and uses George in his email signature and identifies himself as George in teleconferences – I’m calling him George. Likewise, if Jin uses “Jin” in all forms of communication, I’ll call him Jin. It’s not rocket science to call people by the name they wish to be called.

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      11. many bells down

        I was tutoring ESL students a few years back, and most of them were native Mandarin or Vietnamese speakers. And most of them had chosen a “Western” name to go by at school. But some of them had chosen names with phonemes THEY couldn’t pronounce! One guy told us to call him “Josh”, but he struggled with pronouncing “j”.

        And not just those students; my co-tutor was a Native Central American and was going by “Juana” because people struggled with her real name (which I can’t put here because it’s very unique and leads right to her).

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      12. Temperance

        We have an internship program at my office where we take Chinese students for a summer, and they all use Western names (or very easy-to-pronounce Chinese nicknames). This is their choice, and they introduce themselves by their Western names.

        We all call them by their Western names, but they also tend to give us Chinese names, once they get to know us.

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      13. Gaia

        I had a long conversation about this with a coworker in our Hong Kong office. She informed me the “western” name is actually chosen quite young and is – at least in Hong Kong – an official name listed on official documents and identification. She said part of it was to make it easier for Westerners (the practice began to be widespread during the business rush in China when many Western employees were being sent to work in China by the multinationals).

        It is strange, though. I mean I would never be asked to come up with a Chinese name if I was working in our Shanghai office or if one of our Beijing employees came to work in our office we wouldn’t all decide on local Chinese names to make it easier for her to pronounce.

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        1. BananaPants

          Several of our long term expats in Shanghai have come up with Chinese names! It’s really only used on the Mandarin side of their business cards, but they did it nonetheless.

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        2. Poohbear McGriddles

          I can see one advantage to choosing a Chinese name – the ability to write it in their style. Maybe they have symbols for Poohbear and McGriddles, but it’d be a lot easier to write a more common name.

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          1. Chinook

            “I can see one advantage to choosing a Chinese name – the ability to write it in their style. Maybe they have symbols for Poohbear and McGriddles, but it’d be a lot easier to write a more common name.”

            I loved my Japanese colleagues for many reason, but one of them was that, as a welcome gift, they figured out how to spell my given/first name in kanji characters and even got me a hanko (stamp) with them. They spent some time trying to figure out which charters would best fit how they thought they should pronounce the syllables of my name (came out as world pineapple from Na(ra)). It never dawned on either them or myself to simply give me a Japanese name. Even when they gave me a nickname, they based it on my given name (though I think they just liked calling me “silly-chan).

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      14. AnotherAlison

        Agreed.

        Just about any argument you make about why you’re going to substitute an English name for a non-English one can be made for English names, too.

        I worked with a Vikram (wee-crum) and a Vikas (vick-us), and at first I was frustrated trying to keep it straight, but it’s really not much different than not calling Maria Marie or Jean Gina. Or remembering that my boss has an Americanized pronunciation of his Spanish last name. And people stumble on reading and saying my sister’s name, too (Marianne, pronounced Mary Ann, often gets called Marion).

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      15. Turtle Candle

        I have several Chinese coworkers who told us to use Western names for them, and one of them explained that (at least for her) it was actually more painful to hear us mangle the names than to just pick something out new. (For the record, we were trying to get the name right, so it wasn’t a careless or deliberate mangling. The problem is that people who grow up speaking non-tonal languages can have trouble even hearing the distinction between tones, let alone reproducing them, and so no matter how hard we tried we were getting her name badly wrong.) She also said that it was kind of a fun rite of passage, to pick your Western name, and a lot of people spent time finding something with a pretty sound, or a pretty meaning, or naming themselves after some favorite character in Western literature (one of them chose Anne because of Green Gables–with an e, of course!).

        But the difference is that se asked us to call her Sheila instead of Xiang. As you say, it would have been beyond inappropriate for us to make that decision!

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        1. SL #2

          Oh yeah, it’s infinitely more painful to listen to someone absolutely destroy your name, even if they have good intentions behind it. My middle name is my Chinese name and I hate telling people about it because I’m so tired of hearing well-intentioned attempts at it, and then when I push back, they immediately get defensive about mangling my name for their own entertainment.

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          1. Hrovitnir

            This is what makes me sad – you do you, I can certainly understand wanting to go the easiest route/not wanting to hear it mangled beyond recognition. But what I hate is so many people are put off the whole palava because so often people get offended when they can’t get it right/get corrected. I would like to give a decent go at saying people’s names; many not-English names are not even that hard to say passably, English-only speakers are just suuuuper weird about different pronounciations a lot of the time. :/

            When I was a child I hated how many people mispronounced my name and changed the spelling to try and prevent it. It didn’t really work and as an adult I hardly even correct people because I can’t be bothered with the conversation. My name is not difficult for English speakers, it’s just not the pronunciation most people have heard first, apparently.

            Reply
      16. AMG

        This is normal for certain regions. You your English name in elementary school, and you keep it. I was embarrassed when I first heard of it-we Americans really can’t pronounce other names and need you to rename yourself for our tiny little brains? Ugh, gross.

        Regardless of the norm, she has the right to be called whatever she wants. It’s her NAME, FFS.

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        1. SusanIvanova

          No need for embarrassment; it works in the reverse direction too. There are a lot of possible phonemes and no language uses all of them.

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      17. AthenaC

        I missed this comment and posted below, but there’s a couple things going on here:

        – It’s not just a matter of Chinese names being “hard” to pronounce – some of them are virtually impossible to pronounce correctly, especially for someone not practiced at moving their mouths that way. Some are easier (ex. Dawei or Ping), but some take some effort even for a moderately fluent person, just from the combination of syllables (like Xuemei or Yunkui).
        – Many Chinese people (in my experience) won’t argue with you. So it’s possible that the English name is their preference and you just steamrolled them with your preference to call them by your attempt at their Chinese name. (I’ve made that mistake before – not with names but with other issues.)

        In general, I think the most respectful thing to do is to call someone by the name they give you – whether it’s their “true” name or an Anglicized version – and not question it.

        Reply
      18. bridget

        I get this, but I still would go with whatever anybody introduced themselves as. That’s the most direct indication you’ll get from a lot of people (especially if their personality is to not be very confrontational) of what they want to be called. I have a couple friends who introduce themselves with an Americanized pronunciation of their name (think Swati with a hard “t” sound instead of the soft “th” sound her mother uses). Those friends straightforwardly told me they would rather have people use the Americanized pronunciation than have to listen to people struggle with it (one friend told me it was because he’d like his name to be a non-issue in a work conversation, and when people stumble over it, it’s like a big neon flag that he’s “different” and everyone notices). Even though I think I can successfully pronounce their actual names without mangling them, I use the pronunciation they’ve asked me to use, because it’s their call. You mention you “asked for and use their actual names” – I hope that was in conjunction with a genuine question of whether they are cool with you using it. Some people really don’t want to hear your horrible pronunciation and really truly would prefer you go with what they introduced themselves as.

        Reply
      19. Anne (with an "e")

        My sister’s name is Priscilla. When she lived in Japan no one could pronounce it. However, they did attempt to say it. It came out sounding like,” Pea Dee She Da.” My sister did not choose a Japanese name, so for several years Pea Dee She Da was what she went by. As far as I know, no one ever tried to Japanize her name.

        Reply
      20. Cassie

        I read an article a while back about how Starbucks in South Korea asked their workers to go by nicknames. They get to choose the nickname themselves. Some of the comments accused Starbucks of being racist, because the commenters thought Starbucks was making the workers go by “American” names. In reality, Starbucks weren’t – the staffers were free to choose any nickname and most of them picked names or words that would be commonly found in the US.

        Starbucks had a business purpose for doing this – Korean culture, like Chinese culture, is fairly hierarchical. You wouldn’t call the store manager by his or her first name. You might not even know what the manager’s first name is – you would only call them “Manager”. It would be very inappropriate to call them by their first name.

        I always assumed people adopted “American” names for ease of pronunciation – maybe it’s also possible to avoid this feeling of over-familarity?

        Reply
        1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

          Yep my culture is similarly hierarchical to the point where I’d have to think really hard to come up with the legal or given name of any of my relatives not of my generation. We only use titles so the only time I’d ever see or hear their names would be if I saw their mail or ID!

          Reply
    4. Marzipan

      Well, I mean, if the co-workers can’t get on board with the immensely challenging task of calling someone by their actual name, the OP could always rename them. After, like, arbitrary items of office equipment, or cartoon characters, or whatever. Since they apparently think renaming people is A-OK…

      Reply
    5. Underemployed Erin

      If you have an uncommon name, correcting people on pronunciation all the time gets really old. But if you don’t do it, someone else will decide on a “correct” pronunciation and get other people to conform to whatever the decider chose. Or someone may insist that their pronunciation is correct when someone else was pronouncing it better, and the more confident person will screw everything up for everyone.

      There is no indication that the employee with the unusual name ever corrected any one doing the name mangling ever. Now everyone has been doing this for months or years, and she would like them to change. People are resistant to change.

      Growing up, I saw a lot of East Asian people circumvent this by just choosing an American name and using their real name among family and friends. Even in cultures where people do not do this, people may choose a more anglicized pronunciation to reduce the chance of people getting it wrong or assigning them different names.

      (I am keeping my moniker here, but I have an opinion about this because I have one of “those” names.)

      Reply
    6. Hlyssande

      My least favorite coworker decided he’s going to call a colleague in Singapore named Jesus ‘Jay’ because he either can’t be bothered to learn the pronunciation of Jesus in Spanish (how freaking hard is ‘hay-soos’???) or he has some sort of religious objection. It drives me up the wall (in addition to so many other things he’s said and done over the years).

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It’s obnoxious to call him Jay, but is he really hay-soos in Singapore? That doesn’t seem like a Tamil or Malay pronunciation either.

        Reply
  2. themmases

    Whoaaaaa. Good for this OP in trying to change this. Their team members can’t just refuse to stop calling someone the wrong name, or ignore an instruction from their manager, at their discretion. That’s basically what they are saying when they try to insist on being asked directly by their colleague.

    What if this were any other harassing behavior? It would be ideal if the person being treated badly could ask them directly to stop, but it’s not an ironclad requirement before anyone else can act.

    Reply
    1. the_scientist

      It’s honestly hard for me to see this as anything other than straight-up racism. It needed to be stopped yesterday.

      Reply
      1. Leatherwings

        Yeah, it’s not even subtle. The “this nickname is prettier/more feminine” stuff makes it that much more obvious.

        Reply
        1. Aurion

          And really, what the bloody hell makes a name more “pretty” anyway? I didn’t realize names are supposed to be ~decorative~ for its audience. Argh.

          I am fuming.

          Reply
          1. Jeanne

            And these days so many “American” names are used for both boys and girls (like Jordan, Dylan, Taylor). How do we know what is a pretty name? Gross.

            Reply
            1. One of the Sarahs

              I’m wondering this too! It’s so blatantly racism, they’re not going around deciding Sarah isn’t pretty enough

              Reply
      2. OhNo

        Racism and xenophobia, I’d say. Her given name isn’t as “pretty” or “feminine”? Sounds like someone in that office just doesn’t like non-English languages. The way these employees are acting is gross.

        Reply
        1. knitcrazybooknut

          With an added dose of sexism on the side! I always appreciate it when people decide what names are appropriate to which gender, or even how someone should present in this binary-gendered world. Rrrr.

          Reply
        2. Anna

          With a touch of sexism for spice?

          The whole thing is stupid. It is really super easy not to be an asshole. In fact, I would say it takes more effort to be a jerk than to not be a jerk. Why expend unnecessary energy AND be a jerk to boot?

          Reply
      3. themmases

        Definitely racist. Not just in insulting someone’s given name, but in feeling entitled to just rename someone if you don’t like what they’re called.

        Reply
  3. SJ

    We had a German foreign exchange student in some of my classes in high school and our Physics teacher REFUSED to call him by his actual name. His name was Jan — pronounced Yann, super easy (not that that was the point anyway) — but our teacher would only call him John. She would be all, “But Jan MEANS John!” “Yes, but my name isn’t John. It’s Jan.” She never budged. It was ridiculous. The whole concept of Americans/English-speakers denying people their actual names is so disgusting, and doubly so in the case of someone with an Indian name, where it’s obviously racist.

    Reply
        1. SusanIvanova

          Friend of a friend story: there was a boy named Jimmy. Birth certificate and all. In the 60s he had a high school teacher who refused to use nicknames. Annoying enough if he’d been a James, but he wasn’t.

          And the flipside – my brother is a James. I went to visit my grandmother; my uncle, whom I haven’t seen since high school, asked about “Jimmy”. I just looked at him blankly; I didn’t know any Jimmy! I’d completely forgotten James was called that when he was very small, and the names didn’t connect at all.

          Reply
      1. Meredith

        Yeah, my fiance’s name is a version of John, and one of his brother’s names is another version of John, and the other of the three brothers is just named John, flat out. And his mom’s name is a feminine version of John. Weird themed naming by his parents in my opinion, but not my family. There are so many versions of John that insisting that you just call ’em all the same is unworkable. Also, your teacher was an ass. But you know that already! :)

        I found that Meredith was a moderately difficult name for my German and Hungarian friends to pronounce when I lived abroad, but they all gave it a go and it wasn’t an issue after a very short while. Only a few people asked if they could shorten it or if I could go by my middle name, but I wasn’t really into that. Largely everyone respected my wishes. I can’t imagine trying to get people to address me by my name who were refusing to do so – I would feel so disrespected. OP, keep standing up for this woman! Everyone deserves to work in a respectful environment.

        Reply
        1. Megs

          I spent a year of high school in a German speaking country and quickly realized that they thought my name was pronounced the same as the German word for “stomach”. I went with a nickname instead.

          Reply
          1. NW Mossy

            This can happen even in English! My maiden name is quite close to British slang for a stupid person, particularly when pronounced in a British accent. It was quite amusing to see classmates during my year abroad go into contortions to avoid using my last name.

            Reply
            1. SusanIvanova

              My brother John’s middle name is Thomas. Pre-Internet, we had no clue how amusing that would be to the British.

              Reply
              1. Naomi

                Hah, my brother’s first name is John Thomas. (He has an additional middle name, and he will not answer to John.) But he goes by JT, so that might save him some embarrassment if he ever spends time in Britain.

                Reply
                1. Sophie

                  I’m British and just had to google this as I had no idea why the name John Thomas would be weird.

                  Oh.

                  Never knew!

            2. Zidy

              My last name *is* a British slang word for a stupid person. When I found out, I lost all desire I ever had to visit Britain. As it is, I find it hard to watch a lot of British shows because I wince when I head my name as an insult.

              Honestly, between that and a difficult to pronounce first name, it feels like I’ve had nothing but problems with names all my life. My current boss won my never ending loyalty by asking me what I wanted to be called the first week on the job and never deviating from it. Such a small thing, but it really spoke of a simple respect thst I hadn’t realized I hadn’t seen in a lot of jobs until then.

              Reply
        2. Blurgle

          John sucks names into its orbit like Jupiter does asteroids.

          Jack was originally the Norman-English version of Jacob, for example, and Jonathan is an entirely different name with a different meaning.

          Reply
    1. MK

      And especially idiotic in the case of a foreign exchange student. I mean, becoming educaded about cultural differences is sort of the point in doing it, isn’t iy?

      Reply
    2. Just Another Techie

      Oh man, I would be so tempted to dig into her name’s etymology and then only call her the name’s meaning.

      Reply
    3. Liz W.

      My 7th grade PE teacher (female) pulled the same crap.
      I was still attempting to go by my full name and refused to respond to the diminutive she insisted upon. This resulted in a few parental phone calls but she refused to correct and I continued to ignore.
      Eventually my 11 year old self was forced to accept that I am and will remain to everyone on the planet except my grandmother, another diminutive of that full name.

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        I would always get marked absent by substitutes who’d only call out the first half of my double first name. I wasn’t ignoring it intentionally, it just wouldn’t register when I was only paying half-attention, any more than a totally different name would.

        Reply
          1. Chinook

            My boss just walked by saying “you were looking for me.” I said no did you try other person with similar name. He just came from her. I then had to go through the list of similar names on our floor to see if he missed one. He just through up his hands and kept on walking.

            Ironically, I can guarantee that this is a first for all 3 of us as we have uniquish names and come from 3 different linguistic cultures so they aren’t thinking they can confuse us. (Think Lynn, Lim and Linda).

            Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          My sister and I have names like that, plus we neither one of us had a middl ename. But mine is something like “Merrill Anne,” so the “Merrill” is unusual enough that it’s a reasonable nickname.

          But “Anne Marie” and “Anne” are totally different names.
          My sister finally legally added a hyphen and took a middle name, she was so annoyed.
          And this was in high school in our small town, so it’s not like everybody hadn’t known of her as Anne Marie all along!”

          Reply
          1. bearing

            My daughter has a two-word first name, plus a middle name. I got in the habit of writing the two words as one (think changing “Laura Beth” to “Laurabeth”) simply to force people like the doctor’s office, etc., to realize they shouldn’t stop at “Laura.” Which my daughter, now 10, doesn’t answer to.

            After a few years of this, and long before she could write her name, I started to wish I had spelled it that way from the beginning, because it has grown on me. I tell her she can write it any way she wants, unless there is some reason it has to match her birth certificate.

            Reply
    4. DaniCalifornia

      I’ve had teachers refuse to call me Dani and want to use Danielle. I don’t mind my given name except for the fact that no one has ever called me that so I don’t usually answer to it because it’s not for me. It’s even worked out well when there was another Danielle in a class it never got confusing. My entire life everyone has called me Dani so I am not used to hearing Danielle. I had one teacher who would get so mad that I never answered to Danielle, but for 16+ years all I had heard was Dani.

      People are idiots sometimes.

      Reply
    5. voluptuousfire

      This reminds me of a guy I went to school with called Jeff. He was named Jeff (not Jeffrey or Geoffrey, just Jeff) and was a jerk and would cause trouble. Our 6th grade homeroom teacher would insist on calling him Jeffrey, even though that was his name. I think he did it because Jeff would piss him off and this was his way of antagonizing him right back.

      Come to think of it, for some reason my junior high school had a lot of really crappy, burnt out teachers who seemed to have no problem with being jerks to 11-14 year olds who were just being stupid kids.

      Reply
    6. Overeducated

      When working abroad once I was seeing a local guy with a sort of similar name to Jan in the very small town, and my boss called him the equivalent of Joe – not pronouncing the J as a y, and also shortening a not very long name. The boss was really, really bad at pronouncing anything in the local language but that seemed excessive.

      Reply
  4. Cambridge Comma

    Parvati is being treated differently because of her ethnicity. The comments on the name ‘not being feminine’ are because it is a name from a different culture. Not only can the OP do something about this, but she is obliged to.

    Reply
  5. Simonthegrey

    Heck, I use a very nonstandard nickname for my extremely common Western name (think Zan for Susan) and I hate it when people use the more common nickname (Sue/Suzy). I can’t imagine if someone were actually changing my name because they didn’t like it or thought it was hard to pronounce. How hard is it to just call people what they want to be called? Why do people play the name police?

    I work with students from many ethnic backgrounds; I know I pronounce some/many of the Bosnian students’ names wrong, but I don’t change the name outright. I may ask to be corrected or have to try several times to get the inflection correct, but I can’t imagine just telling a student I’m going to call them Norm because Nermin is too hard.

    Reply
    1. Kelly L.

      Zan! That reminds me of a favorite book from my adolescence. Saturday the Twelfth of October, I think? Heroine’s name was Zan. I think it was short for Suzanne.

      Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          No, different book! This was a girl who got zapped back into cave people times and accidentally started a whole lot of chaos by having a knife.

          Reply
      1. Renee

        That was one of my favorite books ever. I remember it as the 28th of October, but it has been soooo long. I’ve thought about looking it up and reading it again to see what it really reads like now, especially now that I have an adolescent of my own.

        One of my other favorite’s was called something like “A Walk Out of the World,” which was modern kids going into some kind of medieval world. And, yes, I loved Narnia too. It was a definite theme (unfortunately probably reflecting the less than ideal state of my childhood and adolescence).

        Reply
    2. Indigo

      This terrifies me about naming my child… I wanted to have a son named William but people already used the name “Baby Billy”. I want to scream that his name isn’t going to be Bill, Billy, Will, or Willy – it will be William. Only when he is old enough to say “I prefer X” will he be called anything else.

      Reply
      1. Murphy

        My mom went through that with my brother. His name was Thomas. She didn’t like Tom and really hated Tommy, so she was constantly correcting people. (Once he hit high school, he decided he preferred Tom.)

        Reply
      2. Lucie in the Sky

        My old roommate’s mom was an immigrant and hated when American’s shortened her name, so they gave her a name that no one could shorten in America. Then she went to another country in college and it turned out that name was very easily shortened from Erica to Eri very common in that country.

        Reply
        1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude

          I was the daughter of two people who had names that are more often shortened to nicknames than not (like, Katharine and Michael->Katie and Mike, but more so). They both hated it, and strove to give me a name that could not be nicknamified. They pretty much succeeded: people have tried, but nothing has ever caught on (my name is not Gertrude.)

          Reply
      3. Simonthegrey

        Funny enough, my inlaws are the kinds of people who don’t like nicknames at all. My mother in law’s name is very pretty (we’ll say Rosamund) but she would never go by Rose, and Rosie or any cutesy term is straight out. They gave their son (hubs) a name that doesn’t really have a nickname (say Ian) on purpose, so that no one could just decide his nickname. The first time they met me (I exclusively go by my nickname as my first name is the most common name for girls in the year I was born) my mother in law mentioned the dislike of nicknames thing, how they all seem childish, and called me by my full name (again, for purposes here, Susan). I stopped her, told her my nickname was not childish, that it was my chosen name and that I actually find it more disrespectful to change a person’s name based on what I would prefer them to be called than what they call themselves. If a grown man wants to be called Billy or a grown woman goes by Gracie, who am I to tell them the name is childish? My dad is the only person who uses my given name because he had wanted that name for a daughter long before it became popular.

        My MIL calls me by the same name everyone else does – my nickname, my chosen name – and we are actually very close, but I did set up that boundary early on.

        Also, just as a tiny aside, my family from before I chose this nickname (I gave myself the nickname in the 4th grade, when there were three other girls with my same first name in my class of 20) still calls me by the diminutive name I dislike. I never ever corrected my grandmother calling me “Susy” even if I had changed to “Zan” by then; I liked her calling me “Susy” because it was special. However, if my husband’s grandmother were to start with “Susy” I would resent it because it would feel like she was encroaching on the relationship my grandmother and I had while she was alive. Names are so intensely personal; if I am so particular about mine, why would I not try to treat the names of others with respect?

        Reply
        1. Mona Lisa

          My dad’s side of the family has an intense dislike of nicknames, and everyone uses their full names. My mom’s side has nicknames for almost everyone. When my parents went to name my sisters and me, they purposefully chose short names with no logical nickname potential so that they would never have to correct anyone. My husband’s family is the opposite; his parents always wanted to name him [Bob] but gave him [Robert] so that he’d have a name that passes the “lawyer test” if he wanted it.

          Though my husband knows that my parents dislike nicknames, they’ve never called him anything but his shortened name nor said anything about their naming preferences in front of him.

          Reply
          1. georgie porgie

            Yep. I have an aunt Kim and my grandmother wanted to name her just Kim, straight out. But my grandfather insisted that Kim was a nickname and that she’d have to be named Kimberly. My grandmother HATED Kimberly, but that’s the name my aunt ended up with. And no one ever called her by the full name. I guess my grandfather felt she needed a “proper” name on her birth certificate?

            Reply
        2. Dynamic Beige

          or a grown woman goes by Gracie

          That would depend if her birth certificate said “Grace”. If it said “Gracie” then she was going by her legal name, not a nickname. Said the person whose name is the diminutive of another name and it’s on her birth certificate (think Cathie instead of Catherine). One day, I may have to change my name because if I live to be a ripe old age, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with having the cutesy name you give a 5 year old with pig tails. As it is, people routinely think my “real” name is the longer/more formal one and I just go by the nickname, but I have to tell them that it’s not. For instance, I was at the dentist and their new receptionist came in to ask a question while I was in the chair. She said “I’m sorry Catherine to interrupt your appointment” and I told her that my name was Cathie, not Catherine, “It’s on my birth certificate and everything.” I don’t think she had ever encountered that before, judging by the look on her face.

          Reply
          1. Science!

            My cousin has this problem. Her legal name looks like it’s a nickname for a longer name but it is not (similar to the Gracie example, or to use a masculine example, if her legal name was Tommy and everyone assumed that it was actually a nickname for Thomas).

            She’s actually had problems at work where they’ve gotten her work details wrong (like writing an offer for Thomas Smith instead of Tommy Smith). I want to say she even had problems with checks made out to the wrong name.

            Reply
          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            My mother finally got fed up with having the legal name of “Cathy” and went through the whole legal rigamarole to change it to Catherine just because of all that!

            Reply
        3. Jessica (tc)

          I think people who have names like this are usually the ones taking pains to get names right. My family and friends who knew me as a young child call me by a diminutive form of my name. Anyone who didn’t know me as a 5-year-old child is told immediately that I don’t like that name. It just sounds intensely wrong from anyone outside my childhood group and grates if people say it.

          I am super careful about what I call people and about name spelling and preferences, because it is important to me on a personal level…although I’d argue that everyone should be anyway. It’s someone’s NAME, for Pete’s sake!

          Reply
      4. TootsNYC

        I was able to keep the “ie” off of my daughter’s one-syllable name. And my husband was “William” to his family for decades (still is, actually), and the aunts made snarky comments when i referred to him as “Bill” (which is how he was introduced to me, and how he referred to himself sometimes).

        So it can be done!

        HOWEVER: That family is Yugoslavian, and I don’t think they were so quick to add the “y” ending.

        My mother, who also married a William, was so horrified that people still called her grown husband “Billy” that she named both her boys with names that couldn’t get an “ie” ending (“Paulie” is simply not on people’s radar screens in the Midwest; and “Lee” doesn’t get a “y” ending anywhere).

        Reply
        1. Lisa

          One of my closest friends is named William, but he only goes by Bill. Unless it’s family – they, and ONLY they, call him Billy. (I’ll call him William if I’m mad at him though…)

          Reply
      5. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        When my brother was born, my great-grandma tried calling him “Benji.” This was when the Benji the dog TV show/movies were popular. My mom insisted that his name was either Ben or Benjamin, but never, ever, Benji. He’s Ben, usually. On the other hand, my nephew, Thomas, is called by his full name in the family, but at school there’s another Thomas, so he goes by Tom there.

        Reply
      6. ElCee

        My MIL gave my spouse a name whose nickname she hated…basically the nickname stuck with everyone but family, much to her chagrin.

        Reply
      7. BananaPants

        My parents went through that with my brother. They (and he) wanted the full name, others used the VERY common diminutive and had to keep being corrected. A couple of teachers tried to rationalize it by pointing out that their older child (me) was only called the diminutive of my name, and that therefore they shouldn’t be upset that the teachers were using the diminutive of my little brother’s name. Yeah, no, a call to the principal put a stop to THAT in a hurry!

        Reply
        1. Jersey's mom

          My co-worker is married to John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt III. Their son is JJJSchmidt IV. There are Johns, Jacobs, and Jingleheimers in their combined family. They call son ‘John the Fourth”. When he got to kindergarten, a bilingual classmate called him John the Quatro. JJJS IV liked “Quatro” so much, and disliked his long name that appeared to belong to everyone else but him, that he started calling himself “Q”. That’s his name. He’s 14 now, and that’s what everyone calls him. Q.

          On his homework/tests, he’s Q Schmidt IV. If you call him JJJS IV, you are in for a lecture.

          Reply
      8. KG, Ph.D.

        My first name is one of the many variations of Katherine, and I’ve spent my whole life telling people, “No, it’s [Katherine], not [Katie/Kate/Kat].” Ironically, part of the reason I don’t have a nickname is that my cousin’s given name is Katie. She’s spent her whole life saying, “No, it’s not short for anything.”

        Reply
      9. de Pizan

        My parents picked Deborah for my sister’s name–they were incredibly adamant it was never going to be Debbie/Deb/any other nickname, because they didn’t like those nicknames and preferred the full name. Shortly after she was born though, she became Debbie to everyone (or Deb from family members) and she’s never ever been called Deborah by anyone.

        Reply
    3. Solidus Pilcrow

      “I hate it when people use the more common nickname (Sue/Suzy).”

      Reminds me of a time when I worked with a Sue, a Susan, and a Suzanne – and you’d better not forget which one preferred which! Sue Q hated to be called Susan, Susan S hated to be called Sue. Luckily Suzanne preferred Suzanne (pronounced sue-ZAN). :)

      Oh, and all the variations of Kate, Katie, Kathy, Cathy, Catherine, Katherine, and Kathleen! (Yes, every one of those variations where represented – sometimes more than once.)

      Reply
      1. Simonthegrey

        As a teacher I now deal with the eight million variations on Katelyn/Kaitlyn/Caitlyn/Catie/Katie/Kathryn/Katerina….It never fails to surprise me how many of them want to just use “Kat” as their nickname.

        Reply
  6. WhichSister

    When I started at my current job, my boss informed me he doesn’t “use nicknames.” This bothered me to no end. While I have a beautiful old fashioned family name, my nickname is fairly common derivative of it and it is what i have been called my entire life. (think Kate for Katherine) My father passed away last year and in my head I can hear him call me by my nickname, never my given name. We actually ended up having the use of nicknames be the main topic of one of our meetings because this policy went so far as our employees could not be called by their nicknames. (the company I work for owns several fast casual food restaurants and the concern was kids would give us their made up name or street name for their name tag.) When I taught college sophomores my qualifier was “What does your mom call you.” The bottom line however is it is completely disrespectful to call someone by something other than the name they wish to be called by. Period.

    Reply
    1. Charlotte Collins

      My given name *is* a nickname. I would never answer to the actual name it’s based on. So, I have no idea how your boss would have dealt with that…

      Reply
      1. Former Diet Coke Addict

        My mom’s given name is a nickname as well. She has spent her whole life struggling with people who ask “OK, but what’s your ~real~ name?” or just putting down the longer name on forms and making her go through the struggle to fix it because of a dumb assumption.

        On one very memorable occasion I was in school, and needed to call home for whatever reason, about age thirteen or so. The secretary had my file open and was looking right at it, and asked “So your mom’s name is [Jenny?] Short for [Jennifer], right?” “No, her name is Jenny.” “No one is named Jenny–I mean, what’s her real name?” “HER REAL NAME IS JENNY.” “Don’t be rude! What’s on her birth certificate?” “JENNY.” Take it up with my grandmother, lady, why are you arguing about this???

        Reply
        1. Charlotte Collins

          Luckily, my name is one of the nicknames that has been commonly used as a given name for over a century, so a lot of people aren’t really aware of its origin. And it’s actually longer (in spelling) than the original name! It’s based on a linguistic oddity with a lot of variations. (Think like how “Sally” is a nickname for “Sarah,” because l and r are related sounds.)

          Reply
          1. Simonthegrey

            Not to be a creeper, but is it Anne/Nancy? I always found it interesting that Nancy was a nickname and not a name in its own right.

            Reply
              1. Aunt Vixen

                It’s from Ann(e) – as Charlotte says below, the familiar or affectionate “my Ann” > “mine Ann” > “Nan”.

                Reply
            1. Charlotte Collins

              Nope. But I know the origin of that one! It’s from the fact that people used to say “my” or “our” in front of a name to be affectionate. (Still found in some places – like Hyacinth Bucket’s family.) And in English, you used to change “my” to “mine” before a vowel (like “a” becomes “an”). Hence, nicknames like “Nan, “Nell,” and “Ned.” The “cy” is just a little extra on the diminutive, so you don’t end up with “Nanny.”

              Reply
                1. Charlotte Collins

                  Or the Itsy Bitsy Spider. (It established, just not as common in Modern English these days. But Nanny conjures up images that Betsy doesn’t…)

        2. Putting Out Fires, Esq

          I went the other way. My parents and everyone when I was a child called me by a nickname that could be associated with my given name but was more commonly associated with a different given name. And adults were constantly fighting me on what my given birth certificate name was. As soon as I left for college, I dropped the nickname completely and only people who knew me then are grandfathered in. It’s still weird when I hear my husband say “Nickname” to my family. He says it’s weird too, but does it sometimes as a reflection of what they are saying.

          Reply
          1. Mona Lisa

            One of my best friends had this issue. She kept trying to shed her nickname first when she went to college, then medical school, but there were too many people who knew her as the nickname in both places. It wasn’t until she started residency 3000 miles away that she finally was called by her full name. Her fiancé commented when I stayed with them for a few days that it was so weird hearing me and her parents referring to her by the nickname because he didn’t know her as anything but the full name for the first six months they were dating.

            Reply
            1. Loose Seal

              My husband’s family calls him by his middle name. He introduced himself to me originally by his first name, which is the name he generally goes by in public. After I first met his parents, I asked him if he would rather I call him by his middle name too and he said no. He said he always hated his middle name and wishes he could make his family call him firstname. His mom said that since she picked his name, she could call him whatever name she wanted. *eyeroll*

              Reply
            2. cheetah

              Oh gosh, my husband has a name that has several variations. Think Robert. He’s also a Junior and his father goes by “Bob”, so he became “Bobby”. His family still calls him that. He introduced himself to me as “Rob”, so that’s what I (as well as his sister and friends from high school/college) call him. When we meet new people and in the working world, he introduces himself as “Robert”, so there are people out there who call him that. Add to that a whole group of people who just refer to him by his last name. It’s a big ol’ mess.

              Reply
            3. KG, Ph.D.

              I dated a guy with an *extremely* uncommon first name — his mom named him for the last name of the doctor who delivered him, I think? At any rate, I met him at work, and we all called him by the full first name. Come to find out, ALL of his family and friends call him by shortened version of the name. It was extremely odd to hear him called by the nickname for a while, but once I got used to it, the full name then sounded funny! Our coworkers didn’t know we were dating (it wasn’t forbidden or anything, we just didn’t want people to be weird about), so I had to force myself to use the full name at work.

              Reply
        3. Orca

          My grandma did this to four of her kids. She was a Margaret and hated the Margaret/Peg thing (which still baffles me as to why that’s the common derivative) so didn’t want her kids to go through that! Of course, they got the endless “what is it short for?” instead…

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          1. Mona Lisa

            It goes back to when everyone was given biblical names, and there were so many people with the same name in a town that others got creative with nicknames in order to distinguish one Margaret from the dozens of others in the same area. (Margaret -> Meg, which rhymes with Peg. Sure!) It’s how you end up with Ned for Edward or Dick for Richard (Richard -> Rick -> Dick).

            Reply
          2. AnonEMoose

            There’s tons of them for “Margaret” – which one is most common seems to be somewhat regional/cultural. Just a few examples: Maggie, Marge, Meg, and (oddly enough) Daisy. (I think that last one is because the French version of the name is “Marguerite,” which is/was also the name for a daisy, so it got Anglicized and tacked on).

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            1. Hlyssande

              An old friend’s grandmother was named Marguerite. They always shortened it to ‘Grandmagreet’ when talking to or about her.

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            2. JessaB

              And Polly and Peggy also. One of my middle names is Margaret. There are steen million nicknames for Margarets.

              Reply
        4. Photoshop Til I Drop

          I saw this happen in a standardized test once–a student kept putting his [not really a nickname], teacher kept taking the form away and giving him a new one, then telling him to bubble in his full first name. Rinse, and repeat. It escalated to her screaming and tearing up the form and him crying because he didn’t know what she wanted from him. Rumor had it that the boy’s mother took it to the school board and the teacher was reprimanded (but that was just a rumor).

          Reply
        5. BKviaVT

          I had an opposite situation with my mom, I would always have to have tell them her full name . She went by her initials, and so every time some one called the house we knew it was a telemarketer because they would use her “real” first name. She actually named my sister and me, names that could not be a nickname or changed in away. Which surprisingly resulted in a similar conversation as you would have for me. No… my name is Judy, not Judith, all the time.
          On a side note, anytime I have to fill out any thing officially related to my mom, I either have to call or text her to make sure I have her full name spelled correctly. I can never remember how her first name is spelled and I am 30+ years old.

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          1. Megs

            My mom’s first name was a compromise mash-up invented by her parents but she went by her middle name until I was in my late 20s, so I not infrequently spelled her first name incorrectly on official things as well. When she changed her first name a few years ago she went with the name her mother had wanted in the first place.

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        6. olives

          This happens with my dad constantly – he also has a commonly-used nickname as his actual name, which I didn’t realize as a child, partially because the spelling is off from the nickname version. (Instead of Jenny, think “Jennye” or somesuch.) I remember being totally confused why people kept trying to address things to what they decided was the canonical form of his name, which is completely incorrect and not his name at all.

          It doesn’t help that names here haven’t had such a fixed status for so long – even my grandfather grew up without a middle name, and first encountered this being a “problem” when he joined the Army. At which point they made him make up a middle name, for which he also chose a nickname. My dad’s named after him, so his name goes [nickname] [nickname] [surname] – except that those are all the legal names.

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        7. Amber T

          I HATE the pushiness of some people needing to know the ‘real’ answer. Anytime I find myself wanting to ask a personal question, I try to ask myself first, why do I need to know this? Obviously when you’re asking someone’s name, you want to communicate with them. But what will it do for you to know someone’s “real” name (birth certificate/what your mom calls you/what your legal name is)?

          I have a friend who gets “where are you from? No, where are you REALLY from?” all the time. She’s of many mixed races (dad is Japanese/Indian and mom is European… I think). She’s stunning but doesn’t fit any stereotypical looks for any particular race. So inevitably, she’ll get into conversations that look like this:
          “Where are you from?”
          “Astoria”
          “No, like where are you really from?”
          “Well I was born in Manhattan in the lower east side, but I live off of Steinway now.”
          “No, I mean like, what are you?”
          “Um… I’m a New Yorker.”

          She tries to be entertained by it and make it a game (how many times can she dodge the real meaning of the question before they give up), but it’s absolutely frustrating to her.

          I think because we have access to so much information at our fingertips, we now feel entitled to all information about everyone. The “real” name, where someone is “really” from… just ask yourself “why do I need this information?” and if you can’t come up with a good answer, don’t ask.

          Reply
      2. Venus Supreme

        I was thinking the same thing. I have family members who are, for example, Jake not Jacob. This boss is ridiculous!

        Reply
      3. Liane

        Same for my late father-in-law.
        I suspect that “I am calling you (Nicholas) not (Nick)” would literally have been the hill WhichSister’s boss died on, as FIL didn’t suffer disrespect.

        Reply
      4. TootsNYC

        He might say that a person’s “real” name is the name on their birth certificate. So if your birth certificate says Katie, that’s your real name, and “Katherine” would be the nickname.

        Reply
      5. post from a newish lurker

        Same here. I get questioned on “is it short for Y?” and I cheerfully say “nope”

        I did toy with changing it as a child. My parents told me that I would have to wait until I was 18 and pay the court costs. By then I didn’t care to change it.

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      6. BananaPants

        A lot of people assume our older daughter’s name is a nickname for something longer, even though it’s a legitimate given name in its own right (think Kate vs. Kathleen). They sometimes seem a little nonplussed that no, that REALLY is her full given name.

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    2. KT

      I know people use the language “what does your mom call you,” but I caution against it. I’ve met too many people who transitioned whose parents refused to recognize their names. (Abundance of caution, if you will)

      Reply
      1. Leatherwings

        Yes! This is especially important in the LGBT community – parents are not the end-all-be-all of names. I know someone who switched to a gender-neutral version of their name to match their transition to an agender person. Their parents refused to use the name and kept calling them “Elizabeth.” This question would be really sad for them, I think.

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        1. Batshua

          I wish English had something equivalent to “me llamo”. It’s completely different from “mi nombre es”.

          (For people who don’t know Spanish, “me llamo” literally means “I call myself”, and is the more common way to introduce yourself to others. While technically correct, “mi nombre es” — “my name is” is rarely used in the circles where I’ve spoken except to say things like “My name is Benjamin, but I call myself Kumquat.”)

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          1. littlemoose

            Such an insightful point about this language construct. That’s really what matters – what does this person call themself? It’s for an individual to determine their preferred name by which to be addressed, and other adults and coworkers need to respect that. The racial/ethnic elements of this particular letter do, of course, make it especially egregious. But I like thinking about names this way for everyone.

            Reply
          2. Susan C.

            Eh… funnily enough, when I first learned it, I made that same observation about English (vis-a-vis my native German) and the phrase “he’s / I’m called …” (which conveniently presupposes everyone else’s usage). Food for thought?

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            1. Amber T

              I can’t speak for how it’s translated or meant by in Spanish, but as a native English speaker (from the north east end of the United States), you don’t typically say “I am called Amber” or “he is called Steve.” Out of context of this conversation, it seems strange. To say “he is called…” is usually followed by some sort of title, I think, or maybe a description. Saying “he’s called the king of the mountain” or “he’s called a heartthrob” seems more in line how we would use it, but even then, to me it just sounds off.

              Reply
              1. Ultraviolet

                Yeah, I’m from the northwest US and it’s definitely an uncommon way to tell someone what your name is (or what someone else’s name is). It would really stand out and sound like you’d gone out of your way to avoid saying “I’m Susan” or “My name is Susan.”

                It’s more common to use it for a thing rather than a person though. (“I was reading this advice column, it’s called ‘Ask a Manager’…”)

                Reply
              2. Naomi

                Yeah, in English people only introduce themselves that way in epic fantasy novels. (“I am called Aragorn, son of Arathorn.”) Or Monty Python: “There are some who call me… Tim!”

                Reply
          3. Srs Bsns

            This is similar to French, wherein I might (rather formally) introduce myself by saying, “Je m’appelle Srs Bsns” (literally, “I call myself Srs Bsns”). In English, I don’t even bother saying, “My name is…”, it’s just, “Hello, I’m Srs Bsns”. My father though, perhaps because he was Old School™, would introduce me to people (in English) by saying, “And this is my daughter; she is called Srs Bsns”. At least I have a limited number of given names (and I use the first one), unlike many French people who have three or four. Or Five. Or Six. This obviously poses quite a problem for them when they are faced with paperwork asking for their first and middle names, when neither is their commonly used given name. Their common name might be number four in a string of six. Or six of six. And don’t even get me started on the challenges of hyphenated given names or non-hyphenated compound surnames.

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        2. Lee

          Just out of curiously, what is the agender name version of Elizabeth?
          I’m part of the LGBT and have a unisex name, and have always found it interesting when folks get serious about their given names or pronouns.

          Reply
      2. LawBee

        Yeah. Better to ask “What name would you like to be called?” It’s upfront and recognizes their agency. And if they decide to be “cute” and say “Call me Princess Banana Hammock”, then so be it. They’ll feel like an idiot after the first two times, and give you a straight answer.

        Reply
        1. Izzy

          A professor did this in a graduated seminar and a student responded with “She-Ra, Princess of Power.” Totally unrelated to her actual name, but it fit her. Most people shortened it to She-Ra but she didn’t seem to mind.

          Reply
      3. NotAnotherManager!

        Or call you something you’d rather not have others call you. My family uses less-common nicknames that I find too juvenile for the workplace (think Gracie for Grace or Mikey for Michael), and my family also has a lot of duplicative names so the younger bearer (that would be me) is typically called by a middle name. What I want my coworkers to call me is not something anyone in my birth family calls me, and I’d prefer that people just listen when I say, “Hi, my name is X.” and call me X.

        I have people tell me a lot that my name is “too long” and shorten it, but that’s just lazy, not racist like OP’s situation.

        Reply
        1. Mabel

          This is why I was so glad to discover that I don’t have to use my legal name on my resume. I thought I did, and then my employer (understandably) used that name for my email address and everything else. It was hell getting it all changed, and some things were wrong the entire time I worked there. For all subsequent job searches, the name I go by went on the resume. Problem solved. Except that my current employer uses legal_first_name.legal_last_name@company_name.com as everyone’s email address. No changes are allowed. It’s really confusing because people who see it for the first time wonder if they’ve been calling me the wrong name. I discovered a while ago that we’re allowed to use first_initial (of legal first name).legal_last_name@company_name.com, and fortunately my legal first name, and the name I go by start with the same letter.

          Reply
          1. Paquita

            My company does this too. Except I think when you start you can request to use middlename.lastname@company.com if you want that. No one told me for years after I started. I go by my middle name but my email has my first name. I answer the phone with middle name and people are ‘can I speak to firstname’? That’s me!

            Reply
        2. Rob Lowe can't read

          People are constantly shortening my boyfriend’s name out of laziness, and it drives both of us crazy. (Obviously him more than me, but I also hate it.)

          Reply
      4. Christopher Tracy

        I know people use the language “what does your mom call you,” but I caution against it.

        Me too. My mom goes by a nickname and her mom and dad call her by the long form of her name, which she hates.

        Reply
      5. PollyQ

        Or even in a less fraught situation, plenty of people have a family nickname they don’t want to use publicly, e.g. I knew an Elizabeth whose family nickname was Biffy, but who went by Liz in the outside world.

        (In other name news, “Michael Caine” was Sir Michael’s stage name, but he recently changed it legally because he’d get so much grief from security when they recognized him, but his passport said “Maurice Mickelwhite.”)

        Reply
      6. Jacob

        Yuuuuup. I’ve been living as a man for about 15 years now, have had my driver’s license and passport changed to reflect the correct name and gender marker, and up until recently sported a full beard.

        My mom still calls me “Janice.”

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        1. Emma the Strange

          My mom calls me an ever evolving variety of nicknames, including but not limited to:

          – Peachlybop
          – Boplikin
          – Snorgle-de-bop
          – Bunnybanana
          – Buncho

          And so on. It’s to the point that I’ll answer to pretty much any random collection of syllables that my mom says, if it’s in a certain tone of voice.

          Reply
      7. CanadianKat

        It’s pretty personal to ask what mom calls someone. My name is a derivative of the Greek “Aikaterina” (Katherine is a common English derivative). My mom calls me Kitty and Kitten (translated). Never in the world would I let anyone other than parents and husband call me that!

        I’m sure other moms use all kinds of nicknames that would not be Ok to use in public.

        She calls my son “Blackface” (translated), because he is a shade darker than I am (even though we’re all Caucasian). It sounds weird (and maybe offensive?) in English, but it sounds very loving coming from her. Again, I don’t expect he’ll let anyone but Grandma to use that nickname.

        Reply
      8. Alton

        Yep. My mom calls me by my (female) birth name and probably always will. I don’t mind, but what my mom calls me and what I see my name as are two very different things.

        Reply
    3. Aunt Vixen

      Amusing tangent: I have an aunt who uses her maiden name as her first name professionally. This is also my mother’s and my other aunt’s maiden name, of course, and my grandparents’ and my uncle’s last name, so calling her by this name in the family would feel strange and most of us can’t manage it when there aren’t non-family folk around. She’s fine with that.

      But she did have a colleague who good-naturedly challenged her on it (not, I think, intending to call her anything other than what she asked to be called – just interested in what her name actually is; I’m not telling this story to get people defending my aunt), because the name she uses is not (as far as that colleague is concerned) a common name for a woman. “I go by X,” my aunt said. “‘Go by’ is not your name,” said the colleague. “What does your mother call you?”

      Aunt laughs. “That’s no help; my mother calls me by my sisters’ names.”

      Reply
      1. tink

        This is perfect. (My mother also calls me by the names of my sisters and nieces, which is always entertaining when the whole family is together.)

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          1. many bells down

            My dad would sometimes go through all four of us before getting the right name. And we’ve got a 50-50 gender split between us. To be fair, the name he originally wanted for me, (the eldest) he later gave to a younger sibling so I can see why he’d forget that occasionally.

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            1. Chinook

              Your not alone in being afflicted this way. The phrase “stop me when I get to the dead dogs” has been used when someone has gone through a list of names to remember who is who.

              Ironically, even the 3 year old has figured out that being called by her mother’s name by her grandmother still means you have to listen.

              Reply
          2. Amber T

            As an only child, I too have been forced to respond to various pet names. Fun fact, we’ve never had a pet with a ‘human’ name. The closest one was Muffin. No one is allowed to call me Muffin.

            Reply
          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            My grandmother just starts shouting out the first names of every woman in the family until she gets the right one. It’s… interesting, especially when she’s really worked up and is going through full first and middle.

            “Jennifer Ann Elizabeth Amanda Boochie Maria Raquel Emily!!”

            Reply
            1. NotAnotherManager!

              My granddad did the same thing – started with my grandmother and went through everyone until he got to you. In fairness, he almost always stopped at the right name and never included a pet’s name (the same cannot be said for my mother – I didn’t even live there when she got the dog, but now, I get the dog’s name more often than mine).

              Reply
        1. Mephyle

          Not to mention the dog’s name being added to the list of options. Children sometimes called by the dog’s name, and the dog called by a child’s name.

          Reply
        2. Emma the Strange

          My mom would cycle through my brother’s name, my name, and the guinea pig’s name before coming up with the right one. Apparently grandma did the same with mom, my aunts, and the cat. My mom also periodically calls me by the names of two aunts (both her sister and my dad’s), I think because I superficially resemble them in different ways.

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      2. Jadelyn

        Me, my father, and my brother all have 1 or 2 syllable names with K and N sounds at the beginnings or ends – Ken, Nick, and Corinne – and it was always easy to wind up with the wrong name if you weren’t paying attention, so my mom would constantly be just saying something like “kennickorin, whoever the hell you are, get over here!”

        Reply
    4. themmases

      This is such an obnoxious attitude.

      My name is Emma and I was born a few years before that name really blew up, so as a kid I often had people ask me if it was a nickname for Emily. Occasionally I would even have adults just call me Emily with the same air that they would call Tom “Thomas” or Kate “Katherine”. A friend of mine had a nickname as her given name and the longer version as her middle name, e.g. Ellie Elizabeth, so people were wrong about her a lot too. It doesn’t make the person sound more formal, it makes them sound rude and ignorant.

      Just call people what they ask to be called, period. You will be wrong surprisingly often if you don’t, and rude 100% of the time.

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        When I was in high school and college, I would automatically change “Robert” to “Bobby” and “William” to “Bill” because I didn’t know anyone who went by his full name.

        But in college, I met a guy named David. I called him “Dave” and he said, “How would you like it if I called you ‘Stupe?'”

        It took me a second to get it. After the red left my face, I realized how wrong I had been. I am now very very careful now to call people the names they introduce themselves by. (Although I wish work email would use nicknames for people who want them – when I send an email to a Richard whom I do not know goes by Rich, then I am creating a distance between us.)

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        1. neverjaunty

          Although, come on, lots of people do in fact go by Dave willingly, so it would have cost him zero to say “Actually I go by David not Dave” and only pull out the how-would-you-like-it if you kept it up. It’s not like David is an unusual ethic name that people often mangle and he was on his last nerve.

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          1. the gold digger

            Yes, he could have done that. He is – how shall I say? – he does not look for ways to make other people comfortable. We have had to have conversations about what his comments on my facebook posts, as in I have had to tell him that although it might seem funny to him, what he has said is rude and mean and I would prefer he not make such comments. (He is the head lawyer at a major company, so I know he can be diplomatic if he wants to!)

            Reply
          2. AnonEMoose

            He may have been on his last nerve, though. My actual first name is one of those that has about a million (ok, not really, but still, a lot) of potential nicknames associated with it. It’s not actually “Elizabeth,” but that’s close in terms of number of potential shortened versions. And I hate being called by any of them.

            So I always introduce myself as “Elizabeth.” And not so much now, but when I was younger, it’s amazing how many people would say “Oh, hi Liz (or Betty, or Beth, or…).” The slightly less rude/oblivious ones would at least ask “Do you go by X?” What was worse was the ones who would, when corrected (politely), get offended. “But that’s SO FORMAL…” “Well, I’m just TRYING TO BE FRIENDLY…” (Yes, well, I’m not feeling very friendly right now, thanks…).

            Anyway, while I really tried to be patient and polite, it got old. Really, really old. So I’m sure it was clear to some that I was saying “Actually, I go by ‘Elizabeth'” through gritted teeth. So I have some sympathy for “David,” in this scenario.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              As someone in a similar situation (think being named Elspeth and constantly being called Elizabeth), I sympathize, too. But it’s an understandable error and it’s way different than someone just deciding to call you something that they think is easier or less formal.

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              1. AnonEMoose

                But, in many cases, they were “just deciding to call me something easier/less formal.” And, too many times, I had to practically club them over the head to get them to stop – and it wasn’t always possible to tell whether someone was going to be reasonable or be a jerk. So I can’t entirely blame David for going right to the “I’m going to get the point across, right here and now” option.

                I didn’t mind so much being asked if I wanted to be called something other than “Elizabeth.” It got old, but was bearable. It was the ones who would just assume who really drove me up the wall, because they were far more likely to be jerks about it when I would politely correct them.

                Reply
                1. Anna

                  I usually ask what someone prefers, but it’s a two-way street and anyone who prefers to be called something specific is just as much responsible for speaking up and maybe more so.

                  Don’t be a dick works both ways, people.

            2. KG, Ph.D.

              Agreed! I’ve never been as rude as that David fellow, but it’s so frustrating to introduce yourself as “Hi, I’m [Fullname],” and having the person respond, “Hi [Nickname], nice to meet you!” I mean, come on! I JUST told you my name, did you listen at all???

              Reply
              1. AnonEMoose

                Exactly. In my experience, the very worst are the ones who respond with something like “Oh, that’s so formal, I’ll just call you [Nickname].” They also tended to be some of the most resistant to being corrected. Why they thought they had some kind of right to just re-name me at their whim – much less get offended when told it wasn’t ok – totally escapes me.

                Reply
        2. Rusty Shackelford

          Back in the days before caller ID, I knew a Robert who could always tell when the caller was a telemarketer because they’d ask for “Bob.” He cheerfully told them Bob was not at that number.

          Reply
          1. the gold digger

            I use my maiden name, not my married name. Any time someone asks for “Mrs Primo’sLastName,” I know they don’t know me.

            (Except for my mom, who was very hard to convince. I expected Primo’s mom and dad to be ticked off that I did not want to use their name, but my own mother? I had to ask her repeatedly not to refer to me as “Mrs Primo PrimoLastName.” Mom! My identify IS NOT DERIVATIVE!)

            Reply
            1. Aunt Vixen

              I likewise did not change my name when I got married. Dithered about it for a while and ultimately changed nothing. But during my period of dithering, a nice lady at my choir job asked me how the wedding planning was going and, in the course of the conversation, also asked “What will your last name be?”

              I said “I haven’t decided yet” and off the look on her face realized that I’d misunderstood the question.

              Most people have managed to deal with the fact that Uncle Vixen and I don’t use the same name. I do get mail to HisFirstName and MyFirstName HisLastName from time to time, usually from a couple of cousins who asked whether I changed my name and then apparently can’t remember that I told them I didn’t, but whatever. I’m not too exercised by it. The same nice choir lady recently sent us a card addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName MyLastName, which is my personal favorite solution. :-D (He didn’t change his name, either.)

              Reply
              1. Megs

                I love this. I agonized over changing my name and ultimately decided to put off the decision until having kids (since my biggest sticking point was the “shared family name” thing). Two years after getting married, and I’m extremely happy with my decision and probably won’t change even if kids happen. Happily, it’s very common among female attorneys not to change our names, especially if we marry during or after law school, so even the old farts are generally good with it.

                Reply
                1. CanadianKat

                  I didn’t change mine – married after law school. (Even though I never liked my last name, and always joked that I’ll only marry anyone whose last name was shorter than mine – and his was.)

                  And a good thing too, as we’ve split up. Would have been nice if my son and I had the same last name (i.e. “shared family name thing”), but that would still be strange if I kept using my ex-husband’s last name just because it was my son’s name. So there’s really no good way around it.

                  I think it almost never makes sense to take on the husband’s name anymore (unless you’re running away from your past!) Changing it the first time endangers eliminating all the reputation you’ve built up until then. And even more so if you change it again (due to divorce or remarriage). It was ok when your whole “identity” changed upon marriage to Mr. Jones. But when there’s so much to Alice than being Mrs. Jones, I think she should just stay Alice Smith. (imho)

                2. Aunt Vixen

                  Yeah, my name won’t legally be the same as my kids’, but Uncle Vixen’s name is hyphenated already, so combining mine with his would have been unusually awkward, and in the all-or-nothing decision I went ahead with nothing. (I also had a moment where in a flash I remembered the story of [then] Princess Elizabeth being told that King George VI had died and she was queen. They asked her what regnal name she’d like to use and she said “Why, my own, of course.” There’s a lot in that.) Luckily I’m not, as I said, too on fire about it, so when they’re in school if for some reason the school (in our major-city-suburban, heavily non-name-changing community) can’t handle that my name is different from theirs, I’ll answer to Mrs. KidsName without making a federal case about it. Ditto if that’s what their friends come up with to call me (though I expect they’re more likely to call me Kid’s Mom – which is fine too).

                3. Loose Seal

                  When I was in court waiting for my case to be called on the day I divorced my first husband, there was another couple waiting for the same thing. Apparently, they had an elementary school aged child and when the judge was looking over their divorce paperwork, he saw that the mother had indicated she wanted to retake her maiden name (in our state, it was much cheaper to do your name change at the time of the divorce than later on). He, rather paternalisticly, told her that she should reconsider keeping her husband’s name because it was also the child’s name and the child would feel separated from her and his school wouldn’t know they were related.

                  I was incensed on her behalf although she remained calm and stated she had fully considered everything and had made her decision. He then continued their case for another month to give her more time to think about doing the right thing. Seriously, those were the words from his mouth.

                  I didn’t know how it turned out at her next court date but I hope she got to change her name as she wanted.

                4. Aunt Vixen

                  @Loose Seal – my mother-in-law changed her name when she married Uncle Vixen’s dad and didn’t change it back when they divorced, but she did drop his name when she married her present husband – whose name she did not adopt. She uses it socially, but legally she’s back to her maiden name. The DMV gets pretty confused by all of us. But we know what our names are. :-)

                5. Renee

                  I did change my name because I hated my old one, and I kept the married name even after I remarried because I had built my legal career on it. It also matches the name of my child. It wouldn’t matter if it didn’t, but it does make it a little easier with the schools (bc they are waaaaaaayyyyyy behind on this whole divorce thing).

                  Now that I’m no longer a litigator, I plan to change it at some point. It makes the ex really angry that I still use it. I wish I were a better person some days, but I kind of enjoy that.

                6. Loose Seal

                  I just couldn’t believe that a judge from the bench was telling a woman how she should be called. I mean, on the one hand of course I believed he mansplained her own name to her. And I shouldn’t be surprised that judges have their own biases. But it just seemed so blatant and beyond the scope of his duty. I guess I just had always thought judges could be fair and just and it was my first experience that they weren’t.

            2. NotAnotherManager!

              Oh, hi, are we twins? The contortions of my name that I get from my family are laughable. Lots of hyphenation or just his last name in place of mine. It’s ridiculous. My last name is the same as theirs and is not hard to remember or spell. (I had several people ask tell me I shouldn’t change my name because I already had such a “cool name”.) Somehow, his mother knows what my name is but mine doesn’t.

              Our kids have my last name as a middle, which also drew commentary. Apparently, this is fine for the first kid but “selfish” after that. I didn’t notice anyone calling my husband selfish for wanting both kids to have his last name, to not hyphenate, or for rejecting my suggestion we alternate last names.

              Reply
        3. Fuzzyfuzz

          Ack no! This is not a way to behave. I have one of those names that people constantly mangle, and I have never shot off at the mouth like this (last nerve or not–no excuse). For all he knew, you could have a brother/friend/cousin/dogwalker named ‘Dave’ and just went into autopilot. It’s good that you changed your behavior, but implying that someone is stupid because they slipped up or accidentally used a nickname makes this guy a class-A jerk.

          Reply
        4. Becky

          David and Michael seem to be names where people have the hardest time stopping themselves from automatically using Dave and Mike. I still feel bad that a shy co-worker took several months to inform me that he preferred Michael to Mike.

          Reply
            1. Drew

              *raises hand*

              I’m still Andy to some REALLY old friends and some REALLY old relatives (basically only to people who knew me before I could shave), but even many of them, including one of my parents but not the other, have gotten on board the Andrew train. If you are just meeting me and you call me Andy, expect me to push back VERY hard.

              Some college friends started calling me Drew and it was apparently a couple of weeks before I noticed, so I decided I was OK with that (I’d thought I detested that nickname, but apparently not). If I’m going to nickname myself, Drew is the one I’ll use, but other people don’t get to use it unless I’m OK with them; it’s a bit of a shibboleth for how close a friend I think you are, actually.

              A very few people have nicknamed me a shortened version of my *last* name, which is like the Drew situation but even more so; if I don’t think you’re close enough to use that nickname, I’ll push back even harder than I will on Andy. (Except for the group of online friends where I was one of three Andrews who all joined at basically the same time, and we mutually decided to ALL go by nicknames rather than have the “who gets to be the Andrew” fight.)

              Usually, though, it’s Andrew to everyone.

              Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            But for me, hearing the longer version of the name is a clear signal that they DON’T like the nickname.

            Because Dave or Mike or Alex or Jenny or Jenn would be so easy to shorten to. And if they don’t do it, I assume they’re serious about their name.

            Reply
    5. saby

      That is ridiculous on the part of your boss, but I dunno about the family thing… several members of my family, including sometimes my mother, call me by a highly simplified version of my name that is easy for young children to pronounce (legacy from childhood and teenage years owing to preponderance of younger cousins/siblings). No one else calls me that and I’d be frankly embarrassed if someone tried to in a workplace setting. And my dad’s mother always called him by his full Italian name when everyone else has always called him a shortened version (think “Giambattista” vs. “Gian”/”John”). Also what KT said. I don’t think “what does your mom call you” is the greatest indicator. Maybe “what does your best friend call you?” or just plain and simple, “What do you like to be called?”

      Reply
    6. Aurion

      For the longest time I referred to my suppliers’ sales reps by their full name, because that’s what showed up on their signature. For example, I always called one Joshua even though others referred to him as Josh because he signed his emails as Joshua and I hadn’t gotten permission to call him otherwise! It wasn’t until we spoke on the phone more regularly and he introduced himself as Josh that I started calling him Josh. (I figured he just went with the automated signature block on his emails and didn’t put “regards, Josh” or something before the signature.)

      People do not get to just shorten names or use diminutives without permission. If we can pronounce Schwarzenegger, we can pronounce Parvarti.

      Reply
      1. moss

        I have a coworker whose name in the signature is Thomas and I accidentally called him Thomas after he’d referred to himself as Tom and he got all sadface. Tom, I’m sorry! I make a point to call him Tom now. But I see his name as Thomas when I’m emailing, so it’s an extra mental step. That I’m happy to make.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          But that’s not entirely your fault–if people are referring to themselves in correspondence by a name (which is what he’s doing), it’s reasonable of you to use that name. You gotta match the cue up to the preference.

          Reply
      2. AnotherAlison

        Ah, well, this is a point of irritation for me. You don’t always have a chance to hear someone say their own name, so it would be nice if people used what they wanted to be called in their writing. If you want to be called “Josh” put Josh in your email signature or like you say, put “regards, Josh” before the signature. I have a Liz/Elizabeth vendor who does do this, and I really appreciate it. I used to work with an Angie who signed everything Angela, but looked slightly annoyed when people called her Angela in conversations.

        Reply
        1. Mabel

          I agree. I wish people would “sign” their emails with the name they actually use. So many people at my company let their email signature block stand in for a sign-off, and for some reason it makes me sad. Like they don’t have five spare seconds to type their first name (this is for people I know, not first time correspondents, but even then, why not supply your preferred first name?). I know an Elizabeth and a Thomas, so I don’t assume nicknames.

          Reply
        2. Aurion

          Yeah, Josh is a very formal guy in email correspondence. In-person he’s very laid-back and chill, but in writing he’s formal, extremely thorough, and just a touch long-winded, so I didn’t even think twice about the Joshua thing at first–it just matched his online persona!

          He never mentioned my calling him Joshua for months. I could’ve asked him what he preferred, but putting down “hey, what do you like to be called?” in writing when all of his correspondence was signed “Sincerely, Joshua Smith” via email signature seemed silly because it was obvious, right? (Nope!) But once we talked on the phone I changed to Josh and he made no comments either way.

          Reply
    7. Anna

      Years ago my aunt had a neighbor who insister her kids call my aunt Mrs. Lastname. My aunt asked her to call her by her first name or her nickname. The response from the neighbor was that HER children were respectful of adults and that’s why they used Mrs. Lastname.

      Way to miss the point on being respectful neighbor lady.

      Reply
      1. Mabel

        I think this is different. I think parents do get to decide how their children should refer to other adults. I think adults can understand that not every family is the same in this regard. When I was a kid, one of my friends’ mom wanted all of the kids to call her by her first name, and I just couldn’t do it. I knew if my parents ever heard me do that, I’d get in big trouble. It didn’t feel respectful to me, as a kid.

        Reply
        1. Anna

          I don’t think so at all. If it’s about being respectful, the least respectful thing to do is to ignore what an adult specifically says they prefer to be called.

          Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            In this particular case, I think the parent’s wish for her child to use more formal language trumps the other adult’s preference. If the parent were making her child use a *less* formal name, I’d agree with you.

            (However, saying “my children do this because they’re respectful” is awfully rude, since it implies the other children weren’t respectful, even though they were following the adult’s wishes.)

            Reply
            1. Anna

              Again, I don’t think so. It’s weird that to show you respect an adult you completely ignore their input on how they should be addressed. It’s actually teaching your children that the showmanship of being respectful is more important than actually being respectful. It’s no different than if someone called me Ann after I corrected them and told them my name is Anna with two syllables. . You are erasing the input of the person to whom you’re speaking and insisting your way is the correct way when being respectful means listening. “We don’t listen here; we respect our elders!” No thanks.

              Another example is my SIL, who is lovely in all respects, but insists on calling my dad “sir” which he hates with a passion and has asked her to stop doing. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, it’s probably ingrained into her behavior because she’s career military, etc, but it’s still not showing the actual respect she’s trying to show by calling him sir and ignoring his preference.

              Reply
              1. Rusty Shackelford

                I see your point, but I still think it’s inappropriate to insist on less formality from a child when the child’s parent wants them to behave with more formality. An analogy, to me, would be if the neighbor said “You kids drop by and grab a cookie out of my cookie jar any time! You don’t even have to ask!” I wouldn’t think it rude or disrespectful for the child’s mother to say “That’s not how we behave. We visit when invited, and take food when it’s offered.” Assuming they aren’t being encouraged to do anything rude, dangerous, hurtful, etc., those parenting decisions shouldn’t be challenged – it’s a much bigger lack of respect than using a more formal name. You’re not dealing with adults who get to make their own decisions about whether or not to listen to you – you’re dealing with children who are doing what their parents told them to do. Mabel said she felt like she’d get in trouble if she obeyed her neighbor’s wishes. Is it really important enough to force a child to display “respect” by obeying your wishes instead of her parent’s?

                It’s no different than if someone called me Ann after I corrected them and told them my name is Anna with two syllables.

                No, actually, it is very different. Ann/Anna is the wrong name. That’s not the same thing as using a more formal, but still correct, version of your name.

                Reply
                1. SarahTheEntwife

                  Unless the neighbor is encouraging your kids to do something unsafe, that seems like a really unfriendly way to behave. You’re basically telling your kids that their neighbors are rude and don’t behave properly, rather than using the opportunity for them to learn that different families have different rules and it’s a good idea to follow the house rules wherever you are rather than assume that your own rules apply everywhere.

                2. Rusty Shackelford

                  I think it’s ruder and more unfriendly to impose your own personal rules onto other peoples’ children, when they’re not doing anything wrong. And, again, I think it’s always appropriate to be more formal than someone else chooses to be. I don’t want to blow this out of proportion, but forcing kids to be more “friendly” than they’re used to isn’t exactly a safe and decent path to tread.

    8. Just Another Techie

      Ugh. My mom calls me by a horrible nick name she invented because Dad named me while she was still unconscious from the c-section, and she has always hated my given name. I would literally walk out of a job if someone insisted on calling me what either of my parents call me. The name I introduce myself by is my name, period.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I wonder what would have happened if my mum had insisted on naming me Amy. My dad knew someone named Amy whom he didn’t like, so he vetoed that one. I like Amy better than my real first name, actually.

        Reply
        1. Yooper

          My parents got so close to naming me Amy and it would have made so much more sense than the name I ended up with. I even look like an Amy. I do not look like the name I currently have.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            I never liked my first name. It’s one reason I go by Elizabeth. Anyway, my brother married a woman whose nickname is the same as mine used to be (which means she has MY EXACT OLD NAME!), so it worked out. Now we don’t get mixed up. :)

            But I had people from high school who refused to call me Elizabeth once I changed it, saying it was too hard for them to remember. I always felt like if they were really my friend, they’d understand that I dislike the name and make the effort. Most of those people are no longer on my radar because they’ve shown themselves to be quite rigid in even less acceptable ways.

            Reply
      2. de Pizan

        In my case, there is really only one nickname that can be used (think Mandy for Amanda) with my name, but I absolutely hate it; and the only person in the world that would call me it was my dad. After he died, occasionally a few siblings will call me that, and I’ll accept that out of nostalgia. But anyone outside of the family, no freaking way do they get to call me that. The few people who have tried to insist on using the nickname after I’ve told them otherwise? I will literally walk away if they try to use it.

        Reply
    9. Kate

      “The bottom line however is it is completely disrespectful to call someone by something other than the name they wish to be called by. Period.”

      Yes, thank you! And your example is perfect. I get called Katherine ALL THE TIME, and when I try to correct people, they say, “Oh, I know, I know. You prefer Kate.” And I say, “Yes, I do, but also my given name is not Katherine.” I have a rule that I will call people by the name for which they have introduced themselves. It can be a little disconcerting as I met a guy in college who went by Gut in reference to his larger than average gut, but hey, it’s his prerogative.

      Reply
      1. WordyNerd

        I’m a Girl Guide leader and my policy is to call girls what they want to be called. For two years there was a girl in my unit who was addressed exclusively as “Juicebox”. Was it ridiculous? Sure. But it’s what she wanted. We also recently had a girl decide that she really disliked her first name and wanted to be addressed by her middle name instead. No problem, “Jane” is now “Grace”.

        Bottom line is that when you’re talking about someone’s name, you don’t get to decide what that person’s name is. They do.

        Reply
    10. olives

      I actually very much go the other way on this – I love my nickname very much, but I feel very uncomfortable when anyone outside of my family or my close friends call me by it. At work and school, and with anyone whom I’ve just met, I much, much prefer my full name. And what my mom calls me is a whole other story – we have a bit of a habit in our family of making up increasingly ridiculous nicknames to call one another, and if anyone used those I’d be mortified!

      This has bitten me on several occasions when some nickname-loving coworkers will ask, “Don’t you have a nickname??” Which – yes, I do, but I don’t want you calling me by it. And when I’ve looked uncomfortable and said “No” in response, they’ve proceeded to list off several others that they’ve decided they’d like to call me, many of which are names that I don’t even associate with myself. I absolutely hate this behavior and feel very grateful that my current workplace has none of these people. (because every other environment has…)

      Reply
  7. Leatherwings

    Wow. This team’s behavior is straight up racist. Not okay. I appreciate that OP has worked to put a stop to this, and I hope that the language AAM suggested puts the kibosh on the westernized nickname immediately.

    Reply
  8. Indigo

    I worry about how this could affect poor Pavarti here… she is uncomfortable standing her ground on this but management is putting a foot down with her coworkers. It can be hard for coworkers to realize this is what SHE WANTS when management is verbalizing it as a request.

    Perhaps OP should target those resisting and call them some ridiculous name to show them how it feels. Call Jane ‘Jackie’, Frank ‘Franny’, etc… They will get the point then how it feels to not have your name used.

    Reply
    1. Jubilance

      A friend of a friend told me a story about how a guy in her office kept calling her random “Black” names – Tamika, Latoya, etc – when none of those names were her name. She responded by calling him names like Steve, Tom, etc until he finally realized how stupid and offensive he was being.

      Reply
      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        Oh yeah. This was hilariously played out with some tweets. Don’t remember where I saw it, but the whole explanation was hilarious.

        But yes I recognize that not everyone is that confident and secure in the workplace to pull that off.

        Reply
    2. Cambridge Comma

      I would say that she is standing her ground, because she is saying she prefers the full name.
      I also think it might help that the manager makes the request, rather than making it about what Parvati wants. If your manager is saying that it is unacceptable to westernize a co-workers name if they don’t use that name themselves, it becomes a clear directive that the others have to follow (and follow with good grace).

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I like that idea of stating a principle rather than making it about Parvati. (I think Indigo meant “standing her ground” as in being willing to correct co-workers to their faces, though.)

        Reply
        1. Cambridge Comma

          I wonder if that’s a cultural thing — for me answering the question with ‘I prefer Parvati’ is correcting the co-workers to their face and in a pretty assertive way.
          But I also say sorry if someone treads on my foot, so…

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Heh. I think a lot of people (especially Britons and Canadians) feel you there.

            To me, it’s not a correction if you ask me what I like to be called and I tell you. It’s a correction if you call me Frieda or Fpasted and I say, “Actually, it’s fposte.” I was thinking that that’s what the OP was meaning–though it looks like it’s more ambiguous than I had thought.

            Reply
          2. Turtle Candle

            That’s one of the things that really gets me. If someone calls me “Liz” and I say “I prefer Elizabeth,” I consider that a fairly straightforward correction! It would not occur to me that I would have to say “My name is Elizabeth, not Liz or Lizzie or Beth or Elsie, DO NOT CALL ME ANYTHING BUT ELIZABETH EVER.” I’ve lived in several different parts of the US and a couple of non-US countries and in all of those places, “I prefer X” meant “call me X,” and nobody required a “call me X under penalty of law, here are my notarized documents to that effect.” You know?

            I mean, the whole thing is horrible, but this employee is being pretty direct by I think most standards, so it’s not even that.

            Reply
          3. Rusty Shackelford

            I think it’s probably not happening that way. The OP says she expresses her preference when asked directly, so it doesn’t sound like she’s actually correcting them in conversation (i.e., “Polly, can you do X?” “Actually, I prefer Pavarti.”) I suspect it’s more like “Polly, you’re okay with me calling you Polly, right?” And responding to that “question” with “I prefer Parvati” is, to an asshole’s mind, very different from saying “No, I’m not okay with that; call me Parvati.”

            Reply
  9. Kittymommy

    No. No, no, no. The hammer needs to bff slammed down on this hard enough they’ll feel it into next year. Beyond the bullshit racist crop they’re pulling, they’re deliberately and willfully ignoring an order from a superior (I’m assuming your they’re superior in some way with the “my team”). All of that needs to be dealt with.

    Reply
  10. Jubilance

    Her teammates are assholes, quite frankly. You don’t get to decide to call someone by another name cause it’s easier for you, or you think the other name is prettier, or it’s Tuesday, or anything else.

    Reply
    1. Newby

      Yep. Mispronouncing a name because it is difficult is forgivable. Renaming someone because you don’t like their name is not ok at all.

      Reply
  11. Snarkus Aurelius

    Please recognize the “unless she’s told by the person with the nickname that she wants to be called by her other name, [co-worker] will continue to use the nickname” crap for what it is.

    It’s a copout. These workers probably sense that the employee is avoiding confrontation and isn’t confident about the whole thing. That’s how they hope to get away with it.

    Don’t let them. This is so not okay.

    Reply
    1. my two cents

      yeah, the uber-defensive ‘yeah, well, if it’s so bad they can just tell me’ knee-jerk response from the other employees is troubling, but unfortunately the go-to response when someone is called out for racist behavior.

      And I’d suggest using that language specifically – tell them flat-out that it is racist to try to ‘assimilate’ their name into a western White name.

      The employee will get angry and twist, defending their ‘right’ to whatever they want to say, free country, yadda yadda. They’ll likely tell you they’re not racist, that they “have lots of friends”. Let them twist and be uncomfortable some, and then remind them that it IS in fact racist, that it is still entirely possible to make racist comments while not otherwise being a bad person (microagressions, anyone?), and that you’re simply looking for them to acknowledge the behavior as BAD and to stop doing it, and move on.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        I don’t think you even need to point out that it’s racist, because as you say, that’s just going to get the OP sucked down a rabbit hole of Some Of My Best Friends Are Named Wakeen. The only issue the OP needs to address is that calling Parvati by her preferred name is not optional and if it doesn’t change immediately, she will be referring to “Polly, from that employer I just got fired from”.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, that’s actually why I didn’t even get into that in my response — because the OP doesn’t need to debate that. She just needs to clearly state that they must stop, and then hold them to it unwaveringly.

          But yes, asking someone to de-ethnicize their identity is racist.

          Reply
        2. my two cents

          Without naming it…there was rioting last week where I live. There is/was a lot ‘commentary’ floating around, and the common theme I found was that most people don’t actually understand that their “commentary” was still racist. “Violence doesn’t solve anything” and “yeah, well the cop was black”. Ugh. UGH.

          I’ve tried pulling some of my friends aside and its as if they think I’m just ‘disagreeing’ with them. In fact its that their comments were racist and backwards, and they SHOULD be watching their words when they speak.

          So, that’s where I think the merit of mentioning it comes from. It IS important for them to know HOW bad that is. It’s beyond a simple request to use a different name. Their original ‘nicknaming’ was already backwards/hurtful/etc and that they need to stop it immediately. It’s not nicknaming, it’s name calling.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            But as you point out here, even when you point out to friends that they’re saying dumb or racist stuff, they don’t smack themselves on the forehead and say “My goodness, you’re right! I hadn’t thought of it that way!”, they just think you’re disagreeing with them. If OP starts trying to explain the underlying morality, that just gives these assholes a way to sidetrack things: well I’m not racist at all, therefore it’s OK for me to keep calling her Polly!

            The point is that the behavior needs to stop, period. If afterward the OP wants to try and change hearts and minds, then, okay. But trying to bring them around to persuade them of the wrongness of their actions will not help.

            Reply
            1. my two cents

              Yeah, I guess it’s up to OP whether or not this could be a point to also educate someone on WHY it’s so bad.

              My thought was that the offending employees will try the “yeah, well, she hasn’t told me to stop” rhetoric again, and while ‘because I said so’ is certainly one of the reasons, it’d be great to also lump a “also, that’s really offensive because it’s racist” in there too.

              Reply
          2. Gaia

            Ok I feel like I’m missing something and I have to ask.

            It sounds like you’re saying the response of “violence doesn’t solve anything” to the riots is, in itself, racist. I’m curious how so? I understand the comment of “yea, well the cop was black” being racist but not the other. Would you mind explaining?

            Reply
            1. my two cents

              Gaia- In Milwaukee, there was another cop shooting. The officer happened to be black this time. So, the ‘full’ comment that folks were posting was “the cop was black, so how could that be racist?!”

              And with regards to the “violence doesn’t solve anything” being racist (as opposed to a thoughtful comment, I mean…of course violence isn’t the answer), there were POC-friends posting thoughts/feelings/etc, usually ending a post with “and I’m so tired”, and then someone white would go ahead and post “yeah, but violence still isn’t the answer” which is thoughtless and racist. http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/07/18/we-dont-have-to-say-that-violence-isnt-the-answer/

              Reply
            2. olives

              This is a bit of a derail, but the short answer is: Many, many marginalized people have already tried every peaceful tool in their toolkit. They still have to live in fear every day, because their lives are automatically considered to have less worth societally.

              When you say “violence doesn’t solve anything”, what you’re telling a marginalized person is that you don’t see all of the work they’ve been doing to be seen, heard and accepted in peaceful ways.

              Violence and anger don’t come from nowhere: they come from compounded years of being unable to meet your needs. The racism lies in the assumption that other people’s lives would be as peaceful as yours is if they weren’t acting in a violent way, when in actuality they already face significantly more violence and erasure on a daily basis that you’re probably not paying attention to, because it’s not affecting your life.

              Reply
              1. Gaia

                Ok I get that. I can see it being offensive when someone is acting like violence was the first response when anyone with half a thought realizes the violence is a reaction to decades (centuries) of oppression and being denied a peaceful process to make change.

                I don’t think the statement itself is inherently racist. I tend to think violence doesn’t solve anything – that is a reality – but it is insensitive at best and offensive and ignorant at worst.

                Reply
      1. Grey

        Yes. That’s the part that got to me too. Forget the whole name issue and the OP can deal with employees blatantly disregarding authority. It’s almost like saying “P*ss off. I’ll do what I want unless somebody else tells me differently”.

        Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      it’s not just a cop-out.

      It’s a very deliberate tactic to continue their bullying. “I’m going to MAKE you tell me directly and face to face, because I have all the power here. And now I can argue with you, face to face, about why I shouldn’t have to abide by your wishes regarding your own name.”

      Reply
      1. Turtle Candle

        Right. This is (one small part of) why it’s appropriate for the manager to intervene. The coworker should not have to be subject to a justification argument over why she should be called by her proper name; this is a power play, and that’s the time for the manager to use their own (far more appropriate) power to say, “She does not have to justify herself to you; you will do this on my say-so or suffer the consequences.”

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        I came back, months later, to say that these people’s insistence that “she tell me herself” reminds me of this stalker/abusive man.

        (the case hit the news because the judge tossed off his robe and came down from the bench to help restrain the guy, and ordered the security officers to tase him)

        Video of the incident, which took place in December, was released by MLive.com on Wednesday.

        The defendant — who was in court for violation of a personal protection order — talks back to the judge, who was ordering him to stay away from the woman he was accused of harassing.

        “I told you, just leave her alone … she clearly has no interest in seeing you,” McBain said to the defendant, identified by ABC affiliate WLAJ in Lansing, Michigan as Jacob Larson.

        “I want her to tell me to leave her alone,” Larson said in response to the judge’s order.

        See that? He insists that SHE tell him. It’s a way for him to continue the abuse, and the harrassment of her.

        That’s what these people are doing.

        Reply
  12. animaniactoo

    The general consensus is that it’s “prettier” or that her name “isn’t very feminine.”

    O.M.G. Please stamp this out immediately. The point isn’t whether the other is prettier or is more feminine. The point is that it’s not her name. On top of which, not pretty or “feminine” is YOUR cultural feeling about it.

    And she HAS expressed directly to them what she would prefer to be called. She’s not saying she hates the other nickname to everyone, but she IS telling them that she would prefer to be called by her full name.

    It’s that or Mike becomes Abernathy, and Jennifer can go by Beatrice and so on until everybody is getting called by what you’ve decided to assign them to be called. Since, you know, you just don’t like their names. If you want to be even more direct about it, hey, Andrew can be Andrea (a perfectly acceptable male name in other cultures), and so on. Oh, Andrew doesn’t want to be called Andrea? Well then he can call her by her actual name and he’ll get the same respect in return.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      Now I’m thinking of the social media post linked to a while back, where a black woman was getting crap from a white co-worker about how he didn’t want to or “couldn’t” pronounce her name, so she spent a week calling him random white-dude names that weren’t his. “Hey, Chad, can you find me that project file?” “Thanks, Kevin, see you at the meeting.” He finally got the message.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        I always always always at least ask after and attempt the native pronunciation even if I’m given a Westernized version. I usually manage to get it right, I think it’s pretty rare that a name is actually all that hard to pronounce, but we do have an intern right now who shook her head at me after the 4th try and asked me to go with the Western version because it’s less painful than listening to me fail to get the r to roll right.

        Reply
    2. Adam

      Right??? Her co-workers are looking at this entirely through their own cultural bifocals. Who’s to say that in this woman’s native culture her name isn’t considered “pretty” and “feminine”!

      Reply
        1. Naomi

          Yeah, seriously! If this was really about Parvati’s name not being feminine enough, it would be sexist, because I doubt they’re policing male colleagues’ names for being unmasculine. But I also doubt they would object to a female colleague using a unisex Western name, like Sam or Alex. So the excuses about whether the name is “pretty” or “feminine” are code for “this name is different from what I’m used to and I’m going to insist that everyone conform to my culture.”

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            It’s probably just an additional layer of sexism on top of all the other crap these tools are dishing out.

            Reply
      1. Not Karen

        Absolutely. People keep telling me my name (not Karen) is “pretty.” In the language of origin, it’s primarily a boy’s name…

        Reply
    3. Hlyssande

      There was the one episode of Scrubs where the crusty old doc said he’d call all the female residents something like Jenny or Rhonda because he couldn’t be bothered and one of them was super excited because that was actually her name…so he decided to call her Slagathor.

      Except this isn’t a hilarious show and is instead real life, and these coworkers need to cut that crap out, stat.

      Reply
  13. KT

    What the ever loving heck? What is wrong with people?!?!

    Not nearly as serious, but I hated my first name with a passion and had it legally changed as soon as I could. A coworker was googling me–creepy enough–and found mention of my original name, and insisted on calling me it and even had IT change my email. I lost my mind and went ballistic, and she seemed genuinely confused about why what she did was wrong because that’s what my parents wanted to call me.

    Reply
    1. KT

      Same woman was also the person who also submitted to have my email changed after I got married–except I kept my own name and she couldn’t comprehend it.

      Reply
      1. Adam

        Why would IT even listen to her? It doesn’t sound like she was your manager; not that that would have made it ok either.

        Reply
      2. sparklealways

        WTF? That is so messed up. I could see Googling someone for multiple reasons, but to take that information and decide what you get to do with it… HORRIBLE.

        IT just took her word for it and changed your name in the system without asking you? That’s really messed up too!!

        Reply
        1. Office Princess

          My IT took it upon themselves to change my email. Our default address is first.last@company. After I got married, I changed my name legally, but was torn between keeping my maiden name at work or using both names. I decided to change my signature to both names (new last because it’s my name, old last staying to make the connection to my email address). Well IT decided they would “help” by updating my email address to have a hyphenated name. Except now 1- people think that’s my name, 2 – changing it back would have been way too much work, and 3 – my email has 20 characters before the @ for a total of 38 characters, making it a real pain to give out. Whenever possible I give a group inbox over the phone to make it shorter.

          Reply
      3. Observer

        What in heaven’s name is wrong with you IT department? Since when does a request to change SOMEONE ELSE’s email address get more than 2 seconds attention – unless it gets forwarded to the REQAUESTER’S manager to give her a heads up about an employee with boundary issues?

        Reply
        1. TheAngryGuppy

          Right!?!?!

          I can’t even get IT to fix a misspelling of my ACTUAL name. Multiple attempts! From me, and from my manager!! And these guys are like, sure, we can just change someone else’s no-problem-like???

          Reply
          1. SusanIvanova

            I had a coworker who changed first and last names, and IT wouldn’t change her account name. She had an alias in IRC and email, but not for formal things like checkin approvals, and her old last name had those Germanic consonant clusters that don’t come naturally if you don’t use them all the time. Oh, and her old first name was male. (One wonders if a marriage name change would’ve taken so long to fix.) It took us co-workers filing bugs under the “interferes with our work process” category – having our checkin bounce when we mistyped the name she didn’t use slowed us down! – for it to get changed.

            Reply
        2. Jadelyn

          My god…ok, IT at my company will change email addresses and name-based logins on my request, because I’m in HR and they know that I keep the paperwork for that kind of thing, but even then I make sure the employee in question is cc’d on the request so that IT can see clearly it’s with the employee’s permission/at the employee’s request. I can’t even imagine just…taking some random other coworker’s word on it and making changes based on that.

          Reply
    2. Alton

      She had them change your e-mail without your consent? And IT went along with that? That’s ridiculous.

      I hate it when people act like the name police. I thought it was bad enough when a coworker told me she was going to list me in her phone contacts under my “real name.” That was just kind of weird, not really obtrusive. If someone insisted on calling me by the wrong name and didn’t even want to make an effort to get it right, I’d be pretty upset.

      Reply
      1. Jen

        I can be passive agressive, but I wouldn’t respond to anything but my preferred name, if that’s what it took. I did have to put a stop to a nickname that some of my colleagues used for me. Nothing inappropriate, I just didn’t like it and I told them so.

        Reply
  14. neverjaunty

    OP, I hope you will take AAM’s advice to heart and also do some digging through the archives here to learn more about management. Your employee came to you with a problem in dealing with team members; you (quite rightly) offered to take the lead and help her; and then when you got pushback from your direct reports, you reaction was to try and find some way to drop the whole thing – minimizing the problem as a “minor issue” on which you were “pushing”, and asking if it was OK to renege on your agreement to help and let her “stand up for herself”. I mean, you, their manager, are not standing up to these giant assholes, but you want your employee to do it?

    Yes, I am being a little cranky here. You are a manager. Sometimes you have to deal with uncomfortable confrontation, and having to tell employees that they are very much mistaken if they think what you just said was a suggestion rather than a requirement.

    I hope that the giant assholes will realize the error of their shameful ways so you won’t have to come down on them and/or fire them if they continue to have issues with this. But you might have to.

    Reply
    1. KR

      I don’t think OP is trying to minimize this. They even said that they felt their employee’s response was “vastly inappropriate”. They’re asking Alison for help in how to enforce this and whether they can. Give them some credit.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Er, I am? I’m sure OP wants to do the right thing and recognizes fully how wrong this situation is; but she doesn’t seem to understand that she has not only the ability, but the obligation, to put a stop to it rather than backing off when the people she supervises dug in. This is something she’s going to have to do regularly as a manager, not just in this one situation.

        Reply
      2. Mephyle

        I see OP recognizing the importance and the obligation of doing this, but asking for help with the ability, namely what tools to use. It’s not enough to just insist, “Yes you have to do this, no really, you have to do this, it’s part of your job as a manager,” if the thing they are having trouble with is how to do it. And this has now been answered.

        Reply
  15. JMegan

    Alison, it’s interesting that you chose “Parvati” as an example – I’m not sure if you did it on purpose, but there was a Parvati who was a contestant on Survivor for a couple of seasons, and she does some behind-the-scenes stuff for the current seasons as well. Jeff Probst always pronounced her name as “Poverty.” I don’t know how Parvati felt about it, but it drove me absolutely bonkers, and I always found myself yelling at the TV “That’s not her name! Get it right, it’s not that difficult!”

    She never called him on it (or at least, if she did it never made it to air.) But then all of a sudden he did start pronouncing it correctly, and she said “That’s the first time you’ve said my name right!” So clearly I wasn’t the only one who noticed, and whether it was Parvati herself who corrected him, or the executives at CBS, or somebody else – it mattered enough that somebody finally sat him down after years of pronouncing it incorrectly, and made him do it the right way.

    OP, it matters. And your Parvati will appreciate you having her back on this one, *especially* if she doesn’t feel confident speaking up to her coworkers herself.

    Reply
    1. Adam

      As someone who used to watch Survivor a lot I remember Parvati quite well. I was always confused about how you actually said her name. I just googled it now and apparently the name Parvati came from the wife of the Hindu god Shiva, so I’m guessing there is cut and dry way to pronounce it!

      Reply
    2. Megs

      I assumed it was a Harry Potter reference. :) Although Google auto-fill does go with the Survivor Parvati first, Harry Potter second.

      Reply
    3. LQ

      My favorite name example was a Top Chef I think? A cooking show one. And this old I know best guy continually pronounced the name of the youngest woman there wrong. (And it was very much a Parvati to Polly situation, though I cannot remember her name.) But when she finally shouted at him to get him to say it right (and he did from then on) I totally cheered. I don’t care if it was manufactured conflict. I want everyone who has their name said wrong continually to feel like they can do that and get results.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        I think it was The Next Food Network Star. She has/had a show called Parvati’s Party, but I only know how someone with a British accent pronounces it because she has a British accent and I can hear her say her show name in my head (Pahvahti’s Pahty).

        Reply
    4. AFT123

      RIGHT?! I used to work on a project team with a woman named Lavanya, and she pronounced her name with the emphasis on LA vs the more Western emphasis of VAN. So, sounded more like LAH-vin-yuh. However, multiple people on this team continually called her la-VAUGHN-yuh, even though on every call we had, we announced our names, and she would obviously pronounce it correctly. People are ass-hats. It’s such an easy way to be a decent person. Same goes for when someone emails you, and you reply, and you fail to look at the spelling of their name in their signature and just write whatever you want. If I sign my signature as “Rus” and you respond with “Hello Russ” or “Hey Rusty”, I’m instantly losing respect for you.

      Reply
      1. Mabel

        I agree! When someone says their name, then there’s no excuse to not get it right. I assume people are not paying attention. I had a Japanese friend named Etsuko. She pronounces it ET-su-ko, but we all assumed it was et-SU-ko, and she never corrected us until right before she moved back to Japan. And then there was the teacher who called her e-TUS-ko. Also, I was recently working with a woman named Anaia, and she said she pronounces it uh-NEIGH-uh, and everyone called her uh-NIGH-uh for the whole project. It really bugged me, but I think she was used to the mispronunciation because she didn’t say anything about it. Sometimes when someone tells me their name, and I know I’m not going to remember it or be able to pronounce it, I ask them how to spell it, and that usually helps me.

        Reply
    5. Biff

      I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when they mess up pronunciation, even if they do it repeatedly. I’m pretty good with other languages, but there are certain sounds I just can’t seem to master. I was THRILLED when my manager finally got the ‘th’ sound in my name right. She was just as surprised as I was when it popped out. Before then, I’d been running around as something along the lines of “Bip” instead of “Biff.” I also respond to people who lisp through the ‘th’ sound. Or accidentally stress the vowels since the ‘eh’ sound of ‘e’ can be kinda hard for some.

      I’m in camp ‘keep trying.’

      The only time I really deviate from this is if someone’s name is a naughty word. (When I worked for a call center, I saw quite a few names that were headscratchers to say the least.) I’m not sure what I’d do in that scenario. Perhaps just explain that their name is the same as a word meaning whatever in English.

      Reply
  16. Observer

    Thank you Alison for coming down so clearly on the matter!

    OP, please keep this in mind. Your employee does not “lack confidence”. What she lacks is assurance that her co-workers will behave with minimal courtesy and decency. And, with good reason! She’s been told to her face that her name is “not good enough!” Who does that?! The employee who told you she needs to hear it from “Parvati” herself is either saying that she doubts your word (!) or it’s a just an excuse to not act like a decent grown up. Essentially what she is saying is “I’m not going to act like a decent person unless I get one last chance to spit in her face and tell her how terrible her name is and how stupid and inadequate she for having the temerity to prefer her name to the one WE decided she should have.”

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Considering how bullying it is for them to basically say that they don’t care what the coworker wants to be called, they’re going to impose a nickname on her that removes a part of her identity (her nationality), I wouldn’t be at all confident that these co-irkers would respect her wishes either. And with bullies, once they know something bothers you, they’ll never let it go.

      Reply
      1. KG, Ph.D.

        I suspect that if she told them to stop calling her the fake name, they’d respond with something snotty like, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier??!” Gross.

        Reply
        1. OhNo

          Yep. And probably spend the next couple of weeks trading off between being really obnoxious about using the right name five times a sentence, and making poor Parvati listen to them expound for hours on how bad they feel that they were using the wrong name all this time.

          It’s almost like I’ve been on Parvati’s side of this mess before, or something.

          Reply
  17. Murphy

    I can’t believe people are reacting like this! You’ve been told of her preference, just follow it!

    My old job relied heavily on volunteers, and we had an Asian volunteer with a name that isn’t difficult, but if you don’t know how to pronounce it, the vowel sounds are ambiguous. One day, a co-worker told me that we’d apparently all been pronouncing her name incorrectly, but she was too shy to tell us. So I just immediately switched to pronouncing it that way. Easy peasy.

    Reply
    1. Spooky

      The same thing happened to me. I had a Russian friend named Geniya, which we all thought was supposed to be pronounced like “jen-ya.” It took her almost a year to tell us that it’s actually more like “zsen-ya” (zs like Zsa-Zsa Gabor). We all felt horrible for saying it wrong, and we couldn’t understand why she hadn’t corrected us earlier!

      Reply
    2. Jennifer

      I did this for a co-worker once. Same thing — she was shy about correcting people, partly because her name was Indian and “hard to pronounce” (which, hello, is nonsense. Unfamiliar is not the same as hard to say). But I habitually check when meeting someone – do they prefer the version I was told by a third party, or do they prefer their full name, or a different nickname, or whatever? I do this because of how I feel: while I do not dislike the standard nicknames for my given name, I really do not like being introduced by any of them.

      Now, the same issue can happen with Tanya’s and Andrea’s and Stephen’s — people use the wrong pronunciation and sometimes need to be corrected directly. And those are common-in-my-culture names! So anyway, I made a point of telling people that they were getting her name slightly wrong (and I honestly don’t remember what it was, but I think they were putting the emphasis in the wrong place, so it was like the Andrea issue), and everyone was slightly embarrassed, but glad to have been told. (And she was slightly embarrassed, but grateful too.) And nobody brought it up again and everyone pronounced her name correctly after that.

      Reply
      1. Another Andrea

        Oh, goodness, how to pronounce Andrea… three options:
        An’-dree-ya
        Ahhn’-dree-ya
        Ahn-dray’-a

        I use the first, my grandmother used the third for me, and I still respond to all three, and I do know other people who use the other pronunciations. It’s very much regional/preferential!

        Of course, there’s also the male Italian name Andrea, but let’s not get started with that…

        Reply
  18. SL #2

    I almost thought that the employee was one of my coworkers! It’s a very similar situation, except that when she requested that we call her by her full name, we complied and have continued to do so ever since then. Come on, people. It’s not that hard to call someone by the name that they want to be called by, whether or not you “agree” with said name.

    I have no real advice here, only that good on you, OP, for having your employee’s back on this. It might seem trivial to a lot of people (and apparently to all your other coworkers!) but it’s not trivial to your employee and that is what matters in this situation.

    Reply
  19. Venus Supreme

    The mentality needs to switch from “I’m calling you XYZ to make myself comfortable” to “I’m calling you ABC because that will make you comfortable.” Plain and simple.

    Reply
  20. Apollo Warbucks

    The co-worker is an ass, there is no excuse, it is just plain rude and disrespectful not to call someone by their name. I agree with Alison’s comments about this not being optional or open for discussion.

    On a side note I work with a guy that has a very unusual name with a combination of sounds that are hard for me to put together, but I spent a little time practising the pronunciation and it stuck now I don’t even think about it, but no way would it occur to me to tell him to change his name.

    Reply
  21. Corporate Drone

    I take issue with anyone who cannot be bothered to use another person’s correct name, and/or to pronounce it correctly. It is the height of arrogant hubris. Everyone can say Mao Tse Tung, Barack Obama, and Dostoevsky. There is no excuse, other than callous indifference, for this. None.

    Reply
    1. Dee

      Yeah, and it’s funny how this stuff always seems to happen to non-white people. I remember reading that when Quvenzhané Wallis was in Annie, a reporter said, “I’m just going to call you Annie, okay? And Quvenzhané, bless her, said, “No, that’s not my name. My name is Quvenzhané.”

      Reply
        1. Aunt Vixen

          kweh-VEN-zhah-nay, I believe. (I’ve spelled one schwa “eh” and one “ah”, but I think the first and third vowels are pretty similar.)

          Reply
      1. JessaB

        Yeh Uzoamaka Aduba’s mother made the same kind of comment about being able to pronounce Michaelangelo and other names of White people and want to call her daughter Uzo because they can’t say something that’s basically pronounced as it’s spelt? It seems as a kid Ms. Aduba came home asking her mom to change her name because her teachers wouldn’t bother to learn it and it bugged her.

        Reply
    2. TL -

      To be fair, there are sounds that are made in some languages and not in others and picking them up later in life can be really difficult. Rachel is hard to pronounce for many native Spanish speakers – Raquel is much easier and it’s never bothered me to be called that if someone is truly struggling with my name. That being said, I will not respond to Ray or Rochelle, so a lot of it comes down to comfort.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        My name has different pronunciations in different parts of the world. I generally do not mind people calling me the version from their region/language, particularly given that some folks have a hard time with the way I say it.

        What I do mind is a colleague, who is from the European country my ancestors came from, insisting that I say my name “wrong” and on pronouncing it as they do in his country, and attempting to recruit others to do so as well. Dude, my name is my name. Yeah, the pronunciation is different after 5+ generations.

        He notably does not do this to the other person with my name, who is from a different European country. He makes the effort to pronounce her name as she prefers.

        Reply
      2. Tomato Frog

        Yeah, I have made good faith, persistent efforts to pronounce names and just not been able to get it. Sometimes I genuinely can’t hear the difference between what they’re telling me and what I’m saying. Like many (probably most!) humans, I am not able to distinguish all phonemes in all languages.

        Reply
      3. TootsNYC

        I feel like it’s OK to pronounce a name using your own actual accent.

        But turning Grace into Graciela is not OK. I had that argument with exactly one person in my Yugoslavian family when my DD was a baby. “Oh, but that’s how we say ‘Grace’ in our language.” And I said, “No, her name is Grace. If I’d wanted people to call her Graciela, I’d have named her that. Please don’t call her Graciela, or Gracie. Her name is Grace.” I didn’t even bother saying, “Yes but we’re speaking English now.”

        Reply
    3. OhNo

      That reminds me of the story that the actress Uzo Aduba told about why her mother refused to allow her to go by a Western name. The quote I’m thinking of was: “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

      Reply
      1. Venus Supreme

        I have that quote on my wall at work. I love it. Do not twist and contort who you are to accommodate others.

        Reply
      2. One of the Sarahs

        Yes! And as a Brit, if we can all understand that Worcester is pronounced Wooster (& vice versa!), Gloucester as Gloster, and so on, we should be able to get names like Parvati, which are said like they’re spelled.

        Reply
    4. animaniactoo

      To be fair, there is rare occasion. I make a determined effort, but we currently have an intern from France who has asked me to stop trying because hearing me fail to roll the R right (I keep trying, but my roll is not the *right* roll) and get the vowel sound at the right inflection is worse *for her* than using Amber over Ambre. That said – this is *her* preference, not mine.

      However, I think that kind of situation is truly an outlier and as you’ve said – we manage to figure out how to pronounce a whole bunch of other names.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I would slightly amend my upthread statement to say that I think the standard Anglophone approximation of the name is fine, and that people aren’t obliged to learn phonemes or pitch requirements that aren’t in their native language. So I would skip the rolled R same as I would expect the French speaker to roll any Rs in Anglophone names without getting blowback.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        I’m sure she appreciates that you tried, just the same.

        Often, people can’t pronounce my last name–it’s composed of three common English words, but something about the combination just stumps them. After watching them flail for a minute or two, I say, “Just call me Liz.” I do it to make it easier on them, not me; personally I find it hilarious when they can’t say it (I’m a horrible person, LOL).

        Reply
    5. LQ

      I had a friend who had a Russian nickname and there was a letter I could NOT get to come out right. I would swear up and down I was saying what I was hearing. I recorded her and me saying it and played it back. I tried. I really damn tried. Whatever I was doing wrong (which I could not hear, I believe I was doing it wrong, I just could not hear the difference) was so grating to her that she was just like call me entire other name instead. (It would be like calling Polly, Suzanne because you couldn’t get the y at the end to sound correct.)

      I do think it is possible. But I do NOT think that is the case here. They aren’t even bothering. They aren’t even saying they can’t pronounce. They are saying it isn’t pretty enough. Like that matters.

      Which just….no. All of the no.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        Oh! Russians don’t inflect up or down in Russian – I bet you were making a tonal shift that wasn’t there. (It’s really hard to hear if you’re a native English speaker but really easy for Russians to hear)

        Reply
        1. LQ

          That seems entirely possible. And I think it can be hard to sometimes explain what is wrong when you can’t understand how they can’t hear it. It is so incredibly obvious to the native speaker and to someone else they hear you say the same thing over and over. It’s not “e” it’s “e”, no no, not “e” “e”! Arg! Are you even paying attention! But to a nonnative they sound exactly the same. You just said the exact same thing twice. There is zero difference. It’s a brain thing. We can’t all hear all options of all sounds because brains. But it is incredibly valuable, I think, to know that to someone else you are ignoring something really obvious that children get right. (I have no idea where I’m going with this. But in case anyone is wondering it is to the opposite direction of calling someone a name that is “prettier”.)

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            Mostly because by the time you’re ten or so you lose the sounds that you don’t use in your everyday conversation, so yeh kids CAN do it, but grownups no longer have that range of sounds in them. They’ve atrophied (for wont of a better word) from lack of use.

            Reply
    6. Perse's Mom

      Oh, I dunno. I’ve known plenty of people who can’t pronounce my first OR last name correctly and while I’m sure some of them are jerks, many of them just don’t hear the difference.

      Reply
    7. Turtle Candle

      I will say that when a language has sounds that your language does not, it can be genuinely difficult to reproduce them–sometimes even to hear the difference. (In point of fact, I’m pretty sure most English speakers do not pronounce Mao Tse Tung properly; we get the tones wrong. It’s just that the English-language approximation is close enough for most purposes when speaking English.)

      But there’s not excuse for not trying. (Unless the person asks you not to try, as one woman with a Chinese name did in my office; she would rather us use her preferred Western name than screw up the tones in her Chinese name.)

      Reply
      1. Turtle Candle

        (And this is not restricted to Asian or tonal languages–I knew a guy in college who went by his middle name because his first name contained a Welsh double-l, and he was just sick of hearing it mispronounced by Americans… but the Welsh double-l is genuinely difficult to learn to produce if you didn’t grow up with it. His friends might eventually get it right with work, but acquaintances probably never would even if their intentions were good, and he preferred to just use his middle name to doing Welsh Pronunciation Lessons over and over, or hearing people mess it up a lot.)

        Reply
        1. Aunt Vixen

          I knew a Welsh dude named Rhys who would spend a little time patiently trying to teach people to pronounce it the Welsh way but who (sensibly, in my view) also dealt fine with people who weren’t Welsh pronouncing it Reese.

          Reply
        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Shoutout to my Icelandic family here! I remember discussing pronunciation with one of my cousins, and him saying in the most exasperated, why-isn’t-this-obvious tone, “But a LL is not pronounced like an L!”

          Reply
  22. AK

    I have gone by my middle name since I was young – the majority of the time, it’s a complete non-issue. But one company I worked for (on a long-term temp assignment) insisted on using my “legal name” as my e-mail address, and that somehow translated to just about everything else – so I was constantly trying to correct people, and everyone was confused. I tried to get them to change it – I used the argument that my middle name is, in fact, part of my “legal name,” but I got nowhere. I couldn’t shake the feeling of disrespect it gave me – like, who are you to tell me what my name is? – and that’s probably why I didn’t last long at that company. When my temp assignment was over there was talk about taking me on as a permanent employee, but I told my temp agency that I wasn’t interested and asked for a new assignment.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      Oh I feel that one. I haven’t used my first name since high school but my official work stuff, all the school stuff, and my doctor’s office all use it. I get sick of correcting people. The doc office is particularly annoying because there is a space for Preferred Name, but they NEVER look at it. If I ever get married and my spouse’s last name isn’t Wermenjaegermanjensen or something, I’m going to change the entire thing and ditch it forever.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      This is a huge problem at my current company because they link the email to PeopleSoft. And so people who go by their middle names sometimes have two emails (and one auto-forwards to the other).

      Reply
      1. CanadianKat

        I wish employers would have two fields for names: legal name and preferred name. Would avoid so much confusion. Whenever I email helpdesk about a password to one of our systems, I always have to remind them that my login is Esmith (because my legal first name starts with an E) rather than Ksmith (which is my login for everything else, including email, because my preferred name starts with K). I also have to tell them to enter my email manually in the system, otherwise once they change the password, it will send an email to non-existent Esmith. Ugh.

        Reply
        1. KR

          This is also useful for transgender employees who aren’t fully transitioned yet. We have an employee that prefers different pronouns and to use a different name, and when I had to call up HR for a minor issue they had such a hard time with the fact that I was using the pronouns and name they wanted me to and was blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Thankfully, someone who is on more equal footing with the HR person told them to get over it and go take a sensitivity class (I say thankfully because had they passed their ‘concerns’ onto my boss he would have used more 4-letter words with them).

          Reply
        2. AK

          I have seen the two name fields once or twice, but it doesn’t seem to be consistent. I’ve thrown people off because they are expecting my “preferred name” to be somehow derived from my first name (which, admittedly, does have lots of nickname possibilities) instead of something completely different, like my middle name.

          Reply
    3. ZeeZeeZee

      I have the same issue here but at least the people in my department are good about using my middle name, I tried getting HR to take my middle name out of quotes in the employee directory because everybody else whose name is in quotes actually uses a nickname, while I am using my legal middle name. Now the HR lady calls me by my first name but she isn’t trying to be malicious. Using middle names is SOOOOO culturally common here you’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal.

      Reply
    4. Noah

      Yes, I don’t mind if my official email is firstname.lastname but please be willing to make an alias of middlename.lastname. It confuses the heck out of people when you are introduced as Noah but they cannot find you in the email directory because you’re listed as Tadhg.

      OTOH, I enjoy watching people at the doctor’s office try to pronounce my first name when they call you from the waiting room. Apparently, the “preferred name” field is never looked at anywhere.

      Reply
  23. Lily Rowan

    There’s an old Story Corps story that recently re-ran about when Mexican-American kids would have their names changed in school. Until one day there was a new kid in the class named Facundo, and the teachers couldn’t figure out how to shorten/Anglicize it in away that wasn’t too close to Fuck. So he got to keep his own name.

    But that was a story from decades ago!!!

    Reply
    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      We were actually just having a conversation about this at work! Several of my coworkers have anglocized names for this exact reason.

      Reply
      1. Ange

        My friend Nick who has an African name similarly changed his name at school, although I think it was his choice. He framed it to me as making it easier for his teacher. Personally I thought it was reasonably easy to pronounce but then I grew up with people with English, Indian, African and Polish names so my attitude is that there is no “right” type of name.

        Reply
        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          It’s crazy. I know I had the benefit of growing up in Southern California, but I was shocked at the names people were forced to anglicize (Cesar, Pedro, Guillermo) — none were hard to pronounce!

          Reply
          1. Lily Rowan

            As someone else said upthread, I totally get anglicizing pronunciation — hell, I’ve done the reverse to my own name when speaking Spanish — but “Say-zar” for Cesar should be doable for any English speaker.

            Reply
          2. Aunt Vixen

            Guy I got on the phone at the insurance company about ten years ago gave his name when I asked for it, and it was a name I’d never heard before – he pronounced it “joo-burr,” like “goober” but with a J – so I asked him to spell it. Guy spells J-U-B-E-R. A synapse in my head combines this spelling with his slight accent and goes ‘click’ and without thinking further I exclaim “oh – Juber.” (It’s “Hubert,” but in Spanish.) Guy sounded surprised and pleased that the gringa on the phone was able to pronounce his name correctly. I was dismayed that this is apparently rare enough that he normally has to call himself Jooburr for the customers’ convenience.

            Reply
          3. blackcat

            When I was teaching, I taught an “Andres.” All of his classmates used an anglicized pronunciation. He was totally shocked when I said “Do you prefer Andres [anglicized], Andres [rolling the r, Spanish emphasis], or something else?” The kid’s eyes bugged out like he had never heard a white person talk like that before. He thanked me profusely for asking… and I thought it was weird that he was surprised I asked. Asking for nick-names/other preferred names is a standard day 1 thing! For any teacher!

            I proceeded to call the kid by his preferred name (the Spanish pronunciation), despite the fact that no one else at the school used that pronunciation. I tried to correct other teachers, kids… and no one budged. It made me sad, and then I understood why he had been so surprised. I totally get that some people can’t roll r’s right, but it’s not hard to get the emphasis on the right syllable.

            I grew up in California, too, and know how to pronounce many Spanish words/names, despite not really speaking Spanish. Entiendo mucho, pero no hablo mucho! is my standard line. I was plunked in a daycare with Spanish-speaking providers at the right age for a couple of years to pick up the pronunciation, and so I do understand that it’s easier for me than many other folks. But you should still try to get close to someone’s preferred pronunciation!

            At any rate, I think people who grew up in certain regions/in certain cities think nothing of pronouncing names from different cultures. But in other parts of the country or even in certain types of suburbs, people just get weirdly stubborn.

            Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      I went to college with a Korean dude named (apologies for probable misspelling) San Suc Yoo. Pronounced SAHN SUCK YOU. He understood the awkward and was fine going by Mr. Yoo. But if he had insisted, we would have just called him by his preferred name. My friend worked in the international student’s office (that’s where we knew him from), and our group were used to all sorts of names. We had a ton of Middle Eastern students whose names Midwestern tongues struggled with, and they often just picked something everyone could pronounce easily.

      We also had a friend from Bethlehem named Samir–most people called him Sam, but I liked Samir so I always called him that. And at a job later, a client and boss’s friend from India had such a beautiful name I loved to say it–Kapiraj Singhania. Just rolllllllss off your tongue. My boss called him Kappy. I like his surname so much I sneaked it in my book. :)

      Reply
  24. Bianca

    Wouldn’t this be considered race-based harassment in the workplace? If so, I would let the group who refused to use this woman’s real name know that doing so is considered harassment, and that this was their warning, and if they continued, they would be disciplined as they would be for any other kind of harassment.

    It’s not their choice to use her name, it’s required just like any other kind of respectful behavior towards coworkers.

    Reply
    1. Liane

      I think is is also gender-based, since these a–hats are also saying the name “Isn’t pretty or feminine.”

      I would be strongly tempted, as OP, to tell her reports she was issuing all of them Work Names, since they thought this wasn’t a big deal.
      “Jean, you’re Jane because the letter order is prettier. Cersei, everyone will call Sissy because fewer vowels and it sounds less tough. Michael must be called Michel because French male names are more virile.”
      I wouldn’t do it because it is unprofessional.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I think is is also gender-based, since these a–hats are also saying the name “Isn’t pretty or feminine.”

        Honestly, I wonder if that part is a red herring. I suspect this is more ethnicity-based than gender-based, and what they’re really saying is “Parvati is not a girl’s name where I come from and I choose not to use it.”

        Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            One wonders if they decided, consciously or subconsciously, if sexism is more acceptable than racism…

            Reply
    2. Callietwo

      This is what I was going to say… how the ever loving F have these people not been put on warnings or even let go over this harassment? What a terrible bunch of human beings they are.. yuck.

      Reply
  25. alice

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say that if I was used to calling someone by a certain name and after several months or years their manager told me to call that person by a different name, I’d be super confused, especially when the person in question never expressed an issue with the nickname. “Parvati” does need to make a simple statement to her coworkers that SHE prefers her real name and not just her manager.

    Reply
    1. KT

      You may be confused, but if given a direct order from your manager, would you really challenge it?

      The coworker does NOT need to issue a statement!

      Reply
      1. CanadianKat

        If they’re really in doubt and don’t trust the manager, they should take it upon themselves to ask the coworker, in the most polite way possible. And apologize once the doubt has been cleared.

        Reply
    2. JMegan

      She has expressed exactly that:

      When asked directly, she…will only say that she prefers her full name.

      That seems pretty clear to me. And there’s a difference between having trouble adapting to calling her Parvati when you’ve been calling her Polly for years, and outright refusing to call her Parvati because you’ve been calling her Polly for years. One shows an effort to respect her wishes, and the other does not.

      Reply
    3. Leatherwings

      That’s too bad for you – really. Parvati already told her manager what she’d prefer to be called, and the manager is communicating that message. The onus is not on Parvati to get people to call her the right name, it’s on the people who are WILLFULLY calling her the wrong one because they feel like it.

      This isn’t a case where someone just messed up the name a few times. The coworkers aren’t even making an effort and that’s inexcusably disrespectful. If it’s hard for them, they need to suck it up and write themselves a sticky note or something.

      Reply
    4. Aster Z

      The manager presumably told people that she was speaking for Parvati when she told them to stop calling her Polly. Parvati herself has been saying, when asked, that she prefers her given name. And the coworkers haven’t said that they’re having trouble switching after several years and need a grace period in which they can make mistakes; they’re dismissing the real name as not aesthetically pleasing enough to suit them. That doesn’t sound like confusion to me.

      Reply
    5. Rusty Shackelford

      First, she says that when asked, Parvati will say she prefers her own name. That IS the simple statement.

      Second, when one’s manager says “Please stop calling your coworker Pam and start calling her Parvati; it is her actual name and she prefers it,” the appropriate response is not “I don’t believe you,” and that’s what you’re basically doing. If you suspect this might simply be the manager’s choice, go ask Parvati rather than stubbornly insisting that you will ignore the issue until your own criteria are met.

      Third, I think we ALL know people of any culture or gender who don’t have the self-confidence to say “You need to stop calling me Pam; my name is Parvati.” It’s really not difficult at all to believe this is an issue.

      Reply
    6. animaniactoo

      She has: “When asked directly, she finds it difficult to be rude, so will only say that she prefers her full name.”

      Reply
    7. Becky

      I understand being taken aback when it’s truly news to you, but the real point is to then accept it and move forward with it, instead of expecting someone to go through certain pre-approved steps before you feel it’s justified–which could be different for everybody. It should be enough that the manager has brought it up.

      Reply
    8. Kelly L.

      Do you have trouble whenever someone in your office gets married or divorced and changes their name?

      There are several reasons why you might need to adjust to calling someone a different name in the workplace–maybe they’ve gotten married/divorced, maybe they are going through a gender transition, maybe they’re just changing their name because they never liked the old one, or like this employee, maybe everybody’s been calling her the wrong thing for years. Whatever the reason, it’s just part of life. It’s one thing to have a little trouble getting used to it, but it’s just the way it works. And it’s way less onerous to have to learn a new name than to be called the wrong thing for years. Sorry.

      Reply
      1. Venus Supreme

        +1!!!! I kept thinking about friends I’ve known who have transitioned into their preferred genders. If someone blatantly said “You’re still a ‘he’ to me. I’m not calling you by this new name” it would be downright disrespectful. Same principle applies to Parvati.

        Reply
      2. Turtle Candle

        Right! I’ve had friends change names for various reasons, and yes, I slip up the first few times–but I apologize, and I try, and eventually I get it right and stop goofing up. I’m not going to say “I’m not even going to bother until you jump through sufficient hoops to satisfy me.”

        Reply
    9. SarahTheEntwife

      I might be a bit confused, but my first reaction would be to believe my manager and apologize to my coworker for getting her name wrong this whole time. At which point if this was some bizarre misunderstanding on the manager’s part, my coworker could correct me as to what name she actually wants me to use.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        yes!

        This is how I’d react.
        “Oh, really? I didn’t realize.” “Hey, Parvati–sorry I didn’t realize you would prefer your actual name. Remind me if I forget, OK, and don’t take it personally? I might have to stutter before I adjust.”

        Reply
    10. themmases

      What? No. These coworkers gave this poor woman a nickname that she never introduced herself by, and never would have because she hates it. She’s even told them she prefers her real name.

      You know what should have been news to these jerks? Their rude westernized nickname *when they made it up*.

      There is really no need to devil’s advocate racism and harassment. The letter makes it pretty clear they weren’t just innocently unaware that their behavior was unwelcome.

      Reply
    11. HRish Dude

      Why is there always this need to play devil’s advocate? Not everything has a valid “other side”. Her coworkers don’t get to decide what her name is, period. If she asks her manager to handle the situation instead of creating awkwardness and conflict, then that’s how it should be handled.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        1) Some people believe that slapping phrases like ‘devil’s advocate’ or ‘thought experiment’ on the front of an argument is a magic escape clause if the argument is crappy or ill-thought-out. Hey, I wasn’t saying something terrible, I was just playing devil’s advocate!

        2) Sometimes when a discussion seems to be mostly people agreeing, there are folks who find that uncomfortable and believe there must, has to be, a dissenting view thrown in, because conformity and sheeple and stuff.

        Reply
        1. AMT

          I think these are the same people who think the midpoint of two opposing viewpoints is always the correct one. “Pee on coworker’s desk? Don’t pee on coworker’s desk? How about we compromise with just a little pee?”

          Reply
            1. LQ

              I feel like the golden mean fallacy takes on a whole new level when talking about peeing on a desk.
              ……………

              Reply
          1. Rob aka Mediancat

            Argumentum ad temperantiam. One side arguing 2+2=4, one side arguing 2+2=6, someone will always come in and “compromise” by saying 2+2=5.

            Reply
          2. neverjaunty

            Exactly. Or its near relative, the Lone Voice of Reason. “Oh, those pro-desk-pee and anti-desk-pee people are all so polarized and shouty; they’re practically mirror images of one another. If only they had my wisdom and rationality, they’d understand that they could solve this problem quite simply: pee on the co-worker’s chair instead.”

            Reply
    12. Ultraviolet

      There may well be coworkers who were introduced to this person with the westernized nickname and have never been aware that she doesn’t want it. And they probably will be confused. The burden is then on those people to ask the manager, “Wait, are you sure that’s the name she wants to go by? I’ve never heard that she prefers another name.” And the manager will say that Parvati told them explicitly what she wants. At that point, no matter how surprised they are, it’s pretty clear what the coworker needs to do.

      Reply
      1. WordyNerd

        Many years ago I was introduced to a friend of a friend as “Fishy”. I thought this was a bit odd, but it turned out his real name was Chris and there was another Chris in the group of friends, so this Chris was always called Fishy to distinguish him. Well, YEARS go by and then a group of us were hanging out and there was someone else new there who asked about the name Fishy. Turns out the guy HATED the name Fishy – he’d liked it at first but felt he’d outgrown it a long time ago. Me and my friends basically went, “Oh, really? You should have told us sooner!” and promptly started calling him Chris. To my knowledge no one has called him Fishy since he told us he didn’t like it.

        So yeah. It doesn’t matter how you’re introduced to someone. If they tell you they don’t want you to call them by a certain name, just don’t do it. Anyone who claims this is hard is not someone who’s trying.

        Reply
    13. Liz

      A very kind person at church misheard my name when we were first introduced, and I didn’t have the heart to correct her. She’d still be calling me “Lisa” except that she heard someone else call me Liz and was mortified I hadn’t corrected her. After 3 months it was very awkward for me to say anything, so I can only imagine what it would be like for Parvati.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I get that one a lot. If I’m never going to see or talk to the person again, I don’t bother to correct them. But I noticed it happens more on the phone, where saying “Liz” is problematic because people’s headsets or speakers don’t always have the best sound quality. Plus, if I answer the phone, “This is Liz,” it comes out the other end as “Zizz izzz Zizzzz,” and I’m asked to repeat it. So I just say, “Liz speaking,” or “Elizabeth.” People rarely screw up Elizabeth.

        I try to correct them right away, but as you pointed out, there are moments when it feels super awkward to do so, or the moment passes and by then you’re forever Lisa in their minds.

        Reply
      2. Apostrophina

        I’m the same way. At work I go by a nickname I’m not overly fond of, but got in the habit of using to distinguish myself from another person—only the other person left and now I’m stuck with it.

        On top of that, there’s a local accent that shifts the vowel *and* a lot of carelessness, so if I was “Flynnore” but had shortened it to Flynn for expediency, I get:
        –80% people calling me Flynn (which, granted, is my own darned fault);
        –a few people calling me Flynnore not because they know I prefer it, but at random;
        –10% people calling me “Fleen,” and sometimes spelling it that way;
        –the occasional random e-mail saying things like “…And thanks to Flynnibel for getting this done so fast.”

        Reply
      3. KR

        I’ve had a similar experience where teachers in college mispronounced my name. Being socially anxious and soft spoken, I usually would correct them once with the correct pronunciation and if they blew me off or didn’t hear me correctly I would let it go. That happened until I started making some really good friends in school that were in my major. They were much more confident and called a few teachers out for deliberately mispronouncing my name (which isn’t all that uncommon, but is spelled with an extra letter so it trips people up).

        Reply
    14. A grad student

      I possibly have sympathy for this viewpoint because my younger sister did this recently. She’s 10 years younger than me, and since she started existing I’ve been calling her “Betsy”. She recently decided while on study abroad to start going by “Elizabeth”. My mother tells me this after she gets back- no explanation from my sister, but she adamantly refuses to respond to “Betsy” anymore. Compounding the problem is that I only see her for about a couple of days at a time every six months or so. From my perspective it’s annoying because, to me, she’s always been “Betsy”.

      Still, that’s a very different situation- my sister went by that name willingly for many years, we’re family, and it’s not like I try to get new people who meet her to call her “Betsy”- I just have trouble remembering in the moment sometimes out of old habits. Parvati in this scenario never wanted to be called “Polly”; the coworkers are not making an effort to change and are doubling down instead. Now, if they’ve worked with this woman for many years and it’s only recently that she’s spoken up to the manager, it would be completely reasonable to want a grace period for mistakes due to habit, but that doesn’t seem to be the situation here.

      Reply
      1. Sibley

        Honestly, I’d probably tell her, very matter of fact, that you’ve been calling her Betsy her entire life, and you’re willing to call her Elizabeth, but that she needs to patiently correct you until you retrain yourself, but that you’re trying.

        Reply
    15. One of the Sarahs

      I was introduced to a couple as “Jim’n’Jen” like it was all one word, which was how most of their friends referred to them, so I called her Jen for a while, until e got to know each other better, and she told me she hated Jen, so I started calling her by the name she used, Genevieve, and referring to them as “Genevieve and Jim”. It was easy because I *wanted* to be a good friend. It should be even easier to remember when a boss has explicitly said you must.

      And as for making Parvati go round and tell everyone, as they likely snigger in her face, or mock her? No way. We don’t know that she hasn’t asked people, and they’ve ignored her already, anyway, but it’s just humiliating, especially when these people are inventing stupid reasons for renaming her.

      Reply
    16. Anna

      Nope. She doesn’t. The manager can tell each of the people working there that they must call Parvati by her given name without Parvati having to tell anyone anything.

      Reply
  26. LisaD

    If there’s further resistance after another firmer conversation about this, I think it would not be going overboard to have HR write the offenders up formally and explain to them that they’re creating liability for the company by treating someone poorly as a result of their ethnicity.

    Reply
  27. Observer

    By the way, some people brought up the issue of discrimination. That’s not a joke. Even if “Parvati” never sues you, this is the kind of thing that can be used to show a pattern of discrimination and discriminatory animus. And, there is no way your employer is going to be able to argue that management had no way to know about it. It’s not just that you spoke to her, and she told you she has an issue. The simple fact that people are saying that her name is not good enough is a problem.

    You need to stamp it out, and quickly.

    Reply
  28. Seal

    As someone who has always gone by an unusual nickname that’s not an obvious derivative of my given name, this really strikes a chord with me. When I started school I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go by my nickname, because as far as I was concerned that WAS my name. I think I finally had a sympathetic teacher in 1st or 2nd grade who started using my nickname regularly, then all the kids did. Still, I got teased mercilessly about my given name throughout elementary school. Once I got to college, I had to register using my given name, which lead to always uncomfortable requests to be called by my nickname, which half the professors forgot anyway. When I started working full time, people already knew me by my nickname because I had worked there part time as a student. Still, there was one misogynistic jerk who insisted on calling me by my given name just to yank my chain; I pitched such a fit that he actually had disciplinary action taken against him (this was one of many issues with him, but the one that was the last straw).

    As I’ve gotten older and nicknames are more common, particularly in the South were I now live, very few people make a fuss about calling me by my nickname. In fact, the only time I bring it up if is someone is making airline reservations for me, which I need to do using my given name; even then, no one bats an eye. But I wound up changing doctors recently because the woman no only didn’t know my name – given or nickname – but when I told the office staff that what I wanted to be called they refused to note it in my chart because it didn’t match the name on my insurance card. Funny how that’s not a problem with my dentist and eye doctor.

    People get to go by the name THEY want to be called, not the name others impose upon them.

    Reply
    1. JT

      When I was a kid we had someone who went by “Heath” don’t know why or where it came from and honestly I do not even remember what his actual name was at this point. But I can never remember anyone making fun of him for his nickname. It wasn’t even a nickname in our minds it was his name. I do remember during first day roll call or testing days being confused as to his actual name when I heard it. People shouldn’t be jerks about names – it’s not their choice.

      Reply
  29. Mimmy

    I’m probably going to get flogged for this, but here goes…

    Alison – In past letters, you’ve encouraged employees to deal with these types of issues with coworkers directly. How is this different? Genuinely asking, not arguing.

    I realize that the employee has already expressed discomfort in addressing this with her coworkers directly, but…honestly…I think you may want to encourage her to do this. I would much rather hear it from the individual him- or herself about their preferences than a manager.

    Reply
    1. KT

      But it doesn’t matter who you’d prefer to hear it from, your preference has no weight. They have gotten a directive from their manager, that should be the end of it

      Reply
    2. Leatherwings

      Given how rude the coworkers have already been (calling the nickname prettier?!?!) I wouldn’t put my employee in that situation.

      If I thought they could be reasonable people, I might coach her on this but the coworkers have already demonstrated that they’re rude, disrespectful and racist.

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        ^ This. It says in the letter that when asked directly, she will say that she prefers to be called by her given name. The issue is that they’re not bothering to listen when she says it. That is definitely the point at which Alison usually recommends getting a manager involved, so the OP is right on the money.

        What I really want to know is – why wasn’t the previous manager doing anything about this? How awful that must have been for Parvati to be entirely surrounded by coworkers and managers who didn’t give a flip.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          It may have been that Parvati didn’t bring it up.

          And if you’re Parvati, and you’re introduced to your new colleagues, who say, “oh, Parvati is just too difficult, we’ll call you Polly!” that’s a pretty big sign that they’re not going to be considerate of you, in general, and that they’re racist on top of it, and pushing back on your own is not going to be pleasant.
          (And Parvati is ACCURATE in this assessment, because they ARE being jerks about it now)

          So you just live with it, because at least you have a job.

          Then you get a new manager w/ a slightly difficult name, and the topic of names comes up, so you mention it.

          Hell, for all we know, Parvati DID say, early on, “Please, call me Parvati.”
          How would these people have reacted then, when Parvati was a new employee?
          “Oh, Polly is so much prettier,” or “I can’t pronounce those weird names; we’ll keep calling you Polly.”

          Reply
    3. my two cents

      I’d be so bold as to say things that concern illegal-hostile workplaces (race, gender, orientation, disabilities) are the exception to the ‘encourage the employee to address it first’ rule.

      I think there’s automatically a power dynamic at play when these types of things are involved, and the impacted employee doesn’t feel empowered or protected to raise their own voice. I mean, heck…the OP already got to feel their blow-back when they first tried politely asking others. Can you imagine the twisting and pressure they’d receive if they had tried to directly ask them?

      Reply
    4. Ultraviolet

      Huge issues like racism are an exception, I think. They’re so bad that it’s okay to get help shutting them down rather than continuing to suffer while you figure out how to handle it on your own. Also your manager has an interest in shutting it down (aside from their interest in you) because of the liability to the company.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        actually, I think a manager needs to act whenever SHE notices an issue like this.

        OK, if Parvati is called Polly, and seems to like it so much that she uses it herself spontaneously, the manager doesn’t need to step in.
        But the moment there’s a whiff that Parvati prefers her real name, the manager needs to step in, even if Parvati isn’t wishing her to.

        Reply
    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      Also, it’s important to note that the letter writer is the supervisor, not Parvati herself. Allison was advising the supervisor how to handle it.

      I’m sure one factor was that Parvati has already expressed her preference, but may not wish to be assertive about it because as I mentioned earlier, this pattern indicates to me that the co-irkers are doing this in part to bully/single out Parvati.

      Reply
    6. Observer

      Sorry, but the differences here are blindingly obvious.

      1. “Parvati” didn’t write in, the manager did.

      2. “Parvati” actually HAS made her wishes known directly.

      3. Whether or not it’s better for someone to first try deal with something directly is not really relevant to what the person who is misbehaving needs to do. If you are stepping on someone’s foot (to use a well known analogy), you don’t get to stay on that person’s foot just because someone else was the one who pointed out that you standing one someone’s foot.

      4. The co-workers have made it all but impossible for “Parvati” to speak out. Let’s face it, they told her up front “we don’t care what your name is, and what you want to be called.” Why would she expect that to change?

      Why does the comfort of people who act like jerks over-ride the comfort of a person who is being mistreated?

      Reply
    7. Ask a Manager Post author

      First, because she already has and they’ve ignored her request because they’ve decided it hasn’t been stated in exactly the words they prefer she use, and second, because this dancing around hostile workplace laws because it’s linked to ethnicity. When someone is being racist/sexist/otherwise bigoted, a manager should step in and shut it down.

      Reply
    8. Alton

      My understanding is that Parvati didn’t go to the OP with the intention of getting help, but that the issue came up in conversation and the OP offered to say something just to be helpful, which is different than an employee relying on the manager to handle small conflicts, I think. But now that the OP has brought it up and people are being so rude, it’s become a bigger issue that probably does require a manager.

      Reply
    9. Tomato Frog

      Aluson has also advised coworkers (not even supervisors) to speak up she they see their coworkers being inappropriate towards others. Persistent rudeness and unkindness is everyone’s business!

      Reply
        1. Mustache Cat

          Aluson prettier and more feminine than Alison, so that is how I am going to continue to refer to her. She’s going to have to tell me herself that she’d prefer me to use her real name.

          Reply
    10. Mimmy

      I just re-read the letter – two points of clarification:

      1. I see now that Parvati does address the name preference when directly asked, but “finds it difficult to be rude”, which I can definitely appreciate because I’m the same way.

      2. A couple of people think that I thought the Parvati herself was the OP – no, I knew it was her manager who wrote in.

      My apologies if it seemed like I missed both of those points.

      So yes, I agree completely that the other employees are behaving inappropriately. I still would rather someone telling me directly that they prefer to be called by a specific name or name variation, but that one team member’s response – “she informed me that unless she’s told by the person with the nickname that she “only wants to be called by her other name,” she will continue to use the nickname when speaking about her to coworkers or clients, or directly to her.” is very disrespectful.

      I hope this is resolved peacefully and soon.

      Reply
    11. Where's your hyphen?

      I think the biggest issue for ‘Parvati’ in this situation is that she’s a junior member of staff. Then again, I’m very displeased that any of my team would feel they needed to be made unhappy by higher ups for the sake of ‘keeping the peace’.

      Reply
  30. JBurr

    We actually have an employee who goes by “Ex” everywhere in his life except the office. It’s actually a common nickname for his middle name, but management asked him not to use it because it “sounds like a street name for a thug or something” and that wasn’t the impression they wanted customers to have. So at work, he’s required to go by his first name, and they justify it as not about race because his first name is also not English (even though they Americanize the hell out of the pronunciation). I feel gross every time I use it. And now I feel extra gross, so I’m gonna go back to calling him “Ex”.

    Reply
    1. ZeeZeeZee

      Ugh, through my previous profession I was acquainted with a number of young ladies who had lovely, but uncommon obviously not Anglo-Saxon, names like Lazavia, Shaquina, Teondrea, Julisa, Shyandrea, etc. It was very shocking for me to encounter them at their part-time retail or fast food jobs and see that their nametags did NOT reflect their actual names, but very short Anglo-Saxon names. I am almost positive that a young lady named Marykate, Margaret-Grace, or Maria-Theresa would not be subjected to this. This practice continues to annoy me and I refuse to patronize establishments that I know to engage in this practice. BK calls Lazavia Liz? I won’t buy my food there. What is wrong with variety people? Diversity makes life interesting! Now, I did have a Chinese professor who chose an Anglicized name for herself when she came here because, I assume, the non-tonal pronunciation of her name by anglophones was not to her liking. Obviously this latter part does not apply to Parvati at all. Ugh and ugh. Please lay the hammer down manger.

      Reply
  31. Julie

    Oh, wow. The most amazing thing to me about this story is the coworkers’ reactions after they’ve been informed that Parvati doesn’t want to be called Polly. If someone came up to me and told me that the name I’d been using for them was wrong for years (or one they didn’t prefer), I’d be both embarrassed and apologetic. The idea that someone would be anything else is just… sad.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      It’s extremely telling that this is their reaction.

      It’s proof that this is a hostile choice on their parts, and the manager should have NO qualms about everywhere from firm up to downright mean about it.

      Reply
    2. catsAreCool

      “If someone came up to me and told me that the name I’d been using for them was wrong for years (or one they didn’t prefer), I’d be both embarrassed and apologetic.” This!

      Reply
  32. animaniactoo

    Fwiw, OP, you might also try to encourage the employee that it is not considered rude (here) to directly state her dislike of the nickname. Particularly when asked. There is no face-saving that she needs to perform on the part of her co-workers, she needs only to be clear to them about what she wants, and does not want. No, she does not want to be called by the nickname.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      yeah, that’s problematic.

      Parvati shouldn’t think it’s rude to say, “Actually, yes, I really dislike ‘Polly.’ Please call me Parvati.” There’s no rudeness here, and I’d consider it important to coach her out of viewing it that way, and out of letting other employees define it that way.

      Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          Today! Today I win! Because I regularly come in dead last in the “succinct” and “concise” competitions. But not today! [grin]

          Reply
  33. Pwyll

    This reminds me of a wonderful story I read once, but I have no idea whether it’s true or not. I hope it is. Basically, an African-American woman with a unique name started at a new company, and one of her coworkers asked her name. The next day, he called her “Shaniqua” because, “All of you people’s names are so hard to remember. You should use names that won’t stereotype you.” And for a week he’d either use the wrong name (IN FRONT OF HER NAME TAG), or call her “S”. So, for the next few months, the woman would refer to this man by every single stereotypical white male name she could think of, in and out of meetings, in e-mails, everywhere. In meetings if she was corrected by another coworker, she’d simply apologize but keep going. Read: “Tom, can you get me the report?” “I asked Bobby to let us know.” “Billy, can you pass the stapler?” And when he finally asked her why she always got his name wrong, she sighed exasperatedly and said, “It’s just so hard to keep track of all your white people names. You should use something more unique so you don’t all blend together.”

    He finally got the hint.

    Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        This is amazing. And the fact that everybody else got in on it too says all you need to know about how much this dude had it coming.

        Reply
  34. Irish Em

    This is awful. Not only are they disrespecting their colleague with an unasked-for, unnecessary and unwanted nickname, they are also disregarding management’s wishes as well as the girl’s own wishes just to make their own lives easier D:

    For myself, I’m so bad at remembering names that I’ll aks about three times what someone’s name is, and how to correctly spell and pronounce it, and then I never forget after that. I had a lot of Polish and Pakistani colleagues in OldJob and I always made sure to get their names and/or prefferred nicknames correct, it just seems to make the most sense to me. The coworkers’ attitudes are awful, and completely beyond me.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      They’re not doing this to make their own lives easier.

      Their resistance to this is absolute proof that this is a hostile choice on their parts.

      Reply
  35. OfficeGoth

    Sigh. This is really really horrible.

    Everybody should be called by what they ask to be called by! For instance, my birth name is Abigail and most people automatically shorten it to ‘Abi’ but I have never been called ‘Abi’, ever. I’ve been ‘Abz’ to my family and friends since I was old enough to talk – ‘Abi’ just never suited me and it’s been so long, I don’t even answer to ‘Abi’ or ‘Abigail’ anymore, I just don’t hear it. However, two of my previous workplaces have had issues with this. One told me I couldn’t be introduced to the rest of the staff as ‘Abz’ because, and I quote “it’s not a REAL name”. The other one just ignored me when I told them my name was ‘Abz’ and kept calling me ‘Abi’ instead. I was pretty young at the time so I didn’t push back but I so wish I had!

    Reply
  36. TootsNYC

    This might be the place where I say, “I am your boss. This is an order.”

    I used to tell people when I hired them that I’m not a very “bossy” boss; I want them to feel autonomy and control over their own job. But I *am* the boss, and I expect them to remember it without me having to tell them. “If I ever feel that I had to say ‘I’m the boss,’ I will consider this a huge problem.”

    I’d also say: “It’s not appropriate for you to insist that your colleague confront you on it. I am telling you, and I’m not being petty here.”

    Reply
  37. MashaKasha

    This is absolutely terrible.If I were a Parvati in an office full of Cindys and they all insisted on calling me Cindy too, FOR YEARS, this is the message I would get: “Your name is weird because it’s ethnic. We’re going to call you a different, Western name, because that name is normal and yours is not.”

    I would seriously start wondering if it’s not just the name; if my entire ethnic self is considered weird too and wouldn’t everyone in the office be happier if there was an Anglo-Saxon woman sitting in my place. She’s probably not being too assertive about being called her real name because the message she’s getting is that she, herself, is not a cultural fit in the office due to being originally from a different culture; she’s probably not being vocal enough about it because she doesn’t want to be pushed out of a job. Not that she would be, but that’s the message I would be getting. Good on OP for stepping up to put an end to this nonsense!

    Reply
  38. Ann Furthermore

    Ugh. Stuff like this is so terrible. I took a training class a few years ago, and a bunch of attendees were from the local office of the SBA. I was chit-chatting with them on the first day, told them where I work, and they said they had a contractor working for them named Rahesh. I remembered Rahesh, and said I’d enjoyed working with him, and asked them to pass my hellos along to him. Then I said that when he worked for us, there were also 2 people named Rajesh and Ramesh, so you had to be careful on your emails and IM’s. to make sure you were pinging the right person.

    One guy said, “Oh yeah, we had a situation like that too with some Indian guys. We just called them all Mike.” And then laughed uproariously like it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. I was pretty disgusted, and the look on my face must have shown it, because then the guy got a little huffy with me and didn’t talk to me for the rest of the week in the class. That was fine with me.

    Another time I worked with a guy named Danish, and I heard people pronouncing it like “DAN-ish” (as in Dan being short for Daniel) and also “dah-NISH.” I asked him which was correct, and he said it was the second one, so that’s the name I started using. But the completely oblivious manager we both worked for always said his name like he was a breakfast pastry, even when she was around people who said his name correctly.

    Reply
    1. Serin

      There’s one person I’m often in teleconferences with, and she persistently uses English phonetics (such as they are) to pronounce names in other languages, even when the people have JUST announced themselves in the correct pronunciation. “Hi, this is S’rav.” “Hello, SAUR-ab.”

      Reply
      1. KT

        Some people have appallingly bad ears, my husband being one of them. You can sound but out for him, and he will swear he’s making the exact same sounds, but he’s completely off.

        He’s a pastry chef working with many French folks, so it’s a real problem. We have literally made flash cards with pronunciation guides.

        In short, I give people a break if they try!

        Reply
    2. Aunt Vixen

      Yeah – my supervisor has a name that 9/10 of people we work with pronounce with the stress in the wrong place. He’s a good sport about it, but it makes me sad for him that so few of us get it right. (People do seem to try. It’s apparently harder to change from saying something like “vaNILla” to something like “VANilla” than it is to change from saying “nelly” to “vanilla” in the first place.)

      Reply
      1. Gandalf the Nude

        I actually had an Indian friend named Nila–“Like vanilla,” she always said–and I’m pretty sure one of the reasons she had little trouble with folks butchering it is that they thought it was actually short for Vanilla.

        Reply
    3. MashaKasha

      They had a few Indian coworkers with similar-sounding names, and they didn’t want to get mixed up and email one instead of the other (which is what I assume you meant by “we had a situation like that”), so they just called them all Mike? How did that help? This joke, in addition to being obviously racist, does not even make any damn sense!

      Reply
  39. Corporate Cynic

    Ugh this sucks, and also gives me flashbacks. I’m Indian, and have a very easily pronounceable two-syllable name that rhymes with several Western names (my parents did this on purpose to make my life easier). However, it still didn’t completely fly in rural PA, where it was butchered on a semi-regular basis (I recall one substitute teacher going down the roster and stammering”Um…Natalie?”) Another person actually once asked: “Why couldn’t your parents have just named you something else?”

    And yet, I’m still incredulous that this can still happen in a professional setting.

    Reply
    1. Amy Farrah Fowler

      :-( I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      I will say being on the “American” side, I always make an effort to call people by their preferred names and to pronounce them correctly. My best friend in middle school-college is Indian and I found out when we were in high school that I had been mis-pronouncing her name for like 5 years because she never corrected me! I was mortified. It wasn’t a hugely egregious error (think using a short vowel sound when it should have been a long vowel), but she’s my best friend! Why wouldn’t she tell me? So I always try to check that I’m pronouncing names correctly because it’s an easy adjustment when you’re first meeting someone.

      Reply