update: my employees refuse to call their coworker by her real name

Remember the letter-writer who managed a group of people who refused to to call one staff member by her real name, instead insisting on calling her a westernized version of her name that she dislikes? Here’s the update.

After the initial resistance, being firm had an almost immediate positive effect, with most of the team buckling under with a firmer approach. While there were some attempts to backslide on this, my staff member was more empowered to be assertive and it died down.

For a while.

And here is where it gets fun. Staff member’s birthday rolls around and the card is being passed around. It hits my desk and of course… about half of the people who had already signed had written the nickname. Results ranged from “it’s too hard to spell” (it’s seven letters) to “oops, I forgot,” to “she said it was okay if I call her that.” (You guessed it, she didn’t.)

Back to square one, only now with some more support from the new supervisor I mentioned, we added some posters from the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission to the Workplace Health and Safety notice board, which I helpfully pointed out while having the same conversations I’d started with. We now have a new workplace diversity policy which can be pulled out as part of disciplinary action which makes the lines on this clearer.

Bingo. Round two to common sense.

A few of the commenters questioned me mentioning that she was a junior member of staff as well. They might be pleased to know that she’s in the process of moving to a new position on a more administrative side of things. Promotion is slow in our branch of teapot production but it’s always a possibility.

{ 360 comments… read them below }

  1. Barney Barnaby*

    Good for the manager! I’m glad that the writer stood firm.

    ““she said it was okay if I call her that.” (You guessed it, she didn’t.)”

    I’m guessing that the offenders are either just making stuff up, or they did the “It’s okay if I call you Polly, right?” routine, instead of the more polite and respectful “Would you prefer to be called Polly or Pavarti?” question.

    1. Charlie*

      I’m guessing that the offenders are doing the currently en vogue “if it’s plausibly deniable and couched in innocuous language, it’s not really xenophobic harassment” routine.

  2. justsomeone*

    I’m happy to hear that you’ve been able to stand firm on this and see positive results, even if it took some time and having to formalize a policy.

    1. Charlie*

      I think it’s pretty amazing that it required time and formal policy to make it happen. These people are pretty invested in being awful if it got to that point. I’m not second-guessing OP, of course, because I have no idea what the dynamics are in her workplace – but I know that if this had happened in my team, I’d have cut to the “maybe I wasn’t clear, but your continued employment is contingent on this never happening again” chase straight off.

      1. snorkellingfish*

        OP’s language makes it fairly clear that they’re in Australia, where it’s a lot harder to dismiss someone*, and where the conduct isn’t out-and-out egregious, you need to show things like progressive disciplinary action and warnings and breaches of clearly advertised policies. So, taking the time and putting the formal policies in place would be a necessary first step to firing someone anyway, if that’s the course of action you were planning to take.

        (*That’s usually good, because our employers can’t just decide to fire us and leave us with no recourse! But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t flip sides like where employees are racist but not in a way that would necessarily satisfy a tribunal if they sued for unfair dismissal.)

      2. Giggle and Hoot*

        Aussies are notorious for their nicknames! There is a habit for people to take on Anglocised names, but whether they choose themselves a name or someone does it for them would vary.

          1. snorkellingfish*

            What struck me as particularly Aussie was the reference to the Fair Work Ombudsman (as opposed to a more generic Employment Ombudsman or Labour Ombudsman or anything like that). Not that I think it changes the advice at all: choosing to Anglocise a non-European name is still racialised–there are heaps of other ways for someone to end up with a nickname, or to show affection if someone doesn’t want a nickname.

            1. Nieve*

              Makes sense, Australia in general does tend to be quite racist which is terrible… They treat the aborigines worse than how American Indians are treated. Such a stark difference to New Zealand’s legal and political treatment and support of natives which is how it should be…

              1. Airy*

                That’s a pretty naïve view of New Zealand’s race relations situation when you look at how overrepresented Maori are in statistics about adverse outcomes like imprisonment, ill-health, suicide, long-term unemployment, et cetera. “We’ve done better than Australia” is a long way from meaning “This is the way it should be.”

  3. Lily Rowan*

    Good for you, Letter Writer! You sound like a great manager. And here’s hoping “Parvati” has an easier time in her new role.

    1. M-C*

      Really, if the OP wasn’t so far away I’d be trying to weasel my way into their company . Good for you OP, and thank you so much for sticking up for employees with different names everywhere!

  4. animaniactoo*

    “Forgot”, my ass.

    Job well done, LW. Best of luck to you and her, and I hope she continues to see positive results for her and feels more and more empowered to assert herself going forward.

    1. SouthernLadybug*

      Ditto. Your coworkers suck – but I think you know that. I can’t believe they actually doubled-down on that behavior. Good for you, LW, for keeping things on track.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I think the “forgot” excuse is only good for a coworker you rarely work with (and hence, probably do not devote a lot of attention to their names), and with appropriate levels of mortification/”can I change my writing on her card?”

      1. kiki*

        I know someone who’s the kindest person on the face of the earth, but she’s “forgotten” how to spell my name for 20 years now. I keep threatening to spell her name “sieuw” instead of Sue. Honest to god, I don’t get what’s so hard. She’s even hand painted me name tags with my name mis-spelled.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Sioux is a nice name. :-D

          I’ve been married for 30 years and my inlaws still think my name is Rusti, and have spelled it that way on items of permanence. And yes, I’ve corrected them. And my husband has corrected them.

          1. Edith*

            My mom Cinda has lived in the same neighborhood and been in the neighborhood bunko league for 20 years and while all the women call her Cinda far too many of them still write Cindy. Or Cynda, which always reminds me of Daria saying “I’ll spell my name D-a-r-y-a and be crowned Miss America.”

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            Only 15 years, but my inlaws even once gave notarized permission to seek medical treatment for my minor BIL when he came to visit for two weeks, to a formal name that isn’t mine. My full name and the one they used share the nickname I use, but it’s not my name.

            And my husband’s grandparents hate nicknames, and tried to “correct” my husband to use that formal name that isn’t even mine.

            1. starsaphire*

              My brother, Regiforth, goes by Reg. Regiforth is, of course, an old family name, with roots in our cultural background.

              But everyone calls him Reginald, to the point where he just sighs and ignores it. It’s been going on for decades, because of COURSE everyone called Reg is really named Reginald.

              Worst of all, during his wedding, the officiant actually called him Reginald… I’m just hoping he managed to get Regiforth correct on the marriage license!

          3. Canadian Dot*

            Only 11 years for me, but yeah, my Father-in-Law and his wife insist on spelling it Canadien instead of Canadian. Canadien is a more common spelling, and I get it a lot, but the number of times my husband has corrected them… At this point, I really just don’t care anymore.

          4. Orca*

            My brother goes by Willy and there are NUMEROUS close family members who have never spelled it anything but Willie.

        2. Moonsaults*

          I know people who are so terrible at spelling that it would make a lot of other folks flinch.
          I was just asked how to spell “Charles” today.

          1. kiki*

            But…she was an elementary school teacher. I would hope she could have spelled, at least in her day. lol

            1. Moonsaults*

              So she probably saw a whole lot of individual spellings :( Think about all those “creative” names that exist for kids >_<

              1. Dweali*

                Gotta love the Zspeschull Psneauxphflaycke spellings :-)

                Always reminds me of the movie waiting “chlamydia such a pretty girl’s name” :-D

            2. DragoCucina*

              I wish. As an elementary student in the 60s I was shocked at the teachers that asked me to spell my first name. It’s a common, short man’s name with an a on end end. Think Marka but not that unusual.

              1. David St Hubbins*

                There was a kid in my school called Markus. A teacher asked if it’s Markus with a C or with a K. He said “No sir, with a M”

                true story

                1. roisindubh211*

                  I had a friend I met in 7th grade when he moved states; he had a Turkish name and took the opportunity to start using a more common American name (he’s American, I’m not sure if his parents immigrated or if his original name is a traditional family name). We found this out when we all got a test back which included, as a joke, “2 points for spelling your name right” which he didn’t’ get because he didn’t know how to spell it (I hasten to add our teacher would then put in the grade for our actual test performance, not the joke one!)

          2. animaniactoo*

            The owner of my company and I have a standing agreement that he will never learn to spell my name properly and we’re both going to be okay with that.

            To be fair, my name used to be very unusual. Then it became the preppy thing to name your kid when I was about 11 or 12 and then came the creative spellings that were close enough to standard to mean that my typo’d* misspelling isn’t so unusual either. And as for pronunciation – well that has gradually gotten less mangled, and now that a celebrity famously has the same name and spelling as mine, even that has become less. Somebody even got it right on the first shot last month! Without asking! I was so surprised.

            *This is hysterical because my dad got the name from a magazine article he was reading in the waiting room, but there was a typo and the name was misspelled. And he was a typesetter.

            1. PhyllisB*

              I can do one you better; I have a friend who’s mother named her Margo. The nurse misunderstood put Merigold. It wasn’t caught until official certificate came back. So, her first name is Merigold!!!

              1. Loose Seal*

                One of the best ice-breakers I ever experienced was when we were all asked to tell a story about our name. Turns out everyone has a story about their name, even if it’s just how it’s always misspelled. It was great because it wasn’t a physical ice-breaker. It wasn’t embarrassing. And we actually remembered people’s names pretty quickly because everyone connected with the story.

                1. Cori*

                  Yes! We did something in college where we had to introduce ourselves with an adjective that started with the same letter of our first name? A tall Dave, Dunkin’ Dave. I still remember that mumble years later. Never forgot his name either.

        3. Venus Supreme*

          My dad’s family is of Hispanic heritage (and live in Home Country), and they have a difficult time pronouncing my mom’s name. My folks have been married for over 20 years and my grandparents STILL call my mom “Pete” instead of “Pat.” It makes me giggle every time.

      2. Artemesia*

        I’ve been married for over 40 years and my BIL still always spells my last name wrong. His wife also kept her name so it isn’t passive aggressive resistance to my not taking the family name.

    3. Liane*

      Glad the LW has made them toe the line, and stomped on the toes of people who “forgot” there was a line.

      But it doesn’t just happen to people with non-American/British/Western names. My maiden name is that of a famed cat in literature, and my name is legally hyphenated (Birth-Married) so official stuff has the full name, even though I don’t use it socially, or even much at work. A number of years ago, the people at the local Florida unemployment office kept making comments *to me* about how it was “too long” or “confusing”! One time I had to fill out a form that included a feedback section and I wrote, “Your employees keep complaining my hyphenated surname is too long. This could be really offensive to a lot of clients. People of Indian and Thai extraction often have long names, plus we have a lot of Hispanic residents, and they often use hyphenated surnames.” Funny how I never heard another word from any of them about my surname, not even a few years later when I needed their services again.

        1. Liane*

          Now this got a smile out of me. It’s actually not that cat ;) but I think I will use that when I get an urge to change my username.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Of course it happens to people with unusual American/British names too. But that tends to lack the extra crappy, bigoted layer of “well I’d get it right if you had a PROPER name”.

  5. seejay*

    Criminy reading that original post made me see red. >< My office is extremely multi-cultural and while some of my officemates have westernized nicknames, unless they *specifically* say to me that I can call them by such, I always use their full ethnic name. Heck, I prefer it anyway, I know enough Mikes, Alexes, and Johns over 40 years of living in North America, it's nice to know some names not from here!

    Plus, I grew up in an area where it was super common for the native population to have their names stripped away and given westernized last names since theirs were too difficult to spell and pronounce. I made a point, even back when I was 10 years old, to learn how to say their native names properly. It was a sign of respect, and they were my friends and I cared about them. Their names were also far more intriguing and interesting than my boring European last name and had more meaning and history, at least as far as I could tell at the time.

    I'm glad there's some progress here and "Parvati's" getting some results and some empowerment too!

    1. Annie Moose*

      The worst part to me is that, in my opinion, most Indian names aren’t even all that hard to pronounce, assuming it’s a Hindi name. The consonants of Hindi are very similar to English ones, and it’s easy enough to use an English equivalent for the Hindi consonants that English doesn’t have. (e.g. just say /t/ for /ʈʰ/; no, it’s not quite right, but it’s close-ish) And most of the ones I’ve encountered don’t have particularly complex consonant clusters either.

      They can be long, it’s true, and it’s hard to remember a lengthy name you haven’t heard before, but the actual pronunciation of Hindi names is not that hard, IMO. (and stereotypes aside, I’ve seen a lot of quite short Indian names. Ravi and Sandeep and Gopesh are not exactly difficult.)

      1. seejay*

        Yeah, we have a lot of Indians in the office and their names are the easier ones out of the different cultures here. I think the Russian and Ukrainian names are the most complex out of what we have.

      2. Chris*

        I agree, they may be long, but it’s perfectly easy phonetically. It might trip you up the first time, but it’s not like Polish, or Russian, or another language that has some very different pronunciations

          1. Sorrischian*

            You are very right, and I have a lot of thoughts about this as someone who’s a native English speaker but is learning Russian.

            Dostoevsky is one of the few Russian names most English speakers say at all correctly – just off the top of my head, Tchaikovsky, Pasternak, and Kruschev we say very wrong most of the time. But we also don’t refuse to even try to say them. To run with your example, Premita isn’t any harder to say correctly than Svetlana is, but in the US at least you’re a lot more likely to hear someone refuse to use Premita (or Loshika, or Huiyi, or Anani, to use some names of people I know who’ve had this problem) than you are Svetlana or Vladimir or Thorbjorn. So it’s clearly not just about language difficulty, and if someone claims they’ve decided to use a nickname and it’s just because it’s too hard to say, with the implication that if it were easier they’d use the correct name, that’s absolutely plainly false.

            1. General Ginger*

              My mother’s friend Svetlana goes by Sveta (it’s the logical Russian shortening of her name, it’s what she’s always been called, and she doesn’t want to change, etc) — you’d be surprised how badly that gets mangled. Sventa, Svelta, Sweater (!)… and, of course, there are always the people who say “I can’t say that, I’m gonna call you Lana!”

        1. General Ginger*

          It would be really lovely if more people realized that! Both my first and last names are pronounced exactly how they’re spelled, but over the years I’ve gotten (sadly) used to “oh, I don’t think I can do that, I’m gonna shorten it to your initials”. For a number of reasons, I use my middle name now (technically, the name my patronymic would be were it a middle name rather than a patronymic). It’s a common name in both English and Russian, so it’s cut down on nickname issues from new people, at least.

      3. Shazza*

        My (large,very international) company outsources a lot to India, and their work is really high quality. One old German guy I work with said something like “of course they’re all Indian so I can never remember their names”.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          When I first arrived on my first consulting project, I was introduced to Eric, Steve, Byron, Leonard, and Venkat. I said to myself – “Let’s add them to my email address book. I’ll start with Venkat, there can’t be many guys with that name.”

          Uh….no. 76 Venkats later, I gave up and asked everyone for their last names.

    2. shep*

      Yes! I am half Persian and have a difficult surname name to spell (although it’s much less difficult to pronounce). I’m the first to admit I don’t pronounce it ENTIRELY correctly if you were to ask a native Persian speaker, but to that point, I pronounce it as American as anyone, so it should be SUPER-easy.

      I had a Chaucer professor in college who INSISTED the vowel in my name sounded much better a different way. EVERY TIME he called roll, he would pronounce it incorrectly. I would correct him. He would ask me why I was butchering a beautiful name by pronouncing it the way I did. EVERY. TIME. Like I said, I don’t pronounce my name the way a native Persian speaker would, but I pronounce it MY WAY because it’s MY NAME and you’d better at least try and not argue with me. I think he was mostly trying to be funny, but it was not. What the actual eff.

      This is different, of course, from the literature-in-translation professor I had who was Indian and kept mispronouncing my last name (and my first, now that I think of it). It’s similar to a common Indian name, so although I would correct him too, it didn’t bother me at all.

      1. Belle*

        I am so happy to hear that. The updates are my fav posts since we can see how your advice impacts the situations.

      2. AMG*

        Yay for updates!!

        The only other question I have is whether OP sent a new card back around and asked everyone to spell Pavarti’s name correctly, or if the card went out as-is. I assume it was as-is but bonus points if she had everyone re-sign correctly.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          You know, I never write the recipient’s name when I sign a group card. I write something like Have a great birthday – Rusty. Am I the only one? Because I’m wondering if the people who wrote the nickname in her card were going out of their way to make a point (that point being we will call you whatever the hell we want).

          1. OhNo*

            You know, that’s a really good point. I never write the name of the person the card is for when I’m writing a short message, so the fact that these people did is a little weird to me. I have a suspicion you’re right on the money in thinking they were trying to make a point.

          2. hbc*

            I know a lot of people do include names because it feels a bit more personal, but geez, I would hope they would manage to change it up if they couldn’t spell the name. And that excuse goes out the window if her real name was anywhere on the card or envelope.

            They were either making a point or are profoundly stupid. Maybe both.

          3. Joseph*

            I do the same thing. I might make the message a little more personalized than the generically simple Happy Birthday/Congrats/whatever (e.g., “Happy anniversary, thanks for all your mentoring!”), but I don’t really write the name of the recipient.

          4. Emi.*

            This sounds about right. I only see people writing the recipient’s name in a group card when they’re writing a longer, more personal message.

          5. AW*

            Yeah, I thought that was weird too. Especially with the “too hard to spell” excuse; if it’s too hard, leave it out.

            But really, it just seems redundant to have their own name repeated all over the card.

          6. LN*

            Yeah, that’s a weird move to me – if for no other reason than there’s typically limited room on group cards.

        2. Karanda Baywood*

          I hope OP handed the White-Out to each person who wrote the American nickname instead of the proper name.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Actually, I hope she ripped the card in half and made them to buy another one. Wite-Out would be insulting.

      3. Corky's wife Bonnie*

        Awesome, looking forward to it! Can’t wait to vote for the worst boss of the year too.

            1. Fafaflunkie*

              Oh, something tells me Alison better not close the door on Worst Boss nominees yet. There’s bound to be a Grinch that stole a Good Worker’s Christmas lurking in the woods.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                So true. As our last thread on “dumpster fire that is 2016” highlighted, every time we think a boss cannot be worse, someone finds a new awful story. I have a feeling we’ll see horrific stories all the way through Dec. 31.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Thank you, AD! :) I always kind of felt like Phoebe was my spirit animal.

          1. OhNo*

            For the sake of all the letter-writers out there, I sure hope not.

            (Besides, I think we have more than enough possibilities already!)

            1. babblemouth*

              Just when I thought there was nothing worse than a boss forcing his employees to donate organs, someone mentioned a funeral-crashing manager in a comment thread… Anything can happen.

          2. Joseph*

            “am waiting to see if we have any last-minute entrants.”
            Don’t underestimate just how horrible some people can be near the holidays.

          3. TootsNYC*

            It was someone’s observation about how many candidates there must be for this year that made me realize: 2016 really HAS been a sucky, sucky year.

      4. Lemon Zinger*

        I can’t wait!

        Any chance we could get a list of “best bosses” of 2016? We’ve had a lot of crazy stories and it’s been a weird year. It would be nice to get some positivity in too!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m probably overly fastidious about this, but that’s one I avoid because we never really know enough about the situation. Someone could be awesome in one way, but also a horrible micromanager or breaking a bunch of labor laws or sexually harassing an employee or so forth, so I’m too wary of giving an official stamp of approval to someone I just read about in a letter.

          (That’s the same reason I’m always skeptical when someone says something like “I’d hire you in a second!” to a fellow commenter here. We only get a piece of people and employers here!)

          1. LBK*

            Maybe we could retool it to something like “favorite update” or “favorite resolution”? I totally get your reasoning but agree with Lemon Zinger that awarding a positive superlative would be nice, especially this year.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Or “Top 10 Cool Things That Bosses Did.” Recognizing that someone handled a situation well, even if there’s no way of knowing whether they’re actually a good boss.

            2. Annie Moose*

              There’s only one that would win this for me: the dying horse update. The letter writer’s manager was so awful, but the manager’s bosses were so amazing about it and appropriately horrified and wanting to make it as right as they could!

              1. Lovemyjob...truly!*

                Agreed! If I was watching a movie and something like that happened it’s exactly how I’d like the villain in the movie to be treated. What is awful is that this wasn’t a movie, this was someone’s real life. :(

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Agreed! And even then, it was an owner and senior manager v. junior manager situation. The hard thing with “best thing a boss did” nominations is that often those good things are things bosses should do, anyway. I guess I’m saying we’d have to be careful b/c soft bigotry of low expectations and all that.

                E.g., the OP for this update has behaved righteously and admirably, but I would also expect a manager/boss to tell their employees to cut it out if they were engaging in a pattern of rudeness and low-level racial harassment.

              3. BeautifulVoid*

                I don’t know…whoever untangled the mess with the spicy food thief and his secret HR girlfriend and managed to un-fire the OP/spicy food lover deserves some recognition. Because that also was one of the greatest updates ever.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  The update bordered on telenovela in terms of levels of amazingness (and bizarreness), and I mean that in a good way!

          2. SRB*

            Is there a way to do something like “Best bossing moments”, or … something like that but with a better title? Something that would say “this is an example of a manager doing something well, or a situation managed well”, without a wholesale approval of the whole manager/company/whatever. It would be really neat to have some examples of managing done well to learn from too. (:

          3. animaniactoo*

            Could we do something like “Best Boss’ Moment”? So it would be something that highlighted a situation that had been handled well by a manager, vs their overall job performance?

          4. Chriama*

            Could we have ‘best boss behaviour’? That way we’re not approving everything about them but just exemplifying some awesome behaviour? I think there’s a lot of cathartic relief in vilifying awful bosses but also a lot of value in praising good behaviours. Also, I think your argument could go both ways. What if the boss who was pressuring employees to get tested for organ donation had previously donated his own kidney to one of his employees? I think we know that we’re only seeing part of everyone who writes in, but there’s value in reflecting on the good and the bad.

          5. Meg Murry*

            I liked the previous suggestion of “Happiest Letter of the Year” or similar. That way you can acknowledge that the situation in the letter is a good one without specifically saying they are the best boss overall.

            Or perhaps even a “Best Boss Moments” and “Worst Boss Moments”? After all, the person getting worst boss of the year may also be otherwise ok but have done one really stupid thing (or didn’t fight back against a really stupid policy that actually came down from over their head).

          6. Shazza*

            There would be no competition anyway because my boss wins the best boss in the world this year, no question. (Yes I am very very lucky!)

          1. Jaguar*

            I’ve mentioned it at least once, but I’m really hoping for the bullet casing one. That was really scary and I hope things worked out for the OP.

              1. AD*

                I’m really hoping for an update from the OP’s whose employee quit on the spot after she wasn’t allowed to go to her graduation. I’m really hoping your comments (and ours) made the OP see that his/her stance was so problematic.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        70? That seems higher than usual, Alison. That is great news. I am feeling like I got a nice holiday gift already. Thanks!

      6. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        You have filled me with joy.

        It’s like when Netflix picks up a favorite series for another round.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Me, too. I think it’s because the original stories set up the suspense/mystery, and the updates are the resolution/ending (although, like novels, sometimes the endings are awful).

  6. k*

    I love that an official diversity policy was added. It’s much easier to tell someone to stop breaking an official rule than to tell them to stop being a jerk. I still find it silly that you’ve gotten so much push back from people, but glad there seems to be better ways in dealing with it now.

    1. seejay*

      People have a funny way of reacting when you tell them to stop behaving badly, especially when it’s strongly implied that there’s a racist overtone to what they’re doing. ><

      1. TootsNYC*

        I feel like you get better results when you talk about something as being “hurtful” or “unkind” instead of an “-ist.”

        People don’t get defensive.

        1. Lissa*

          I agree. I know some people think this is being too nice and that they shouldn’t “have to” avoid words like racist, but if you’re going for results, I prefer it.

          Though my favourite is when I don’t call them anything like that, but they act like I did, and I point out that they were the one who “brought race/sex into the conversation.” I’ve had this happen multiple times. For instance, “hey can you not call me sweetie, I don’t like it” “why does everything have to be about sexism?” “Dude I didn’t say anything about being a woman, I just told you not to call me a thing.”

          1. LN*

            Yuuuuuuup. People hear what they want to hear. It’s like when somebody says “look, I know some people might think this is sexist, but…” followed by a totally inoffensive observation. Every time, it makes me think the person speaking actually has no idea what sexism MEANS, just that they’ve been called it a lot and they’re trying to head off the accusation without understanding it at all.

          2. alter_ego*

            There’s a really beautiful tumblr post that pops up on my dash once and a while where someone says something anti-homophobic, and someone else replies “This is disgusting bigotry against Christians at its finest” to which the original poster kindly pointed out that they hadn’t said anything at all about Christianity, only about homophobes, and wasn’t it interesting that they made that leap.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Normally, yes, but in this case it sounds like OP’s employees are kind of awful people (in addition to behaving in a low-key racist way).

          But in general, it’s easier for someone to correct behavior if you can identify what action/conduct resulted in the -ist problem. If you start with, “you’re being –ist,” then it’s almost like condemning that person to that identity and not giving them a chance to atone.

        3. CMT*

          I think there are certain people who get offended whenever you ask them to stop, even if you say it’s hurtful instead of racist. This group of coworkers sound like they don’t want to be told they’re wrong at all.

        4. mazzy*

          But the problem is that names aren’t a race thing. You can have Americans who can’t pronounce names from any European country except England, Asian people who only know names from their native country, etc.

          1. Honeybee*

            Names absolutely can be a race thing. Nationality and race can be intersectional, and in this case (especially if you read the original post) the co-workers are explicitly making it about race.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Uh… there’s studies on how names are racialized by employers, which in turn has resulted in statistically significant levels of racial discrimination in hiring. Names can definitely be a race thing. They’re not always a race thing, but they’re also not “never” a race thing.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          This can work the first time. I do agree that some people almost fall apart at the thought of having any bigotry and you have to decide what is going to get the message across effectively. But if it doesn’t work the first time then you need to go into the situation again and repeat with stronger wording.

          In milder examples, I have said, “Let’s not do that” or “We can’t say that here”. Most of the time it’s enough. But sometimes you get a few holdouts and I have said, “I have told you once and now I am telling you a second time. Stop. Now.” I have been lucky enough that added peer pressure to stop made the person decide to stop.

      2. MoinMoin*

        I think it’s because complying with the request implies admitting fault. It’s not logical and can manifest pretty abhorrently, but I get the defensive, lizard brain impulse.

      3. Klem*

        As in that really crappy response – “ALL lives matter.” It’s like deliberately misunderstanding the meaning of things if you don’t agree with them or if you just want to argue.

  7. RKB*

    I love this story. I have an 8 letter ethnic name which I’ve shortened since I began school. I love my name and the power behind it – it literally means God’s gift of beauty to the world – but it’s so ingrained in me to use my nickname that I wish someone wanted to use my real name!

    1. seejay*

      My official birth name is Greek and 9 letters long but when I started kindergarten I had a nickname that I went by and used and even that got shortened (from 6 to 4 letters). I spent 18 years using both those names interchangeably, between friends, family and school, and it wasn’t until university that I started going by my full birth name again, and that stuck, going into my career as well, and even now it’s stuck with new friends. Fortunately, I’m ambivalent about all three names and answer to any of them. There’s no ethnic association with them, and while the name is Greek historically, it’s pretty much been westernized anyway so there’s no ethnicity issues if anyone wants to try changing it. One friend did try to give me a new nickname though that wasn’t close to the original name (he tried making it out of the middle of the name, whereas the other nicknames are shortened versions of the beginning) and I refused to answer to it.

      Names are weird, but they’re also highly personal. Always follow what the person who’s attached to it wants to be called. If you want to be called by your real name, just start using it! Sometimes there’s easier ways to get it launched (like when I started university, that’s when I had the opportunity to reintroduce my birthname, even though it was kind of accidental), but you can always just start at it.

      1. AK*

        I started going by my middle name on the first day of my sophomore year in high school – I was starting at a new school, and when the teacher asked what I’d like to be called (my first name is pretty common, but it’s 9 letters long and people usually shorten it) I blurted out my middle name and I’ve gone by it ever since! I’ve had lots of experience since then at insisting “No, please call me (Middle Name).” Most people are very accepting and will call you want you want to be called – there are always a few people who get weird about it, but over the years I’ve learned to stand up for myself and be stubborn about it.

      2. BeautifulVoid*

        I did some letter math, and based on that and the rest of your post, I think you might have the same name as my daughter. Same initials, too, if your user name is any indication. :)

        Right now, we’re not calling her any shortened form of it. I figure she can decide what she likes when she’s older.

        1. seejay*

          I figured someone might get it since it’s not super common and the number of letters and nicknames kind of narrow it down. XD

          It was pretty rare when my mom tacked it onto me and she even changed the spelling and pronunciations of it too but I gave up on correcting people on the latter. The former (unique spelling) only applies to one of my nicknames and since I don’t use it often, is pretty rare to see so it was only known when I was in grade and highschool… pretty much no one now knows that it’s spelled different (if you know the name, it’s not ie at the end, but two is instead).

  8. Murphy*

    Oh this original letter made me SO mad. I’m glad people have finally come around, but can’t believe that it took so long!

  9. Chriama*

    OP, I just want to say that you’re an awesome manager. I don’t get the people in your workplace. Is it a geographic location or an industry that has previously struggled with diversity? Becuase the entitlement in assuming you get to decide what to call someone else *contrary to their wishes* strikes me as systemic. Either there’s some sort of gross social undercurrent (organized workplace bullying?) or these people have an incredible amount of privilege that they’ve never been compelled to examine (a la the Invisible Knapsack). Anyways, you’re so awesome for cracking down on it like you did and making sure there was an avenue for future disciplinary action should it continue. We need to have a voting for best boss of the year.

  10. SL #2*

    I love this update. Good on you, OP, for standing firm and having your employee’s back. It might seem silly to the offenders that you’re being ~so uptight about this name thing~ but respecting each other’s preferences is the key here, regardless of how it makes you feel, and clearly, the other staff members didn’t respect their colleague enough to change their behavior until threatened with disciplinary action according to the updated employee handbook.

  11. Otra*

    I love this update too! I’m glad OP was able to stick up and remain firm, giving the employee the confidence/support to be firm as well!

    On a similar note, how do you feel about people who don’t make an effort to pronounce names correctly. One of my coworkers is from India and doesn’t like it when other people from our team don’t make an effort to pronounce her name correctly. She tells me this in confidence, but doesn’t want to bother saying anything to our team.

    1. Joseph*

      I would give a bit more leeway to name pronunciation at first – if you’re not from that culture, it’s hard to guess how certain words are pronounced. And some people are just generally poor at reading a name/word and figuring out how to pronounce it.
      That said, once the co-worker corrects you on it once, you should certainly make an effort. Maybe you don’t get it 100% right, but it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re at least *trying* (and failing) or just decided not to care.

    2. Karanda Baywood*

      I think most of that is on the person who wants their name pronounced correctly.

      I’ve spent most of my life correcting people I’ve just met (and often on subsequent meets) on the pronunciation of my name. “Actually, it’s NAME. The emphasis is on the second syllable.”

      Repeat as necessary with a smile.

      1. TheLazyB (UK)*

        Oh God there’s one person in work who I’m emphasising wrong. I got it into my head wrong and had been saying it like that for 3-4 months before I heard someone else say it correctly, started listening, and realised I’d been getting it wrong. But it’s like it’s now etched into my brain like that!


        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have slight scarring on my ear drums and for the most part it’s no problem. But once in a while I get a name in front of me and I cannot pronounce it correctly to save my life. I just cannot get the difference between what I am saying and the correction. Then, of course, I stare at the person’s lips which makes the story get worse. About then I just want to go hide. Sometimes a friend can tell me a rhyming word and that helps once in awhile.

          But if someone said they wanted to be called X, I would not take it upon myself to give them a nickname or use a nickname that others were using.

        2. many bells down*

          I did this for THREE YEARS with a boss. He never said anything until I was training my replacement. Like, I’d been saying “CHAP-el” instead of “cha-PELL” for three YEARS.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think people should try, but there are names that non-native speakers are unlikely to pronounce correctly. I’m never going to be able to roll my Rs, for example, and it’s embarrassing to try.

      1. paul*

        Yep. I’ve got a cousin by marriage whose maiden name is Polish (but she’s from Russia). There is about 0 chance I’d ever be able to really pronounce it (starts with a Syz and has those accent marks).

        1. Mona Lisa*

          My husband works with a Polish man named Andrzej, and hard as I try, I never seem to be able to pronounce his name correctly. I usually pride myself on being able to mimic sounds well/pronounce words mostly correctly in other languages, but I just cannot get this one. I probably need to stop asking him to give me the pronunciation and just give in to not using his name when I see him.

          1. many bells down*

            I had a classmate once with a very unique Central American name that I could never get the hang of … until about a year later I realized that her email address was her name spelled phonetically. I facepalm myself every time I see her now.

      2. Emi.*

        My “big sis” in college was Nigerian and went by a nickname. She only agreed to tell me her full name if I promised that I wouldn’t attempt to pronounce it.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Right — I feel like there’s appropriate Anglicization and then there’s being a dick. It’s the difference between saying “tore-tee-ya” and “tore-till-a” — neither one is properly “tortilla,” but one is at least not insulting to the Spanish language.

        1. Mookie*

          Yes. Speakers of certain languages are, without training and immersion, functionally “deaf” to tone distinctions, certain accented syllables, specialized diphthongs, particularly when encountering a language that has been imperfectly transliterated, because that’s always a messy process. But making the minimal effort to use the Best Practices version of another language’s phrase or name should not be a chore or a political hill to die on. People who resist this are doing so willfully.

        2. Loose Seal*

          In high school, one of my classmates in Spanish class never seemed to get that the “h” is silent. After two years of Spanish, she was still saying “Hola” with a fully pronounced H. You learn that on the first day of class! I never could figure out if she was just that stupid or if she was protesting our having to take a foreign language (we were the first graduating class in the state to be required to have two years of foreign language and people were livid about it because they thought the world should deign to speak English).

    4. seejay*

      In my personal opinion, barring a really wonky name, a speech disability/impediment, or an accent, there’s little reason an adult can’t learn to pronounce an ethnic name correctly with a bit of practice. As I mentioned above, a lot of the natives in my hometown area had their last names changed to European /Westernized/English last names because they were “too hard” to pronounce properly. Sure, they were a bit convoluted and some had a lot of letters (they were Ojibwa), but I asked them to teach me how to pronounce them properly and learned it without much of a problem. I ask my Croatian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, etc friends the same thing, and a bit of patience as I work around some of the unfamiliar linguistics. Over the years, only one has actually insisted on only going by an English name because he just doesn’t want to bother dealing with anyone English mangling his Vietnamese name at all.

      There might be some linguistics that people can’t get (rolling Rs for example) but for the most part, some practice should get most people past the basics.

      1. a different Vicki*

        The problem is getting them to practice when I’m also trying to get an appointment made, or an insurance issue sorted out.

        I have an ethnic name, for some values of ethnic: it’s German Jewish. About ninety percent of people I meet mispronounce it, in consistent ways that I suspect a linguist could tell me something interesting about. (Most of the rest either speak German or are from the New York City area.) There are no difficult-for-English-speakers phonemes in there. Rather, there’s an n, pause, consonant cluster. Either half of the name would be easy (and it is a compound word in German). There’s also a vowel that keeps getting mangled: it’s “ei” as in “Einstein,” like the vowel in “like.”

        My options appear to be to repeatedly say “no, it’s $CorrectPronunciation,” grit my teeth and go on, or tell them to call me by my first name. Mostly I go with the last option these days, since people tend to move quickly to given names in offices and other work environments: emails from clients start “Hi Vicki,” not “Dear Ms. $Myname,” and are signed “Jim” or “Melissa.” I suspect that if they were mangling my first name that badly I would correct them (since “call me Vicki” wouldn’t help if people kept saying “OK, Nicki” or “Vanessa”).

        1. seejay*

          Yeah I should probably clarify: I’d make a point of emphasizing practice where someone is consistently around the person with the difficult to pronounce name, but if it’s someone in passing, I can see it being more of a headache than it’s worth. A friend of mine in college had a Croatian name that had some very strange pronunciations in it and he had it on a nametag at his first job in highschool. The first four letters were all consonants and he was constantly asked by customers what it said. He shortened it to a nickname of the Croatian name and was still asked about it, until he came in one day and the tag said “SAM” because he just gave up. When I met him, he was first introduced to me as Sam, but I learned his full name (and his shortened Croatian nickname) and how to pronounce it but it did take a bit (since it had rolling Rs in it and was a bit of a mouthful), but yeah, it’s not worth it, I can totally understand that.

          I was definitely thinking more in line of coworkers though, and people you’d be interacting with regularly. A person I knew in university wound up having his French name Anglicized when he moved to the US because his coworkers couldn’t linguistically work out the soft G and silent Ls in it. Something more complex though I can see requiring far more work, or just not being worth the effort (thus resorting to “Sam” etc.)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            People get my surname wrong a lot and it makes no sense. It’s three English words stuck together, all pronounced the usual way, but something about the combination seems to trip people up. They mishear it and then enter it or look it up wrong, or they can’t say it. Think something like Downtownplace. I have to tell people how to spell it by telling them it’s “like going down town to a place.” They laugh, but they get it right then. Otherwise, they’re likely to blank out the first syllable and enter my information under Townplace (which the IRL counterpart is an actual but separate surname). Then when they have to look me up later, they can’t find me!

            CSRs (not just ones who speak English as a second language) always want to call you Miss/Mr. Whatever, so I get “Miss Downtonflas, I will help you now.” Or “Miss Down….downton….” *struggles* And I say, “Just call me Liz.” If I’m never going to talk to them again, I don’t bother with it.

            Folks who see me regularly get used to it pretty quickly. It’s really not that hard!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Oh god. When I married I thought FINALLY I can stop spelling Maiden Name for every person I meet. (No one was ever going to spell that correctly. Forget it.) My married name is pretty straightforward, almost a Smith or Jones.

              I still have to spell the name. People can be so creative with only a few letters.
              Yet if you ask them to think creatively, they draw a blank.

            2. Simonthegreywarden*

              My maiden name was very unusual where I live, but it is not unusual everywhere (there’s a town that shares the name in one of the East Coast states). People would change the ‘e’ to a ‘y’, pronounce it like an ‘a’, stick some random ‘l’s in there, even change the last part to an entirely different word. It is not at all ethnic and while it is derived from a French name, it doesn’t look at all French and was Anglicized in the 1600s. Because of that I always ask the Black and Bosnian students I work with their preferred pronunciations and then do my best to match it.

              However, I have one student that the first time I heard her name, I heard it incorrectly, and I got it lodged in my head that way (accent on the first syllable when it should be on the second, like saying SHONdra when she wants ShonDRA) and while I am trying to correct it, I keep saying it wrong. Of course, she has always used the wrong shortened form of my first name (from before I knew her name) so maybe we are just locked in a name war.

              1. many bells down*

                Heh I feel like we had the same maiden name or something. Mine was common on the East Coast up through Canada, and also Anglicized French. But the Anglicized version is spelled phonetically and people would always try to fancy it up by adding letters or capitalizing random ones. Also no one could ever pronounce it. Which is why I changed mine when I got married, although I still have to spell the new name so I didn’t really fix anything.

            3. David St Hubbins*

              I have a boring, very ordinary Dutch name that ends in “-ik”, but people are always messing it up. They turn it into -ick, or -icke. I even got a -icque once. And that’s after I write it down for them.

              My cousin got married recently and she somehow managed to creatively butcher my surname on the invitations. The correct spelling is a bit … unexpected, but hell, if you don’t know, ask.

            4. Rusty Shackelford*

              My maiden name was Not Of This Country and caused difficulties for many people, especially since it wasn’t pronounced the way it was spelled. I thought I’d never have to spell my married last name for anyone, but I was so wrong. It’s similar to yours in that it’s multiple syllables, and there is an extremely common name that has a different first syllable. So, if my name is Fleepelstiltskin,* I find myself saying “It’s like Rumpelstiltskin, except with flee instead of rum” and that… doesn’t always work very well.

              *It’s not. Thank god.

            5. sometimeswhy*

              My maiden name is also three English words (single-syllable words!) stuck together and people seemed to go out of their way to mispronounce it, adding extra syllables, adding extra letters. Usually adding an F! Or two! Why always the Fs? There are zero Fs in that name! It does not need two!

              This was further complicated by a first name that’s pretty much unpronounceable by most Americans and Brits, even with tutoring so I have what I answer to at home and I have what I answer to in my name’s country of origin. What I answer to at home is the American/British version.

              My present surname is a dictionary word. I’m NEVER changing it.

        2. Annby*

          I’m a linguist and I never get to help with things. I understand that reasons of anonymity might prevent you from being more specific, but I’m here for the helping!

        3. College Career Counselor*

          I can’t help but think your last name is “Fronckensteen.” ;-) Jokes aside, I feel your pain. I have a five letter last name that almost nobody gets right initially. Think “Johns” consistently said/spelled as “Jones.”

      2. Emi.*

        But these are people you’re friends with. The people in OP’s office should also be able to put in the time, but there are situations where “a bit of practice” isn’t realistic, or the attendant coaching isn’t worth it to the name-haver. I had a Chinese classmate in a large lecture class insist that the teacher call her by an American name instead of making her teach him to pronounce Xu. (For those of you who don’t know pinyin, “Xu” has exactly zero sounds that exist in English.)

        Bottom line, though, the person whose name it is should get to make the call.

        1. seejay*

          I commented above, I should have clarified… yes, in some circumstances it isn’t feasible to practice and I do agree there. Disrupting and making someone practice through something at the detriment of others isn’t realistic, totally agree. And for short interactions with a person you’re unlikely to meet again, it’s not realistic to sit there and get them to repeat their name so you get it right. I totally did mean though that in the case of friends, coworkers, people that you interact with on a regular basis, effort should be made to learn how to pronounce their names if that’s what they want.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agree entirely. I’m also always bemused by people who choose not to exercise any effort to say a name correctly by using the excuse that it’s hard for non-X speakers to pronounce an “ethnic” name. If you come from a community where folks don’t use Anglicized names (of which there are many in the United States and certainly international), it’s also difficult to learn to pronounce “Westernized” names, but no one would cut you slack if you said “oh, but it’s hard.” I mean, if I can learn how to say Siobhan or Christopher or Zoe, why can’t someone learn how to say Juana or Simran or Keiko?

        1. Honeybee*

          Exactly. This is why I am super-irritated by this argument. The only reason people can make this argument is because the West and Anglicized names are dominant.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I mean, if I can learn how to say Siobhan or Christopher or Zoe, why can’t someone learn how to say Juana or Simran or Keiko?

          Especially since most people who claim they can’t pronounce those names would have no problem if you spelled them Wanna or Kayko.

      4. eplawyer*

        Been appearing in front of the same magistrate for 7 years. He still can’t get my ethnic last name right. Every time he calls one of my cases I say my name so he’s heard it often. Yet he still Americanizes it. To the point we joke about it on the record.

        But yeah, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of judges/magistrates who can pronounce my name right.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s awful. I’ve seen judges butcher names, but usually they have the decency to be horrified/embarrassed to have gotten it wrong.

    5. TootsNYC*

      It’s one thing if they don’t realize, but “don’t make an effort” is a specific thing. Much like these people not making an effort to spell this woman’s 7-letter name.
      It exists, and it’s clear when that’s what’s going on.
      Someone leaving a letter out is far more forgivable than someone using the other, nonapproved name.

      And someone getting the “schwa” sound a little wrong is more forgivable than people who don’t even try.

    6. Otra*

      I agree with what everyone is saying. Ultimately it’s her call, and although she expresses to me that she doesn’t like it when people don’t make an effort to pronounce her name correctly, she doesn’t think it’s worth it to correct them.

    7. Mirax*

      I’m Japanese and have a very simple name that people screw up constantly. I have a “Starbucks name” (favorite movie character) for one-offs like restaurant reservations and coffee runs. It’s not worth it to me to correct people who I’m not likely to see again, but if I’m going to interact regularly with someone, I will absolutely drill them until they get my name right. I’m aware that sometimes this makes me come off as uptight, but I’m okay with that as the tradeoff for not hearing my name mangled all the time.

      1. Rachel*

        On the flip side, I live in Japan, and go primarily by my first name at the schools I work in (Ms Lastname just makes me feel so prissy and old). R sounds different in English vs Japanese (Japanese R being closer to a weird D), and L not existing in Japanese at all. So my katakana name is Re-i-che-ru. Reicheru. I let my students off with pronouncing my name like that, because they have limited exposure to English (and they can’t seem to wrap their minds around it unless I can write it like レイチェル), and I make an exception for anyone who speaks no English, but I try to correct anyone who can speak English. It’s partly teacher instinct (they’ve usually asked me to correct their mistakes anyway) and partly a knee-jerk “that’s not my name” reaction. Although, the longer I stay here, the less I react. It is becoming my second name :)

        And for the record, I find Japanese names among the easiest names to pronounce. Just gotta learn one syllabary, and remember when sounds are usually cut off or minimised, like Daisuke being more like dy-skay than dy-soo-kay.

      2. Kora*

        For the record, I really appreciate people who will drill me until I get a pronunciation right, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I will try to practice a difficult name on my own, but it feels much more secure to be able to say it to the person in question until I get to something they’re happy with. I wouldn’t think you were uptight, I would think you were generous to put the extra time and effort in.

  12. MsCHX*

    I was angered reading that letter and am impressed by the OPs handling of things. Though I, like AAM, was saying “Don’t phrase it as a request!!!” so glad to hear there was a positive outcome.

    My son’s name is always mispronounced. He tells me I don’t need to correct people (mostly doctor’s offices), but I explained to him that you ALWAYS correct someone when they mispronounce/misspell your name. There’s no good reason not to get it right.

    (there is a Greek restaurant near my old job that I loved visiting. I would hand over my credit card to pay and the cashier would still butcher my name on the receipt. I have a 7 letter name; he exchanged 2-3 of them quite frequently. Sigh.)

    1. Temperance*

      I have a named that it spelled annoyingly, and I don’t always correct people because it’s exhausting. Your son might have the same issue.

      1. Karo*

        Yeah, my first name has a more-common variant, and people call me that all the time. It’s frustrating, but if it’s someone who is going to use my name literally once a year then it’s not worth it.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Eh, I have a commonly mispronounced name too (both my maiden and married last names, too!) and I don’t bother to correct some people anymore – it really is up to the named person if it’s worth it to them, I think.

      1. Adlib*

        I hear you on the last name thing. I had an easy to pronounce maiden name, and my married name is pronounced phonetically, but people don’t seem to get that. (It’s a Romanian name.) I’m always pleasantly surprised when people get it right though.

        1. MsCHX*

          My maiden name is one syllable but people insisted on making it 2 syllables all the time. I’m now a Smith. So easy.

        2. The RO-Cat*

          Yeah, when meeting foreigners I *expect* them to get some vowels mangled (“ă” = almost like in “err”, for non-Romanians and “î” = no English equivalent that I know of). So my (male) name gets a very feminine pronounciation. But I always let it slide – it doesn’t bother me (and some well-meant efforts even made me chuckle inside).

        3. ThatGirl*

          My husband’s/married last name was Anglicized generations ago and is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled – but people seem to want to make it sound more exotic than it is! (It’s Bohemian Czech) So yeah, I’m always pleasantly surprised when anyone gets either of my names right on the first try.

      2. Parenthetically*

        If I corrected everyone who mispronounced my name throughout the day, I feel like it’s all I’d get done. My married name is Dutch, and even within the family not everyone pronounces it the same — and no one pronounces it as it would have been pronounced in the Netherlands. So it’s not worth it to me. I support everyone’s right to correct people, though — especially if their mispronunciation hints at xenophobia!

    3. MsCHX*

      Ah good point on it being exhausting to correct. When I’m present it does annoy me because it is not the name I gave him!!!! Not to mention their pronunciation is due to them adding a non-existent letter. If they just say it how it is spelled, it’s fine.

      Think a Jan always being called Jane. Don’t add the e. The e does not exist.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Tell your son that it’s kind of rude to the person mispronouncing it. If they’re a good person, they WANT to get it right, so he owes it to them to tell them. He should always assume they’re a good person, and correct them in a manner appropriate to that.

      (And if they’re a bad person, they can’t complain at you!)

      1. TootsNYC*

        And maybe encourage him to always correct it if he’ll see someone again, but it’s OK to not bother w/ someone who won’t be part of his life for very long.

    5. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      I have a name that isn’t spelled how you would expect it to (my parents went with the 18th century anglicisation rather than the modern one, which does mean I am named after a Queen of Poland), and spend a lot of time going “….no, it’s [NAME]”

    6. KB*

      My name is one of those with 2 completely valid and common ways to pronounce it (also, 2 common spellings). I personally don’t correct people who choose the “wrong” pronunciation if it’s a solitary interaction. I just think it’s a bit unnecessary to correct a restaurant host who likely will never see me again. Also, the difference is a vowel thing, so I’ve found the variation is regional. People from certain regions just struggle to make certain vowel sounds. I would find correcting them akin to telling a receptionist with a Boston accent, “no, it’s ‘drôr’ not ‘draugh'” while she pulls my file.

      1. KB*

        That being said, the issue with my name definitely isn’t cultural erasure, so that’s hugely different than the original letter. And the alternate pronunciation isn’t a completely different name. I would make the correction if it were like an example above (Jane/Jan).

    7. LouLouBee*

      My not so common first name has an uncommon spelling, sounds like a couple other names and is sometimes used as a nickname. I have spent my entire life dealing with people getting my name wrong in some way. Starting with teachers “correcting” my spelling or insisting my name was one that’s nicknamed to mine (think Angie being told her proper name is Angela)

      It’s exhausting. I stopped correcting everyone when I was still in elementary school, the amount of corrections I’ve done since have steadily gone down from there. I have people hear my name way off (using Angie again, saying Mary or Anna) at times it doesn’t matter (Starbucks; restaurant; most phone calls) I just say “sure”

    8. many bells down*

      My husband’s got a collection of restaurant receipts with his name misspelled on them. His name is … Ben. Bean, Baen, Barn, Bonn; it’s astonishing how many times it’s been got wrong.

  13. Milton Waddams*

    I’m guessing it’s not about the name — this sounds like a proxy battle. Unless you can figure out what is really causing the clash between the misnamers and the misnamed employee, this is going to be a headache that lasts for years.

    1. Milton Waddams*

      Fortunately, the real reasons can sometimes be almost refreshingly petty — like your workplace has a social ringleader who was slighted in some way, and has drawn their group into a Mean Girls type scenario.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Although it sounds like the underlying “clash” here may simply be lazy bigotry?

        1. Milton Waddams*

          Seems like a lot of effort to be lazy. I could see it being a form hazing — especially if the folks who are doing it are more senior. Sort of like referring to a “Michael” as “Mikey” to remind them in an embarrassing way that they are a junior employee. Pecking order drama is a fairly common workplace issue, especially in workplaces that have not discouraged them from forming informally.

          1. Honeybee*

            It may have started out as lazy bigotry and morphed into defensive bigotry once they were called on it.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ooo, touche—I hadn’t thought of the scenario in the way that you (Milton & Honeybee) have framed it. Thank you.

    2. Observer*

      You could be right about this being a proxy. But, the response is also a good proxy, because it says “We take respect for diversity seriously.” Notice that the OP’s workplace now has a formal policy on diversity.

  14. Nancy Raygun*

    Too bad these people are dicks. I will always remember a class I had where the teacher said to a student “Oh, Graciela–what a beautiful name! Can I call you Gracie?” And “Gracie” glared at her and said “No. It’s Graciela. Thanks.” The whole class was like “ooooo.”

    1. Murphy*

      Good for Graciela!

      When I taught college classes, I always told students when I called roll on the first day to let me know if there was a nickname they went by. If so, I wrote it down. If not, I called them whatever was on the roll.

      1. Chalupa Batman*

        I did the same when I was teaching new student seminar classes. I had a student once who wanted to go by his slightly unusual, slightly risque last name. I started to refuse, but then decided that I needed to show respect to the whole class by using *everyone’s* preferred name. I got used to it. I suspect the risque-ness was why he liked it (though he was also a 20 year old kid with a distinctly old fashioned first name), but the novelty wore off within a few weeks and it was just his name.

      2. Joseph*

        Yeah, this is really the way to handle it. There are just too many potential nicknames for people to reasonably guess how someone wants their nickname – is Jonathan using his full name or Jon or Johnny or Jay or JT or his middle name or his last name or…

    2. Marisol*

      I think a glare was unwarranted. It’s polite to ask to shorten, and it’s polite to say no, but being hostile crosses a line. Lots of names have short versions so there was nothing inherently rude or prejudiced about the teacher’s inquiry.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t think it’s terribly polite to ask to shorten, actually. If someone goes by a nickname, they’ll let you know.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          It is presumptuous, at best. If the teacher is reading from a list, she could say “Do you go by Graciela or something else?” If Graciela introduced herself as Graciela, there’s just no excuse.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed, and thus, I think the glare is perfectly reasonable. It’s also probably a response to years of teachers asking, “Oh, can I call you Gracie?”

      2. Moonsaults*

        Nicknames can be rather personal. So when you first meet someone, it’s kind of off putting to be asked if you can shorten or change your name.

        I clinched so hard when my BF first told me that he is the sort of person who gives people nicknames and made it a point to tell him that I always had “really rude nicknames that scarred me” as a kid. His face was full of horror when he realized I thought he was going to call me something mean. He only ever calls me by my name and the shortened versions I’ve acknowledged are acceptable.

        So yeah, shortening someone’s name can be a quick way to earn you a glare, regardless of the intent of the person who’s asking.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          My given name IRL is two syllables, and people still want to shorten it, which I hate! And when you do, it’s actually an insulting term that is no longer in common use, so I’d rather not have my name shortened. And I hate it when people just give nicknames, too. I think they need to come from a place of closeness and care. So, the only nicknames I like come from family and very close friends.

          Interesting, the “your name is too long” conversation was one I had this weekend. My cousin goes by her first and middle name (both common names) has had people try to shorten it and complain about it. She always says that she wasn’t consulting on how she was named and suggests that they could take up any issues with her mother and she can provide a phone number. And they can let her know how it goes. (Imagine someone criticizing how Lady Violet named her children, and you have a pretty good idea of how it would go.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            I have a two-part name as well (it looks like a first-and-middle, but I have no middle name; my first name is 2 words).

            I often go by the first name alone, bcs it’s unusual on its own (think, Merrill Anne). But don’t EVER call me “Mer/Mare.”

          2. Parenthetically*

            My given name is also two syllables, and I had a roommate once who compulsively shortened EVERYONE’s name to one syllable. Angela became Ange, Katie became Kate, Britney became Brit. But it went beyond normal ones as well: Ava = Ave. Mia = Mi. Victoria = Tori = Tor. Cara = Care. Abby = Ab. It was ridiculous. My name became something like Mo or So, a complete absurdity.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Time was that you always addressed someone as Mrs. Smith (or Mr. Smith). And then THEY told you that it was acceptable TO THEM to use a more familiar term (“Please, call me Betty”).

          If you started being familiar without THEIR permission, it was a gross breach of etiquette.

          I think nicknames are like that–often we get given them, but the only people who have the right to assign you a nickname are people who are close to you. A new teacher for the year is not.

          1. Hrovitnir*

            That is a good point. I’m really glad we’ve moved on (more in NZ than the US from what I can tell) from being rigid about titles, but your comment has made me realise that’s exactly how I feel about nicknames.

            Our boss gave one of our vets (veterinarians) a name badge with her nickname on it, and it struck me as unprofessional and I couldn’t put my finger on why. At the end of the day I always fall down on “what makes the person comfortable” and she didn’t mind, though I still think it was a terrible choice to do without asking her.

        3. Marisol*

          If you do it without permission, it is presumptuous. Although when people do it to me, I correct them politely and without glaring or getting huffy–life it really too short for that in my opinion.

          If you do ask permission…I don’t get what the problem is, provided that it’s a reasonable suggestion, e.g. shortening Thomas to Tom, as opposed to something insulting (“can I call you “dumbuglybuttface?”)

          1. Marisol*

            Or what I hear most frequently is, “do you go by Tom?” rather than “can I call you Tom.” So usually the person asking is implying that they want to honor what the individual really prefers.

            There are plenty of people who are easygoing about nicknames and who have little or no preference about them, and plenty of occasions where ambiguities occur–for example, someone may introduce someone else using their longform name, when in reality that person tends to go by the shortened version–so I think a little forebearance in such situations is called for.

            This is different than the Parvati/Polly issue which is outrageous, as no one has the right to insist on changing someone else’s name.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            I don’t know if this is a regional/cultural thing or what, but to me it seems presumptuous to ask rather than being invited to call the person by a nickname, unless it’s a very general “is there another name you prefer to go by?”.

            1. Marisol*

              I am wondering that same thing, about any cultural differences. Personally, I don’t think I ask people about shortened versions or nicknames as a rule, although I probably have a few times in my life. Usually I just use the name I’m told, period.

              When it comes to my name, however, I guess I’m more casual. I don’t tend to mind nicknames as I take them as a sign of affection. The shortened version of my name bugs me, so I just say, “I go by Talullah, not Tali” and that’s the end of it. There is no emotional charge whatsoever.

              So I guess my default would be to be more formal with other people’s names, and more casual with my own name. And to definitely not waste time getting offended by this kind of thing. I grew up in Southern California, upper-middle-class. White anglo saxon protestant. Maybe it’s a privilege thing; since I don’t have many cases of people not being familiar with my name or how to pronounce it, it’s not a sore spot for me.

              Although, at one point in my childhood, my father nicknamed me “boogs,” as in boogers, and I wasn’t some booger eating kid so I don’t really know where that came from, and at some point I did realize I didn’t care for that nickname, which was coincidentally about the time the name died out–guess I got too old for it. So it’s not that I have no preference whatsoever or can’t relate at all to someone being annoyed by a yucky name. I just can’t quite relate to the level of offense expressed here.

        4. many bells down*

          And some names have multiple nickname options. My sister is Catherine. The only nickname she uses is Cat. My best friend’s daughter is also Catherine, goes by Katie. Someone who’s used to hearing “Katie” as the nickname for Catherine might assume that’s an acceptable shortening without considering the many options that name has.

      3. Charlie*

        It’s’ NOT polite to ask to shorten. If you’re not provided a shortened nickname, they’ve already told you what they want to be called. Second-guessing them is indeed rude.

        1. Marisol*

          I would need to see something in an official etiquette column to be convinced of that, but even if strictly speaking, it is true, I don’t think a hostile response would be warranted. All you have to do is politely say, “I prefer Mortimer, thanks.”

            1. Marisol*

              Did I say I relied on official etiquette columns for all my advice? You probably shouldn’t overgeneralize.

            1. Marisol*

              Like I said, I’m not convinced that the question is rude in and of itself; however, feeling irritated about something does not automatically grant someone license to respond in a manner that is uncivil.

          1. Charlie*

            I’m not sure why you need an “official etiquette column” to tell you that following someone’s lead on the name they prefer for themselves is courteous. If someone introduces themselves as Mortimer, it strikes me as perfectly obvious that they wish for you to call them Mortimer, not Morty or Mort – and they should not be put in the awkward position of having to correct you when you insist on calling them something they didn’t introduce themselves as.

            Etiquette is founded on consideration for the other person and respect for their wishes. I’m not sure how nicknaming them until they tell you otherwise is remotely compatible with that. But if you really need a citation, the Emily Post Institiute recommends that introductions include preferred names and titles: http://emilypost.com/advice/making-introductions/

            1. KB*

              It sounds like the Graciela situation was in a school setting, so they were probably getting the name off the official roster which has everyone’s full, legal names. A lot of people do go by something other than their full name. Some people even go by a completely different or middle name. The phrasing was a bit presumptuous (“Do you have a name you prefer?” would have been better), but I think in that sort of context, it’s less rude than if Graciela had walked up and introduced herself as such and the teacher just decided to shorten it.

      4. Temperance*

        My mother has always used a nickname for me that I absolutely hate. (Chrissy, in case you were wondering. Nothing about me is “Chrissy”.) I don’t answer to it, and since kindergarten on, I’ve stubbornly used my full name. Calling me Chrissy, or asking to call me Chrissy, is going to get a look.

        1. Marisol*

          Well in that case a look is warranted. It’s bad behavior on your mother’s part and you’ve asked her to stop it. That’s different than someone asking a question upon meeting for the first time.

          1. Temperance*

            Oh no, I totally do that upon first meeting if they suggest my shitty nickname. I think it’s warranted.

            1. Marisol*

              Personally, I’d rather ask for what I want (“I prefer Christine”) and let it go. The people who are suggesting your…shitty nickname, as you say…don’t realize what that name symbolizes for you and I would think might feel alienated by your reaction. But, it’s your call.

                1. Marisol*

                  ok fine. let’s say it’s an inherently rude question that no one should ever ask. You know what is even more rude? Calling attention to someone else’s rudeness. If you want to get huffy at someone for making a faux pas, it’s your choice, but there’s a definite irony there. Part of being a gracious person is knowing how to negotiate other people’s social mistakes. Everyone makes them; it is a simple fact of life. I’ve asked people not to shorten my name a number of times. It’s fine to do that. I can’t imagine making an issue of it though.

                2. Observer*

                  You mean it’s rude to essentially defend yourself from people’s rudeness? And then we blame people (especially women) for not speaking up about things that bother them.

                  This is not a “faux pas”. It’s blatant disrespect. And, if you’ve been subjected to it on multiple occasions, then it makes sense to learn what it takes to stop it in its tracks. I can tell you from experience (as someone with a rather unusual name), that people who do this won’t be stopped by a polite “I’d rather not.”

                3. Marisol*

                  Well I can tell you from experience that asking someone not to shorten my name results in them reverting to my full name as I politely requested. I guess we have different experiences. And I think what you would call a defensive strategy I would call aggression.

      5. Emi.*

        It’s not necessarily prejudiced, but I do think it’s rude. At the very least, you’re asking for a level of intimacy or informality that they haven’t offered.

        1. Marisol*

          I agree that it’s a request to uplevel the intimacy. I guess I don’t see that as necessarily bad, since the other person is asking permission, and you can always just refuse the request.

          1. Charlie*

            Putting someone in the awkward position of having to refuse your (rude) request to shorten their name is, itself, rude. Why are you sticking to your guns so hard on this? It’s much easier to just call people what they are introduced as, or what they introduce themselves as, until further notice.

          2. many bells down*

            I’ve had dudes argue with me that, even though I’ve said I prefer Jennifer and not Jenny, they should be able to call me Jenny because it “feels more friendly”.

            1. Charlie*

              ……..seriously, this is a thing? “Mmmm, no, actually, I think I need to infantilize you to salve my own insecurity.”

      6. AW*

        1) She didn’t just ask to shorten it, she tried to give her a new name. Even when asking if you can call someone a nickname, you should let them tell you what to call them.

        2) 5 bucks says the teacher didn’t invent a nickname for each of the other students. A teacher singling out just one or a few students as having “difficult” names is *bad*.

      7. TootsNYC*

        I think the glare WAS warranted–that wasn’t a nice thing to do, “oo, lovely name, it’s not good enough for me”

        Rude, rude, rude! That wasn’t actually a compliment on the name, not when it’s followed by that requeset. That was a dig disguised as a compliment.

        1. Charlie*

          Not sure why it’s on me to refuse someone’s request to infantilize me. Just call me by what I introduced myself by.

    3. Moonsaults*

      This reminds me how much I adore my teachers growing up. I don’t have a difficult name at all, it’s Rebecca. I grew up with a family who called me Becky and I loathed the sound of it. When I was in 2nd grade, our teacher made a point to ask what we liked to be called when we were making name tags, I requested one with Rebecca on it. She nodded and helped me make it up. Children got into trouble from that point on if they called me Becky, they learned quickly that it wasn’t acceptable to call someone by a nickname they didn’t want. If only my frigging family were the same >_>

      1. Temperance*

        My family calls me Chrissy, which I hate, and have always hated. Once I went to kindergarten, I started going by my full name, and no one ever questioned it. True story: back when I graduated high school, it was very cool to have your name and graduation year stamped on your grad pictures, and my insane mother called the photographer to request that mine say “Chrissy” instead of the name I actually use. He “couldn’t” change the order, so she reamed me out because, and I quote, “no one ever calls you that name, they won’t remember who the pictures are of since you had to be selfish and not use the nickname I gave you”.

        I like your teacher.

        1. Moonsaults*

          Your mother always reminds me of a Disney villain :( How awful, I’m glad that your pictures had your real name on them!

          1. Temperance*

            She really is one, lol. It’s totally fine. I relayed the story to one of my friends (at the time), and he’s like …. eeeew people CALL YOU THAT NAME?

            (No offense to any Chrissys out there!)

        2. Jaydee*

          If she wanted your name to be Chrissy, she could have just named you Chrissy in the first place. (Of course, that would have ensured that everyone would call you every possible elongated variation of Chrissy – Christine, Christina, Chrysanthemum, Chrysalis – instead.)

          1. Jaydee*

            I mean, seriously, she gave you your actual name too. I’m just…I can’t…your mom is amazing. Not in a good way.

        3. Marisol*

          I wonder why your mother didn’t just name you Chrissy then, if that’s her preference? I guess I might be tempted to point out my mother’s incompetence at naming her children, “gee mom, you sure don’t know how to do naming right, do you…?”

        4. Honeybee*

          I used to hang out in baby name forums (as a fiction writer, they are relatively useful sometimes) and I would often see expecting parents already have planned out what nicknames they wanted to call their children based on the names they picked. I always suggested that maybe they just pick a name and wait until the kid was born to see if the nn fit them? Your story just bolsters my response, lol.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I picked a name, and then thought of neat nicknames for it (think, Graceful or Gracious instead of Gracie). But I could never, ever use them once the kid was here–they weren’t natural, and they also didn’t fit her.

      2. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

        I was Becky for the first 13 years of my life. When I got to high school,I decided I would be Rebecca henceforth and forevermore (I am *not* a Becky) 20 odd years later,my family had mostly fallen in line. The problem I have is with a seemingly random subset of people who will just decide on a whim that they will call me Becca. No asking first,and the only explanation I ever get is “I just started calling you that,and it works”… o_O

        1. Moonsaults*

          My dad is the worst offender because he “named me” and he wanted my name to be Becky. He had the paperwork all filled out while my mother was still zonked out because of the c-section. The nurse, bless her heart to this very day I wish I could thank her personally, stood her ground when he tried to put Becky on the birth certificate. “That’s a nickname.” “But I want it to say Becky.” “You mean Rebecca, Becky is a nickname for Rebecca.”

          I am not a Becky either not by a long shot. I did shorten it to Becca for my first job but that was the only time I went by it professionally speaking. I accept that and “B”, otherwise my response is “My name is Rebecca.”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        It took AGES for me to get my family to stop calling me by my first name, which I immediately quit using when I entered college. They finally did, however. Turned out to be a good thing when my brother married a woman who uses a shortened version of her first name that is the exact thing they always called me. So we would have had the same name! Now I’m just Liz or Lizzie.

        1. yasmara*

          My brother always went by a shortened version of his name as a kid, probably because my parents were the ones using it. But in college, he switched to the full version of his name (think Tom to Thomas). It definitely took the family longer than anyone else to get the switch, although they should be used to it because my aunt did the opposite – went from her full name to a nickname (think Mary Anne to Anne). My grandmother still called her Full Name until my aunt was in her 50’s or but FINALLY made the switch. It only took her 30 years…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Gah, I’m glad it didn’t take them THAT long!

            I had a friend from high school who refused to call me Elizabeth–she claimed it was too hard to remember. We are no longer friends, due to some other differences, but I always found that really annoying. Dude, seriously? You can’t even make the effort? :P

      4. YetAnotherAlison*

        My name is Alison (like the blog owner) and I hate being called Aly or Al. It’s just not my name or something I want to be called. Add a racial aspect to it like here and I can imagine it being much worse.

        1. Annie Moose*

          I’m a fellow female-name-starting-with-Al, and there is a VERY small number of people who are allowed to shorten it to “Al”. Family gets a pass. I have some friends who’ve started doing it as a joke, but I’m pretty tired of it, so I might have to have a stern talk with them. (they picked it up after hearing my sister call me it, and just don’t quite seem to grasp that my sister is allowed to call me things that they are not, even if they only mean it as a joke)

    4. Vesperia*

      Reminds me of a substitute teacher I had, who pronounced my name incorrectly while calling roll. I corrected her and she responded with “No it’s not, that’s the French way of pronouncing it.” I’m Chinese and live in an English speaking part of the world.

      1. seejay*

        My family moved to a very French community when I was 18 and I had a CS person serving me pronounce my very English last name in a very French style, including the rolling J and everything. Being half French myself, it was rather funny but very off-putting. I kind of looking at her with a half-raised eyebrow and said “that’s a very unique way of pronouncing a very English name”. I mean… wow. It was such a flowery sounding way of saying it, but you seriously can’t pronounce an Irish name that way, it doesn’t matter how soft you make that J and roll that S, it’s not going to be a French word.

        It was kind of pointless to argue though, everyone in this community served you first in French, no matter how many times you went there and spoke in English to them. They’d flip languages when you’d respond, but they always defaulted with French first, even if they knew you. There was no point in trying to correct how to pronounce my name if they wanted to insist a French pronunciation for it.

          1. starsaphire*

            That’s BOO-quet! ;)

            I am reminded so strongly, here, of Key and Peele’s Substitute Teacher sketch…

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          I’m now thinking of a classmate who had a French name, and a teacher always calling her by it in this ridiculous, over-exaggerated French accent. Think ad-rrrrrreeeeeee-ORNNNNN-nuh for Adrienne. It just felt like he was picking on her, and my skin crawled every time he did it.

    5. Teclatrans*

      I would have glared too. In addition to what everybody is discussing, Gracie absolutely sounds like an attempt to Anglicize Graciela. This makes the compliment sound rather backhanded, a way to comment on how “different” (but lovely! I am not a bigot!) her name is.

  15. Artemesia*

    I just never ‘got’ that original complaint. WHO repeatedly refuses to use someone’s name when they are asked to repeatedly? I understand difficulties with pronunciation and remembering a complicated ethnic name; it IS hard especially with some languages; I have worked in cultures where it was very very hard for me to say and remember names and I have bungled a fair number. But always I was trying to get it right. It is so dismissive of another person to just bull right over the top of their preference for their name. And it is one thing to slightly mispronounce a name — I spent a year in a European country where my name was always mispronounced, but it was at least my name they were saying — and another to give that person a different name as if they were the pet dog or the servant in an old British farce.

    1. Lemon*

      The original letter read to me like there was some underlying (or, overlying, more like) racism playing into people’s refusal to use the right name, as well as maybe contempt for the OP’s authority (see, “I’ll only do it if she tells me herself”).

  16. kimberly*

    The it is to hard – UGG. I’m dyslexic. I trust myself to write my name, my sister’s name, parents’ names and nieces and nephews names without looking them up. Every other person in my life – I double check the spelling either in my contacts, on social media, or an official roster.

    I’m willing to cut people some slack on pronouncing a name if different accents are involved because I remember being blasted by my cousins for how I say Liam. They are from the Maritimes of Canada and I’m from Texas. The difference was the accent. I also thought my uncle lived in Fool’s Corner. It is Pool’s Corner. I never saw it written just heard it. Made perfect sense to me given the crazy names we have in Texas.

    I have trouble with some of my student’s names at the beginning of the year. I am dyslexic and had phonics pounded into my head as a small child. My solution is I write the name properly and phonetically and use that to practice until I get it right. I also do this with various vocabulary that are spelled in an non-phonetic way.

    1. made up name*

      I also thought my uncle lived in Fool’s Corner. It is Pool’s Corner. I never saw it written just heard it.

      I have an inlaw from the deep south (U.S.). His best friend’s name is Thayrin. I think. It could very well be Theron. I’ve never seen it written so I have no idea.

      1. Annby*

        Never seeing things written is the worst! I grew up in the Boston area and learned of some embarrassing misconceptions way too late in life. I know someone whose last name is something like “Bittner”, for example, but I spent years convinced they were a “Bitna”.

        1. Sarianna*

          Yeah, non-rhoticism and spelling definitely leads to this… I grew up on the North Shore and thought my neighbor’s dog was named Djinn Jah. Everyone around me who ever said the dog’s name had a heavy Boston accent. Years later I saw it on a holiday card and asked who Ginger was…

          1. UK Nerd*

            I remember watching The Heat, and being utterly baffled by a scene where Bostonians are asking Sandra Bullock’s character, “Are you a narc?” and she has no idea what they’re saying. It was several weeks later when I remembered that Boston accents are non-rhotic.

            (Non-rhotic accents are the norm in Britain, except for West Country, better known these days as Pirate.)

    2. Tempest*

      I think I’m from the same small province as your relatives. We have loads of crazy place names too :)

    3. Hrovitnir*

      Heh. Reminds me of on Buffy when all the main characters were pronouncing Tara’s name “tear-a”. I was super confused and found it difficult to believe that was really just their accent, I looked up the spelling and still felt dubious, until Giles pronounced it how I would. OK, that was indeed just an accent thing.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I hate it when characters pronounce a name differently. I used to watch some show (don’t even remember what it was) where there was a character named Lana. Some people pronounced it to rhyme with Banana while others pronounced it like Lawn-ah, and it irritated me, because you know, she introduced herself to those people, they should pronounce it the way she pronounced it. And I assumed it was just that when the actors saw “Lana” in the script, they pronounced it the way they thought it should be pronounced, and no one bothered to tell them they should use the same punctuation. And back to Tara, I didn’t watch the show but I assume Giles pronounced it “tar-a?” If so, that seems rude to me. When someone says “my name is tear-a,” you should call her tear-a.

        BTW, “tear-a” is probably the default US pronunciation because I believe we started using it after Gone With The Wind.

  17. BePositive*

    I felt offended on the behalf of the OP’s person. I personally would not acknowledge the nickname after a 2nd or 3rd ‘slip’. The birthday card I would have politely said it must have been for someone else at that point. If the staff objects and say she/he is too sensitive they need to be reminded that it they probably wouldn’t like if Robert was changed to “Bob” all of the sudden. Your name is your identity and changing it without consent disrespectful. I’m enjoy this update as things are moving in the right direction.

    Maybe I’m just harsh. I come from a company with many from diverse number countries but can’t imagine not trying to use the person’s actual name

    1. Katie the Fed*

      No, you’re correct. It’s really obnoxious. This isn’t Ellis Island. You’re allowed to keep your name.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        Ellis Island name-changing is a myth! Immigration agents used the names in the ship’s manifest. If anyone’s family name was changed, they probably did it themselves in the old country. /derail

        (Speaking of name changes… I will miss your temporary one.)

        1. Moonsaults*

          Thank you, I have had people comment about how my Dutch last name “made it through Ellis Island” and I’m just like “LOL, stop with the fairy tales.” Sigh.

          1. Tomato Frog*

            Ha, no need to go back! I just wanted you to know it was appreciated. I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it as long as you did.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          BTW, I had no idea that was a myth.

          Related – I have a friend who came from Poland with her family (who defected) in the early 80s. Their original last name had no vowels and was almost entirely unpronounceable to Americans. So they had a family meeting and let the kids pick out a new name – it’s not even close to the Polish one. I think it’s the cutest story :)

          1. BePositive*

            When my mom side immigrated to Canada, the family name is ‘Yong’. My uncle (mom’said brother) got assigned Jong because he had messy handwriting. And it got too far before he realized to fix it easily. My cousins all have a different last name 30 years later :)

            1. Emi.*

              Ha! I once met a contractor who said his immigrant family had split into two feuding branches over whether or not to keep a misspelling of their name.

        3. Anon for this*

          This actually happened in my family, unless my grandfather or his parents had a reason to make up that story. My great-grandparents were told to choose between changing the spelling or changing the pronunciation so it would be easier in English.

        4. CM*

          I know a lot of people whose names were changed by immigration officials who didn’t want to bother figuring out their actual name. Including a friend whose last name is a common Indian first name… his father’s first and last names got switched in immigration, and the family just kept it that way! Maybe it’s a myth about Ellis Island in particular, but it certainly happens.

          1. Ada Lovelace*

            Yup I have a friend from high school whose name was firstname Mohammed lastname. In college, he enlisted in the army and couldn’t get the security clearance for his MOS. That’s how he found out he didn’t have US citizenship and immigration officers switched and changed his and his fathers names. His legal name is Mohammed firstname slightly-different-lastname. All his documents from the time he was 2 to 22 had the wrong name.

          2. Tomato Frog*

            Well, the Ellis Island myth is that people’s names were deliberately changed by immigration officials, which just isn’t true. That doesn’t mean mistakes and negligence don’t happen.

          3. One of the Sarahs*

            It happened to a guy at my school too, when he arrived in the UK with his parents as a baby. So he ended up with a different “official” surname to his parents, which you’d think would be spotted, when the parents’ surname is his first name. He came from a Commonwealth country, with a strong tradition of emigration to the UK, so it’s not like the “which is the family name here?” questions would have been unexpected…

  18. Becky*

    I get called the wrong name lots of times–my given name is usually the nickname for some longer names, so people assume my name is the longer name and call me that instead of what they think is the nickname when that really is just my name. I usually just smile and say “Nope, its just Becky!” (Becky is not actually the name in question.)

    But seriously, if you are told by the individual or the manager to stop using a particular name, just stop or to start using a different one, just do it! If you make a mistake-correct it, don’t persist in being rude.

    My younger sister changed her name earlier this year–I slip up sometimes but I make a conscientious effort to call her by the right name. I doubt you are close enough to this person to have 30 years of automatic name association, so you don’t really have much of an excuse–make the effort, it is only polite!

    Good job manager on handling this. And kudos to the worker for her upcoming promotion.

  19. KP84*

    I have a somewhat common Italian last name whose pronunciation was bastardized over a hundred years ago when my great grandfather emigrated to the US. As a result there are others who share the same last name who pronounce it differently. Back in college, I had a professor who was a stickler for pronunciation. When she was taking role, she pronounced my last name the way it would be said in Italy. I politely corrected her to which she replied “Well I am right and you are wrong but oh well”. I was so angry – I understand my family pronounces it differently than what it was originally but it is our name. We can pronounce it however we want! To this day I am still irritated by that professor so I can understand how frustrating it must have been for OP’s employee to constantly have people call them by a different name than the one they prefer.

    1. Otra*

      Yes that is so frustrating! I have a friend named Leticia (pronounced La-ti-sha). People are always correcting her trying to pronounce it like in Spanish Le-ti-sia, but that isn’t her name. She of Hispanic descent so her last name is Hispanic, but her family has been in the US for generations.

    2. LN*

      Oh man, this is obnoxious. You can’t be “wrong” in how you pronounce your own name. What possesses people??

    3. Moonsaults*

      We found out that our last name is pronounced differently depending on which region of the homeland you’re in. So sometimes when someone asks me the age old “how do you pronounce that?” my response is “My family says it This Way but I hear that others say it differently depending on which side of the tracks you’re from.”

      Not even everyone in our own family says it the same way TBH. I’d just laugh if some snobby brat told me that I was saying it wrong but that’s my response to anyone in that situation, I don’t blame you for being pissed!

    4. snorkellingfish*

      I just wanted to say that this makes me feel a lot better about pronouncing my (Hispanic) surname with an English-speaker pronunciation rather than the proper Spanish pronunciation (think: pronouncing the “a” in my surname like the “a” in “apple” rather than like the first “a” in “appear”). There’s a part of me that feels like I’m mispronouncing my own name, and it’s reassuring to hear of others who pronounce their names in line with the country they’re personally from–it helps remind me that the way I pronounce my own surname is legitimate even if others pronounce the same surname differently.

      1. Rebooting*

        …huh. I pronounce those two “a”s more or less the same. Now I’m curious what your surname is XD

        I have a ton of surname difficulties as well, because mine was changed from a German surname to an Irish-sounding one when my great-grandfather came to Australia from Germany after World War I and went “well, people really don’t like Germans, so I’ll be… Irish. That works!” So it’s really uncommon, website forms can’t deal with the apostrophe half the time, and most people have no idea how to pronounce it.

        1. snorkellingfish*

          I dunno, maybe I just pronounce things weirdly. ;) I guess I should’ve said like the “u” or “a” in “umbrella” for the second “a”.

          And my surname is one of the most common Hispanic surnames, so my pronunciation is probably super-common! But it’s a super-common English-speaker pronunciation rather than the proper Spanish pronunciation. Which still means I have the advantages of a common surname (less so in Australia where we don’t have a huge Latino population, but still one that people can pronounce and spell).

      2. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

        Wait, the a in appear is not the same as the a in apple?
        I guess you are like me, I really don’t care much if somebody mispronounces my family names. I mispronounce the “u” in Norwegian so instead of “you” I am calling everybody “toilet” all the time. I don’t think you can expect people to pronounce foreign names perfectly, you can just expect them to call you by your name, pronouncing it the best they can.

  20. ZSD*

    Oh, that professor is totally obnoxious. I mean, I can imagine myself saying something like that when I was 21, but a professor should be a grown-up.

  21. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    Ugh, I just don’t get these people. I used to have a coworker whose first and last names were (for me) hard to spell AND pronounce. So I buckled down and I learned both, as quickly as I could. Because she was my colleague and deserved my respect, which I could not demonstrate by changing her name to suit my own norms. It never occurred to me to behave differently than I did. Maybe I was just raised right, I dunno.

  22. Greg*

    I just wanna say thank you. I fight all nicknames to the death I just want to be called by my name. So many people just dismiss the issue but see you do this for your employee, just thank you.

  23. Meredith*

    Thank you so much for helping her! I’ve been in the situation where my name was the “annoying” unusual one. (Meredith is not a common name in Germany, where I lived for a while, and it’s often difficult for native German speakers to pronounce.) Almost everyone I met was awesome and got it after a few tries at most, but a couple of people were kind of obnoxious and wanted to just give me a German nickname – very awkward situation, especially given power dynamics and varying levels of personal confidence.

  24. NameConundrum*

    Tooootally off topic but my mom’s first name is a nickname of a longer name. When my grandpa was filling out the birth certificate, the nurses said, you can’t call her Nickname, it should be FormalName.

    His reply?

    That’s my kid and I’ll name her “$hit” if i want to.

  25. embertine*

    I used to work with a (lovely and extremely competent) young woman called Rupinder. Pretty easy to say, right? I was baffled when my (white, middle-aged, male) manager fired her. When I asked him why he stated it was that it made him feel bad because he couldn’t pronounce her name. And then pre-emptively ranted at me that it wasn’t racist, don’t look at me like that, it’s not my fault if I can’t pronounce a (really simple three-syllable) name! UGH.

    1. Observer*

      How do you even respond to something so ridiculous?

      Either he’s saying that he felt so bad for her, that his only recourse was to fire her OR that he’s incapable of dealing with a name that he can’t pronounce. Either one is jaw dropping. If someone told me this and then said “this is not racist”, I would either be too dumbfounded to answer of I would be tempted to tell him “What difference does it make? It’s still disgusting.”

    2. MashaKasha*

      How has this not been nominated for the Worst Boss of the Year yet?
      Freaking mind-blowing. What a tool.

  26. Rachael*

    This situation just blows my mind. LastJob had a high population of coworkers who were born in China so I’m pretty experienced with the “what name would they like to use”. I’ve never found anyone to be offended when I asked “I noticed that people are calling you Jenny, but your email says Xiu. Which name do you prefer me to use?” Easy as pie.

    That’s how I found out that Jenny prefers Jenny because she chose that name herself and Xiu prefers Xiu because she loves THAT name. I just don’t get why you wouldn’t just call someone what they want to be called. My coworkers preference was mixed – some went by a westernized name and some went by their given name. (granted, it is very much their culture to be named a traditional chinese name and then choose a Western name to use in the US).

    My point is: just call someone what they want to be called. If they want a nickname, call them by that nickname. If they want their given name, call them that. I think my tiny brain just can’t fathom the audacity of someone thinking that they can choose someone else’s name.

    (this also goes for people who automatically try to call me by the nickname of “Rach”. People feel it’s their right to shorten my name, but I just don’t answer to it. Only my mom and sisters call me that and I reserve the warm fuzzy feeling I get when my nickname is used for when my mom or sisters uses it.)

  27. Lalitah*

    Looks like OP might to have etiquette lessons for these employees.

    Empathy is really simple: imagine a new co-worker who arrived from another country and couldn’t pronounce your name, let’ say “Ryan.” He says, “let me call you Ryu. It’s easier for me.”

    Your natural response would be: “But that’s not my name. It’s Ryan.”

    And the interlocutor insists on calling you “Ryu.”

    How would you feel after a while?

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