can I say no to attending a three-night retreat, can a company hold onto your property after they fire you, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Employee is unhappy that a coworker with an accent is “mispronouncing” her name

I supervise a small team in a large nonprofit. Our organization is very big on DEI and ensuring we have an inclusive environment. Using other people’s preferred names is a non-negotiable for employment at my agency.

I have a direct report, “Paula,” who works with another one of my direct reports, “Simon.” Simon is British and, just like the real Simon Cowell, adds an “r” to the end of many words that end in a, including Paula. This is his accent and short of intense accent coaching, which of course would be unreasonable, I know he can’t change it.

Paula came to me and said she is unhappy with the way Simon pronounces her name, specifically the added r. I told her that Simon is not doing it on purpose, that is just his accent. Paula said he should make an effort to pronounce it “correctly.” I said that is correct according to how it’s said in his part of the world.

Thus far I have not said anything to Simon, but should I? I just don’t think this is the same thing as someone purposely mispronouncing or using the wrong name for someone, although Paula is implying it is.

Paula is in the wrong. But I don’t think your framing of the reason she’s wrong (Simon is pronouncing her name according to how it’s said in his part of the world) is quite right. After all, if someone went by Jacinta with a J sound, it wouldn’t be okay for someone to insist on pronouncing it “Hacinta” just because that’s how it’s pronounced in Spanish-speaking countries.

The issue is that Simon is pronouncing Paula the way he does because he has an accent and this is how his mouth forms those particular sounds, just like how someone from Boston might say “pahk” instead of “park.” Paula needs to deal with the fact that accents and dialects exist. Address it with her, not with Simon.

2. Can I say no to attending a three-night retreat?

My boss is planning a four-day/three-night out-of-state retreat with our team and some of our clients. We’ll be at a mountain retreat center, with nowhere to go, I’m supposed to share a room with a coworker, and all of our meals and activities will be with our team and clients. My boss sees this as a fun event (hikes, socializing, etc.). I have family obligations, and being away this long is a huge inconvenience for me.

Would it be horrible for me to say that I can’t attend? Some of our clients have said they can’t come due to family obligations, so my reason would be the same. And, if I do attend, is it reasonable to expect that I’d be paid for 12-14-hour workdays? The days are packed with team-building, team socializing, shared meals, etc., and it’s out in the mountains so it’s not like I can go home or go off on my own in “down time.” In past years, my predecessor did attend this retreat every year and I think only got paid for a regular workday and of course travel/food expenses were paid, but that doesn’t seem right to me given that I’m at this place completely for my employer and dealing with a huge hassle in arranging overnight childcare for my family. I’m an hourly employee and the least senior of my coworkers.

Sometimes you can get out of this kind of thing and sometimes you can’t. Your chances are better since your job isn’t high level, so your presence might not be seen as being as crucial as others’. Assuming you weren’t told when you were hired that occasional overnight travel would be part of the job, it’s reasonable to at least give it a shot — and childcare commitments are often high on the list of persuasive reasons. So try saying, “I have childcare commitments at home and can’t do overnight travel.” You could add, “I’ve looked for ways to make this work, and it’s just not possible.”

They might come back and tell you it’s a job requirement, at which point you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to do it or not, but there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to get out of it. If you do go and you’re non-exempt, you’d need to be paid for all time spent working (but not downtime).

3. Can a company hold onto your belongings for a few days after they fire you?

I have a question from years back. I was let go from a grant writing position at a nonprofit after my 90-day probation period. It was my first job after grad school and getting fired truly sucked. But what made it so much worse was that I wasn’t allowed to clean out my desk — they brought me to a conference room in another part of the building and informed me of the date/time (when our office was closed) when I could come back to get my personal things under supervision from someone from HR.

This made me feel like a criminal, but more to the point: Is that legal? Can a company just … keep your stuff and refuse to let you have it till they’re ready?

Yes, it’s legal and not terribly uncommon for an employer not to allow you back to your desk to gather your things and instead to arrange a time for you to return for them, or in some cases they’ll box them up and mail them to you. However, they do need ensure you receive your property in the reasonably near future (not months from now) or you could sue for its return (although whether it would be worth doing that is a different question).

For the record, this is a bad policy in almost all cases; most people being let go don’t need to be treated like criminals. But it’s legal.

4. My boss encouraged me to apply for a promotion but now keeps criticizing me

I’ve been at my company for several years and have earned a reputation as a reliable subject matter expert. Last year I moved into a related role. My manager started talking about a promotion at the end of last year. When the role above mine opened last month, I applied for it as I felt ready and my manager has been so supportive. When I told her I applied, she was visibly hesitant.

Over the last month, our relationship has spiraled down. Prior to my applying, she never had any feedback, even if I directly asked. Now, she has feedback on everything. From her feedback, some of this might be coming from senior leadership and she just never passed it along to me before and some of it is coming from her.

I applied in good faith based on her feedback and it’s been the biggest mistake. I feel like I look out of touch and naive. Is there a way to salvage my standing at work by withdrawing from consideration or should I just let it ride? I really like my company as a whole and would hate to leave but it’s starting to feel like the only option.

I suspect that now that she’s looking at you as a serious candidate for a specific promotion, she’s seeing areas where you need to grow and trying to make sure you get that feedback now. She could be doing that with an eye toward strengthening you as a candidate, not eliminating you as one. Or she might be trying to prepare you with all the reasons it’s not going to happen. (If so, that’s not okay! If she doesn’t think you’re right for this promotion, she should be up-front with you about that.)

Why not talk to her about it more openly? For example: “Last year you mentioned thinking I was ready for a promotion, and that was a big reason I applied for the X role last month. Since then I’ve gotten the sense that you might not think that role is the right fit for me, so I wanted to check back with you. Do you think I’m a plausible candidate, or are there things I’d need to do differently before being competitive for it? I want to make sure you and I are on the same page.”

5. I’m upset that my job changed me to non-exempt

Yesterday, two-thirds of my team had a meeting with HR letting us know that our FLSA status had changed and we were being moved from exempt to non-exempt status and would have to start clocking in and out for work and lunch.

I know I’ll get used to it and am overreacting a little, but I really don’t want to have to log in to a separate system four times per day and hit the clock. I haven’t done this in years and I enjoy the freedom of being trusted to do my job with a focus on productivity rather than accounting for hours worked. I don’t want to go back to punching in and having to notify my manager when the system doesn’t work or I forget to log in before I start working. My feelings on this are not neutral and are definitely driving some of my reaction here.

I asked for clarification, because I know the new rule regarding salary that you’ve written about doesn’t apply to us; we make more than the amount specified by that rule. The HR rep said that legal and HR management had determined our roles do not meet the administrative exemption of the job duties test.

I reviewed that criteria and I don’t think it’s right. We meet the first two criteria without question. The third, which involves exercising independent judgement, is the only one that I can see being equivocal. But the thing is, that would mean that my role is not one in which I can exercise independent judgement?

I do, every day. It’s literally written in my annual reviews by my managers that I exercise judgement in my day-to-day work. We’re trusted to make decisions up to a certain level without consulting our managers, and our managers rely on our judgement.In addition, I supervise a contractor who I interviewed and recommended hiring, trained, and supervise. I don’t see how my role doesn’t meet the admin exemption.

Would it be out of line to ask that my job description and role status be reviewed to reflect the work I actually do? Especially since it’s written in my reviews that I do work that appears to meet the test? If so, what materials should I put together to make my case, and how should I present it?

If they disagree, should I stop exercising independent judgement? After all, if I’m not supposed to be, I probably shouldn’t be? I don’t really want to tank the quality of my work, but if the company doesn’t think my role includes exercising independent judgement, should I just clock in and out and refer every question of judgment to my manager? I realize this probably sounds petty and overreacting, and I’m sure it is, but I’ve been doing this job at a high level for years and this feels like a slap in the face in some ways and it just doesn’t feel right.

Yeah, you’re overreacting and taking something personally that isn’t. The definition for exempt positions does include language about exercising independent judgment, but that doesn’t mean that non-exempt positions don’t or can’t. In fact, lots of non-exempt professional positions exercise independent judgment! Employers can expect that of you without it meaning your position is exempt. (So no, you definitely should not start declining to do so.)

More importantly, while there are restrictions on who can qualify as exempt, there are no restrictions on who employers can treat as non-exempt. They could treat 100% of their workforce, including the CEO, as non-exempt if they chose to! They generally don’t, because that would mean they’d have to pay everyone overtime, but they could if they wanted to.

That said, you can certainly ask for a review of your status. But before you do, I want to make a pitch for embracing non-exempt status! Yes, you have to track your hours, but it also means you get paid for every bit of time over 40 hours that you work in a week (at time and a half, no less) and you won’t find yourself ever working unpaid, unlike many exempt workers.

Related:
what the hell is all this talk of exempt and non-exempt about?
is being salaried a scam?

{ 1,036 comments… read them below }

  1. AccentsAbound*

    OP1, this is not something Simon will be able to change without xtensive practice if at all, and even then not without deliberately thinking about it every single time he has to say her name. If you want him to be self conscious and thinking of nothing else when talking to Paula you can try, but it’s unlikely to work.

    Further, there are any number of accents in which her name would sound like Paul-er (including that Boston accent, most NY/NJ accents, and quite a few others. I have the merest trace of a Queens accent and I’m right on the edge of Paul-ah vs Paul-er.

    1. Elle by the sea*

      The r is added only in certain contexts – it’s a hiatus filler, it’s not a different pronunciation or – heaven forbid – mispronunciation of the name. I once had an Irish colleague who who was upset about that. I am bilingual, so I can control it, but if you are a monolingual British English speaker with a non-rhotic accent, there is no way you can control it. Most people aren’t even aware that they are doing it.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        Yes. For those confused, Simon isn’t saying “I work with Paular”, but he is saying “Paula-ris in building C” instead of “Paula is in building C”.

          1. Mel T*

            That video was interesting! When I read the letter, I didn’t really know what they meant about Simon adding R’s because I have never noticed this when watching American Idol or whatever. In the video, I see what they mean but I barely hear it on my own without the subtitles. I’m from Maryland, which has its own weird dialect, and now I wonder if maybe we add R’s too and we don’t even realize it.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I literally cannot make my mouth say the second one. Your comment is the first time I’ve understood what people mean when they say that we do this in Britain, but even now that I understand, I can’t say it differently without fully stopping after the word Paula. And even then I think I still say Pauler. Sorry, Paula, we aren’t being British at you.

          1. Snoodence Pruter*

            Same – or the ‘a’ and the ‘i’ blend into one and it sounds like I’m saying ‘Paul is’. I don’t think she’d like that any better.

            1. 1LFTW*

              I put a glottal stop between “a” and “i”, which separates the vowel sounds. FWIW, my accent is upper Midwest, but my parents are from the northeast, and for some reason my father is big on pronunciation? I don’t know why, but he was oddly intense about teaching us kids to pronounce “merry”, “marry”, and “Mary” with different vowel sounds, which none of my peer group did.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            The cot-caught merger. This one I actually can hear if someone aware of it pronounces them for me–but I cannot for the life of me pronounce “caught” with the diphthong. My mouth makes the word “cot” for both.

            1. ecnaseener*

              Yeah, I’ve met a person named Dawna whose name is supposed to be pronounced differently than Donna, and like, I can physically do that if you want me to put on an exaggerated New York accent, but it’s not a distinction that exists in my natural speech.

              fwiw they are both (all?) monophthongs.

              1. Margaret Cavendish*

                I’ve heard “diphthong” before, but never “monophthong.” That is amazing, and I need to find a way to work it into everyday conversation!

                1. linger*

                  Monophthong = vowel sound defined by one tongue position.
                  Diphthong = a vowel sound defined by a movement between two positions.
                  There are also some vowels represented in some British English dialects as triphthongs, defined by a movement through three tongue positions, as in power, fire.

              2. londonedit*

                In my English accent Dawna would be like ‘d-OR-na’ (like the word door with a short ‘ner’ sound on the end) and Donna would be like ‘DONN-a’.

                1. C*

                  Do you pronounce that r? Because if you’re non rhotic that r is going to only cause confusion for those of us who aren’t.

                2. londonedit*

                  Personally I don’t pronounce the ‘r’ strongly, no, but I’m going round in circles because the only way I can think to show the pronunciation is ‘door’, which to me is like ‘daw’, which probably isn’t pronounced in the same way in the US/UK anyway…! In my accent I pronounce ‘or’ and ‘awe’ in a very very similar way. And then ‘on’ has a short ‘o’ sound. But Dawna and Donna are pronounced completely differently in my accent/region.

                3. linger*

                  Even in nonrhotic dialects there will be a length distinction: the FORCE vowel is longer than the LOT vowel.* It’s just that length alone is not generally phonemic (so not heard as different) in English. In rhotic dialects, the presence of the /r/ sound distinguishes most words containing the FORCE vowel from most words containing the LOT vowel, so the FORCE/LOT vowel distinction itself has a much reduced functional load and can be lost, as it has been for many Americans.
                  [* Comparing vowel phonemes across dialects that may make different contrasts is tricky, so linguists resort to defining lexical sets: groups of words, named using one representative member, that always share vowel pronunciations, whatever those pronunciations happen to be in a given dialect.]

                4. C*

                  Well, I don’t know for sure how you pronounce those words, but I generally tell people that the difference between cot and caught is whether or not you round your lips. (It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s good enough for most purposes. I’m not getting into the weeds of tongue placement for this.)

                  When we say “cot” without the merger our lips are unrounded. When we say “caught” without the merger our lips are rounded, same as they are if we say “coo”.

            2. Clisby*

              That’s interesting! I know about the cot-caught thing, but I can clearly distinguish the difference. It never occurred to me that anyone would pronounce both as “cot.” I thought people who said them alike pronounced both as “caught.” (For example, my sister-in-law and I are lifelong US Southerners. She pronounces “closet” like “clawsit”. I pronounce it like “clahsit.”) So you can’t even make generalities based on region.

              1. Goldfeesh*

                These conversations always make me smile because to me I pronounce both as either “cot” or as “caught” since both sound the same. ;)

            3. topcat*

              I remember a Reuters pronunciation guide coming down the wires in a newsroom I was working in, with phonetic spelling of the names of people who were frequently in the news at that time.

              We were amused to see “Steve Jobs” written as “Steve Jahbs”. As a Brit, I’d never pronounce it that way, nor even with the Reuters guide did any of us do so, as it sounded like we were putting on a fake American accent.

          3. Ophelia*

            I can, but I have to physically add a glottal stop between “Paula” and “is” – which is extremely awkward!

          4. Orv*

            The R avoids what’s called a glottal stop, where you stop the flow of air briefly in your throat. An American English speaker will usually make an almost imperceptible pause between “Paula” and “is,” although that can get slurred if people are talking quickly. It’s an awkward feature of following a word that ends in a vowel with one that starts with a vowel and different accents have different ways of dealing with it.

            1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

              Yeah, it’s the same pronunciation thing that led to “a” turning into “an” before a vowel, because “an apple” is easier to say than “a apple.”

              Funnily enough, this also led to words that originally had a starting “n” getting it chopped off (a napron became an apron, a noumpere became an umpire), or reattached in the wrong place (an ekename became a nickname, an ewt became a newt).

              Also, autocorrect HATED this comment.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                Thank you for your dedication typing that out. I had heard of this but when I tried to tell someone else, I couldn’t remember any of the words cited. Napron, ekename and ewt will do me fine!

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Oh, I didn’t know that!

          And I’m wondering if Elle by the sea’s Irish colleague might have had an Irish language name. Some of those end in “a” and I could possibly see somebody thinking that mispronounciation of those was a matter of not bothering to try with a name from another language. Though honestly, we get enough English TV in Ireland that I can’t imagine how anybody could be unaware that it is an accent thing and not a “foreign names are so confusing” thing.

          We actually once had a P.E. teacher at school who was from…London, I assume from his accent and I found his pronounciation of Aoife rather amusing. It is actually pronounced Ee-fa, but he pronounced it Ay-fur. I don’t think she minded. Certainly, she never said anything about it and while she might not have corrected a teacher, I think she would have complained to us about it after class if she had cared.

          1. Ferret*

            Yeah there’s a difference between someone pronouncing Siobhan as See-obb-han (actually wrong and should be corrected) vs Shavaun/Shivaun . A lot of the confusion around Irish names is down to people not knowing how to “translate” the traditional spelling based on their experience with standard English orthography, but most of the time if you pronounce it for them they can get it.

            I really wish I could remember IPA/ it was more common because it would make a lot of this discussion easier….

            1. PhyllisB*

              Yes!! My Southern drawl and…some names makes an interesting combination.
              An Irish author I enjoy Carlene O’Connor had a chart at the beginning of one of her books giving definitions for some popular Irish slang and pronunciations of some of the names. It was so helpful!! I wish all authors from other countries would do this. It would sure help us poor Americans. (Of course. American authors should probably do this for books distributed in other countries, too.)

              1. The Plastic Pope*

                I don’t think Carlene O’Connor is Irish. I think she’s American. Her bio is kind of cagey on those details, but if she were Irish or even had grown up in Ireland I’d imagine it would say where she was from.

                She may still have strong Irish ties, though. I’ve not read her books.

            2. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

              One of my first Internet friends at age 15ish was Irish and named Niamh. Which I mentally pronounced “Nee-umh” for well over a year (this was in the Wild West of the Internet in 1995, no voice chat and international phone calls cost a fortune). I’m pretty sure I still don’t pronounce the vowel sound quite right, but at least now it’s closer to Neev than Nee-umh!

              1. Bananapants Circus with Dysfunctional Monkeys*

                I once made someone’s day by pronouncing Niamh correctly without being told.

                I did have to confess it was because my dad’s family is Irish and I would have been disowned if I didn’t know how to say it given two of my cousins (well, my dad’s cousins children, second cousins? idk) were called that!

          2. Elle by the sea*

            Yes, exactly. Her name didn’t end in a schwa but that’s the only way English people could pronounce it. Hence the intrusive r and my colleague’s discontent.

            1. But There is a Me in Team*

              Paula-er sounds exhausting. Take a breath and find a real issue in the world to solve.

                1. kt*

                  I am a bicultural white American with dual citizenship with another European country that has substantially different vowel and consonant sounds. I don’t want to speak for others, but I have a preferred American mispronunciation because it makes it easy, and having Americans try to say the vowels, consonants, and rhythm of my heritage name makes it sound ugly as *(&! to me. Personally, I prefer folks do their medium-best with their accents and don’t torture my poor name in the pursuit of a self-serving feeling of “authenticity”.

                  Caveats of course are that being white there is not the same racialized component to the conversation that many in the US are forced to endure, and this is only my own personal experience.

                2. hello*

                  I can’t speak for everyone of course, but as a non-white American, many of us are so used to it that we just don’t care.

                3. Nina*

                  If their accent is one where they can’t pronounce my name the way I do and can’t hear the difference, no, I don’t mind, because I know who they mean.
                  The vowel sounds in this example are wrong because my name is not actually Nina, but I spent about four years in one workplace being called Ninna because the long ‘i’ was not a sound that existed in my coworkers’ first language. I said ‘um, I pronounce that Neena’ a couple of times, but they genuinely could not hear the difference so persisting wouldn’t have helped and would have antagonized people, so I let it go.
                  If the way they were pronouncing my name made it sound rude to me, as was the case with a French colleague Nicolas, who was not at all okay with being called Nick (‘nique’ is a rude word in French), I would try to find a nickname I was okay with and everyone could pronounce, but at work it’s literally just ‘the noise I should make to get your attention’ so I don’t care that much.

                4. Ace in the Hole*

                  I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce for some accents because it contains phonemes that don’t exist in many languages. It’s also difficult for native english speakers because it’s a non-standard spelling for a traditional english name. Something along the lines of “Illisabeth” pronounced like “Elizabeth.”

                  I mind people mispronouncing my name only when the mispronunciation is willful/lazy. For example, if someone pronounces it “Aye-lies-abeth” even after I’ve corrected them, when I know they are perfectly capable of saying “Elizabeth.”

                  I *don’t* mind people pronouncing my name incorrectly when it’s due to an accent or speech impediment. You’d have to be pretty darn self-centered and intolerant to take issue with that. For example, my colleague with a heavy spanish accent cannot pronounce “th” in any words… so when he calls me “Elizabeta” it’s not a slight, it’s just his genuine best effort at sounds his mouth isn’t used to forming.

                5. ThatOtherClare*

                  Opinions on this vary wildly. In my culture, nicknames or additional names are a gift. You might be called a different name by your parents, partner, friends and colleagues, none of which is the name on your birth certificate. You can’t choose your own nicknames, they must be given to you (although you can decline to accept one, obviously). When people from other countries pronounce my name differently I consider it a little gift from their homeland.

                  When new colleagues arrive from other countries we explain this and offer them a nickname. No matter their response, we do our best to pronounce their original name as authentically as we can manage. We all just do our best, and so far that’s been OK.

                6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  The French find it very hard to pronounce my name correctly and in their mouths it morphs either into a more common, similar name or a very domestic animal with precisely one letter in common with my name.

                7. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  The French find it very hard to pronounce my name correctly and in their mouths it morphs either into a more common, similar name or a very domestic animal with precisely one letter in common with my name.
                  I’ve given up trying to correct them. I just mentally adjust to answering to whatever they’ve decided my name is.
                  When a French person gets it right, I fall in love with them!

              1. mkschoen*

                As a Margaret who moved to Boston 20 years ago, I am extremely on Paula’s side. I literally changed to Maggie at my first workplace because annoyed me so much. Having your name repeatedly mispronounced is irritating, even if you understand why it is happening.

                1. Trusty Duck*

                  That seems like a wild overreaction to me! Why on earth would you be upset because of an extra consonant sound that the speaker has no control over?

          3. Jack Russell Terrier*

            My sister-in-law, here in the US, is named Kara. I’ve had to remember to pronounce it differently. It’s not pronounced like k’ar’a in articulate, but the name rhymes with para. I see that as different because it’s about changing up the vowel sound.

            That’s the same with Tara and Lara,

            1. linger*

              My default for all three names would be /’ara/ (/’kara//’tara//’lara/), but your Kara is /’kæra/?

            2. Kotow*

              Yep, I’m a “Tara” but I’m from Philadelphia originally and then moved to Pittsburgh. I pronounce it with the first “a” pronounced like the world “apple.” Nobody outside of the Philadelphia/New Jersey/NYC region can pronounce it this way! Funny thing is, when people ask me how it’s pronounced and I tell them, what they hear is “Taw-ra.” Which is definitely not how I pronounce it! I’ve given up trying to correct people because they truly cannot hear the difference.

              1. Laura LL*

                Plenty of other regions in the us pronounce it your way. I’m from Chicago and say it the way you do.

        3. PineappleColada*

          But there’s also plenty of people who would also say the “I work with Paular” example, due to their accent. I was just watching Love Island Australia and there’s a “Lucinda” who gets called “Lucinder” all the time by the host. :)

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Yeah. I worked with a guy whose Rhode Island accent was so strong that “Martha” (our boss’s name) rhymed with “Arthur” when he said it.

            1. Jay*

              Don’t those names usually rhyme? (British accent, can’t work out how to say them without rhyming)

              1. wordswords*

                In some accents! In others (my particular US accent, for example), Martha ends with an “ah” sound, and Arthur ends with “err” with a clearly pronounced (rhotic) r, which I think is the distinction Elitist Semicolon was thinking of.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  Yes! Thank you for clarifying what I should have clarified. :) Good ol’ Marther.

              2. jane's nemesis*

                Marth-uh is the usual pronunciation of Martha in the US, and Arth-urrr is the usual pronunciation of arthur. Uh and urr don’t rhyme here :)

              3. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

                Errr I think technically they’re assonant rather than rhymes, but I might be wrong.

                1. linger*

                  Assonance is repeated vowel sounds over a sequence of words. We’re not claiming that e.g. the stressed and unstressed vowels of “Arthur” are identical.
                  Two words rhyme in (an) English (dialect) if their pronunciations are phonemically matched from the last stressed vowel onwards. So “Arthur” and “Martha” rhyme in nonrhotic dialects (where the final vowels are both schwa), but not in rhotic dialects (where the final vowel of “Arthur” is either r-coloured or is followed by a pronounced /r/).

            2. Bee*

              My old soccer coach has a deepwoods Mainer accent so strong he added the intrusive R onto my sister’s name – which ends with a D! Whole extra syllable on her name, hah. (He also did it to mine, but mine ends with an A so that wasn’t so weird.)

              1. Typity*

                In the mouth of a Bostonian colleague, my name comes out “Neener.” Someone should tell Pauler it could be worse.

                1. Sweet Fancy Pancakes*

                  I used to work at a national (US) company headquartered in Boston, and had monthly conference calls with colleagues from all over the country, one of them named Tina (pronounced “Teenah”). Once she and I were the first ones on the call and somehow started talking about the different accents we would hear on the call, and she mentioned how she really didn’t like that to our Boston colleagues her name was “Teener”, and pointed out with a sigh that if her name really were Teener, they would pronounce it Teenah.

            3. Database Developer Dude*

              Thank you for this comment. I needed a chuckle today. I’m originally from Rhode Island. No lies detected!!!!

        4. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

          Oh! The first thing that came to my mind are the Cornwall(?) accents where all words in -a are pronounced as if they were spelled with -er. So Paula would be “Pauler” in all contexts (“I had lunch with Pauler”, “Pauler does good work”, etc.), not just where an intrusive R is needed (“Paula-ris in building C” as opposed to “Paula does good work”).

          (For reference: any scene in Doc Martin where Ian McNeice’s character is talking. One of the other main characters is called “Louisa”, which he consistently pronounces “Louiser” in all contexts. Note that Ian McNeice is an actor and can switch between “Louisa” and “Louiser” at will; but his character isn’t and can’t.)

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            I get you, and I don’t disagree, but the Simon Cowell accent mentioned in the letter is just the intrusive ‘r’.

        5. Nina*

          Oh, apparently I have that too, I just tried it (recording myself on my phone). The former comes naturally, the latter has a little hitch between ‘Paula’ and ‘is’ when I try to suppress the r-sound.
          I’m from New Zealand and have what British people think is a very strong New Zealand accent, for what it’s worth.

      2. Sharpie*

        It’s called the intrusive R. Geoff Lindsay on YouTube has some good videos about this, and other speech phenomena.

      3. MBK*

        Yeah, asking Simon to change this would be like asking Paula to say “an apple” instead of “an apple.”

        1. Nina*

          I’m not sure whether your point is ‘Simon cannot hear the difference’ or ‘saying a apple is unbearably awkward and Simon would find it that awkward to change this’ but either way, yes.

      4. bmorepm*

        what did you irish colleague get upset about? curious as my Irish family has “mispronounced” my name my entire life :)

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      If anyone wants to gain a better understanding of what’s actually happening with rhotic and non-rhotic accents, I cannot recommend this educational video by Dr Geoff Lindsey highly enough. (I’m not affiliated with him or his ad sponsor I any way, I just think he explains things well.)

      https://youtu.be/HnEIKavamks?si=vW8tH021AP0hwGaH

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Lw1 says “I know he can’t change it” – but that’s an assumption until Simon is asked.

      There will be people who can’t hear a difference between Zathras and Zathras — but give him the courtesy to let him know the request!

      1. Garblesnark*

        The things you have stated there’s a difference between here are identical.

        I’m a former ESL teacher with a linguistics degree. Simon may be able to get this with a few years of dedicated phonetic training, or maybe not. Regardless, a few years of phonetic training is a pretty big lift compared to what Paula could do, which is develop the lift skills of getting along with others in a multicultural context.

        1. Huttj*

          SSC was making a Babylon 5 reference with the name Zathras. with a character talking about his name and his brothers name “you hear? very subtle.”

        2. Reebee*

          Yeah, I mean, come on, Paula. Live a little, and realize that you could just…not take it personally.

          Good post, Garblesnark.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            In grad school there was a woman in my cohort who would get angrily worked up about her name. Her name was ‘Marta’, and if you said “Nice to meet you, Marta” in a New England American accent (speaking as self, although others from different parts of the country had the same issue), she would get visibly angry and shout “It’s MARTA”–she would give the R a little roll. It was a bit much because 1-most people couldn’t hear the difference (it was quite a day when someone confusedly responded “that’s what I said?” when she yelled, and I swear I only heard it because I studied some French and French tends to roll their r’s), 2-people from New England (speaking for myself) aren’t really going to be able to give the r a subtle roll without a great deal of thought, and 3-yelling at someone you literally just met for a subtle variation in the pronunciation of your name is quite a look.

            1. dogwoodblossom*

              Sorry Marta, I physically cannot roll that R. I do exercises to practice it and I can kind of get it sometimes in a word with a really pronounced roll, but the subtle one described here? Cannot do it.

            2. Las Malvinas*

              Aire con aire com perro
              Aire con aire conferrocaríl
              Aire con aire con Marrrrtta

          2. Liz*

            I feel like Paula is actually a Karen who is annoyed by being expected to behave with respect with regards to DEI and is choosing this bill to be obnoxious

        3. porridge fan*

          The Zathras thing was a niche joke from a ’90s sci-fi show. Probably a bit much to expect it to be recognised today.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Yes, he probably physically could, but it would literally be changing his accent. Others have explained it above, this isn’t him adding a consonant onto Paula’s name, it’s a phonological process that automatically occurs between certain vowels in his dialect.

        1. Kah-ter-ring, Kah-tee, aka Katherine*

          I think Paula should be careful what she wishes for. If Simon tries to pronounce her name without his accent, it could sound like he’s making fun of her name and singling her out – especially if hers is the only name he does this for. Or what if he ends up unintentionally making a weird face to avoid the “r” sound, then her name is correct but Simon makes the weird face everytime he says it.

          1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

            I knew a girl in college whose name contained a phoneme not present in English. It’s not the French U, but I’ll use that as an example, so let’s say her name was Lu.

            She got mad if you (like most Americans) pronounced it like Lou in Lou Gehrig. But she also didn’t like it when people made an effort and overpronounced it, because she felt like it was making fun of her—kind of like when someone is trying to imitate a Southern accent and ends up sounding like Foghorn Leghorn.

            The disconnect was because she just wanted them to “say her name normally,” which… they couldn’t, because there was no normal way to say it in their dialect because they didn’t even have the sound in part of their phoneme inventory. Some couldn’t even hear the difference.

          2. Tired Librarian*

            I definitely prefer people to pronounce my name ‘wrong’ according to their accent, rather than ‘right’ where it just sounds like they are mocking mine!

      3. Heart&Vine*

        I have to agree with you. Even if someone’s name is incredibly difficult for me to pronounce because I have little to no experience making those sounds (for example, I can’t roll my Rs), I will try my darndest to do so if it’s important to someone. After all, this is a big part of their identity. I think if Simon knows that Paula would like him to pronounce it without the R, he might make a good faith effort to do it. I refuse to believe that “my culture/region pronounces it like this so you should just be okay with that” trumps the person who actually has that name and wants it pronounced according to their interpretation. It might not be easy for him to remember/perform but I bet he’d be willing to at least try out of courtesy.

        That being said, do I think Paula is overreacting? Yes. Unless she thinks Simon is pronouncing her name that way specifically to annoy her, she’s making him out to be malicious when he’s not. A simple, “Would you mind calling me Pau-luh?” and then dropping it would suffice.

        1. Managing While Female*

          Okay, but at a certain point you’re not asking someone to “pronounce your name correctly” you’re giving them a hard time about having an accent that is different from yours. I feel like if Simon were from somewhere other than the UK, people wouldn’t be assuming that he believes “my culture/region pronounces it like this so you should just be okay with that”. They would accept that he speaks with an accent that is different than Paula’s.

          I work with a number of people from India and Spanish-speaking countries who never say my name correctly. I can’t imagine taking some of the advice here and talking to them about not saying my name right. They say my name in their accent, I say their names in mine. We’re all making a good faith effort, but we all speak differently based on where we grew up.

          1. cheap rolls*

            ‘you’re not asking someone to “pronounce your name correctly” you’re giving them a hard time about having an accent that is different from yours.’

            This is distinction is key: are they saying it seriously wrong, or are they saying it with an accent. The latter is not a big deal in most cases.

        2. Kay*

          The proper time for this is introductions, after that, it is dropped. My name is hard for Spanish speakers – upon introduction we have a back and forth, it is refined as best they can, and we all move on after that.

          Another discussion about it is just awkward, turning it into “a thing” when it is merely an accent.

          1. Just remembered*

            Reminds me of Catholic college in Pittsburgh where “milk” is “melk” and “pillow” is “pallow”
            Lynne is Len
            and a fellow named Pincus went by Pinny or Pin. Sister A called him Penny or Pen.
            He had a conversation and explained his name was Pincus and please call him Pinny.
            She thanked Pencus and called him Penny for the rest of his academic career. I know this story because he was laughing about it when he realized it was a dialect and he’d be Penny.

        3. Taketombo*

          I studied the equivalent of year 1 high-school Mandarin over 6 months. At least a hundred hours devoted to phenomes (sounds) and tones. I still can’t say my Chinese friends and co-workers names with anything better than a 1 in 3 accuracy – a bit because everyone seems to have been named in 4-th tone, which sounds like yelling at a child or dog and I really suck at – so I’ve stuck with “Alex” and “Jane” and whatever they have in their signatures.

          Sometimes you just can’t. I spent thousands of dollars and I wanted to learn, and I couldn’t. It sucks, but voice coaching/accent coaching is a huge thing and not one I think a company can ask of it’s workers.*

          *when I worked in Japan, the company I worked for allowed paid time off and full tuition for English study and accent coaching to support their international efforts to employees high enough up to be sent abroad on proposals.

          1. Orv*

            I have Chinese coworkers and I’ve tried desperately to make sense of pinyin, but I’m still terrible at it. In general I don’t understand why you would create a Romanized spelling for a language that doesn’t use the normal sounds for those letters.

      4. Bananapants Circus with Dysfunctional Monkeys*

        I understood that reference and I love you for making it.

    4. WellRed*

      Paula best not come to Maine. We add Rs to things ending in a and drop the Rs elsewhere. Seriously though, what’s her beef?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I acknowledge, I’m in fanfic territory.

        I’m thinking either Paula is at BEC with Simon for more than just the mispronunciation and/or Simon is exaggerating or leaning into his accent (either because it he likes the results of its foreignness and exoticness in his current location and/or fear of losing said accent (cf. Arnold Schwarzenegger hiring a linguistics coach to keep him from losing his iconic accent)).

        I read the title and felt Paula was right, and still do feel that, but the more comments I read and thought I put into it, the more slack I find myself thinking Simon should be afforded.

        1. Snoodence Pruter*

          Slack for having an accent, though? Do people need to be afforded slack for something that literally everyone has, and most people can’t really control (and shouldn’t have to even if they can, provided their audience can understand them)? He’s not saying a different name here. He’s making all the same sounds, he’s just making them Britishly. He doesn’t need to be putting that on for effect. It’s… how we actually talk. And he’s probably not even noticed that Americans *don’t* make the same use of the intrusive R.

          The way she says Simon may well sound to his ears like SAH-mon, or Si-mehn, or any number of variations depending on where she’s from. Should she be trying to reproduce all the vowels with a British accent every time she says his name?

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Should she be trying to reproduce all the vowels with a British accent every time she says his name?

            Well, yes; sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. She should make every effort to get his name right that she expects him to make for her name.

            1. Snoodence Pruter*

              But it’s not wrong. It’s just how the ‘i’ sound and the ‘on’ sound are made in her accent. And I don’t imagine he care in the least, because different accents are a normal thing that we all encounter.

      2. Nightengale*

        Or Cape Cod

        From my 10th grade geometry class, direct quote with names slightly changed, let’s say the kid was Paula and the teacher was Mr Harper.

        “I have an idear! Mr Harpa! Mr Harpa! Listen to my idear! Paular! Paular! Listen to my idear!”

        Of course I was the transplant from New Jersey who put a W into words that didn’t have them, so I wasn’t one to tawk.

        1. AMH*

          It’s so funny, as a cape codder I hear this as Australian until I really think about it, and then I can hear it in a local accent. We really don’t hear our own accents and pronunciations…

      3. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I remember an interview with Matt Damon where he talked about and demonstrates the added R that Bostonians with the accent have. The example he used was “Is Ma upstairs?” With the accent it became “Is Mar upstairs?”

        I have relatives with Caribbean accents so their A sounds are different from mine, which means my name sounds different coming from them. It just is what it is – I know they’re talking to me!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            My dad was from Texas originally and he said “warsh” too. He also said “light bub.”

    5. 2024*

      My name is Cathy. Many phone reps can’t say the “th” so it comes out as Catty. Which I find somewhat charming, but understand that for whatever reason, they just can’t say it. Just like I can’t properly pronounce many names from non English languages.

      1. Estephanie*

        My name is Stephanie and native Spanish speakers generally pronounce it with a schwa sound at the beginning–Uh-stephanie. I also think it’s charming. I would probably find Stephaner less charming but still.

        I worked with an Indian woman whose name got mispronounced constantly and I got it better to a point but at that point when she corrected the bit I was still getting wrong, I literally could not hear the difference.

        1. Ineffable Bastard*

          I am a native Brazilian Portuguese speaker, and you got me thinking… I use to pronounce Stephanie without a sound before the S, but the Brazilian accent would be ee-stEphanie. And, assuming you go by she/her, it would be “ah ee-stEphanie”, because using a gendered/numbered definite article before people’s names is common in informal language (but not in writing). We put vowels in pretty much anything!

          1. adk*

            Apparently, if Paula was instead named João, she’d lose her flipping mind. Because that is not a sound most Americans can make with their mouths.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I was practicing some French with a friend and I had to explain to him that I just couldn’t roll my r’s like he thought I should, it isn’t something that is a natural speech pattern. I can do it in an exaggerated fashion, but then it sounds silly.

            2. Ineffable Bastard*

              My professor tried to say “são” many times, with explanations… he couldn’t.
              Also, my birthname starts with a J, and another professor asked if the sound was of J like in John, or of H like in Juan. I had no heart to tell them that it’s a ZH sound like in Zhan and went with the J sound.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                For the future, many native English speakers will catch on and get close if you you say: “ZH as in pleasure”. One wouldn’t guess that the sound is so similar from the spelling, but it works surprisingly well.

      2. MCL*

        Yeah my name is Meredith and it is very challenging to many who don’t speak English natively. But I myself sometimes have challenges pronouncing others’ names without some assistance. I realize this is different from an accent/dialect but I feel like Paula is borrowing trouble on this one.

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          Another Meredith! Romance language speakers usually say “Mar-eh-deet.” I had a French pen pal in HS – his name was Gregoire with two rolled rrr’s. I totally mangled that. I used to get a kick out of having him say “thatch roof.”

        2. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

          My given name is sort of international (Julia), but people with different native languages will pronounce it in different ways. Fortunately the majority of English speakers I’ve had extended contact with so far have been able to learn the correct pronunciation (I’m German, so it’s “YOO-lee-yah”). I always tell them to pretend the “J” is invisible :-D And fortunately I don’t have much contact with French native speakers, because pretending to see an additional “O” is probably a lot more difficult than pretending that the “J” is invisible.

          If you still can’t pronounce it even with an “invisible J”, I’m willing to accept “Jules”. But Paula doesn’t seem to be the kind of person to accept a nickname with a less “problematic” pronunciation, at least not when it comes from Simon. I agree that she may be borrowing trouble here or that she might even be at the BEC stage (“he’s being British at me again!”) with Simon, as someone else in this thread suggested. This isn’t exactly something to take up with your boss; what is the boss supposed to do, send a memo to the entire department saying, “It’s pronounced PAW-lah in any context, without any Rs, you know who you are”?

          (Oh good gods, now I’m picturing this actual memo.)

        3. bmorepm*

          my best high school friend moved to TX and had many latino kids as her patients (peds PT) and actually started going by her middle name instead of her first (Meredith) bc it was so challenging for the kiddos and their families to say.

      3. jane's nemesis*

        I worked with a native spanish speaker from Mexico and he could not pronounce the vowels in my name (which is an unusual name in general and I’m sure even more unusual to a non-native English speaker, as my name is an English noun) at all correctly, but I loved the way he pronounced it! It sounded so charming! I don’t understand Pauler being this upset lol.

      4. Cathy*

        I once had an employee who said I was pronouncing her name wrong and asked if she could teach me the right way. I said of course, so we spent a few minutes on the Russian vowels in Elena and I think I eventually got pretty close and I tried to say it that way as long as we worked together. I don’t think she ever realized that she was calling me Kettye though.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          My sister’s name is Ksenia, and it’s darn near impossible for Americans to pronounce it correctly, even though it looks very easy.

      5. Banana Pepper*

        My name is Michelle. I have a lot of Latin American colleagues. They all call me “Mee-chell”, with a hard emphasis on the “ch” sound, almost like there’s a T before the C.

        I am 100% fine with this since names are identifiers and I know they mean me.

    6. HannahS*

      I agree with the idea that people should do their level best to say other people’s names–the good ol’ “if they can say Tchaikovsky, they can say Uzomake”–but if the phonemes don’t come easily in a person’s accent, you can’t get stuck on it

      My real name has an r and l, sort of like Liora. I grew up in a city with a large East Asian population, and I replied equally to “Liora” “Riora” “Wiowa” and “Liola.” And I am sure that I never said Xiao or Eunyung correctly.

      Some people get really stuck on their names. I don’t just mean in the “Just because my name is foreign to you doesn’t mean you get to call me Jessica” way, but in the “My name is Katharine, it is so disrespectful for the restaurant hostess to write the reservation as ‘Catherine,’ she should have ASKED” way.

      I don’t get it myself (my Starbucks name is Hannah to make life easier,) but some people feel really disrespected by it. I don’t know how you’d even address that with Paula though.

      1. scandi*

        it’s the exact same thing as tchaikovsky, in fact. most non-russian speakers do not pronounce tchaikovsky the correct russian way (the last sound is not a simple “y”, for starters), but they make a good-faith effort to pronounce it as correctly as possible within standard english rules of pronunciation. the same thing should be expected of the name uzomake – not a perfect native pronunciation, but a good-faith effort to get as close as possible within the commonly used phonemes of a person’s native language. i don’t expect native english speakers to pronounce my name correctly – both the stress pattern and the first syllable sound very odd in english, but i do expect them to make a serious attempt to use my actual name pronounced in a way that works in their native language instead of making up a nickname for me.

        1. kt*

          This is so well-expressed, thank you! “i do expect them to make a serious attempt to use my actual name pronounced in a way that works in their native language instead of making up a nickname for me.”

      2. Katherine*

        I am very picky about my name – I am Katherine, not Kate, Katie, Kathy, or Catherine, I sign my emails, please use what I do, thank you very much. When it comes to colleagues, friends, or people who are trying to build/have any sort of relationship with me, yes, I get annoyed and make correction until it sticks.

        But when it comes to incidental one offs, like Starbucks or restaurants, whatever, they aren’t asking for a tag for my unique identity as a human, they’re collecting phonemes for a temporary hand over. As long as we hit the right ballpark and I get seated appropriately, the world is grand. For accents? As long as people aren’t screwing with my name on purpose or out of thoughtlessness, “Katrin” is really cute in the accompanying accent and I’ll trade it for whatever nuance my accent is screwing up in their name.

        Basically, I’m here for good faith and general respect. I think Paula gets to be asked to observe how accents work – he’s not adding/changing letters in her name, he’s saying the sounds in her name in his own accent. He’s not being disrespectful, he’s not being thoughtless or careless, he’s using his own mouth. If he was only doing it with her name and not other words that used the same -a ending, that would be one thing, but he’s not, and she should spend some time paying attention to that.

      3. SopranoH*

        Interesting, I’ve always thought that Hannah is one of those names that has a high chance of being pronounced “incorrectly.” The first vowel has distinctly different vowel sounds depending on where you are in the world.

        1. HannahS*

          Well sure, but it’s not my real name, so I don’t care if they tell “Anna” or Hannah at Starbucks instead of going through the, “can I get your name for the order…sorry?….can you spell it? Ok, [spells it wrong]…oh, [repeats every letter back to me], thanks.”

      4. AngryOctopus*

        My name is a variant on a C/K name, and I really only specify if the place I’m at is really busy, as then if there’s a C of my name, I won’t take their stuff. Otherwise I don’t care when I’m at Starbucks, etc., how they spell my name.

      5. ThatOtherClare*

        I have a friend named Elizabeth who shortens her name to Libby. Her Starbucks name is now Liz because she became tired of having to work out if the coffees for Lizzy and Lilly were actually hers or not. I am waiting for the day when I will get to laugh at her doing the same awkward dance over “Coffee for Liv!”.

        (No disrespect to baristas. I’m very impressed that they can hear anything at all over the sound of the milk frothing.)

      6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah. I’m pretty sure we don’t say Tchaikovsky exactly like Russians.

    7. Czhorat*

      I might not say “Pauler”, but I’d not be at all surprised if it sounded like “Pawla” from me, with a more pronounced “w” sound than is usual.

      I’m all for respect of people’s names and making a good-faith effort attempt to pronounce them correctly. I’m a believer in respecting the different ways in which people tawk and how that, too, is part of their identity – and not a thing easily changed.

      This is a case in which two values clash, but I’m with the consensus that it’s Paula who has to learn to accept this.

    8. Rosemary*

      As mentioned below, assuming Simon is using the connecting ‘r’ in the typical Standard Southern British English way, as a connecting consonant between word-pairs that end and begin in a vowel, then he isn’t actually pronouncing her name ‘Paular’, he’s just employing a regional speech convention re vowel elision. It would probably be more accurate to see it as ‘Paula (r)is’. Would it help to explain this to her? Especially if he pronounces her name as ‘Paula’ when addressing her directly?

      1. ThePainIsReal*

        But many other people are saying that it would come across as Pauler in their accents. Full stop. I’m one of them.

        I can not do it for periods of time if I really focus on it, but then I’m thinking about how to say her name, not whatever it is I’m supposed to be discussing with her.

    9. Spero*

      I wonder if asking him to change it could also be considered discrimination based on national origin? It’s a characteristic of his country of origin that he cannot control

    10. MissesPookie*

      I live in the northeast- I lovingly refer to my pal as LinDER . She referes to me s my name -ER. Poking fun as our accents. Paula needs to chill.

    11. Baunilha*

      My name is Julia, but in Portuguese the J is pronounced in a way that only native speakers can say it. When working abroad, I’ve learned to accept people calling me Djulia, Hulia, Iulia… It’s no big deal, I know people are not doing it on purpose. If I demanded everyone to call me Julia with the right pronunciation, I would be restricted to Lusophone countries only.

    12. Lily Rowan*

      Growing up in greater Boston, I don’t have what anyone would call a Boston accent, but I still can only say “Paulerabdul”!

    13. toolegittoresign*

      Interestingly, I’m a MA native and one of the things my mom has always had to deal with is people with a strong regional accent pronouncing her name, Donna, as “Donner”

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        I spent YEARS wondering where the US missionary was from that I’d once went to talk to in Russia, after a well-meaning mutual friend convinced us both that it would be great for me to get a job at her mission, and who told me she had no “I DEER” what work I could do there. (Thank dog it didn’t work out and I continued being a software dev! Whew! What a horrible i-deer that was.) So now I’m guessing MA.

      2. Emily of New Moon*

        I’m also a MA native, and I’ll never forget the December when a local four-year-old thought that one of Santa’s reindeer was female: Donna. He was referring, of course, to Donner.

    14. Abundant Shrimp*

      Came to weigh in on this as a longtime accent-haver! 24 years ago in my first Fortune 500 job, I had my first review and my boss came out of the left field with “a few of the end users complain that they cannot get through your accent”. My parents were close friends with their ESL teacher and I worked out an arrangement to take private accent reduction classes with her at her home. Five classes and $125 later, I still had an accent, and we both decided we’d done enough. I did not receive any more complaints from anyone.

      20 years later, I moved and found myself living around the corner from the teacher’s home. Contacted her and we had a few good chats. She remembered the lessons, and said “you would’ve never gotten rid of the accent no matter how many classes you’d have taken. If a person arrives in the country after a certain age,” (she said after puberty), “their mouth and tongue are already set to move a certain way when they speak and it is very hard, if not impossible, to change that.”

      (BG: 1) it was a manufacturing company and my team supported shop floor apps, our end users were plant managers, shift leaders, and shop floor workers that worked the machines our apps ran on. 2) Our IT department had people from close to every corner of the world, to the point where it was nicknamed “The UN”. and finally, 3) the plants we supported were located all over North America, including places like Georgia, French Canada… many of the end users had strong accents of their own! So, today me would’ve shrugged, thought to myself “what a bizarre complaint”, and done nothing.)

    15. Abundant Shrimp*

      Oh oh got a funny story too! One of my ex-boyfriends was originally from Louisiana (as I was told later, the part where they have a really thick Southern accent – the northern part of the state apparently has a lot more of it going than South LA), moved to Ohio at 25, and kept gently chiding me for still having my accent when we were both in our 40s. “I came here same year you did, at almost the same age you did, and I don’t have mine anymore, how come you still have yours, I did it and so can you” etc etc. I politely kept it to myself that, in my opinion, he still had quite a bit.

      Our second year together, a work friend had a backyard party and invited us. At one point, bf said he wanted to go inside, see what’s on TV. Came back out five minutes later, which I thought was odd but, who knows, maybe there was nothing on TV? Only on the way home did he tell me what happened. He came in and sat down to watch (a game I think?) Somebody asked him a yes or no question and he answered (yes or no) and the person immediately went “Where in the South are you from?” This was almost ten years ago and still gives me a hearty chuckle when I think of it. No, Ex-bf, you never did lose your accent and it’s fine! I liked it.

      1. run mad; don't faint*

        Yes, I’m from the southern part of the state and frequently have been told that I sound like I’m from the Midwest. I spent a lot of time explaining that many people in the south didn’t have southern accents. (I used to work with tourists. I was also told that I sounded far too educated to be from the south, but that’s a whole other story.)

    16. LunarTaffy*

      Wow, I have learned so much about accents today!

      One thing I’d like to point out for the Jose or Joaquin examples being brought out – the hypothetical hard J sound is entirely a SPELLING illusion. If you’d never seen the written name, you would never think to make that shift. This is more like making a slightly different h-sound compared to a native speaker. It’s not a mispronounciation, though, it’s an accent.

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          A neighbor of mine is named Wanetta. I’d only ever seen it in print so one day at a neighborhood event, I asked someone if Wanetta (wah-nett-uh) was there. They had no idea who I was talking about until I spelled out the name.

          “Oh! You mean ‘wah-nee-tuh’!”

          As in, her name is pronounced the way most of us would say Juanita.

          My brain still has trouble converting the middle vowel to a long E, since the double consonants after it usually means the vowel sound is shortened.

          1. anon here*

            I’m familiar with a SheNAY whose name is spelled Sheena. Same issue but in reverse.

            1. Meri*

              I used to work with a Sheeda in high school at a retail store. Also working at the same store, there was a Cira who showed up on the schedule but who I’d never encountered even when we were working at the same time.

              Until I discovered that “Sheeda” was actually “Cira”. Now I could understand perfectly the “i” making an “ee”sound, and I could sorta see the “C” being pronounced as “Sh” but I couldn’t figure out how the “r” made a “d” sound. Until I listened closer and I could actually hear the “r” and it was just being pronounced differently than I was used to. And I eventually got to the point where I could almost pronounce it correctly.

          2. dogwoodblossom*

            I have a friend who is a teacher and she once has a student who spelled his name Antwarn, as in “Antoine” but phonetically written the way his family’s accent pronounced it.

    17. The Other Paula*

      My name is Paula. I’ve lived in various countries where it wouldn’t be Paul-er, but Pow-lah. In multiple countries people honestly couldn’t here the difference Paul-ah and Pow-lah. One person swore they were saying Paul-ah after someone tried to correct them.

    18. Jbe*

      I’m not being snarky or regressive here. I just truly don’t think this one is so simple. Substitute a Black “LaQuanda” from Chicago for “Paula,” and revisit this question with a white male Simon from Texas. Play around with different names, accents, and other identity factors. How do we decide what “accents” are OK for what names? How do we draw the like between times when intent matters and when it doesn’t? Is this a matter of the relative privilege of Paula and Simon and their accents?

      1. Me... Just Me (as always)*

        What about the name LaQuanda do you think a Texan (white or otherwise) will find difficult to pronounce?

  2. Jennie*

    #1 reminds me of that Star Trek: TNG episode where Data is with Dr Pulaski and she calls him “datta” when she is trying to get his attention and he corrects her. “My name is Day-ta” Her response was “Datta, Day-ta what difference does it make? and his response was “One is my name, the other is not.”

    I do live near Boston, and I can pahk my cah along with the rest of them, but I can also Park my car and somehow manage to pronounce people’s names using their preferred pronunciation for their name.

    1. Archi-detect*

      in this case though it sounds like it may be a sound that that person’s native language does not have, like the R and L sound being similar in Japanese and English speakers not generally being able to roll an R like Spanish speakers. I think things like that can be extremely difficult to prevent if you learn a language as an adult

        1. Observer*

          Yes, but different areas have *significantly* different ways of pronouncing the same words. (Let’s not even get into the issue of different meanings, just pronunciations.)

          1. JSPA*

            She may well believe that’s she’s doing so, and believe that she is succeeding 100% in this efforts, without understanding that everyone is cutting her the same reasonable slack that she’s refusing to grant to Simon.

        2. WS*

          Yes, but as someone with a non-rhotic accent, I would pronounce Paula and caller identically. I cannot hear the difference. I only theoretically know what the complaint is about.

        3. JSPA*

          Yes. Non-rhotic English. Hard enough to change that it’s the”tell” even for professional actors. link to follow.

          1. I've got a brand new combine harvester, and I'll give Paularrr a key*

            What a great video! Thank you for sharing. Laughed a fair bit at the point about Youtube captions: I’m from the south west of the UK, so my ‘intrusive r’ is STRONG, and automated captioning software sometimes adds full words in there (as it does with my plurals: ‘playhouses’ becomes ‘playhouse as’). I do wonder how my poor students (I teach in a non-Anglophone country) understand me!

            1. JSPA*

              His stuff is excellent in general, though some of it seems more like he’s arguing with other linguists (though in a completely accessible way).

              Might even be useful for any of your students who intend to go to other Anglophone countries with distinctive accents?

              (Or for any english speaker here, regardless of continent and region, who believes that they hear and are cognizant of every sound they make, and are likewise aware of every sound that they habitually drop.)

            2. londonedit*

              I’m originally from the south-west, though I don’t have the accent, and I love your username because my first thought was that Simon has a Westcountry accent and that’s why it’s coming out as ‘Paularrrrr’!

              But it sounds like it’s not even that, it’s that sometimes when people with certain English accents (even mine sometimes, and mine’s generic slightly posh southern English) say certain words next to each other, the sounds blend together, so that instead of ‘I asked Paula – and she said’ with a beat between the ‘a’ at the end of Paula and the ‘and’, it becomes ‘I asked Paulerand she said’. That’s something that’s really, really difficult to stop doing! And it’s not that Simon is pronouncing Paula ‘wrong’.

              1. littlehope*

                Oh, is that what she means? I was trying desperately to think what the heck British accent she could mean that puts rs in where there aren’t any! Some UK accents are rhotic, like American accents are, but I couldn’t think of one that adds extras. Thanks for sorting out my bafflement.
                What a weird thing to be upset about.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  The key is that non-rhotic accents only pronounce the r before a vowel, and will insert an r between a word ending in a vowel and one beginning with a vowel.

                2. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

                  @Richard — yup, I imagine Simon can pronounce “Paula” correctly as a standalone name.

              2. Bobby Pins*

                Ah thanks for figuring it out! I am also from the south west but have the same generic slightly posh southern English and after reading that letter I was sat at my desk repeating the word Paula over until my partner gave me a funny look.

                I think it would be genuinely very difficult to change a whole pattern of speech for one word. I wonder if Simon had to be that conscious of the way he approached the word Paula it would sound very stilted and might draw more attention to it. I would be concerned Paula might then feel singled out or even mocked in some way. It’s interesting thinking though this question when it is two native English speakers.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            Dr. Lindsey’s videos are consistently excellent. Phonetics is not the area of linguistics that most interests me, but I seek him out nonetheless.

          3. Grey Coder*

            Thank you for this video! I have a rhotic accent and my husband does not (both native speakers of English), so I thought I knew all the angles here, but I learned a lot!

            Husband literally cannot hear the difference between some words in my accent — like over and ova — so Simon may not even be able to hear the difference between the Paulas in “Paula-r-is here” and “Paula was there”.

            1. Annika Hansen*

              Yep. Different linguistic thing, but I am from a place that says Mary, Merry, and Marry the same way. In some other places, all three sound different and others two sounds the same. I listened to YouTube video where there went through how they have different sounds. They all sounded the same to me.

              1. Beth*

                I pronounce “cot” and “caught” differently. My wife can’t hear the difference. It’s something we laugh about.

                1. Orv*

                  My wife prounces them the same, but will sometimes tease me (good naturedly) by pronouncing them differently in a highly exaggerated version of my Midwest accent.

              2. Abundant Shrimp*

                Something my parents’ ESL teacher told me, “I’m having the hardest time teaching my students to pronounce the long and short E differently. They will go and ask me for a “sh!t of paper”. Eventually, after trying to show them the difference and them not seeing it, I give up and tell them, “just avoid the word altogether. Ask for a piece of paper.”

                “But then they say “piss”. You can never win.”

          4. Turquoisecow*

            That’s really fascinating. Never thought before how people who don’t necessarily pronounce the R sound would have difficulties learning to spell with the letter R.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            Right. There are a ton of countries around the world where the residents’ native language is English, but the words and the pronunciation are very much not the same. India being a popular example.

        4. Abundant Shrimp*

          Not the same English. I was taught British English in school. (yeah a school in the 70s Russia, I know, but ours was super serious about it. They started English classes in second grade, split us into small groups for the classes, ten or so kids in each, we had English almost every day, at least five days a week. Our teachers had each spent two years in England after college on an internship – something that was a thing when they graduated, and ended abruptly after two of the interns requested asylum and stayed in England. So, the generations after mine did not get the real English teachers, but we were lucky to catch the tail end of it.) First day of class, they literally gave each of us a mirror to learn to position our mouth and tongue the right way. Pretty sure we had to use a mirror in class for the entire 2nd grade year. It worked! When I came to the US at 29, not only was I unable to understand a lot of what was said around me and not know a lot of the words, I also had a weird Eastern European-British hybrid accent. Met an older woman at a party two years ago who was a retired college prof that’d moved here from England. I told her this story and her response was “the Yanks didn’t get it all out of you yet! You still got it.” which I took as a compliment, but also as proof that once you learn to form sounds a specific way as a child, it never goes away.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        The LW said Simon is British, so I think we can assume that his first language is English. He simply speaks English with a different accent.

        1. JSPA*

          English is not monolithic. One’s range of recognized and reproducible sounds is absolutely based on one’s region and dialect (or months to years of work). This is why language coaches exist.

          1. GythaOgden*

            He shouldn’t have to go to a voice coach because one person takes offence at a pronunciation that doesn’t affect anything else.

            1. Abundant Shrimp*

              This * 1000. Besides it being an unnecessary waste of time and money, I’m not loving the idea that people need to take voice coaching classes so we can all speak the one correct (whatever it is) way. The melting pot idea where they throw all different cultures in the pot and they all come out WASPS, never sat right with me.

            2. AngryOctopus*

              I think the point of mentioning a language coach is that for things like movies, people don’t say “well, you’re American, so therefore you can take this role as a English lord with zero modifications because you already speak English”. They have coaches for that kind of thing, so you’d believe that this person is indeed an English lord.

              1. JSPA*

                Yep, that was indeed my point.

                Nobody should have to change accents (at the level of language coaching) to convince a coworker that they’re doing their reasonable best.

        2. metadata minion*

          Sure, but it’s not the same English as Paula’s English! A British guy named Basil would be completely justified in correcting me if I pronounced his name the way I do the herb (homophonic with “bay”), but it would be unreasonable of him to ask that I use exactly the same vowels that he does. I can do it if I concentrate really carefully, but those are sounds that my dialect doesn’t contain and I won’t be able to do it consistently without a great deal of training.

          It’s like how I do my best to pronounce Chinese or Thai names as correctly as I can, but because my native language isn’t tonal, my ear hasn’t been trained to catch tone differences and so I literally can’t hear where I’m pronouncing them incorrectly.

          1. Lab Boss*

            Re: Chinese or Thai names

            When my Vietnamese coworker was first hired, she very patiently tried to correct our (midwestern US) pronunciation of her name- the problem was nobody could hear the difference between what she said and what she said. She could literally say “You’re pronouncing it X, it’s pronounced Y” and hearing her say both, they still sounded identical to us. She eventually realized we were doing our best and it realistically wasn’t going to change because none of us had a proper Vietnamese accent, but it did create some frustration for a while.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I do wonder how hard it is to learn a tonal language when you’ve been raised with a non-tonal one (or vice versa). I have a hard enough time with French because I can never ever remember the gender of anything.

              1. Meow*

                I took Mandarin in high school and it wasn’t terribly hard (well, the tones that is). They drill them into your head starting day 1. Once you know what to listen for, it’s not too difficult, and I can still make them out if someone is speaking slow enough – can’t understand a word they’re saying anymore, but hey, that’s 3rd tone! But it does take practice and drilling, which is more effort than generally required to learn how to pronounce someone’s name correctly.

            2. The Space Pope*

              Yes. It’s not just the ability to MAKE a sound that’s not present in your own language or accent that’s difficult or impossible. Most people don’t have much ability to HEAR the differences between sounds that do not matter or exist in their language/accent, especially if they are raised monolingual. The ear for these differences is something that can sometimes be developed, but not in everyone. And it’s really really hard and you need a good teacher.

          2. Anonymous Educator*

            There’s a common misconception out there that people who don’t speak tonal languages can’t hear tones. They usually hear and speak tones just fine—they just aren’t used to the idea that the tone changes the word instead of the sentence.

            An English speaker would use a different tone, for example, in saying “You went to the market yesterday” vs. “You went to the market yesterday?” Pay attention to what tones you’re using for market and yesterday in those two sentences. The main difference is the tone changes the sentence (from statement to question). The market is still a market, and yesterday is still not today.

            In a tonal language like Chinese, though, the tone changes the actual word instead of the sentence. So the word for “buy” and the word for “sell” use roughly the same consonant and vowel sounds, but buy has a tone that dips up, and sell has a tone that goes down.

    2. Ms. Opossum*

      Despite my best efforts, there are some names that I CANNOT pronounce correctly. And there are plenty of people who, because of their accent, can’t pronounce my name “correctly”. That’s okay! My name uses sounds that aren’t found in some languages, and some of my coworkers have names that have sounds that aren’t in my language. As long as people are doing their best to pronounce a name as correctly as they can, then we’re good.

      1. nnn*

        Yes. I can’t for the life of me pronounce Maura or Maureen correctly. Have tried many times. My mouth won’t do it.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          My ex-father-in-law couldn’t wrap his mouth around “shrimp.” English was his first (and only) language and he didn’t have any other issues, but his mouth just wouldn’t.

          I can’t say “sushi chef” but I think that may be more like a tongue twister

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Decades later, I’m regretting how fascinated I was with the camp counselor who pronounced “orange” with one syllable. She had such patience with 12yo me and all my undiagnosed ADHD chaos.

            1. londonedit*

              I always find it fascinating when US English speakers pronounce ‘mirror’ as ‘meer’, just the one syllable. In my southern English accent it’s absolutely two syllables, ‘mir-ra’.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                In my south of Ireland accent, it’s “mirr-or,” the second syllable pronounced as the word “or.” I had a teacher once (who was from the same town as me so no idea) who pronounced it like myrrh. I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about at first, when she said something like “get the myrrh.”

              2. Gray Lady*

                And then there are the people who say “mirr-all.” I suppose that’s an American thing, not common but you do hear it. More of a personal speech issue than a regional thing, I think.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Oh, where? I have never heard this pronunciation in my life, so I’m curious about where this happens

                1. AF Vet*

                  Army brat from all over… easiest way to explain my version is meer’r. I make a gap for the second r but there’s no discernable vowel.

                2. londonedit*

                  For example, it took me about two decades to work out that the lyric in the Fresh Prince theme tune was ‘His licence plate said Fresh and it had dice in the mirror’ because to me it sounded like ‘Dicing the meer’.

                3. Clisby*

                  US Southerner here, and I’ve heard that, but more often it’s “mir-er” or “mir-ra”, with no “ee” sound anywhere.

              3. Nina*

                The same Americans, when going to the cinema to see, say, The Shining, will say something that sounds to my ears identical to “I’m going to watch a whore movie”.

            2. MCL*

              My mom (who grew up in western Iowa) says “oinge” instead of “or-ange” and now I’m not sure if that’s a her thing or a regionalism.

              1. Camellia*

                Northerners, e.g., born and raised in Ohio, say OR-unge. Southerners, e.g. born and raised in Tennessee, say AH-range.

                I had a teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee, point that out to me (raised in Ohio).

                1. Clisby*

                  Agreed, but I wouldn’t say AH-range (like home on the range). More like AH-ringe, where second syllable rhymes with “fringe.”

            3. Almost A Shrimp*

              I grew up pronouncing it “arnge”. Wasn’t until I get to college that I realized the O is not pronounced like an A, and the A should not be ignored.
              Same with forest (not FARist), horror (not HARRar), foreign (not FARin), and others I broke the habit of incorrectly pronouncing.

              1. wordswords*

                I mean, it’s a different regional accent/pronunciation, not incorrect! (Well, I suppose it could be incorrect in your region, but someone very dear to me says FARist and I say FORist and the difference is entertaining to us both — it’s not that either of us is doing it wrong.) All your examples are perfectly reasonable in some accents. I’m mostly pointing this out to push back against the frequently very classist idea that there are “wrong” regional/dialect pronunciations, rather than just different ones (some of which are higher prestige than others due to being associated with historically richer or more powerful regions or social classes).

            4. Margaret Cavendish*

              Buck Martinez, the colour commentator for the Toronto Blue Jays, was born in Northern California but has a southern drawl for some reason. He pronounces “error” with one syllable, as in “there was an air at second base.”

              And despite being associated with the Jays and living at least part time in Toronto for more than forty years, he still says “to-RON-to” rather than “ter-ON-doh” as many locals do. Language is fascinating!

              1. londonedit*

                If you’ve ever heard Mary Berry speak, she has quite an upper-crust English RP accent, and she talks about ‘lairs’ when she says ‘layers’, as in a cake with many ‘lairs’. She’ll also say ‘flaaah’ instead of ‘flower’. It’s a pronunciation that’s a little old-fashioned now, even among people with a similar accent.

                1. AnnieB*

                  So interested in the different “lairs” of linguistics being discussed here! To me “flaaah” is quite odd as a pronunciation of flower, but I say “lairs” (Ireland) and I never really noticed anyone saying “lay-ers”, or thought of it as a 2-syllable word in any accent

          2. Almost A Shrimp*

            Your ex-FIL would have had a really hard time with my last name since it is very similar to “shrimp”, just with an A instead of an I, and the addition of a C and an F. So I’m sure now someone can figure out my last name, but that’s ok lol.
            I had an even harder time with it because I was always a scrawny kid. I’m a less scrawny adult, but the shrimp-related nicknames persist!

          3. La Triviata*

            My family’s from the south and, in addition to the drawl, my father and I both had speech impediments (he’d eat “srimp” and wear “mossakins”, I just have a stutter). It’s led to some interesting name pronunciations. I did once make an employer’s Board member happy by pronouncing his Chinese name corretly.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            This makes me think of Benedict Cumberbatch trying to say “penguins.” He consistently kept saying “pengwings.”

          5. Abundant Shrimp*

            My mom calls it shrink. “Please don’t cook shrinks for the holiday dinner, I don’t like them”. She tried and couldn’t wrap her mouth around it too. She came to the US at 58 with very rudimentary English.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Spouse was born overseas, and one guideline for choosing his name (a common English one) was that it was formed of sounds that all existed in the local language. Helped that his mom did linguistics and so was highly aware of what those sounds were.

      3. Panicked*

        I’m learning German and despite my best efforts, my mouth refuses to make certain sounds. I know what it’s supposed to sound like, I “hear” it in my head the right way, but it’s impossible for me to say properly. It’s frustrating and I can’t imagine how embarrassed I would be if someone got angry with me for not saying something right!

        1. Camellia*

          I had a great German teacher in college that had some good tips for that. For example, purse your lips out like you do at the end of saying ‘oh’, hold them there, then say the letter ‘a’. Great for certain vowels with the umlaut.

          Sometimes we just need a better teacher.

      4. PhyllisB*

        I know what you mean. I have a friend who is Greek and she married someone with a Polish surname. For the life of me I cannot say it right and she cracks up everytime I try. The key is she knows I’m trying and thankfully she has a good sense of humor. (I’m getting closer, though!!)

        1. Camellia*

          I had a great friend with a Polish (married) last name. I used to say we were such good friends that I knew how to spell her last name (Szczublewski) and pronounce it (zu-bleh-ski).

          1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

            I once won a bet by being able to correctly spell the last name of the now former Duke basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, which is pronounced “sha-shef-ski.” I’m of Polish descent, so people thought that’s why I could get it, but I really just remembered it. (I’m Polish Jewish, which sometimes — not always — means fewer Z’s and long runs of consonants, and my family’s name was shortened when my ancestors came here!)

            1. Polish Jews in the House*

              Or becoming Molly Brown (thank you, Ellis Island). My other Polish Jewish great grandmother got to keep her Polish name, but not Molly (we have no records of what her original name was).

              1. C*

                This idea that names were changed at Ellis Island is a myth. Ellis Island only checked ship’s manifests – they didn’t write down the names, save the names in any way, or cross-reference the names they got with any other arm of the government.

                If your ancestors changed their name, they did it after arrival, by choice. And they very likely did it by common law name change rather than by going to a judge, because back then your name was what you said it was and there was no requirement to record your changed name anywhere.

      5. History Nerd*

        I’ve been lucky to know people from all over the world even though I’ve hardly ever left the US, from places as diverse as Japan, Finland, and Syria. I make an effort to say their names as close to correct as possible. In return, my foreign acquaintances have always forgiven my inability to pronounce their names completely correctly. I have an unusual American name myself and I’ve experienced other people struggling to say my name correctly as well. True inclusion is recognizing the efforts and accepting the best they can do, even if it isn’t perfect.

        That makes me wonder if the LW in question has discussed this with Paula. Has Paula given Simon a chance to say it correctly? Does she think he’s saying it that way on purpose, and if so, why? As their manager, I would want to dig deeper into what’s really going on between the two of them, from Paula’s perspective.

    3. Roland*

      The two pronunciations of Data in that episode are both a part of an American’s accent. But the Paula situation is more like asking people to put on a French accent every time they say croissant. As someone who spent most of my life in a country different than the one I was born in, I just can’t bring myself to care about accent differences when the name is functionally identical. I couldn’t define where the line is between “says the name wrong” like Alison’s Jacinta example and “it’s just an accent”, but it’s clear to me that this Paula situation is firmly on the “just an accent” side and she should get over it. Asking people to change their accent is not reasonable.

    4. Chrysoprase*

      The thing is, the “intrusive R” is generally a link between two vowel sounds – so Simon probably isn’t actually mispronouncing her name at all when it stands alone, only when it’s followed by another word that begins with a vowel. Like, he probably isn’t saying “Good morning, Paular”, but would say “I’ll set up a meeting with Paula-r-and Dave” or “Paula-r-always handles that”. It might feel less grating for Paula if she can mentally reframe the “r” as a sound coming between her name and the next word – which is what it is – or as an alteration to the word it precedes rather than the one it follows.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yeah, this is not an issue of mispronunciation, nor a DEI issue. This is an issue of people with different accents pronouncing things slightly differently. Paula needs to be reasonable here.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I agree, but I do also take the point that, if the name was non-Western, we would probably say the Western speaker should try really hard to learn and show a lot of good faith in trying. I’m not really troubled by Paula and Simon but I know a Spanish woman whose name was very similar to Paula, but pronounced subtly differently, and it was very important to her that we all try to say it the way it’s said in Spain, and that felt reasonable to me at the time.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I think “slightly misproduces a vowel sound in specific, limited circumstances” meets every definition of trying really hard in good faith. It’s a lot closer than I ever got with the Korean names I tried to get right. I tutored a pair of siblings whose names were totally different characters in Korean, and apparently pronounced differently, but to my ears they were both called the same thing, which was confusing. My work around to be clear which I meant was to insert a vowel difference but that was an approximation, not the actual sound (to be clear, it was their suggestion to do that, I didn’t just rename them for my convenience).

            1. linger*

              Hm. Korean hangul is a purely phonemic script, so if their names had different characters they definitely had different pronunciations. And there’s not many sound distinctions in Korean that are problematic for English speakers. So was this an unfamiliar consonant cluster, something like Kiyo vs Kyo?

              1. LunaLena*

                Korean-American who spent part of my childhood in Korea here. There are a few vowels that sound similar but are spelled differently, and even to a native ear, can be hard to distinguish depending on what consonants they’re paired up with (개 vs 게 vs 계, for example). And there’s also the consonants that go on the bottom of the syllable and can carry over into the next syllable that can be hard to distinguish (like 유나 vs 윤아, or 맑음 vs 말금). On top of that, some consonants are pronounced the same if they’re on the bottom and there is no word following it (빛vs 빚), and some consonants can be combined to sound like other consonants (붇이 and 부지 are pronounced the same, for example).

                TL; DR even though Korean is very phonetic, there are still a few ways for sounds to have multiple spellings.

                1. linger*

                  That makes sense. For the second group you mention, the closest analogy in English is mince, mints which are phonemically distinct (/mins, mints/) and which can be pronounced differently with a lot of effort, but for which most real-world pronunciations are too similar for native speakers to distinguish (since phonetically, it’s only a very small difference in timing of voicelessness, and so most speakers add a slight excrescent [t]). It’s one minimal pair that Japanese native speakers can distinguish more reliably than English native speakers (since [ts] and [s] realise contrasting Japanese phonemes /t/, /s/).

                2. Kit*

                  Honestly, whether you still differentiate between 개 and 게 when speaking is down as much to which dialect you grew up with and, to an extent, age – there’s a reason younger Koreans will refer to 강아지 and 멍멍이 rather than 개 in conversation, and it’s not just youth culture or bleedover from Anglo-internet ‘puppers’ and ‘doggos.’ ㅔ and ㅐ are flattening into the same sound more and more, it’s pretty complete in 표준어 at this point. It’s… oh, no, is this linguistic carcinization?

                  I’m an enormous linguistics nerd, fwiw, this is not argument with your point, just something I discovered as an adult learner of Korean who’s dug into the specifics because I sure couldn’t distinguish between them. (My ear’s getting better but it’s been a challenge.)

          2. Brain the Brian*

            Sure, but Paula is a standard name in English, and Simon is just pronouncing it the way he has always pronounced it in his native dialect. Comparisons to a truly foreign name are a bit of a strawman in this case.

          3. ElizabethJane*

            I honestly don’t know of an instance where an English speaker has been criticized for putting in a good faith effort but not getting quite there.

            Usually when it comes up it’s because the English speaker has decided the person’s name is too hard to even attempt and therefore will call them Jim.

          4. JSPA*

            Asking for anglos to say Pow-la rather than Pawl-a is reasonable, as both exist in (almost every) version of english. But neither one is really the Spanish vowel sound.

            “Closest common equivalent in your language, as you speak it” is fine. “Sound you don’t perceive or can’t form” isn’t realistic.

            Not hearing L vs R or not being able to say a full diphthong (if you don’t have it in your language) or say “scheveningen” correctly (that being the test used by the Dutch to identify German spies in WWII) or make a round ü? Too much to expect.

            1. flora_poste*

              See this is fascinating because I (British) instinctively say ‘Pawl-a-r-and Dave’, but ‘Pow-la and Dave’ (well, more Pow-land Dave, but similar). I wonder why!

      2. nnn*

        If it is an intrusive R and his dialect is non-rhotic, I wonder if he could elicit the desired pronunciation by imagining her name rhymes with something like “caller”? I’ve definitely heard intrusive Rs in non-rhotic British dialects (couldn’t tell you which one), creating an effect that sounds to my (North American rhotic) ears like making all the words written with a final R end in a vowel, and making all the words written with a final vowel end with an R. (Now I know it’s more complex than that, but I encountered this years before I studied linguistics.)

        (To be clear, I’m not saying OP should dialect coach Simon, I’m just pondering whether this is one of those funny situations where two people land on the same pronunciation by imagining the word to be spelled differently.)

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, I don’t think it’s helpful to assume that Simon cannot even try getting closer to a desired pronounciation. Some people could not change this, but there are plenty who can – you don’t even need to be a professional actor.

          Which is not to say that Simon needs to be hassled aobut this, but I find it strange that the advice is ‘this is impossible’.

          1. AccentsAbound*

            It may be possible to get closer or to train yourself to say it the way Paula wants, but even if Sion managed it, he would then have to focus on saying her name correctly during every conversation he has with her instead of thinking about the topic of conversation which, presumably, is what he should be thinking about. So even if it is possible in his case – which may or may not be true – it’s counterproductive in a work environment when presumably he’s supposed to be focused on whatever he’s talking to Paula about.

            1. Allonge*

              Sure. But the situation now is – likely – Paula has this minute distraction every time Simon says her name.

              ‘Just get over it’, as usual, is easier said than done. Probably she needs to. But it’s still her name, so it’s not necessarily much easier than changing an accent.

              1. Nodramalama*

                It is 100% easier to get over someone sounding like there’s an er at the end of a name than trying to actively change your accent when you can’t hear the difference every single time.

                1. Allonge*

                  I agree.

                  But we don’t know that Simon cannot hear the difference! It’s not an unreasonable assumption, but it’s an assumption all the same.

                  Also, what is easier is not necessarily the way to decide how a situation should be addressed.

              2. kicking-k*

                Mmmm. My name is Kirsten, pronounced Krrrsten in the Scottish way. Every non-rhotic English person I know, including my husband, says it as Keh-sten. And pretty well everyone I meet casually from Germany, Scandinavia or the US pronounces it the way they’d expect in their countries – Keersten – with a few exceptions (usually people who know me better).

                It’s never occured to me to make a deal of this. I’d actually say the second lot ARE going with a different pronunciation, but I know it’s me they mean.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Furthermore, it that “Scottish way” is a rolled r, many people from languages that lack it simply cannot do it.

                2. La Triviata*

                  I once dealt with a person who, when confronted with the name Catriona, insisted on pronouncing every single vowel.

                  I’ve often wondered if they have spelling bees in Gaelic/Erse/Scottish.

                3. londonedit*

                  I’ve met Catrionas who pronounced it ‘Cat-ree-oh-na’ themselves! More usually it’s like ‘Katrina’, but I’ve definitely met at least one ‘Cat-ree-oh-na’. Same with Caitlin – I’ve met ‘Kate-lynn’s and ‘Kat-lynn’s.

              3. Observer*

                ‘Just get over it’, as usual, is easier said than done. Probably she needs to. But it’s still her name, so it’s not necessarily much easier than changing an accent.

                Having been on both sides of that, and having LOTS of family and friends in this kind of situation, I will say that it is no way the same. Getting your tongue around a name or word that doesn’t really work in your accent is a lot harder and has a much higher cognitive load than getting used to someone who can’t quite get it right.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              We can do that–or at least try–but only if asked.

              I learned to put the accent on an unexpected syllable for an immigrant coworker with a common name pronounced differently in his native language.

              I tried to learn to a friend’s Chinese name, and after some hilarity on her part at my expense, she gently told me to keep using her English name Likewise I failed at the
              glottal stop in the Danish name Dorthea. But she gave me points for trying and told me to use the English Dorothy.

              Weirdly I am worse with written names – I have to look up Eric/Erik, Jon/John, and Sara/Sarah each time I use them. But i know to look them up because someone pointed out that it mattered to him.

          2. TheOtherLaura*

            With a language coach it should be quite possible. It might never sound natural, but closer to the desired sound.

              1. TheOtherLaura*

                The issue I replied to was that it was strange that people considered getting rid of one’s accent or dialect impossible.

                A lot is possible if one pours sufficient resources into it. If it is a good use of resources, and if we want to return to the bad old times where people with speech patterns, dialects or accents that did not fit a very narrow definition of “standard” were not welcome to speak in polite company is another question entirely.

            1. Managing While Female*

              Imagine telling people of other nationalities that they need a language coach because they say a name with an accent. We live in a global world, and need to accept that people are going to speak differently than we do. This isn’t a matter of completely butchering her name. It’s that he has an accent.

              1. Verity Kindle*

                I wonder if Paula is going out of her way to pronounce the names of her foreign colleagues in their native accents? Or the names of colleagues with different regional accent? That’s the only scenario in which I think it’s fair for Simon to be asked to change his pronunciation- but I’m willing to bet that isn’t the case here.

          1. BritBornandBread*

            Not where I live in the UK! Two VERY distinct and different sounds. Paula = paul-ah
            Caller = call-uhr

            1. Yorkshire (and elsewhere!) Tea Lady*

              Having lived in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Somerset, Sussex and Suffolk it’s Paul-er in all of those.

              Possibly the Scottish side of the family would say Paul-ah, but Scots have a different relationship to the letter R than the English!

              1. kicking-k*

                Yes, they would, but I guarantee you that Scottish Paulas are totally used to this happening. (Signed, a Scottish person with an r in her name…)

                What’s the deal with “drawring pins”, though? It’s nothing to do with drawers! ;)

            2. Snoodence Pruter*

              Yeah, this differs within the UK, but it’s pretty clear that the guy in the letter has one of the non-rhotic British accents where Paula and caller are a perfect rhyme.

              I do too, and my own name has the same last sound as Paula, and I absolutely use an ‘r’ sound to link it with the next word if that starts with a vowel, especially if I’m speaking quickly. Paula-r-and John. Jenna-r-is going out. I met Christa-r-at the bar. It doesn’t mean I think those names end in R, it’s just how those two vowel sounds are separated in my accent. Paula needs to get a grip.

              1. nnn*

                Does your accent also vocalize the linking R sound if you say “The caller is going out”?

                (Asking because that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out since reading this letter, but the algorithm is not being helpful enough to make up for my inability to describe what I’m looking for in linguistic terms)

                1. Snoodence Pruter*

                  Yes, exactly right. “Caller” by itself is “call-uh”, but “caller is” has an audible “r”.

            1. JSPA*

              Not all of England is non-rhotic, though much of it is. Skim upwards for explanatory link (now displayed).

      3. Spring*

        When I lived in NYC, I had a friend named Freida, and most of the people we knew called her Freider. Usually people are not having their accents AT you.

        This is different than people who don’t even try to pronounce names they are unfamiliar with. That’s rude and unfriendly.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Yes, exactly this. All this pontificating among commenters about whether it’s possible for Simon to change his accent when the real answer is “Paula needs to be a little less sensitive.”

          1. Julia*

            Going to out my real first name for this, but my name is Julia. I l pronounce it “Ju-lee-a” but about half the time people pronounce it “Jul-ya.” I think that sounds a lot worse, but I’ve never thought of correcting someone—and if I did, I’d also understand they probably wouldn’t get it “right” every time.

            Also I’m half-Hispanic so the “Hulia” pronunciation doesn’t bother me at all—I find it charming.

            Paula is indeed being too sensitive—I teach and if a student took this much umbrage with me not pronouncing their name with the proper accent I’d probably never call them by their names ever.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              I get a lot of “Bree-an” from foreign coworkers. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest; they are doing the best they can with sounds they are used to saying.

            2. Susan vs. Suzanne*

              My name is Susan, but every once and awhile, someone decides to pronounce it Suzanne. As long as no one’s actively trying to be offensive, I just go with it. I’m an adult and remember this happening as far back as preschool, so I think it’s just A Thing and you can’t get too worked up about it. Paula needs to chill on this one. The only thing that might be worthwhile investigating is if she has a particular reason for being so insistent- someone abusive called her that, it was a way she was taunted as a child, etc. She still can’t expect everyone with an accent to not pronounce her name that way, but at least if it’s identified, you could maybe walk her through the situation and deescalate it somewhat.

            3. Caffeine Monkey*

              My name is Helena. I pronounce it Helen-uh. I’ve worked with people who pronounce it Helen-ah (as in flat, cat, bat). After taking a step back, I noticed that it only irritated me when it came from people who were already irritating me for other reasons, and it was just a BEC moment.

              I wonder whether Paula has other issues with Simon?

              (I had a coworker who pronounced my name more like Hel-an-oor, due to his accent and the names he was used to, and I found it absolutely delightful. Then again, he was one of my favourite coworkers.)

            4. AnonymousBeth*

              My name is Bethany. I have worked with many people from other countries/cultures who call me “Bet-any”, because their language/accent doesn’t have a -th- sound. It has never bothered me!

              Now when people don’t pay attention to my name an call me “Brittany”, now THAT annoys me lol. And you may be thinking, how often could that possibly be happening to you? SURPRISINGLY OFTEN

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                The ‘th’ sound is fairly uncommon around the world. For someone who comes from a language without it, this is a very difficult sound to make and it generally comes out either as a ‘t’ or a ‘d’.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  I think the introduced
                  R in Brittany is what changes the name.

                  if the problem was th, it would more likely come out “Betony” – or “Befany” in the Andy Capp character’s accent.

                2. AnonymousBeth*

                  To clarify, I’m fine with Bet-any. It’s calling me a wholly different name “Brittany” that bugs me. And that one is rarely an accent/language thing, that one is 99% fellow English-speaking Americans not bothering to read my name and calling me by the wrong one! They just see the B and the y and are like “meh probably Brittany” (I also once had a coworker named Brittany who complained to me that people called her Bethany all the time!)

                3. Observer*

                  this is a very difficult sound to make and it generally comes out either as a ‘t’ or a ‘d’.

                  Or a z.

              2. Nightengale*

                See also Beverly, Stephanie and Destiny

                The Destiny person had my name on her computer screen because I had already given her my identification number.

                There’s a beach named after us in Delaware that I lived near for a few years. Only time in my life people have ever gotten my name right over the phone.

              3. PhyllisB*

                My youngest daughter is a Bethany, and she HATES it when people call her Brittany. Even worse is people calling her Beth. When she played sports her coaches would always call her Beth, and she would cringe every time. I understood her not wanting to correct an adult who could make things difficult for her, but I offered to speak up on her behalf and she begged me not to. However, if others made that mistake, she was quick to correct them.

              4. Reality.Bites*

                If you think it might help, I’ll record a video saying “Leave Bethany Alone!”

                It may go viral. ;)

            5. Early Riser*

              My name is Julia as well, but I’m actually German and living in the US. The German pronunciation of my name is “Yulia”. All my German friends and family pronounce it that way. In the US, I go by the English pronunciation. I could ask people to pronounce it German, I guess, but I always felt it was easier to go with the English.

              1. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

                I’m a German Julia too! But “DJOO-lee-yah” is very much not my name, so my first step is to tell people (people with whom I speak English, that is) to pretend that the J is invisible; if that doesn’t work, I’ll be all offended (“but you can pronounce the word ‘you’ correctly! *sniffle*”); but I’m willing to accept “Jules” as a nickname.

                Fortunately I live in Finland, where everyone is perfectly capable of pronouncing “J” in the correct (German) way. The thing that would be difficult would be “J” pronounced in the English way (“DZH”; Finnish speakers are notoriously bad with sibilants).

                1. allathian*

                  Yes, because Finnish doesn’t have any sibilants. The consonants B and D are markers for loan words. But we’re big on doubling both vowels and consonants.

                  I grew up bilingual in Finnish and Swedish, and my name is pronounced differently in each. So I’m fine with people who speak other languages saying it as they would in their first language.

            6. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Jul-ee-ah and Julyah genuinely don’t even sound different to my ear when spoken, though I can understand why if it’s your name you’d be more aware of that distinction.

              I agree with you. These variations are a part of life and having people with different backgrounds and upbringings. Accents and dialects are muscles that you’re taught to work differently, there are sounds that are physically very difficult for people to make. As much as I keep trying to work on it I cannot roll my r’s, which would be a speech impediment in some languages but isn’t in my region. If it offended someone that I couldn’t roll the r in their name I just…wouldn’t say it.

      4. AccentsAbound*

        All of the NY/NJ/Boston folks I know who would say “Paul-er” absolutely would say it as a standalone/final sound. I am trying to call up a British accent that would use “Paul-er” in my mind and am failing but it’s interesting that it’s a connective issue. Accents are so weird!

        1. Seashell*

          I know a lot of NY/NJ people, and I don’t think any of them would say Paul-er. I’m trying to think of similar names that I’ve heard them pronounce, and neither Maria, Dora, nor Marla ended in an -r sound as far as I remember.

          1. Maria (with no trailing r)*

            I’m a Maria. My grandma (from CT/NY) and a good family friend (from NJ) both said Maria-r. The “r” is sometimes subtle, but it’s there. I suspect this accent might be softening with the generations, though. The folks I know who do/did this are all older.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Born and raised New Jerseyan here and I don’t know anyone who’d say Paular. Maybe in a kind of exaggerated New Yawker accent but I don’t personally know any of those (if local news is any indication they seem more common on Long Island, or “lawn guy land.”

          1. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

            Yeah, I feel this was more common a generation or two back when there were more first gen Italians in NJ. We’re further away from that time, so the accent doesn’t really exist that way anymore.

      5. Mongrel*

        He may well be mispronouncing though. I’m Southeast UK I wouldn’t think twice about someone pronouncing it as Paul-er, even at the end of a sentence

    5. Observer*

      I do live near Boston, and I can pahk my cah along with the rest of them, but I can also Park my car and somehow manage to pronounce people’s names using their preferred pronunciation for their name.

      That’s nice for you. But it’s really not helpful to pretend that accents are purely a choice for people, much less an easy one. Some mispronunciations are rude- Alison’s example is excellent. But it’s really true that some people really can’t pronounce a TH (and depending where they are from, they “mispronounce” differently, some people cannot pronounce and H and others pronounce it as Haitch (and sure, they can probably manage the American version, but it would take enough focus to make it hard to say), and some people cannot manage the kh and H+Dot diacritic (I can’t find the name of the letter form.)

      There is a difference between telling someone how their name is “supposed” to be pronounced or insisting that “I can’t be bothered, and anyway that’s how it’s pronounced in my hometown” and “This is the closest I can get in normal conversation.” Ignoring that reality is not respectful and is not going to cause anyone else to be respectful.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        My daughter’s first name is Heather, and after she came home from a trip to Japan, I asked her how people pronounced her name over there. She said it comes out sounding like Hezza when they say it, because they can’t do the “th” or the final “r”, lol.

        1. Red_Coat*

          I’m a Heather, but with little kids and people that struggle with ‘th’ and ‘r’, I tend to be a Heffah! I like Hezza better, lol.

        2. Salsa Your Face*

          I have heard from a Heather that they had a very difficult time in France too, where neither the initial H sound nor the TH sound are part of the language. People called her “Edder.”

        3. 40 Years In the Hole*

          I always remember the Tokyo(?) Winter Olympics, back in the mid-60s or so. Female announcer was reporting on one of the jumpers: “…numbah ereven.” I thought it was so charming (to my 10 yr old ears).

      2. Arthenonyma*

        Yeah I’ll be honest, I’m from the UK with an accent that’s fairly close to received pronounciation and I genuinely can’t figure out what the difference is that we’re talking about here? I can’t conjure up in my head how “Paula” can be pronounced “with” or “without” an r when it doesn’t have an r in the first place.

        1. Arthenonyma*

          (To be clear, I mean that I’m trying to figure out how American Paula is saying her name that is so different from what I hear in my head, which definitely could be written as “Pauler” – I can’t think of a time I’ve heard anyone with an American accent say it differently.)

            1. Twix*

              Although that’s just the most common American pronunciation. We have plenty of dialects here too. In “Pawl-uh”, “pawl” would rhyme with “bawl”, with a distinct “w” sound. In New England, where I’m from, most people would pronounce it “Pall-uh”, where “pall” would rhyme with “ball”.

              1. First-Time, Medium-Time*

                That’s hilarious, because in my dialect of American English (Pacific Northwest/West), “bawl” and “ball” sound identical, so this comment is making me try to figure out how they could sound different.

        2. londonedit*

          There are some variations of ‘Paula’ where it’s pronounced ‘Pow-ler’ rather than ‘Paul-er’. Not sure if this is the issue here – if it is, then Simon needs to stop pronouncing it ‘Paul-er’.

          However what seems to be the issue is not his pronunciation of ‘Paula’ to rhyme with ‘caller’, but that when he connects Paula to another word, he runs the two together so that it sounds more like ‘Pauler’ than Paula would like. And that is slightly ridiculous because it is indeed just the way Simon (and millions of people in England) speaks.

          There are absolutely names that don’t translate properly in different countries. We had a German exchange student when I was at school whose name was Sonja – pronounced in the same way as the English ‘Sonia’, i.e. ‘Son-ya’ – who was driven mad by people pronouncing it ‘Son-ja’, with a hard ‘j’ like the start of the word ‘jar’. I’ve known Chinese people called Wei who have put up with everyone pronouncing it ‘Way’, because it’s hard for non-Chinese people to get the actual pronunciation (which I think is something more like ‘Phwe’) right. I’ve known people who cannot tell the difference between the pronunciation of ‘Sara’ and ‘Zara’.

          1. Amused*

            My husband likes to correct how I say my sister’s name. MY sister, not his. It’s spelled Lara, but we have all consistently pronounced it as Law-ra, no different from Laura. His only experience of Lara is like the lady on TV who goes by Lair-ah.

            We’ve been married a dozen years. He’s known her for nearly 20. It still doesn’t compute in his brain. I don’t know whether to facepalm or be impressed that someone as literally brilliant as he is will do try to correct me on my own family’s pronunciation.

            1. office hobbit*

              This has reminded me I used to have an acquaintance named Lara, who strongly preferred her name not be pronounced as Laura. Fair! But her Lara pronunciation was so similar to Laura I could barely hear the difference when she said it (I think it was lah-ra vs lore-ah) and I couldn’t manage it without a full pause-and-think before saying her name.

        3. Avis*

          I have only managed to conjure this in my head by saying “Paula is going out” in the no doubt hideously offensive and affected American accent Brits learn from the TV. My own accent is like yours and definitely leans toward “Paula ris going out” – it’s only when I do a bad impression of a valley girl that I can take out that R.

        4. Amy*

          You can hear even King Charles doing the “intrusive R” sometimes. It’s so common you probably just never notice.

          Americans notice more because outside of the Northeast most of us are rhotic as opposed to non-rhotic. (And even in the NE, non-rhotic fading)

      3. MA Dad*

        I can’t say TH correctly and it sucked for me as a kid being made fun of. Sometimes it’s a V sound, usually an F. I would choose my words carefully if I could help it to avoid it altogether. If someone got on my case for it nowadays, I’d be tempted to make a few more F sounds at them.

    6. sarah*

      No. This isn’t tomato/tamahto or ANN-a/Ah-na. This is an accent where someone literally might not be able to make the sound. How would you feel if you were berated for not being physically able to roll your R’s when pronouncing Ramon or similar? Or not getting the tones exactly right in 诗婷 or another Chinese name?

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Wait, are you saying British people cannot say “ah”? (because that would be… astonishing). Or are you assuming the example has been changed for anonymity to something completely different?

        1. Nodramalama*

          Certain accents make certain sounds differently. I’m not quite sure why you’re astonished. As I said below in my own comment, it would be like an English person trying to correct my pronunciation of water so that it sounds like an er at the end and not an A. It’s the sound my mouth makes.

          1. Myrin*

            I’m assuming Emmy would find it astonishing because British people can most definitely pronounce “ah”. Possibly not in certain combinations but it’s not like they categorically can’t.

              1. Myrin*

                That’s not the point of this subthread, though. Emmy was replying to a comment saying Simon “literally might not be able to make the sound” and isn’t “physically able to [produce it]” which astounded her because British people are able to make that sound. Whether they hear it one way or another is a different matter, but also not the one the comment in question was talking about.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            What Myrin said. British mouths are definitely capable of making the “ah” sound. So Simon would almost certainly be physically capable of saying Paula if he thought of it as “Paul-aaaah” instead of the name he’s used to saying on autopilot. Just treating it as a foreign name he’s never heard before.

            The example is not like rolling the r, or anglophones trying to say the French “u” or the German “ch”, or other sounds one might be physically incapable of making.

            1. I&I*

              Of course he’s capable of it. (RP speaker here.) I’ll bet you a fiver that’s how he’s pronouncing it too.

              What is physically difficult in an RP accent is saying one word that ends in a vowel, and then another word that starts in a vowel, without adding something in between them. It’s either a r-sound or a glottal stop, and a glottal stop is a lot more taxing.

              He’s not calling her ‘Paular’. He’s calling her ‘Paula’, and then doing the standard thing for a speaker of his accent to make it easier to say the NEXT word. It’s not attached to her name at all.

              It’s not about saying the word ‘Paula’. It’s about saying it next to another word that begins with a vowel. Get him to say ‘Paula doesn’t understand how accents work’ and I guarantee you there will be no R attached to her name.

        2. The teapots are on fire*

          To me, it’s more like the way people who say, “nu-cu-lar” absolutely think they are saying “nuclear”. You can go back and forth with them several times (“nuCLEE-er” “nu-cu-lar”, nu-CLEE-er”, “I just SAID that!”) and it never straightens out. Same word, same nationality. They just can’t hear the difference.

          1. MsM*

            I’m given to understand that Mary, marry, and merry sound like distinct words in certain accents, but I couldn’t reproduce those differences no matter how much you paid me.

            1. Snoodence Pruter*

              Whereas I can’t get them to sound the same! Completely different vowel sounds where I’m from.

            2. FuzzBunny*

              They are completely different sounds to me (grew up in New England), and it drives me nuts when people say all three like “Mary.” But my kids, growing up in the mid-Atlantic, cannot hear the difference even when I articulate all three slowly.

        3. A mathematician*

          I suspect, as Chrysoprase posted earlier, that it isn’t actually adding an “r” to the end of her name (Paula is pronounced with an “ah” sound at the end in all the UK accents I’ve heard) but adding an “r” in between two vowel sounds. So “Paula and Dave” or “Paula asked” becomes “Paula-r-and Dave” or “Paula-r-asked”. And getting rid of that when you are used to using it is really really hard. Imagine being asked to always pronouce “around” as “a[]ound” where the “[]” is a glottal stop – a brief moment of silence in the middle of the word.

          1. Snoodence Pruter*

            Yes, this is exactly it. It’s how two vowel sounds are separated. He doesn’t think there’s an R at the end of Paula. He’s just making his way through a sentence the way he’s done since infanthood.

          2. I&I*

            Exactly. (Non-rhotic speaker here.) If it helps, tell Paula that he’s adding the R to the next word after her name, not her name itself.

            For the record: yes, physically Simon could probably drop the R, but with a non-rhotic English account that would mean adding a glottal stop between one word and the next. It’s physically more demanding to do, which is why we slur over an R instead, and the effort of remembering every single time would be extremely unnatural. If this was enforced, the likeliest explanation is that he’d stop saying her name at all, and probably try to avoid talking to her as much as he could.

            If anything Simon has grounds to complain he’s being discriminated against on the basis of accent here. Paula is being xenophobic.

            1. Verity Kindle*

              If Paula lives in the US then yeah, demanding a foreigner assimilate to the point of getting rid of their native accent really doesn’t sit well with me.

              1. I&I*

                It’s hardly the oppression of the century, but something that does happen if you have an RP accent: consciously or otherwise, some people assume that everything you say is trying to lord it over them.

                It’s the accent of some people who actually are trying to lord it over others, of course. And some people looking to sound more important will fake it. So there are associations…

                …But it’s also just the natural accent of a lot of inoffensive people. And it does sometimes draw an aggressive response from people who think you’re coming it every time you open your mouth.

                I don’t know if that’s what’s going on with Paula, but there are people who feel insulted by ANYTHING said in an RP accent. If she’s one of those, she might be zeroing in on how he says her name as a way of expressing that. (And if so, she needs to stop it.)

                1. Snoodence Pruter*

                  I’m not even sure that Simon has an RP accent – that intrusive r comes in all over the place, both geographically and socially.

                2. I&I*

                  Replying to Snoodence Pruter – I’m assuming RP because the letter says he sounds like Simon Cowell (who, for those unfamiliar, has a pretty typical RP accent). But as you say, it’s not the only one that does this. :-)

              2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Yeah, there’s a slight flavour of “get Simon to drop his accent and speak normally” in some comments today.

              3. Elle*

                It’s insane to me that not just Pauler herself but also so many commenters can’t accept that the intrusive R just happens with some accents. Has she truly not met many people who speak differently than she does? Does she not watch any movies or tv that include different accents?

                My name is commonly very slightly “mispronounced”: there’s an S in it that ought to be pronounced like a Z. Most people pronounce it with the S until they hear me say it, but some truly can’t hear the difference. This does not seem like a huge deal. People are different. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

                It’s also interesting to me that the letter mentions the environment w/r/t DEI. As a queer person my approach to DEI is that diversity is to be embraced. I think a lot of people’s mindset is DEI = homogeneity, where we all talk the same and think the same.

                1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

                  Reminds me a little of the wug test, which is a semi-famous linguistics thing. If you show the majority of American English speakers a drawing of a little creature and say “this is a wug. What would you call several of them?” they’ll say “wugz.” They’ll tell you they put an s on the end. They’ll write it with an s on the end. But out loud, they’re putting a z on the end—because in most dialects of American English, a voiced consonant (like g) will be followed by a voiced sibilant (z). If you said “wuk” instead, they would say “wuks,” not “wukz,” because both k and s are unvoiced.

                  This is the kind of thing that is almost impossible to correct for because unless it’s pointed out like this, using a nonword, it’s almost impossible to even tell, let alone correct for. You can make yourself say “wugs” (or, for that matter, “dogs” instead of “dogz”) with the unvoiced s, but it’s hard, and you have to concentrate every time, to the point of distraction.

          3. Arthenonyma*

            Okay I think I’m starting to understand the difference now. I don’t think I (UK) would be able to change that? At least not for just one word. I can hardly hear the difference and I suspect I’d end up over-pronouncing it as Paul-AH which she’d probably feel was making fun of her!

        4. Myrin*

          I’m fascinated that even after 24 years of learning English, I’m still learning new things – I can’t even imagine what “Paula ending in an ‘r’ sound” is supposed to sound like and I can’t say I’ve ever consciously heard it (I’ve probably heard it and not realised it, though). I’m sitting here at my desk saying it in different ways and I still don’t get it. It’s not like I was trained in linguistics or anything…

          1. nnn*

            Search Youtube for “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” “Good idea, oh Lord”

            The way Graham Chapman in the role of King Arthur pronounces “idea” sounds like it has an R at the end to many North American ears.

            1. Myrin*

              Aah, thanks for this! Honestly, it wouldn’t ever have occurred to me to describe this as an “r” – it just sounds like what I would describe as a “British ending -a” but then again, we learned English using British English so I’m probably just used to it.

              1. ceiswyn*

                You learned English using which accent of British English…? There really is no such thing as a *British* ‘ending -a’. Different British accents are very different.

                1. Myrin*

                  I called it that because that’s what it was called in our textbooks – we had “BE” (British English) and “AE” (American English) distinctions but now that I think about it, a lot of that simply referred to different words, like “pavement” vs. “sidewalk” and thelike. I couldn’t tell you where the people talking on the cassette tapes our teachers played to us so that we would hear native speakers say the texts in our textbooks were from but looking back and just from memory, I would say “London-ish”. Definitely nowhere in the north, but that’s about all I can say with certainty.

                2. Irish Teacher.*

                  Yeah, when somebody says “a British accent,” I generally assume it to mean RP. At least in Ireland, if we mean another accent, we’ll be more specific, but since RP isn’t really associated with any specific part of the Britain, it often just gets referred to as a British accent.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  since RP isn’t really associated with any specific part of the Britain

                  I think that’s exactly what is contentious– RP styles itself as neutral and “not associated with any specific part of Britain” and that’s how it’s seen outside the UK, but to anyone in the UK but outside southern England that’s completely laughable because it’s *so* obviously a southern English accent. I totally get why people say, “British accent” to mean RP, because saying, “English-English” is ridiculous, but it does sound wild to the majority of British people who do not have “a British accent” if a British accent means RP.

                4. Irish Teacher.*

                  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I was even thinking typing it that it’s actually more seen as generic English because I don’t think anybody here would associate it with the Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish, but it still just gets referred to as “a British accent.”

                  And yeah, I can definitely see how that would sound ridiculous to people from parts of Britain where it is not common.

              2. Elle*

                As an American, I wouldn’t have referred to it as an extra R. I’d have called it an English person saying the name Paula.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              That’s helpful; I’m British and have no idea what accent pronounces it PaulAR because I just simply don’t hear it that way and wouldn’t in any British accent. However it helps for you to point out where Americans can hear it; the southern accents in that clip does use a slightly more stressed final “ah” sound than I would (In my northern accent it would sound more like a schwa, or “Pauluh”). But I’m amazed she hasn’t picked up on the pattern elsewhere in his accent!

              1. Brain the Brian*

                My bet is that something else about Simon annoys Paula and rather than naming that issue, she’s choosing to focus on this non-issue instead.

                1. Awkwardness*

                  That was my first thought too.
                  Even the fact that Simon is British seems a bit distracting. With what I have learned so far about the variety of accents, some kind of mispronounciation could also come from a US-American colleague.

                  But I find it a bit ironic that Paula places so much value on getting her name exactly the way she wants it as proof of an accepting and inclusive environment while not having a bit tolerance of accents herself.

                2. UKDancer*

                  Yes the only time I found someone’s inability to pronounce my name correctly intensely annoying was when they did a lot of other things that annoyed me as well.

                  I’d check if there’s a more underlying issue.

                3. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Probably . . . but the intrusive r used to be like nails on a chalkboard for me. I don’t know why! Now, I don’t enjoy hearing it , but it no longer gives me the unpleasant feeling it used to. But back when it bothered me so much, if it were combined with feeling someone was mispronouncing my name, I would have hated it. I would have kept it to myself, though, because i would have understood that the person wasn’t doing it *at* me.

          2. Allonge*

            Look for videos on ‘intrusive r’ for examples – it’s definitely not an every-English-speaker thing.

          3. dbc*

            I remember my little cousin being raised in an area with an even stronger rural New England accent than her family used, and being very confused when she went to school and learned the sound of each letter in the alphabet. “My name is spelled M-A-R-T-H-A, but why does my teacher (tee-chah) call me “Mather”? I’m pretty sure in that area the ending r is always after a vowel whether it’s linking or not, and always missing in speech where it’s an ending r. (Pauler is ovah they-ah).

        5. kicking-k*

          No, it’s not that they can’t say ah. But certain accents intercalate an r where there isn’t one written. Many MANY discussions with my English husband have demonstrated that it is very difficult to drop that r. The classic one is pronouncing “drawing” as “drawring”.

          I’m Scottish, so if an r is there I pronounce it and if it isn’t, I don’t (my accent has other quirks). But a lot of English accents almost do the opposite! If Paula was named Heather, she might be complaining that Simon ONLY pronounces the r in formulations like “Heather is in the meeting room” and otherwise called her “Hetha”.

          Nobody speaks without any accent at all. You just don’t notice yours much if you happen to be in the linguistic majority where you live.

          1. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

            My old phonetics professor used to joke, “Everybody has an accent except for me!”.

        1. Nodramalama*

          If we’re saying that everything we say with our own accent is correctable I’m going to spend a time correcting the way Americans say Melbourne.

            1. dbc*

              I would love to see every city in the world pronounced the way the locals prefer it. Who got on their high horse and decided to say their city was called Munich? And Florence is a lovely name (yay Machine), but not better than Firenze.
              So yes, signing up for lessons on how to pronounce Melbourne and Brisbane.

              1. Nodramalama*

                To pronounce Melbourne like a Melbournian:

                Mal- as in malnutrition
                Burn – as in baby I’m burning

                1. Hibiscus*

                  That explanation makes sense for an Australian, but for an American to approach the Australian pronunciation, they need to say “Mal-bun” or “Mel-bun.” For the curious, Brisbane is Briz-bin.

                2. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

                  Hmm, no not really as in “burning” (that’s kind of how the Americans get it wrong in the first place, they love an R too much).

                  Pretend there is no R, and not much vowel action at all. Mal-b’n or Mel-b’n. Preferably half-way between the two.

                  (Source: being someone who’s lived in Melbourne for nearly 60 years…)

                3. Caramel & Cheddar*

                  Yeah to Hibiscus’ point, I’ve always been told it’s something closer to “Melbin”, no R.

                4. Taswegian*

                  Mate, I’ll pronounce Malbun right when you lot start pronouncing Launceston right. It’s Lon-ses-tun, not Lawn-ses-tun! The first syllable rhymes with ‘hop’ (sort of), but mainlanders like to rhyme it with ‘dawn’. And yes it is 3 syllables here, don’t tell the Brits.

              2. CowWhisperer*

                I’m from Michigan, USA. I have an accent known as Inland North where we slur out most consonants in words and make r controlled o and e in the last syllable into -ur. So we say mih-in for mitten, mih-uhl for middle and kih-ihn for kitten along with fur instead of for. “What’s for dinner?” comes out as Wha-s fur dih-ur?

                Can I pronounce internal consonants and ending r-controlled vowels? Yes, if I talk very slowly and haltingly due to needing to figure out how to shape “tt” or “er”.

                I pronounce Paula’s name as she prefers – but if her last name is Leadbetter she’ll get Lehd-beh-ur or a really awkward Lehd – bu… wait beh… Lehd-beh-tur.. no.. Lead-beh-ter.

                It’s doubly funny to me that there are plenty of places in the US where her name would be pronounced Paul-er.

              3. Reality.Bites*

                London, England is Londres in French.
                London, Ontario is London in French.

                If a city’s name gets changed in different languages, it’s an indication the city is old and important. ;)

                (I live in Toronto. I’ve only been to one London. It’s not the one that’s a two-hour drive.)

                1. Istanbul is not Constantinople*

                  Lefkosia (Greek), Lefkoşa (Turkish), Nicosia (English speakers and those who don’t give a dayum)

              4. PhyllisB*

                I used to live in Maryville, TN, and locals pronounced it Muryvile, sort of slurred. The quickest way to get tagged as a tourist was to say Maryville. Also, ever heard how a native pronounces New Orleans? It comes out Nawlins. What can I say?

                1. Caramel & Cheddar*

                  New Orleans is extra funny because locals say Nawlins, non-locals say New Orleens, and of course actual Orleans in France is pronounced in a way I can’t begin to type phoenitcally (Or-lay-ons?).

                2. Going anon for this one*

                  Quite a few locals say New Orlins. Nawlins isn’t as common as people think.

                3. Jennifer Strange*

                  I grew up in New Orleans. Then only people who say “Nawlins” are tourists and people trying to cater to tourists.

          1. Allonge*

            Everything accent-related is not ‘correctable’ (whatever correct is).

            But it does not automatically follow that accent related = set in stone.

            There are millions of actors and standup comedians and random people who are just good at hearing the minor differences and using various accents. It’s impossible for some, it’s not impossible in general.

            1. Nodramalama*

              I genuinely do not think it is reasonable to ask someone to change their because to someone else’s ear it sounds like they’re saying er because dialect coaches exist.

              1. Allonge*

                I get that – I just don’t think we should be treating someone who hates how someone else pronounces their name as unreasonable for wanting to change that. Because most definitely not everyone needs a dialect coach to do so.

                1. I&I*

                  It is unreasonable.

                  He’s not singling her out; heck, he’s not even singling NAMES out. He’ll be doing the r-slide between every two words that end then begin with vowels.

                  If it was just saying her name wrong, sure. If I see the name ‘Deirdre’ I’m going to pronounce it ‘Deir-druh’, and if I meet a ‘Deir-dree’ then yes, I’m being unreasonable if I call her ‘Deir-druh’ just because that was my go-to.

                  But if my entire accent makes it physically difficult to pronounce something and a person won’t accept my best approximation? That’s on them.

                2. Amused*

                  Replying to I&I… Deidre is one I’d pronounce Dee-uh-druh.

                  Names and accents are fun. :)

                3. Nina*

                  Yeah, I recognize the thing LW says Simon is doing (I do it too despite having an accent that is nowhere near RP) and getting him to stop would be a similar level of effort to getting an American to consistently say ‘a apple’ instead of ‘an apple’, and will sound really strange even if he manages to pull it off. He almost certainly does exactly the same thing with every word ending in a vowel.
                  Honestly, if I were in Simon’s shoes, it would be easier for me to pre-plan every sentence in which I had to say the name ‘Paula’ such that ‘Paula’ was never immediately followed by a vowel, which is where the issue actually arises, than to remember to stop dead in the middle of a sentence.

            2. Observer*

              There are millions of actors and standup comedians and random people who are just good at hearing the minor differences and using various accents.

              That’s not relevant. It is simply not reasonable and realistic to expect someone to put that level of work into pronouncing a name. And not everyone is even capable.

          2. Everdene*

            I’m going to start correcting Edinburgh then! (no, it isn’t Edin-burrow)

            This is fascinating to me this morning. I’m lying in bed trying to hear Paula in several British accents and I have completely lost sight of how it could be said without an r sound.

              1. ceiswyn*

                The way I say it is closer to ‘Embra’, but then I used to live an hour and a half’s drive from the place. I’m *thinking* ‘Edinburgh’, but in practice my mouth is just slurring all the middle sounds into one.

              2. kicking-k*

                Ha! no.

                I’d say it as Edin-bruh too, and I’ve lived here all my life. I’d say Edinburra is, um, less wrong than Edin-burg or Edin-boro.

            1. Lexi Vipond*

              I know it’s completely petty, but I do feel a bit like this – Americans can complain about English-English pronunciations of their names on the day I never have to hear Edin-BORROW again.

              (Also, cyclists on the Meadows can swear at pedestrians crossing the cyclepaths on the first day I don’t see someone cycling down the ‘no cycling’ paths.)

              1. kicking-k*

                I’m glad I rarely cycle on the Meadows… (I stick in the greenways out where I am…)

                Ask A Manager just got bizarrely local.

              2. Lexi Vipond*

                It’s ok, I don’t swear at the cyclists :) But some of those paths are pretty narrow to have people shooting past you silently from behind.

                (I knew there were some weegies around, didn’t know there were more Edinburgers!)

        2. I&I*

          He isn’t mispronouncing her name. He’s using a standard phonic trick to get himself from one word to the next that centuries of language development have made natural in his particular accent.

          The ‘r’ isn’t added to ‘Paula’; it’s just a buffer between ‘Paula’ and whatever vowel he says next. If he says something like ‘Paula has those files’ or ‘Paula needs to get off my back’, no R would be added. The ‘R’ isn’t attached to ‘Paula’ at all.

          He’s pronouncing her name correctly. Saying he isn’t – THAT’s treating him like a dummy.

          1. Allonge*

            Ok, so I was really not calling Simon a dummy.

            If someone assumed that I could not possibly comprehend the issue with my pronounciation or very natural sound inserts, I would feel that that person does not put a very high trust in my intelligence, emotional or otherwise.

            I may well not be able to change what I am saying! But I sure would like to try.

            1. I&I*

              He can probably understand, but why put him through that when he’s not doing anything wrong? The person who needs to shape up here is Paula; making him self-conscious because she’s being unreasonable isn’t fair.

      2. Aardvark*

        Sometimes the brain wiring is so stronger that people cannot hear some subtle differences in sounds in other languages

      3. Elle by the sea*

        Well, it’s not about not being able to make the sound, per se. To avoid pronouncing the intrusive r, you need to deliberately make a pause or a glottal stop. If you haven’t been a BBC presenter in the distant past and you are not used to paying attention to careful diction this way, there is no way you can prevent yourself from doing it.

    7. Anonychick*

      I’m going to push back on this a little bit, in that I think it was a poor choice of example from Alison and also here. This is because the Boston “pahk the cah” accent is one in which all the sounds do exist, just not always where others might expect them to. So it is generally (but not always!) possible for someone to train themselves to pronounce someone’s name a certain way.

      A better example, in my opinion, would be the Mary/marry/merry divide: depending on where in the U.S. you’re from, these three words might all sound different, all sound the same, or have any one sound different from the other two. This is a “true” accent issue, in that accents in which two or more of these words sound the same literally don’t have the remaining sound(s); speakers cannot form them without major dialect coaching.

      In my case, I’m from NYC, where Mary/marry/merry are each audibly distinct, and have a name that rhymes with “marry”. As a child, it hurt me deeply that a dear family friend “wouldn’t” (read: couldn’t, but I didn’t realize that) pronounce my name properly; she pronounced it as rhyming with Mary (which, funnily enough, was her name). Trying to placate child!me, she tried her absolute best, but she literally could not make that short-a sound. It was only once I got older that I realized how unfair I’d been, and how much she must have loved me to have put up with me repeatedly (and publicly!) chastising her over the pronunciation of my name when it was something she truly couldn’t help.

      LW, I think a good way to put it might be to say that that’s how THAT LETTER-SOUND (technically, that phoneme, but that might be pushing it) sounds where Simon is from, and that it’s unlikely he can do anything about it. Phrasing it this way, rather than saying that that’s how a particular name sounds where he’s from, makes it clear that it’s an accent issue rather than a more general linguistic one, thus avoiding the possibility of the Jacinta/Hacinta issue that Alison described.

      1. Manglement Survivor*

        I’m glad you brought up the Mary/marry/merry pronunciation issue. I grew up in New York, and those have always been three completely different-sounding words to me. It was decades before I realized that some people think they all sound the same.

        1. Sparqness*

          Wait, wait, wait… they sound *different????????* Have I missed this in my decades of media consumption? I am trying so hard, but I cannot get them to sound different in my head. How have I not noticed this?!

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            I’m not a native English speaker, but for what it’s worth, they sound identical to me as well.

          2. Skytext*

            Yes, they are pronounced very differently:
            1. Mary is like saying “mare” (like the horse, rhymes with “where”) paired with “ee” So mare-ee (also rhymes with “wary”)
            2. Marry has more like a sheep baaing, so maa-aaa-ree. The “ma” is more like you would say it in “man”, “mask”, “ma’am”. Also marry rhymes with carry.
            3. Merry is more like “mur-ee” the “mer” is pronounced like you would say it in “mermaid”. Merry rhymes with curry.

            1. happybat*

              In my local accent, Merry is more like mehh-ree, so would not rhyme with curry but would rhyme with berry.

              1. AF Vet*

                I’m all confused… all the m’s sound the same to me…. as does carry and berry… and even very if I’m not thinking about it.

                I grew up all over the US, and spent enough formative years in southern Germany that I can roll my Rs (back of throat, which makes Spanish interesting) with the best of them. I’ve picked up bits and pieces of every accent from Da-KOH-ta to y’all and carry them with me into every conversation. :)

              2. Modesty Poncho*

                Agree
                Mary, marry, merry
                Share-y, carry, berry (I can’t think of a better distinct rhyming word for Mary lol)

            2. It's Susie now*

              I’ve never heard merry rhyme with curry! It rhymes with berry. Meh-ree. (NYC born and raised.)

                1. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

                  NJ native here — I pronounce Mary/marry the same, and merry differently.

            3. Shinespark*

              British person here, I was with you up until you said merry rhymes with curry! (Not trying to correct you, it’s just fascinating how we all think differently about how to speak). In my dialect (south east England) ‘merry’ and ‘curry’ have completely different vowel sounds and don’t rhyme at all.

              Merry has a ‘meh’ like you’d say in ‘men’ – ‘meh-rry’.
              Curry is pronounced with a schwa, like a low ‘uh’ – ‘cuh-rry’.

            4. Lexi Vipond*

              Merry doesn’t rhyme with curry for me, so apparently I have four vowels in that set!

              I do have what’s called the COT-CAUGHT merger – I can’t make those sounds different, however I try. (The odd extra ahh for words like ‘bath’ and ‘palm’ I can kind of say if I try very hard, but I can’t reliably guess which words should have it.)

              1. Anonychick*

                Yes, the COT-CAUGHT merger is another example of an accent where it might be very hard, if not completely impossible, to create a given sound.

                In my accent (NYC):
                COT: rhymes with “hot” or “bot” (like the second syllable in “robot”)
                CAUGHT: k-aw-t; like a bird’s “caw” with a “t” on the end

                1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  Fwiw I think cot/caught applies to the name Paula too and I wonder if Simon is also pronouncing the first vowel differently.

            5. treppenwitz*

              I would have said merry rhymes with berry, no? I’ve been scratching my head trying to make it sound like curry for a couple of minutes now. Unless you think berry also rhymes with curry? This whole thread has been fascinating!

            6. doreen*

              There is an accent where “merry” sounds like “Murray” or “curry” but it’s not the NY accent where “merry” sounds like “berry” .

            7. londonedit*

              Ha – ‘man’ and ‘mask’ don’t have the same ‘a’ sound in my accent/dialect! Mask sounds like ‘marsk’, just as I say ‘bath’ with a long ‘ar’ sound in the middle. People in other parts of England and the UK do pronounce ‘mask’ with a short ‘a’, but not in other parts.

              In my accent, Mary is indeed like a mare with an ‘ee’ sound on the end, and it rhymes with wary.
              Marry has a short ‘a’ like ‘cat’, and it rhymes with carry.
              Merry has a short ‘e’ sound like ‘never’, and it rhymes with berry and very.

              1. allathian*

                That’s what it sounds like in my head, too. I switched to US spelling when I first went online in my early 20s, but I learned to speak English in Plymouth. I don’t sound like that anymore as my UK accent has been overlaid by a slight Finnish one, but that’s what I sound like in my own head.

            8. Loredena*

              What’s interesting to me, from Buffalo, is that all three sound the same and rhyme with berry none rhyme with curry and I can’t even approximate your pronunciation for marry! So funny the difference from only a few hours driving distance

            9. ThatOtherClare*

              Another way of thinking about it is like this: pretend you’re at the dentist and trying to speak with your mouth wide open. “Say aaaaa”.

              Marry – push your tongue to the bottom of your mouth and say aaaaa. That’s the ‘at the dentist’ version of the marry vowel.

              Mary – lift your tongue until it’s in the middle of your mouth, getting in your dentist’s way. The sides of your tongue will be pushed up against your top molars. Say the first pairt of ‘air’ withour the ‘r’. ‘Ehhhhh’. That’s the ‘at the dentist’ version of the Mary vowel.

              Merry – now keep your mouth as for Mary but just give a short little ‘eh’ with a glottal stop. That’s the ‘at the dentist’ version of the merry vowel. (It’s called a schwa, the wiki page will give you a proper demonstration.)

              Now obviously it sounds kind of different when a person isn’t speaking with their jaw wedged open, but if you can make the different ‘dentist’ sounds yourself and you think about how being at the dentist modifies your own voice, you should be able to now hear or imagine the distinction in the voices of those who pronounce the three words differently.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                I do apologise, I got my IPA upside down. Merry isn’t schwa ‘ə’, it’s ‘Close-mid central unrounded vowel’ ‘ɘ’.

          3. ceiswyn*

            In my accent, the first vowel sounds of each are the following IPA vowels:
            – Mary: ɛ
            – Marry: a
            – Merry: æ (I’m not sure about this one, but it’s the closest sound of the examples on Wikipedia)

        2. Sally Sue*

          I am the daughter of a Mary and the mother of a Mary so needless to say, it’s a name I hear and say frequently. And it’s supposed to sound different than marry or merry? My mind is actually a little bit blown. If it matters, I grew up in the midwest but have lived in the south for many years. My reality is being challenged for sure lol.

          1. al*

            idk i grew up in central jersey and all three sound the same to me too. i was around the nyc area a lot and can’t remember anyone pronouncing them differently so i can’t even hear in my mind how these three words could sound different lol

          2. C*

            No. In your speech it is supposed to sound the way you say it. Your speech is valid, even if other people speak differently. (Their speech is valid too.)

        3. Clisby*

          I was born in and grew up in the US South (still live here) and Mary/marry/merry all sound different to me, too.

        4. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

          I was actually thinking of this one. My accent is peculiar: I spent my language acquisition window mostly on army bases overseas, so I was surrounded by people speaking basically every possible American accent; my linguistics professor in college found it very interesting and said it was essentially a blurred California accent with “quirks.”

          But anyway, my accent doesn’t distinguish Mary, marry, and merry. I can sort of almost tell merry from the other two if I try really really hard, but I can’t reproduce it, and the other two are indistinguishable from each other.

          So if someone named Mary were to be upset that I pronounced her name as merry or marry, I’d be sorry she was upset, but unable to do anything about it except maybe try to not use her name.

      2. Nodramalama*

        Yeah, it’s wild how that happens. There are only about 25 million people in Australia and yet ask a Melbournian to pronounce salary vs celery

        1. Aardvark*

          I am Melbournian and they are different to me.
          I just checked my mouth shape when I say them. Salary is more () and Celery is more

          1. WS*

            Yes, I think there’s a dialect line somewhere – my partner and I are both from Victoria but she can say salary and celery distinctively and I can’t!

        2. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

          Erm, they’re two quite distinct words to this Melburnian. ;)

          Then again, maybe having northern European parents (and speaking some European languages) means I hear/pronounce subtle distinctions more than some others.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        You’ve reminded me of something that totally confused me online years ago. There was a joke about “Your name’s Harry? Now, I’m wondering if you are.” It made no sense to me at all, until somebody said that in some accents, Harry and hairy sound the same.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, there’s that joke that if you’re British and you want to say ‘Harry Potter’ like an American, you have to say ‘Hairy Padder’.

          1. run mad; don't faint*

            They do to me (also US South). It’s difficult to come up with hard and fast regional pronunciation rules, isn’t it?

      4. MsM*

        Ha, I wish I’d known someone else made that comparison down here before I posted it above!

      5. Laura*

        Mary/marry/merry is such a good one! I grew up on Long Island; my husband grew up in Southern California. He is astounded that I can hear a difference in those words and no matter how I’ve tried I can’t get him to hear it.

      6. Observer*

        I’m from NYC, where Mary/marry/merry are each audibly distinct, and have a name that rhymes with “marry”

        I’m from NYC as well, and this is the first time I’m hearing / seeing that Mary and marry are audibly distinct. Which means that I would not be able, even with some coaching and concentration each time I used the name (or word) to differentiate those two by the way I pronounce them.

        I think a good way to put it might be to say that that’s how THAT LETTER-SOUND (technically, that phoneme, but that might be pushing it) sounds where Simon is from, and that it’s unlikely he can do anything about it.

        That is exactly what I would suggest as well. (And yes, skip the work phoneme. You don’t want to get side tracked.)

        rather than saying that that’s how a particular name sounds where he’s from, makes it clear that it’s an accent issue rather than a more general linguistic one, thus avoiding the possibility of the Jacinta/Hacinta issue that Alison described.

        Yes. This is not about what someone thinks is “correct” but what someone can realistically pronounce.

      7. Happily Retired*

        I’ll toss in two more versions of “Mary”!

        My grandmother was born in rural northern Mississippi in 1897. She always pronounced Mary as “MAY-rih”, lingering on the long A (“MAAAY-rih.”

        In East Tennessee, there is a small town near Knoxville named Maryville. I always knew when there was a new hire on local TV, because they pronounced it “Mary-ville.” Nope. When pronounced with a seriously country East Tennessee accent, there are no vowels in Maryville. It’s pronounced “Mrrvll.”

    8. Nodramalama*

      Ok but an accent is an accent. It’s not on purpose. When I say Roger Americans probably hear it like I’m saying RogA. But I’m not. It’s just my accent.

      1. Not a lawyer butt*

        This reminds me of when Skyrim came out and a bunch of native English speakers (most of them Americans, but that might have been just due to the circles I was hanging out in) at the time complaining about how incomprehensible Fahrenheit was with his lisp. Cue my and my friends, all three of us non-native speakers, being surprised he has a lisp. I literally went and bothered the man for five minutes before we heard it (thank the stars he’s fictional because a real person would have gotten very annoyed).

        I’m guessing if you’re not used to hearing different pronunciations than your own something quickly becomes incomprehensible? And because we humans tend to think in an “us vs them” pattern that’s quickly seen as either a slight or a deficiency on the part of the other person? Not necessarily that you consider it to be one consciously, just that that is what your instinct does and you may or may not act upon that.

        1. Not a lawyer butt*

          *Farengar, not Fahrenheit. Thank you for being oh so helpful, AutoCorrupt.

    9. bamcheeks*

      somehow manage to pronounce people’s names using their preferred pronunciation for their name

      I don’t think you can know this!

    10. amoeba*

      Eh. I’m always really confused as a European by this kind of issue. Like, names are pronounced differently by people with different accents, just like any other word! I mean, my name is German, but when I speak English, I pronounce it the English way and when I speak French, I pronounce it the French way. Same for other people’s names. And so does basically any other somewhat international person I know. Because randomly trying to pronounce one word in a totally different accent in the middle of a sentence would completely mess up the flow! Names that don’t actually exist/have a counterpart in my language are different, sure, there I try to come as close to the correct pronunciation as anatomically possible for me. But something like David/”Dahvid” (German version)/Davide (French)? Or Paula here, where the “au” would sound like in “ouch” in German? Naaaaah, always the pronunciation of the language you’re actually speaking.

      And sorry, somebody basically requiring me to put on a pretend, I don’t know, Bavarian accent because that’s where they’re from… I’d just think they’re nuts. (For instance, I know a “Doro” who rolls the r because she’s from the south. I can reproduce that sound, but it’s not how I normally speak and honestly, if I started saying her name like that, she’d very probably think I was making fun of her accent, not “respecting her chosen name”!)

      1. Aqua*

        Yeah, my workplace is very international and a lot of people have names with sounds that don’t show up in each others language/accent. You pronounce someone’s name as close as you can get without throwing the whole sentence off. It would sound utterly bizarre and probably come off as racist if I started trying to reproduce each person’s exact pronunciation of their own name.

      2. Helvetica*

        I had a very similar thought! My name is quite difficult to pronounce in languages other than my own because the specific sounds do not really exist. I work in a multinational environment and have stopped caring about the slight mispronounciation, which is honestly similar to what is described here.

        1. Aqua*

          I think the letter writer must be in an area without much diversity of accents because I can’t imagine this being an issue otherwise

      3. Spencer Hastings*

        I am American and I agree 100%.

        My last name happens to be German (for purposes of anonymity, let’s just say it’s “Goldberg”). Most of the time, I’m speaking English, so I pronounce it with the same American accent I use normally (gold as in gold, berg as in iceberg). I’m a fairly competent second-language speaker of German, though, so sometimes I happen to be speaking German. In that case, I pronounce my name just as though I were saying the German words “Gold” and “Berg”, with the same accent I use when speaking German.

        I also agree that pronouncing one word in a different accent messes up the flow — I know how to pronounce (for example) Brahms and Düsseldorf in German, but if I’m speaking English, the anglicized pronunciation is what you’re going to get. The reverse is easier to do (“ich komme aus New York” — I do tend to revert to my native pronunciation of “New York”).

        1. Amused*

          I tend to speak German words in German… because I grew up as a polyglot kid and revert to Deutsch-lish when I’m not thinking. :) We own a Schrank (wall-sized entertainment center made of multiple pieces including bookcase, TV console, etc). I pronounce it Schrrrrungk, all one syllable, rolled R and kinda chopped. My kids have picked up that’s how it’s said, my husband still calls it a shrunk – and rolls his eyes at me. :)

    11. Thegreatprevaricator*

      The persons name also exists in the UK and is pronounced as Simon is saying that. I used to work with a load of Italians who were fluent in English with an Italian accent. My name (let’s say it’s Donna) is a common enough name in Italy. My family and people in the Uk call me Donner, colleagues called me DonNAH. It tickled me but they weren’t mispronouncing it, they were just saying my name. See also, trying to request a glass of water in a little cafe somewhere in California. Asking for water met with blank looks until I requested wadder. I wasn’t mispronouncing something, I just have a different accent.

      1. Anonychick*

        The first time my ~9yo native NYCer self met my ~8yo Toronto-based cousin, we entertained ourselves for quite a while just saying the word “water” back and forth at each other!

        1. PhyllisB*

          I used to live in Maryville, TN, and locals pronounced it Muryvile, sort of slurred. The quickest way to get tagged as a tourist was to say Maryville. Also, ever heard how a native pronounces New Orleans? It comes out Nawlins. What can I say?

          1. PhyllisB*

            Sorry, this showed up in the wrong place. It was supposed to be under pronunciations of cities.

        2. PhyllisB*

          The first time I met my New Jersey relatives they were highly entertained by my accent. They especially liked hearing me say yellow and window. Of course being a self conscious teenager I thought they were making fun of me and quit talking at all unless absolutely necessary. Now we laugh at our different ways of saying things.

      2. londonedit*

        Yep. There are parts of England where the name Michelle is pronounced ‘Mi-SHELL’, and there are parts of England where it’s pronounced ‘MEE-shell’. Same with ‘is it NAY-deen or Na-DEEN’ for Nadine, and ‘NAY-a-mee or Nay-OH-me’ for Naomi (or even sometimes ‘NYE-oh-me’).

        1. Gray Lady*

          My Pennsylvania Dutch, bilingual from the cradle grandmother had a friend named that, and she was called, “Nyoma.” Grandma was also a fan of James Michener’s book “Hawoya.” Grandma had been a schoolteacher when she was young and valued proper diction, but this was just a hyperlocal dialect thing in her generation.

        2. Snoodence Pruter*

          Right – and actually, if I started out saying NAY-a-mee and was corrected to Nay-OH-me, then I absolutely would change my pronunciation. But even then, my OH sound would be one from SE England. If Naomi comes from, say, Yorkshire, her OH sound is going to be different, but I wouldn’t try to mimic that when saying her name. It would be absurd and probably sound like I was taking the piss. Paula expecting Simon to Americanise his transition between vowels just for her is bananapants.

          1. londonedit*

            Using the ‘Martin’ example from elsewhere – I have an old schoolfriend called Martin who is from the Westcountry and has a fairly strong Westcountry accent. The way he says his name sounds completely different from the way I say it (he says it with a very strong ‘r’ sound in the middle, as you’d expect from a Westcountry accent). I am not going to suddenly switch to Bristolian in order to say his name exactly as he does.

          2. 40 Years In the Hole*

            Hubby has an aunt Naomi – pronounced “Nomee.” She’s originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, so there may be some holdover from her 18thC/19thC immigrant ancestors at play.

    12. TheOtherLaura*

      I do not know about the background of the Star Trek character, but when you did not grow up with a specific sound, or sound difference, not only can you not pronounce it, you often cannot perceive it. The local dialect here does not know several sounds common in standard German (and English, and French). You could tell them the correct pronounciation for hours, many of them would not even hear a difference. (It takes weeks to months, IME, depending on language talent and intensity of training.)

      1. Gray Lady*

        The background of the Star Trek thing is that the medical doctor was dismissive of the non-human android’s feelings and treated him as a machine. The doctor was a rather unattractive replacement character for one who was quite quickly brought back. So the idea was that she was dialectically capable of pronouncing it both ways, but chose not to care about his preference.

        1. Observer*

          And that makes all the difference – and is why it’s not really a good example when you are talking about a situation like this.

          If I’m understanding correctly, what the doctor was doing was more like calling Data “Daytona” because “Who cares?” rather than having the problem many of us have of hearing the difference between Mary and marry (or any of the other examples people have mentioned.)

        2. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

          Yeah. One of the reasons that a lot of people considered Pulaski unlikeable was the odd decision to make her consistently and deliberately attempt to unperson the android (who was a LOT more sympathetic than her). I think they were trying to capture the McCoy and Spock dynamic, but it didn’t work because Spock could absolutely hold his own while Data was still trying to figure out who he even *was,* so it looked a lot like basically bullying someone who was in some ways essentially a child.

          She knew and could say his name, she just didn’t care.

          A better example would be if Crusher had gotten upset that Picard called her “Bevuhlee” not “Beverly.”

    13. Czhorat*

      In the context of TNG, this was a microagression by Pulaski against Data, whose humanity she doubted because of his status as a man-made machine. You need to read that for what it is.

      It’s also not relevant here; the phonemes in the word “data” under either pronunciation are both native to her. It would be like calling someone “time” instead if “tim” – it’s just rude.

      In the case of “Paula/Pauluh/Pauller” it’s an issue of the sounds one is accustom to making and a real challenge to learn to hold your mouth differently to make new ones.

    14. Justme, The OG*

      I always saw that scene as Dr. Pulaski deliberately mispronouncing Data’s name because she assumed it wouldn’t matter since he was an android and didn’t have feelings. Not really the case here.

      1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

        Yup. A better example would be Picard not saying the R in Beverly (which was, uh… pretty clearly not because he didn’t like or respect her).

    15. lilsheba*

      While I do love this example and agree with it, it’s not applicable here. That kind of pronunciation is different and more controllable. That being said Dayta is definitely correct lol.

    16. Nina*

      In this example, Dr. Pulaski literally demonstrated that she was capable of both pronunciations and could hear the difference between them, in the middle of arguing that it shouldn’t matter. That’s not ‘yeah those sound the same to me, I can’t hear the difference between what I said and what you said’, that’s just rude.
      If someone’s accent means they can’t pronounce my name right, sure, whatever, I don’t care. If they pronounce it right in the middle of arguing for why I should be okay with them pronouncing it wrong I care very much.

    17. fhqwhgads*

      This is more like the thing where some folks say “Mary, marry, merry” are all pronounced identically, and others are say all three are different, and others still say two are the same and one is different.
      This is not a mispronounciation thing. It’s a regionalism/ear thing. If you take one person from each of the three groups I mention and have them say all three words to each other, the second and third group will listen to the first – who is pronouncing all three words differently – and still not hear a difference. It’s not just how they say it. It’s how they hear it. You can have two people saying the same word back and forth at each other for 20 minutes “marry”, “yeah Mary”, “no marry”…etc.
      Cue Brooklyn 99 joke here.

  3. Archi-detect*

    Someone being unhappy about becoming non-exempt is a new one for me at least, but it does sound like the timekeeping system is most of that. I can imagine too that the shift could be stressful and I am known to hate change to core things like this so I get that part at least.

    How common for people in office jobs is an actual time clock or software that makes you log it at the moment? I have not had to do that since I worked at a restaurant, it has been all times gets where you write your comings and goings.

    1. Gatomon*

      I’ve never had to actually clock in or out since I left retail and food service behind either. I’ve always had to log my hours to various codes or projects though, depending on the job.

      One place was pretty easy, I had to log X hours per week to a certain things, and the payroll system let you create a template for each week. I only had to edit it if something changed, like I was out sick.

      My current job drives me nuts with the timekeeping. I’m exempt and the crappy system forces me to fudge everything because f I record more than 40 hours a week, the payroll system will pay me overtime that I’m not supposed to get. I end up having to constantly split time across multiple days so I never go over 8 hours/day or 40 hours/week. Maybe it’s my own personal hangup, but it bugs me that I have to put all this effort into tracking and recording my time to create a timesheet that’s neither an accurate reflection of what I worked on that day or how many hours I actually worked.

      I honestly wouldn’t mind too much if I was moved to non-exempt, but since I’m in IT, it’ll never happen. No way work wants to pay me for those random 14 hour days when things have gone to hell in a handbasket. But it’d sure be nice to see that extra chunk of change in my paycheck.

      1. Observer*

        ’m exempt and the crappy system forces me to fudge everything because f I record more than 40 hours a week, the payroll system will pay me overtime that I’m not supposed to get.

        Uch. That’s either a lousy system or a poorly implemented one.

        Maybe it’s my own personal hangup, but it bugs me that I have to put all this effort into tracking and recording my time to create a timesheet that’s neither an accurate reflection of what I worked on that day or how many hours I actually worked.

        I think that that’s legitimately annoying. It’s annoying to have to take the time, but at least if it gave you some accurate numbers that could actually be useful. This takes time and doesn’t give you anything. Not nice.

        1. Baby Yoda*

          Totally agree on the nuisance of clocking in and out. It’s ridiculous for my position, and I end up spending time making sure everything is reflected correctly that I could be spending on work.

        2. Antilles*

          The more common way to do this is to have employees do an accurate time sheet even if that’s over 40, then just handle it on the backend so exempt employees are paid a set salary not affected by overtime. Alternatively, you can have just a separate charge code called “adjustment” (or something) where an employee who worked 45 hours add an extra line with -5 hours to get the total back down to 40 so they don’t pay exempt employees overtime.

          If you’re really trying to capture time spent accurately, then one of those methods (or something similar) is better to get a real feel for what a project takes to complete. Though I suspect in Gatomon’s case, the company doesn’t want to admit that we’re asking our IT staff for 50 hours a week so they have this weird workaround instead.

          1. Wilbur*

            This is how my job is, and it drives me nuts. There are 2-3 projects where I can charge my time, but ultimately if we end up going through our budget faster than we anticipated then I’m told to start charge the other projects. I can’t fill out too far in advance and as far as I can tell, the data doesn’t get used for anything. Accounting is a great way to save money, but it’s also the best way to waste it.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I had a similar setup once and after a while I just gave up on trying to make it reflect anything. I just went in at the end of the month and put 8-5 for every day. Really highlights the absurdity, but minimizes the waste of time.

    2. Spring*

      I used to work in an office where all of the non-exempt people had to clock in and out. and it was a pain in the butt if you forgot to click the button on the attendance web page when you got to the office. I remember being very happy at the time I didn’t have to do that, but now I think it would be better to get paid for all of the hours past 40 I worked. I’m currently non-exempt, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I think there is some level of “if I’m exempt, it means I’m better than the non-exempt peons” that is supposed to make us feel good about being exempt, even when it’s not in our best interests.

      1. ThatOTLife*

        I agree wholeheartedly. I am hourly and prefer it. It’s an office job. There is zero expectation that I should work beyond 5pm. I don’t have work email or teams on mobile devices. You don’t need to reach me if I’m not on the clock. It’s ideal.
        Also, I have enough workload that I often work OT and it’s assumed I am doing so in good faith. I would be very hesitant to change roles as my setup is so good.

        1. SecondBass*

          I wanted to be exempt for years for what I perceived as flexibility and independence. Now I have that situation, and sometimes I miss the hourly life. Particularly, it’s our policy that exempt staff are permitted to use PTO only in 4-hour blocks. I have actually taken an entire half day off just to fit in a workout, because I had after-work commitments all week and couldn’t make up that time within the week, which is what we’re expected to do if we don’t take PTO.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yes, I recall under the new rule a bunch of people were reclassified as nonexempt, and it did strike some class fears that we all had to examine. We have a sense that white collar jobs are more “professional” and higher status for not clocking in and out and not closely monitoring their time. We’re actually being fooled by the management class, but nonetheless, the perception exists and it stings if you’ve “worked you way up” to a “real” job and now feel you’re being “bumped back down.” Still, all of this exists only in your mind. You can choose to process it and let it go.

        1. Annie*

          I guess it depends. I am exempt and I’m able to go to an appointment during the day without clocking out, or cut out a little early, but yes, sometimes I do work late. Or perhaps I’ll go to an appointment, and then when I return I’ll do some work.

          That flexibility means a lot to me. I’m judged by what I get accomplished at work, not on if I’m in the office 39 hours instead of 40 hours. I am lucky that I don’t have a job that I need to regularly work 50 hours per week, which would be more of an issue in terms of no OT. So for more of a mid-level employee, I think exempt is much better.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          That’s a very dismissive take. No, the fears aren’t classism. If something becomes a metric, it will be used as such. Having an exact list of all your comings and goings can be used against workers, and acts as a suppressing effect.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            It can be both. Everyone I’ve ever met who viewed exempt as “better” than non-exempt was absolutely not thinking about the comings and goings or being clock watched. They were all folks who viewed hourly=demotion, because they had professional exemption. So they concluded if they were no longer exempt it was some sort of value judgement that they’re not “professionals”. These were people who absolutely worked over 40 hours every week, and were never leaving early “because the work is done” or using flexibility and trust or anything like that. It’s really really really common for people to subconsciously view exempt as a status thing. I’ve lost count of how many people I had to talk down with logic: they can’t make you stay late and not pay you for it. They’ll be forced to make the choice: is it important enough to pay through the nose? No? You get to go home. Or yes? You’re finally compensated for it. Your work life balance will be better. Unless you were previously a super efficient exempt person who regularly put in under 40 hrs a week because you’re that fast and nobody cared, you’re either about to get a bunch of time back or a bunch more money. Potentially both. Non-exempt = good.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          This seems to be a bit of what is going on with OP, going by this:

          “I really don’t want to have to log in to a separate system four times per day and hit the clock. I haven’t done this in years and I enjoy the freedom of being trusted to do my job with a focus on productivity rather than accounting for hours worked.”

          They are equating the timekeeping requirement with a lack of trust, the idea that they can’t be relied on to be productive without them clocking in and out.

          But especially in a case like this where the reclassification is being done as the resultof a job classification review, it’s most likely being driven by the company trying to be sure they aren’t breaking wage and hour laws. The employer has to know what hours each employee has worked to know how to pay the employees correctly (ie pay for all hours worked, paying overtime for as required) AND to be able to prove that in case of an audit or wage complaint (ie have the documented timekeeping records and the payroll records available for review and have them match)

          As annoying as the change might *feel* it’s not about LW. And it seems the real issue may be some clunkiness around their timekeeping system plus getting used to the new system.

        4. AngryOctopus*

          People at my old job got very worked up when we were asked to track our time every week (not just enter worked/vacation) in the timesheet system. It was ridiculous because they were doing it because various collaborators were paying for FTEs and the supplies associated with them (so if I worked on project X, I would charge my time to X AND any supplies I ordered would also be charged to X, as they were for that project). It didn’t have to get granular unless you were a director working on 3+ things, but people still were angry because “they don’t trust us to work our time!”. No, they want to recoup the right amount of money and also not get in trouble if we get audited.

    3. Myrin*

      I have to do it (local government) and it seems common among friends and acquaintances, although I haven’t polled anyone (maybe I should! That sounds like an interesting question!). I’m not in the US or the UK, though, so there might be a regional factor to this as well. The time clock is right beside the main entrance where basically everyone has to walk by as they enter the building anyway, so it’s not cumbersome or anything, either.

      (For the record, I really like it. I talked about this only recently on here but we don’t get overtime paid out and it’s nice to know down to the minute how much time off in lieu I can take. I have no idea how that works for people who don’t clock in and out.)

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I get (largely unofficial) time in lieu, and we just kind of handwave it — “It was about two hours extra on Thursday night, I’ll sign off two hours early,” or a weekend problem where you have to go into the office counts as a minimum of four hours, even if you were only there for 30 minutes. I’ve come up with an approximate system that works for me, but I can see that something where it was clearly defined might be nice.

      2. FricketyFrack*

        I also work in local government, in the US, and I do a timesheet, but it’s just how many hours you worked each day. No in/out times, which is great. Most weeks all I have to do is put in 8-8-8-8-8 on Friday, click submit, and I’m done. I CAN get paid OT, but I chose to accept comp time, which is counted at the OT rate (so 1.5 hours off for every extra hour worked). It’s a great way to bulk up my PTO bank.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      I’ve had different systems, and the one I prefer by FAR is a physical time clock right next to the door. Just touch your badge to it, takes 2 seconds, very accurate, unlikely to forget. I was given a choice once between that and my own Excel sheet and chose the physical clock.

      Now I’m remote and have to enter hours into a program, which is slightly annoying. I actually use the “insert time” feature of OneNote to write down my times in one click, and once a week log into the program to transfer.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, I agree.

        I encountered this within a flexitime set-up where every minute counts, but the app meant you could see if someone had already booked a day off, called in sick, etc, and the receptionist could see everyone’s current in/out status when transferring calls. Even the senior partner would clock in and out.

        1. Archi-detect*

          what is cool military ships do the same thing when docked- there is a board with everyone’s name on a little slider next to the walkway ashore- you slide your name from in our out as you come and go. Makes it easy to figure out who is around and who is highest ranking/in charge at any given moment

      2. amoeba*

        Yes, the time clock is great! I wish there was just a simple one-click widget on my desktop o do the same thing virtually when I work from home. Shouldn’t be hard to implement at all, so I wonder why it’s not more common…

    5. Brain the Brian*

      Everyone in my office — exempt and non-exempt — has to enter our hours into a timesheet system so the correct amount is billed to the appropriate projects, but we definitely do not have to clock in and out in the moment. We just submit a timesheet every two weeks.

      1. ferrina*

        This is what my office does (I’m exempt). It’s really common for industries where you bill white-collar services to clients (whether the hours get directly billed, like in legal, or you have a set price based on estimated hours for the project and you’re tracking actuals vs estimate).

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had a similar reaction to OP5 when my company reclassified me and many co-workers. It was a wide swatch of engineering staff from CAD designers to technical writers to lab techs to the QA teams.

      Lots of us bristled, but one guy pointed out that we had been working crazy overtime and now there would be incentive for management to plan better. (They didn’t but that’s a whole different letter!)

      Since then, the non-exempt staff got switched to “unlimited” PTO, and I definitely don’t want that illusion. The people with defined vacation time to track take it more regularly than those with “unlimited”. And bluntly if there’s a layoff, i want my accrued vacation time paid out!

      1. Lanon*

        I have an office job where I clock in and out and am hourly, non-exempt. I definitely have a lot of decision-making in my job (but no real authority when you come down to it).

        I think it can be a good or bad thing to be employed hourly, depending on circumstances, but also the environment. In an environment where hourly workers are regularly looked at askance if they go to the bathroom “too much” or can’t ever take infrequent and important personal calls without being accused of “stealing time,” but the employer pressures them to work through unpaid breaks and/or legally mandated paid breaks, well, I’m guessing that a lot of people who are salaried don’t have those issues.

        I also think there can be issues with time off in general and/or flexibility. I know this might not be true in a lot of places, but it certainly is in mine: if I miss time, I either make it up or take it as paid/unpaid time off. People who are salaried don’t always have to do this/worry about it. Again, I’m not saying this is everywhere, but a lot of people who are salaried aren’t going to see a loss in income (or have to use pto) to take a couple of hours (or less) to go to a doctor’s appointment/job interview/what have you. And you can say salaried people do more than the regular hours at other times, or if something goes wrong, but again, I think that depends on the environment.

        I also think, based on my own experience, that some of the problems people have with it is that it feels less like a “professional” white-collar job (I had a graduate program that I was interested in tell me that they wanted people who had been employed for x amount of years, “preferably salaried” and it was clearly because they felt that people who were in hourly jobs were less professional/responsible/had valuable work experience).

        Generally speaking, either because of the above, or because they are already usually lower paid positions, I think it is also harder for a lot of hourly people to ever really earn a lot of money (I understand there are exceptions, of course) and to move forward in their careers. If people stop asking how much people made in their last jobs, I think it helps, but I think it is often pretty hard to move out of an hourly position to a salaried, “professional” one where you might not just have the advantages above and more money too, but also have career growth. I’d be interested in looking more at the job/money survey in AAM and seeing how much that is true, even with just that sample.

        1. Irish Girl From Boston*

          intrestingly enough, salaried can happen for both exempt and non-exempt people. Its not a class of work. People relate it to exempt only but there are many people who are salried non-exempt. As the FLSA overtime rule gets argued and litigated, we are going to see more and more companies classify people as exempt to get out of paying overtime.

          1. ferrina*

            Salaried non-exempt is amazing. One of my friends has this set up- she gets paid her base salary, even if she doesn’t reach 40 hours in a week. If she goes anywhere over 40, she gets paid over-time.

          2. Kit*

            Yep, I worked salaried non-exempt for about a decade, it was the best of both worlds! It’s a shame LW’s job isn’t offering it, but presumably they have their own reasons for requiring the clock-ins… none of which are distrust of LW’s job performance.

      2. Bankerchick*

        My Dh is a technician at a large research center. Makes over six figures, but is non-exempt. All techs are at his company. Every once in awhile, there is talk of making techs exempt. Dh says he will reire as “staff “ regularly work 50-60 hour weeks. He wants OT over 40. “Staff” also get unlimited PTO, but they call it “permissive “. If it is a good time, take all the OT you want. But it never a good time and people are lucky to get two weeks a year. Dh has six weeks vacation and several weeks of sick per year (plus holidays). Again, if someone tries to move him to “unlimited”, he will probably retire.

        He never has had a problem with being non-exempt. I too, have turned down promotions when I could see the “benefits” of being exempt weren’t really there or didn’t outweigh the benefits of being non-exempt.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, the system part isn’t strictly necessary and I can see how that would be annoying (but not outrageous). I manage some hourly office employees. They report their hours worked after the fact, without clocking in and out of any system.

    8. Also-ADHD*

      I get it. They made a bunch of folks money non exempt at my last company to realign for a merger and people felt demoted. I would feel the same. If you have good work/life balance in the job, it does start to feel micromanaging to have to clock again. In our case, it was reversed because it made scheduling offsites impossible with our remote teams (you had to pay for all the travel time hourly in some states rather than the usual “take the time back later whenever makes sense”) and messed with our unlimited time off policies. But they were very upset and the folks deemed “non exempt” definitely felt lesser due to it with no real benefit and also felt awkward being clocked in when there wasn’t always stuff to do (ironically they were in the roles that had the easiest workloads so plenty of the time they only really “work” intermittently but they did do direct training and other duties that required coverage sometimes during the day so you needed end every single day around).

      1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        Several of my teammates were recently reclassified as nonexempt and they felt it was a demotion, particularly for a couple people who hadn’t had to clock in since they had retail or food-service jobs 20 years ago. But now they get overtime, so they got over the initial icky feeling!

        1. PropJoe*

          I once had a job where I and most of my coworkers got reclassified from salaried exempt to hourly non-exempt.

          To me it absolutely felt like a demotion.

          At this employer, the concept of sick time did not exist. If you were salaried, in effect you got unlimited paid sick time. Need to go to the doctor or take your kid to the dentist? No big deal just let your supervisor know in advance if possible. If you were hourly, you got zero paid sick time. If you have a doctor appointment, you have to choose between making the extra time up throughout the week or just taking a short paycheck for the week.

          I hated it.

          If paid sick time existed there, and if leadership had bothered to put any effort into explaining what was going on, it would have made the change much more palatable.

    9. DJ Abbott*

      I work at an office where everyone, including the Director, swipes in and out with the same badge we use to get into the building. We are all on salary, so I assume it’s to record that we were present in the office. It’s a government office if that helps.

    10. EngineerMom*

      I worked an office job that was non-exempt, that not only made us clock in/out at the front door, but also made us take the same scheduled breaks as the manufacturing floor, including lunch.

      It was really annoying, especially as a high-efficiency working parent who had previously worked exempt jobs, including once that had me track hours worked for project budget management.

      I’d get docked for being more than 5 minutes late, but I was so good at my job that I could get more done in the 2 hours before the first scheduled break than most of my contemporaries could get done before lunch.

      I couldn’t work ahead, then leave early to take a kid to a doctor appointment.

      75% of my job only required my computer, but they refused to let me work from home for a day or two if I had a sick kid (because there was no official IT person, just the VP wh would order computer equipment but didn’t really know how to do things like set up secure systems that could be used offsite). This was pre-pandemic, btw. And they only provided 5 paid sick days PER YEAR. (No idea if policies changed after 2020, hopefully they did!).

    11. what was my name again*

      They changed me (and several coworkers) from exempt to non a few years ago when our state rules around the threshold changed, and I’ll admit I was annoyed at first too! But then I realized that my first thought was “how am I going to get everything done if I am obsessing about the minutes in the day?” and wow, what an unhealthy reaction- to be mad that I couldn’t do unpaid overtime anymore.

      For a while I was really obsessive about not starting before or finishing after my time, but over the years- and especially with wfh/hybrid- I’ve become more flexible out of necessity. This works for me because we don’t have a formal clock in/out and no one really cares on the day to day level, just the weekly.

      In the end it means I don’t do a lot of free overtime anymore, and helps me keep some perspective; things mysteriously become less of a need-it-right-now if you have to get time and a half to accomplish them on that deadline. And the two or three times a year when it all goes pear shaped and I do need to work extra, I get a bit of a reward for doing it.

      I actually eventually hit the threshold but said I preferred to be kept non-exempt and they were willing to do it, so I still am, and it’s been good for my mental health and work-life balance!

    12. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      How could someone be non-exempt without this? And yes, I’d be furious about it too. The extra money from overtime wouldn’t be worth the micro-tracking and infantilizing “we don’t trust you’re actually working if we don’t monitor every minute” of a time tracking app. Maybe for people who routinely work 50 or 60 hours a week it would be worth it, but it’s worth a lot to me to be able to take an hour now and then for a doctor’s appointment without recording it as time off.

      1. Ashley*

        I think the flex options are where moving from exempt to non-exempt really start feeling like a demotion / annoyance. If you can make up the time for a doctors appointment sometime that week great, but if you have to start taking PTO for working less then 8 hours that is frustrating. Also if you have works that ebb and flow being forced to physically be present for 8 hours can be annoying when you know next week you will be pulling 50 hours even if you are getting paid more.
        It will be interesting to see if the new law actually goes into effect July 1 and a bunch of people are reclassified (or paid more).

        1. Annie*

          Yes to both Ashley and Fritos. This is what gets me. You do basically get treated like an adult who can manager your own time and workload when you are salary exempt and don’t have to track every minute of your time. Sometimes it makes sense to track time, if you have government projects, and need to for that reason. But in general if you are a professional and can manager your workload, you should be able to take an hour off here or there if you need to leave early to pick up your kids or go to an appointment. Or heck, if you just want to get an early jump on traffic because you have an event that evening.

          I understand badging in an out of certain facilities if there are safety issues and they just want to know that you are there, but other than that, it is excessive over management.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Hell, my mother was exempt for decades and still had to badge in and out of her facility because they built a bunch of classified software there, and they wanted to know who was where in the building (classified vs non-classified areas) at all times. She still worked from 10-7 because that worked better for her own rhythms. Badging in and out is a separate issue entirely from time tracking if done right.

      2. Observer*

        <i.he extra money from overtime wouldn’t be worth the micro-tracking and infantilizing “we don’t trust you’re actually working if we don’t monitor every minute” of a time tracking app.

        If someone is doing that, that has nothing to do with exempt vs non-exempt. Good employers don’t do that to anyone, and bad employers often wind up doing it to exempt employees. Look at how many letters we get from people who work cray hours. Look at how common ridiculous hours are in many industries because they are exempt. And while some people in some industries are making enough money that it probably pays, that is not the cae across the board. Far from it!

      3. Cmdrshprd*

        ““we don’t trust you’re actually working if we don’t monitor every minute” of a time tracking app. ”

        I think that people don’t realize is that for non-exempt people based on federal/state law the tracking is not because they don’t trust you not to be working, but rather for legal compliance of hours worked and hours paid.

        Some states do actually require logs/records of hours worked for employees. I don’t think it technically has be be a punch clock, but that is often the easiest way to do it.

        If someone works OT they need to be paid for it no matter what, even if the person didn’t report it, the company can still get in trouble.

        1. Observer*

          I think that people don’t realize is that for non-exempt people based on federal/state law the tracking is not because they don’t trust you not to be working, but rather for legal compliance of hours worked and hours paid.

          Exactly.

          And the reality is that a time clock app / web site makes it easier to give people flexibility in many jobs. Because all of the calculations are done by the system, and you don’t have to rely on people to remember how much time they spent. So HR can’t make the argument that allowing flex time creates work / complexity for Payroll processing.

          The fact that these systems are far less error prone than any manual system – even where people submit a spreadsheet with the number of hours each day – is a plus.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah, the time tracking isn’t about not trusting the employee. It’s about the employer proving they’re not breaking OT laws. It’s to keep THEM honest.

    13. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Raising hand!

      As an exempt professional at OldJob, we STILL had to use an electronic time clock software on our phones. We were not paid overtime, and the software automatically translated our hours to be “proportionate to an 8 hour day”. Apparently this was done for legal compliance with a particular customer entity. And we had enough customer specific work that it was rolled out to all employees, corporate-wide.

      However, regardless of the truth of that statement, what it DID was make it appear as though the Company valued only the proportionate value based on an 8 hour day. So if we were working 16 hour days due to a deadline (which was NOT unusual at a deadline), the Company only valued the 16 hours as 8…which certainly seemed like they were paying us half what they should have been.

      It did NOT help that this system was rolled out at the time they were attempting to “right-size corporate overhead”. Translation: do more work for the same pay.

    14. Gullible Vengeance Umpires*

      I worked in the admin unit of a hospital and we all had to clock in and out.

      My current org did the same switch OP is talking about a few years back and one of my staff had to start clocking in and out. They were very demoralized because it felt like a demotion, but they enjoyed when they could leave hours before the rest of us on Friday (overtime wasn’t approved). They still took it really personally, though, until we promoted them back to an exempt position.

    15. Lacey*

      Some companies do make time-keeping a MASSIVE pain and I’m pretty sure they do it on purpose to demoralize their staff.

      Most of my office jobs I’ve just been expected to keep track myself and I submit a time card every 2 weeks. They’re not even fussy about accuracy. You had a long lunch? You came in half an hour late? That’s fine. Just put yourself down for a full 8 hour day anyway.

      But my worst office job had buggy software that never worked. You were always in the office 15 minutes before you could get it to work – if you could get it to work. You had to get changes/corrections approved by a manager. And in my job – often I wasn’t AT my computer first thing, so I also had to get it approved by a manager then.

      It wasn’t the most stressful part of being there, but it wasn’t helping anything either.

    16. Katie*

      They flipped me from exempt to non and I and my workmates were grumpy about it. It had been years since we had to track our hours and it was taking a piece of our ‘freedom’ away. Heck they even gave us back pay for OT hours. We still had to get our work done in now 40 hrs. In the end it was a good thing, but it took time getting used to it.

      Same thing happened to the team reporting to me and they were grumpy too.

    17. Yellerdog*

      I went from exempt to non-exempt in a past job and HATED it. absolutely loathed it.

      The primary value of being non-exempt is the ability to get paid overtime for hours worked over 40, but my job rarely required any substantial overtime (and, in practice, the shift meant that I had to get prior approval for time worked over 40 hours).

      So what actually happened is that I lost my flexibility to, say, work 41 hours on a week that I just needed an extra hour to get my stuff done and work 38 hours on a week that I didn’t have quite as much to do.

      On that extra busy week, I’d either need to stop in the middle of something on Friday to make sure I didn’t exceed my hours or…lie on my time sheet, which of course means not getting paid for the time.

      On a light week, I’d end up sitting in my office making up work or twiddling my thumbs on Friday afternoon because it was too late to start a major project but I wouldn’t get paid my whole salary if I left early.

      My job shifted from being trusted to get the work done in more or less typical hours (give or take a few) to being forced to have my butt in the office for exactly 40 hours per week, regardless of whether that exact number of hours matched my workload.

      None of this invalidates the importance of non-exempt status for most workers. I’m sure I would’ve felt differently if my employer demanded or expected a bunch of overtime. But as someone who was previously given autonomy over my time, the reclassification meant losing that autonomy.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        This. Going from exempt to non-exempt in a job that rarely or never requires overtime robs you of the flexibility you did have. It can also screw you over in terms of PTO.

        Where I work, exempt employees get paid monthly, and we could flex our time over the whole month–so in the last week of December, when the building is literally closed and no one is allowed to work, instead of using my PTO, I could just work some 10 hour days in the first three weeks and build up enough time to cover that last week without dipping into my PTO. When I got changed to a non-exempt employee, I couldn’t do that anymore, and it SUCKS.

        If you’re in a job that has a lot of overtime, non-exempt is a big deal. But if you’re never allowed to work overtime(and don’t need to in order to get the work done), it’s basically a demotion because of the loss of flexibility.

        1. Lunar Caustic*

          Bingo. I have a salaried role that almost never requires overtime and it gives me the flexibility to go to doctor’s appointments or take a slightly long lunch to run an errand without any cumbersome documentation. But thanks to newly implemented state law, my pay will no longer meet the threshold required to be salaried starting next year and I have no idea what that’s going to mean for my ability to conduct my life. It might even mean that I have to work MORE, because as an exempt worker full-time is 37.5 hours a week, and going to non-exempt might bump that to 40.

      2. Plain Jane*

        tTis was almost exactly my experience, too. plus I lost the ability to easily leave an hour early here and there with no repercussions. my job rarely goes over 40 hours and when it does it’s because someone is calling me after 5pm and I just want to answer them and help people. Instead it has become a massive pain in the butt, hasn’t really resulted in overtime, complicated travel for our department, and in general has felt like a demotion. oh, and to top it off our poor manager has gotten completely screwed because she is the only one who isn’t hourly.

      3. Elsajeni*

        I had a version of this, plus, because I work for a state agency, any overtime I did accrue (which was generally very small amounts) was paid in comp time. So I could never get paid more than my 40 hours, but they’d certainly be happy to pay me a little *less* if my workweek only came out to, say, 39.5 hours, and I also gained a new category of leave that accrued in inconveniently small amounts and had fiddly rules about when and how I was supposed to use it. I appreciate that non-exempt status is better for a lot of people! There just wasn’t a lot of upside in my particular job and with the particular way my employer implemented it.

    18. NonExemptHater*

      There are plenty of reasons to be upset about being non-exempt, depending on how a company handles it. A few years ago about half of my company had to be switched from exempt to non- due to our salary. The company couldn’t afford to pay us overtime so we weren’t allowed to work more than 40 hours, period. If something urgent came up at the end of the week, we had to pass the buck to our exempt co-workers or let it sit. So, that’s the main “perk” and we didn’t get it. The worst part for me was losing flexibility. I’ll often work 40, knowing it will all average out. No more of that–if I didn’t get 40 hours in, I didn’t get my full salary and I couldn’t make it up. (And fudging it a little would’ve been time card fraud!) We also lost the ability to flex time for appointments and had to use PTO. I was over the moon when I was reclassified as exempt! All that to say, while there are plenty of folks who would love to be non-exempt, there can be major downsides, depending on how companies handle it.

    19. Person from the Resume*

      I think a lot of the unhappiness is the status/class nature of the difference between exempt and non-exempt.

      But the LW does mention “enjoy the freedom of being trusted to do my job with a focus on productivity rather than accounting for hours worked” which I also suspect may have provided flexibility possibly leave early and make up time later as long as they met goals.

      But it does sound like their company does make them clock in and out and that it adds an extra task and will be a pain to remember and correct if it’s forgotten or broken. Which can be a daily reminder to the LW that they’re non-exempt which is something they view negatively.

      1. Yellerdog*

        Yeah, my point is that – for some people – being annoyed at having their job classified as nonexempt could be completely independent of class/status concerns. Lots of people seem to be reading that into the letter, but from what LW is saying, I primarily see concerns about how they use their time at work.

        I don’t think it’s fair to say that nonexempt status is an upgrade for everyone. For someone with good work life balance and flexibility in how they use their time, going back to tracking hours and getting paid hourly is likely to lead to less autonomy and flexibility in how they use their time, and that’s going to be a downgrade.

        I have no doubt that that status/class issues affect some people’s views of the distinction between exempt and nonexempt jobs. But I think the way commenters are reading that into LW’s post is a real stretch, and it’s being used to invalidate their real concerns, which isn’t cool.

    20. Mockingjay*

      Of course, this is dependent on your workplace and a lot of other factors, but IME many mid-grade exempt employees enjoy a lot of flexibility that non-exempt jobs may not have when targeting a strict 40 hours and/or logging work performed per hour. I think that’s what is bothering LW5 about the switch.

      As exempt, you can occasionally take a long lunch or go to the dentist without having to “make up” time. Start times can be more flexible. As long as the work gets done (and due dates are likely long term instead of daily/weekly), your status is usually not “monitored” closely.

      I fall in between the two categories: as professional exempt, my company pays me a salary and I work on long-term projects, but that work is performed for government contracts, so most of my hours are billed back to the government and are limited to 40 to stay within the contract funds. (OT is available but rare.) I’m also supposed to set my start/stop hours per the contract. I have to do more reporting and hours tracking against tasks than I like, but it’s necessary for billing and resourcing staff. I can “make up” time for personal appointments, but I’d rather have the freedom to just go and come back as long as I meet my deadlines.
      Balanced against the reporting and time restrictions is work that I mostly enjoy and decent earnings regardless of my exemption status.

      Hopefully for LW5, while timekeeping is a bit different now, the work and reporting expectations remain the same.

    21. StarHunter*

      I’m in NY so the exempt salary minimum is high and even though I’m a manager I’m hourly. We have an app that makes it easy to log in/out and we are set up so it automatically deducts .5 hours for lunch so we don’t need to clock out/in for lunch. I also have the ability to make corrections to my own time. And I can flex my time if need be for appointments. This is the first time in a “professional” job in my career that I’ve been non-exempt. The week I worked 14 hours of overtime I wasn’t sad about my paycheck. Being in non-profit I would routinely worked over 50 hours a week previously so it’s actually nice being paid for my time. Kind of ok about it.

    22. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

      Oh, I was furious when I was switched to non-exempt, because all of a sudden I couldn’t stay in the zone at work (we software developers like to *live* in the zone), because I was required to clock in and out at times when I would normally be focused, there were suddenly rules on when we had to take our lunch break (hint: not when I was hungry), and if I went to a doctor’s appointment during lunch and I was clocked out for 90 minutes, suddenly now I was getting questions from HR. And the rounding rules made no sense, and no one could explain them in such a way that I could predict when I should clock in or out to get the desired number. That had cascading effects on calculating which bus to take home on a given day, based on how late the morning bus had been. And just the whole attitude that I was supposed to resent every minute I worked and not stay late, made me resent every minute I worked and not stay late. Partly because I was being prevented from *doing my job*, i.e. getting in the zone and solving complex problems. Partly because I have childhood baggage around being infantilized.

      I’m an independent, competent, and ambitious adult, and I *like* my job. If I wish to solve software problems for my company in my spare time, I will solve software problems for my company in my spare time. Software development is (or at least was) a field with a very steep initial salary curve: if you invest in ramping up your skills in the first two years, you can double your salary in that time, which is what I was doing. Being told that the government said I wasn’t allowed to do that was infuriating, and my coworkers and bosses got to hear about it. At length. It didn’t get better over the 6 months that I had to deal with this system, I just built up more and more resentment from having my focus interrupted day after day, and I also kept discovering new bizarre rules (like when I was supposed to be hungry).

      When another company made me an offer several months later, part of the counteroffer my boss made was that the company would change my job title so that I would be a manager on paper and wouldn’t have to clock in and out any more.

      Reader, I accepted the counteroffer.

    23. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I would be furious if they made me non-exempt. There are times I work unpaid overtime, but there are also plenty of times I leave a bit early for an appointment, or come in a tad late because of traffic or I had to cleanup dog vomit or whatever. As long as my work gets done and I’m here for all my scheduled meetings, nobody minds. To have that flexibility taken away would be incredibly demoralizing.

      In addition, I’m pretty sure overtime would have to be approved in advance so I’d lose the ability to last-minute stay late if a meeting with a student runs over, or a particular time-sensitive project is taking longer than expected. Probably my institution wouldn’t have the budget to pay overtime anyway. So it’s a win win that I can stay late or leave early as needed.

    24. Orv*

      To some people, going from exempt to non-exempt feels like a demotion because we associate exempt jobs with lower-class, blue-collar workers. Where I work our TAs became non-exempt as part of a new union contract and they really fought having to fill out timesheets — they felt like it was unprofessional busywork.

      1. Orv*

        Meant to say we associate non-exempt jobs with lower-class workers, and exempt with management.

    25. Ace in the Hole*

      I had an actual timeclock at my last job. That way our office and operations staff were using the same system. It was really not an issue… clocking in/out should only take a few seconds four times per day.

      1. Orv*

        I’ve had jobs like that too. My only problem with it was it didn’t play with my ADHD time blindness. I had to clock-watch like mad and actually stop working slightly early so I could focus on clocking out within the correct six minute window.

  4. Viette*

    Clocking in and out is a habit you have to get into, but I’m non-exempt in a very high level job in which it would be both impossible and wildly inappropriate for me to not exercise independent judgement. I make more money than I would working all those overtime hours unpaid, and I know I would be without being non-exempt.

    It sounds like you’re ready to hear this as a serious insult, so maybe think about why that is. Is this job typically insulting to you in other ways, or do you have some experience that being non-exempt is for jobs you wouldn’t want or are beneath you? Is this how you tend to interpret unexpected inconveniences?

    Unless they told you that your actual job duties have also changed, this is 1) something they’re perfectly well allowed to tell you to do, 2) not that hard to adapt to, and 3) a great way to get paid commensurate with your time worked. I say take it as it is.

    1. Cheap Ass Hellmouth*

      I think this is good advice. Depending on your relationship with your manager, you might also try asking why the change happened. It’s possible the reasoning behind the change might make you resent it less. For example, I bristled when I started my previous position, which did work that required a ton of sensitive judgment, and was told I had to clock in and out. My reaction was “why? either you trust us to to the job or you don’t.” But I was at a nonprofit and learned that my position was funded from three different sources at different percentages, and hourly timekeeping was needed for grant reporting and audits. Understanding the reasoning behind that decision made me hate it less than if it were arbitrary.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I mean, it’s a major change, and introduces overhead and administrative work that wasn’t there before. It doesn’t make someone elitist to be unhappy with that. (I’m not sure where this perception that not wanting to punch a clock is elitist comes from! People have different priorities in jobs, and it’s okay for time flexibility to be one of them.)

      1. OaDC*

        Yes, it’s a pretty common response and as shown above there are reasons for people to prefer being exempt. Comments are saltier than usual today.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          It sounds like OP is feeling a mixture of both vague “this feels like a demotion because society tells me non-exempt jobs are lesser” feelings but also concrete “X Y and Z are daily impacts of this to me that I do not like.”

          Hopefully they can sort through those first feelings and remove them from the equation. Then they can focus on the other things and try to really be honest with themselves about whether they are genuine issues, or if they just feel like it at first because change is weird but will be fine once they are used to it.

          I know for me personally, I truly cannot handle any job that requires me to track my time. I am an accountant and I skipped the usual public accounting step of my career specifically because I knew that would be an issue for me. Clocking in and out might be fine if I don’t have to track exactly what I did in between, but I would definitely miss the flexibility of just popping out for appointments or errands.

      2. Viette*

        I definitely think it’s inconvenient, and if you’ve never gotten paid overtime it probably doesn’t feel like a good thing on the balance, but the final paragraphs of the letter are openly insulted in their tone. I see that the letter writer notes that they may be overreacting, which is good insight, but they also describe being switched to non-exempt as “a slap in the face” and suggest they could or should decline to exercise independent judgement in their high-level job from now on, even though they have not been asked to do that. They suggest this as a defensive or retaliatory response to this perceived insult.

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be annoyed by the extra work, but I do wonder why this feels so insulting to the LW.

        1. JustaTech*

          A question for the LW to ask themselves is, has management at this specific job treated non-exempt employees poorly in the past? Has management made a big deal about the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees?
          Then I can understand why the LW feels insulted.

          However, if it’s a more nebulous “in society in general people in non-exempt positions are considered lesser”, then it’s time to collect some more data about the types of jobs that are non-exempt, and also for the LW to ask why they care what “society” says (and they might have good reasons, like their parents made a big deal about it, or their landlord is going to give them a hard time or whatever).

        2. Everything Bagel*

          I used to work with an executive admin assistant who was in the job for decades. When the company started using a timekeeping system, she was very upset and insulted about it. She looked at it as an extra burden for her to remember to do the clocking and was insulted about having to track her time to the minute after being a hardworking employee for so many years. It didn’t matter to her that the company said it was to her benefit to make sure she gets paid overtime she’s deserved. She would have preferred continuing the practice of using comp time when it was beneficial to her instead of having to account for every minute of her day everyday.

      3. not nice, don't care*

        Some folks think punching a time clock is for blue collar, hands-on workers, and not having to punch a time clock shows a higher place on the employee hierarchy. So yeah, fussing about this kind of change can absolutely come from an elitist/wannabe mindset.
        Been there, witnessed the fuss.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          That’s certainly fair, and is one possible reason – but not the only one, and I’m seeing a lot of “anyone who doesn’t want to be non-exempt is either clueless or elitist” in the comments.

          1. Missa Brevis*

            I think it’s the “I don’t really want to tank the quality of my work, but if the company doesn’t think my role includes exercising independent judgement, should I just clock in and out and refer every question of judgment to my manager?” that’s setting folks off.
            It certainly nettled me – I’m hourly non-exempt, I clock in and out at a physical time clock, and I exercise plenty of independent judgement in my job – but based on what they’re saying, it seems kind of like this LW thinks that everyone who works my kind of job is incapable of or banned from using our brains and making decisions. They probably don’t consciously think that, and I totally get that losing time flexibility is extremely frustrating, but the vibe I’m getting is still not great.

    3. Angels two cents*

      When you have had the liberty of having an off day so then finishing in the evening. Or heading out an hour early. Or whatever. Then being told to log your time is sort of insulting because it feels like you aren’t trusted with your time and that you are loosing that flexibility. My two cents

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Exactly, and was the point of a comment I just posted above. I knew an admin who went through this and at the heart of it was feeling like she was no longer trusted. The process also made it inconvenient to work late one night and leave early another day. Plus if we were all given an informal nod to head out of the office early before a holiday or something, she would have to get someone at a certain manager level to go into the timesheet and approve it for her, which would be difficult if her own manager were away. She was the only person in our 30-person department to have to deal with this, and I didn’t blame her for being annoyed about it.

    4. I Have RBF*

      This. I’m in IT, and it varies by company whether I am exempt or not. I make six figure salaries. It also varies whether I’m contract or not. Often on contract, I’m hourly exempt – this means that I am hourly, but if I work over my 40 I just get straight time, not time and a half.

      At one place I made over $100K on contract with their 60 hour weeks (at straight time), and they wanted to bring me on salaried, for the same hours, at $70K. I said no. Their benefits stank, too.

  5. Brain the Brian*

    Re #3: I have to assume it would be okay to ask if you could go get your wallet / keys / phone if you’d left them at your desk before the meeting — or at least ask HR to go get them and bring them to you. It may be legal for a company to kick you out the door without them, but it’s certainly not reasonable. Even at my employer — where people have been “perp-walked” past the whole office and out of the company picnic — isn’t *that* unreasonable. Larger personal items are a different story, of course.

    1. But what to call me?*

      That’s what I was wondering about. If I was called in for a meeting without knowing what it was I probably wouldn’t have any of that with me, and depending on the time of day I might even have lunch sitting in my desk drawer. None of that can be left for a few days.

      1. Archi-detect*

        I used to do that then though about how annoying fire alarms are and can take over an hour to clear sometimes- it would suck if one of those hit right near the end while I was in a meeting forcing me to wait to go home, do I started keeping those essential items on me

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Good call. I had the same revelation after Loma Prieta (aka The World Series earthquake) which hit when I was walking out the building. To this day I carry car & house key and wallet. (You know the “party wallet” some women carry for going out at night? That one goes with me everywhere; I don’t buy clothes without pockets.)

          The habit has never been truly necessary, but it’s saved me worry each time.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I also wondered about wallet/keys/phone. And I’d be really surprised if it was legal for them to functionally prevent someone from accessing food and shelter overnight.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Question is, how long can the company hold onto them before you can get the police involved over the theft of them ?

      Because the keys let them easily move your car to an unknown location. The wallet would include your credit card, which probably can be used by anyone with possession of it. With no keys, wallet or phone, your options for getting home are very limited. Canceling any cards in your wallet would also be a problem.

      1. I can read anything except the room*

        A wallet/keys are probably not something they can legally eject you without, though they could probably make you wait for someone else to go retrieve them from your desk.

        Even if withholding them was somehow legal (which I really do strongly doubt it would be), moving your car and using your credit cards would absolutely be illegal. There’s a big difference between taking temporary custody of keys and a wallet for safekeeping because they were “left behind” by the owner who was unable to return, and actually using those items without the owner’s authorization.

    4. doreen*

      When I’ve seen it ( which isn’t often ) people would be able to get their handbag/backpack, coat phone, etc or at least have those items brought to them to them. The idea was not to have the person spend an hour or two packing up during the workday while they were upset about being let go – I never saw it happen when someone resigned or retired.

      1. Antilles*

        It’s this. I don’t know why people are jumping to the company “preventing you from accessing shelter”, car theft, or credit card fraud because seriously, come on guys.
        When companies say they need you to come in later to pack your things, that means stuff that takes time to pack. Photos, reference books, office decor, sorting through files, stuff like that. For the small personal stuff, you just say you need to get your keys or wallet or phone, and either you walk with the HR rep to your office to grab it or they get it for you.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Yeah, this is what I assumed, but the LW hadn’t specified. Thanks to you and everyone else for confirming my suspicions.

        2. edda ed*

          It reminds me of one time here on AAM when someone was sharing a story involving a raw bar (as in enormous fresh seafood service), and a bunch of commenters were freaking out and lambasting the employer for serving shrimp raw…but of course they didn’t serve raw shrimp! Even at a raw bar, the shrimp is cooked, although typically served cold. The employer in question didn’t invent the concept of a raw bar. But a few commenters were so happy to do a bad-faith reading of the situation, and do absolutely no investigation into a topic they knew they weren’t familiar with, yet they still spoke so confidently that raw bars must be some kind of way.

          The commentariat, man. Sometimes, man.

          1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

            Yeah, and a tendency to treat people who go “uh, the shrimp is probably cooked/they are highly unlikely to run up a huge credit card bill” as if they were charmingly naive at best, cheerleaders for late stage capitalism at worst. “You’d be surprised at what some companies will do!” Yeah, I would be surprised, because you’re assuming zebras not horses.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, it’s this. People aren’t flung out of the building into the rain. There’s no good way to layoff or fire someone. Most places try for as little drama as possible and most people do try to be considerate about it.

        In one case, a guy was (very justifiably) fired for reasons that required security to remove him from the building immediately. HR brought the guy his necessary personal items, and the guy’s boss and I packed his office stuff up and shipped it to him that evening.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I have witnessed HR fetching purse/keys/jacket for someone who was just laid off, and have also witnessed people come back to their desk to get those things with an HR chaperone.

      Me, I’ve been laid off twice; the first time I had my belongings with me so I just left out the frot door and they mailed everything to me – only they did a terrible job with the first box, literally chucked everything in, including some small handmade clay figurines that got broken. So the second time I got laid off (which was during covid work from home orders) I gently insisted I be allowed to come get my stuff, which I was (with an HR escort) and packed it up gently myself.

      1. Just Moi*

        This was me – the HR chaperone. We had an employee who walked out of a coaching session with their manager. After 3 days of no response, the company terminated their employment. Employee declined to come back in, so (with witnesses) I inventoried their workspace. Hundreds of pennies and small coin in all the drawers – which we photographed, counted, and returned. Lots of personal files – which we had to review and determine ownership. Dozens of dirty coffee mugs – we shipped all of them back after cleaning them. Lots of mini-moo creamer cups, stir sticks, Starbucks cups. All told, 6 boxes of personal items. And a hockey stick. Which needed it’s own special packaging.
        On behalf of all HR professionals, please, for the love of Mike – only bring personal items to your workplace that you really, really need.

        1. cheap rolls*

          “only bring personal items to your workplace that you really, really need.”
          That request is way out balance. We’re at work 8 hours a day. It’s a big part of our life.

          I’m not going to limit what I have at my workspace on the off-chance that I’m fired so that I don’t use up time of someone asked to ship stuff to me.

          1. cheap rolls*

            “Employee declined to come back in,”

            “Come in to pick it up within the next two weeks, or schedule a later time to do so by X date. After that it all goes in the trash. ”

            ‘Hundreds of pennies and small coin in all the drawers – which we photographed, counted, and returned.”

            Seriously? Just return it. Take a quick photo if you want, but spend like two minutes max. How is it possibly worth your time to do this?

            1. JustaTech*

              It might be company policy, and very likely it’s a CYA in case the terminated employee claims theft of their personal possessions/money.

              And at the very least it means the next person getting that desk/office isn’t coming into a pile of coffee cups and creamers. (Or vape batteries, or dead rubber bands, or 47 chopsticks, or any of the other things I’ve cleaned out of other people’s desks over the years.)

            2. Nina*

              …to avoid someone making your life hell for weeks on end because you threw out their favorite blue spoon without which they cannot function?
              If it’s not your stuff, you have no way of knowing what’s important.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Or at least a reasonable amount? When I was still working in office, I definitely brought in a few personal items I didn’t “really, really need” – but six boxes of them, no. That’s ridiculous. My inspirational magnet, family photo, little art print, boxes of tea, and preferred office supplies (cutesy post it notes, pen holder) aren’t necessary, but they also would all fit in a smallish box, and I doubt would annoy anyone to clear out.

          Dozens of mugs! Good grief.

          1. I Have RBF*

            When I’ve been at a place for several years, my “stuff” can take up three boxes, if they’re packed right. OTOH, the one time someone else packed my stuff they missed things and put actual garbage in the box, so IDK what they were thinking. I was just glad to be gone from there.

          2. Nina*

            In a job I care about, in a field in which my main professional qualification is, I might do my employer the favor of bringing most of my personal reference materials and some important but expensive and fragile equipment with me, rather than making them pay for a set. In the job I’m thinking of, this could easily be up to my own bodyweight, not including things like mugs, water bottles, stationery, headphones…

          1. JustaTech*

            If you’ve got a serious rat problem you might need a lacrosse stick, so why not a hockey stick?

          2. Brain the Brian*

            Defense mechanism against annoying coworkers. (I’m absolutely kidding, of course. Do not do this.)

        3. I Have RBF*

          The only thing that I consider odd is the hockey stick. The rest is just a slob (dirty coffee cups and Starbucks cups.)

  6. Oakley*

    #4 – This just happened to me as well and I had a very similar reaction for a number of reasons. I felt insulted, downgraded, and not valued. My main concern was that any FMLA time off due to a personal illness/injury/surgery would no longer be 100% paid at my normal wage. Now, due to the status change, it will be 100% unpaid now. That would be a loss of up to 1/4 of my yearly income. God forbid something should happen. When I was hired 13 years ago, that factor was a huge benefit consideration. Any time off for medical reasons would be paid and my income would not suffer. I’m still upset.

    1. Mid*

      While that does sound deeply upsetting, I don’t think being switched from exempt to non-exempt is the reason behind that change. Non-exempt workers can get paid medical leave and paid FMLA if their company wants to offer it. (I’m currently salaried and non-exempt, and have paid FMLA after 1 year. In previous roles I’ve been exempt and not had paid FMLA or leave beyond accrued PTO, and been non-exempt and had no paid leave at all.)

      Regardless though, your company is a jerk for removing that benefit, and I’m sorry.

  7. takeachip*

    Having a fired employee collect their belongings later, in private and under supervision, is unfortunately the best of a bunch of bad options. It protects the employee from any suspicion later on if company property goes missing. Someone who is probably in shock and upset can’t just calmly and professionally go to their workspace and collect their stuff in an efficient way, and they may not even have the means to transport it home in the moment. “I got fired and worst of all I was made to clean out my desk immediately while my coworkers stood by pretending not to notice” is the alternate version of this story.

    1. GettingStuff*

      1. It assumes it’s easy for me to come get the stuff later

      2. It means I have to trust the. company to correctly account for my stuff

      3. It doesn’t allow me to choose a final, instant separation which is generally better IMO

      I’ve been laid off many, many times. I’ve been perp walked out. I once had a 60 year old guy try to insist he had to go into the (single stall) restroom with me (I was a 23 year old female and eventually won that battle, but it took real effort and more energy than I really had in reserve after my first ever layoff). I’ve been locked out of my accounts while I was being told. I’ve never been told I had to come back later to get my stuff (I did have to do this once when I was laid off over the phone and therefore wasn’t there to take stuff home with me). In fact, I’ve left stuff at the office and relinquished claim to it because I didn’t have the capacity to take it home with me that day.

      I’ve also had plenty of times when I was given notice but kept working and in those cases any stuff I had at the office was gradually taken home over time. This was the more common case by a lot.

      1. takeachip*

        Like I said there’s no great option for these situations where someone is being let go immediately (versus working through a notice period). I’ve been on the “management” side of this many times. One time when I let somebody return right then to their workspace for their stuff, they made a huge scene and dragged the process out as long as possible. I have other similar stories of people behaving unpredictably when confronted with sudden job loss. Being fired is shitty and you never know how someone is going to react, so I err on the side of minimizing the potential for them to publicly do something they may regret later or that will be disruptive to other employees. We give people the option to come back and get their stuff later or have it sent to them and we document everything. I’m not talking about keys and phones and prescription medication–we get that for them immediately–I’m talking about personal effects that someone chose to bring for their convenience/decor.

        1. Allonge*

          I think if you indeed differentiate between items like phones and keys and a decorative mug, that makes things a lot more reasonable.

          1. takeachip*

            I assumed that is what OP was talking about since she said, “clean out my desk” (versus something like “get my purse/keys”).

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        This is why I refuse to personalize my office space. Except for what I bring on my person that morning, everything else in my office is something I’d be willing to leave behind should the company decide they don’t need me any longer. There’s no right way to handle a firing, but from a business perspective escorting a fired employee out in the moment protects the fired employee from possible additional embarrassment of having all their colleagues watch, and protects the company from additional security concerns created by employees who may not be thinking in their best mindset at the time.

      3. Orv*

        I’ve been the one to lock people out of their accounts while they were given notice. It became policy after a guy we fired ran back to his office after being told, and started angrily deleting all his files and email.

    2. dogmom*

      After I put in my notice at Giant Media Corp. many years ago, my boss (who was not a fan of me) called and left a message on my voicemail that Friday saying not to bother coming in for the rest of the notice period, although he left it up to me when I wanted to come and clean out my desk. So I went in Saturday at 5 or 6am when I knew the newsroom would be virtually empty. I just thought it would be so awkward on a Friday at 1pm to be standing there with people gawking at me while I cleaned out my desk, which is probably not what would have happened, but I was completely caught off-guard that he told me that because up until that point literally no one else in my department had ever been marched out after giving their notice.

    3. EngineerMom*

      Normally, yes.

      I worked with a guy who just sucked at his job (hired by my manager’s predecessor towards the end of his tenure in that position, I was hired about 6 months after the new manager started). He saw me as a threat, and didn’t hide that.

      When he was eventually fired for his own poor work performance, there was genuine concern on the part of my manager and the company owner (relatively small-but-growing company) that this guy would either make a scene or do something retaliatory.

      So, they asked him to come in early for a meeting (not uncommon for the job) and he was gone before the rest of us started our shifts.

      They did that to give him time/privacy to collect his stuff under supervision, and to avoid confrontations (he REALLY didn’t like me, and blamed me for “taking his job” despite the fact that he didn’t complete the conditions of his PIP , I found out much later.)

      Some folks can handle getting fired in a professional way, but not everyone can, and some companies establish “bad” policies like described in #3 because of one or two pretty intense/traumatic firing experiences.

      (That company didn’t – they recognized this was a 1-off situation and did their best to plan around what they knew of the employee)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      When I got laid off, I was allowed to pack up but the HR manager stood there and watched. He did this to the other layoffs too. It was a little easier to be calm since I knew I was getting severance.

      When I got fired, they said they were going to send my things, but I insisted on packing everything up because I had specialty teas and SME books in my cabinet and I did not trust that people wouldn’t go through my cube. I told them I didn’t want to come back for it, and I made them wait. Then the manager who did the actual termination (not mine; my manager was remote) helped me carry it down to my car. Tbf, he was pretty nice about the whole thing, so I tried to be as well.

      Was it petty to make them wait? Maybe a little. No regrets. Out of all the things I had to worry about afterward, my stuff wasn’t one of them.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I think that’s reasonable – you had legitimate reason to believe not all your items would be returned to you and it would be difficult for HR or anyone else to determine if anything had walked off!

        1. Ansteve*

          It feels like HR should just watch the person clear out the desk. Having someone come back for their things is a great way for the company to be accuse of theft and get sued by a disgruntled ex employee. If things escalate then call the cops if needed.

    5. Ana Maus*

      I agree and for the same reason. I wasn’t perp-walked, but the escort walked very close to me while we went back to my desk. When I took more than a minute, he tried to tell me he’d be happy to pack it up and send it, I didn’t trust him to do so. This way I was sure I got anything and the jerk was sure I didn’t steal anything.

      I was right not to trust them. It took six months to get my PTO payout. I had to contact the jerk multiple times and it was at 5 months that I got the email that said, “I just resent the request.”

      1. I Have RBF*

        I prefer in a layoff to pack my stuff on the last day. If I see it coming, I take stuff home in the leadup to it. I actually carry a small, foldable hand truck in my car in case I need to haul around flats of water or whatever, since I can’t actually carry them. Ideally I can go get it, pack my boxes, and go in one trip. I despise having to come in on a weekend to pack up. Coordinating with people is a pain.

  8. Nodramalama*

    I keep paying Paula to myself to figure out why an English person puts an er at the end of it. But then I’m an Australian and every ER sounds like an A so maybe it is a exercise in futility

    1. WS*

      Ha, ha, same. “Paula” and “caller” rhyme! I’m guessing it’s like Americans hear Australians saying “aur naur” when we say “oh no”!

      1. Awkwardness*

        I am laughing so hard sitting here murmuring those transcriptions to myself in order to figure out the accents.
        I guess this will be an amazing comments section today.

      2. Lexi Vipond*

        I suspect that the southern English person *does* say ‘Paula’ and ‘caller’ the same, but Paula is hearing it as the equivalent of her ‘caller’ sound and not realising there’s no difference for Simon.

        1. red planet*

          I’m a Brit and I’m finding it impossible to work out how it could sound any other way than rhyming with caller, I literally don’t know what to do instead.

          1. Gracie*

            Intrusive R. When we say “Paula is here” we insert an R sound between the a and the i – like Paularis. We literally don’t realise we’re doing it, because it’s just how you say two vowel sounds back to back. I think that’s probably what Paula is hearing? Because the name itself isn’t pronounced any differently, I don’t think

            1. Lexi Vipond*

              Possibly (and he probably is doing that), but I’m not sure it’s what she’s picking up on.

              When I say Paula, I don’t say ‘Paul-AH’ with the sound I’d use in something like ‘ant’, it’s more like ‘Paul-uh’. Being a rhotic Scot, I don’t say ‘call-uh’ to rhyme, but Simon probably does.

              So if Paula says ‘Paul-AH’ but ‘call-uhr’, then she thinks he’s using the sound that he uses for ‘er’ to say her name, when he’s actually using the only sound he has available for both those endings.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            Not sure if this will help, but to me, Paula rhymes with “call a,” so “Paula, call a manager” would have a rhyme in it, but “Paula, we’ve a caller” would not.

  9. Observer*

    #5 – Exempt vs Non- Exempt

    If they disagree, should I stop exercising independent judgement? After all, if I’m not supposed to be, I probably shouldn’t be?

    This question shows that you fundamentally misunderstand the whole issue. As Alison points out, it is completely legal for a company to treat even someone who absolutely and unequivocally “eligible” to be considered exempt as non-exempt. There is absolutely no such thing as a classification (at least in terms of FSLA, which is the law in question here) that forbids the exercise of independent judgement.

    Beyond that, it seems that you don’t really understand the third criteria. For one thing it has nothing to do with supervising employees. Now if you had hire / fire authority, that might be different. But supervision is not really relevant here. As for the exercise of independent judgement, the key item is “matters of significance” and that can be tricky. I would be very shocked if your legal and HR folks really made a mistake here, unless you have really incompetent HR.

    Is it possible that they don’t *have* to re-classify you and are being conservative? Possibly. Because from a legal and often financial point of view, the cost of treating someone as exempt when they are not can be a far more risky move than treating someone as non-exempt when you could treat them as exempt, unless it’s beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    this feels like a slap in the face in some ways

    I think it’s worth thinking about why this is.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      All of this completely aside, any company can classify someone as non-exempt (e.g. they *do* earn overtime) when they *could* classify them as exempt (e.g. the law says they don’t *have* to earn overtime based on their job duties). They just can’t do the reverse.

      Without meaning to be too harsh to this LW, they should be grateful to be eligible for overtime, not annoyed that they have to clock in and out. It would look incredibly strange to management if they complained about this classification, because management is essentially doing the them a favor.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        (Sorry — ignore the extra “the” in my last sentence. I should stop trying to type while tired.)

      2. But what to call me?*

        I wouldn’t necessarily say they should be grateful for it. It could be that they work for a company that in practice is going to complain if they work any overtime, or any overtime without a ‘good enough’ justification, when sometimes the job just goes better if you put in more than 40 hours per week and the company is going to penalize you for any reduction in quantity or quality of work.

        In that case they might end up either trying to cram the same amount of work into fewer hours or continuing to work after clocking out, making the clocking out a meaningless inconvenience. And it is extremely annoying to track your time when you’re not going to get any benefit out of it anyway.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Then, as Alison said in her advice, it’s worth reflecting some. If the job cannot be done in 40 hours each week, then the LW will have to leave parts undone (and tell their boss, of course) or get overtime hours approved. Either way, a conversation with their boss about how it will work.

      3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        That depends if the LW actually regularly does overtime. In all my non-exempt job history, I’ve never worked more than 40 hours a week (would have needed advance permission which I never would have gotten), so it really was just a difference of less flexibility and more paperwork.

    2. doreen*

      About independent judgement – there’s a difference between having the authority to decide what the policy is in a particular situation ( for example, returning an item at a retail store ) and having the authority to deviate from or waive a policy ( refunding that item without a receipt when the policy requires one)

    3. Arthenonyma*

      I’ve particularly always understood the legalities as “everyone SHOULD be non-exempt and paid for every hour they work, but corporations don’t like that and successfully argued that some positions shouldn’t count for that (ironically, usually the higher level ones)”. Obviously there are perks to being exempt but from what I’ve read here over the years it seems like mostly that’s the WORSE option for a lot of people unless you get above a certain level of salary/benefits.

    4. ferrina*

      Fun fact: Most daycare workers and certain healthcare professionals are non-exempt. These people absolutely exercise independent judgement on a very regular basis.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      Yeah, I think the legal/HR team may be pre-emptively anticipating an increase in lawsuits on missed overtime pay with the new limits looming (not in LW’s business per se, but in general). They want to get ahead of it and reclassify anything that might appear questionable in even the slightest manner. OR they actually they did get a lawsuit for a similar position and just don’t want to deal with that ever again.

      1. Goldie*

        These laws are serious. Managers are notoriously bad at following them. I can see HR putting in guardrails against getting hit with infractions or lawsuits later.

        1. Reebee*

          “Managers are notoriously bad at following them.”

          Well, sure, some managers, but not the entirety. Generalizing – without data – is useless.

  10. jtr*

    Good lord, FOUR DAYS for a WORK retreat?!?!?! Let me guess – your boss has a room to themselves for the event and has no young kids or a spouse who is responsible for all their maintenance.
    This is just…not a reasonable ask. And you’re hourly – HELL YES you should be paid for the entire time you are not sleeping, IMO. Are you eating with coworkers and clients? Then it’s WORK.
    Wow, I am seriously angry on your behalf!

    1. Observer*

      #5 – Upset about being re-classified as non-exempt, give a look at this.

      @JTR is correct that this person’s employer almost certainly needs to pay #3 extra for all the extra time at this “retreat”. Is that really insulting? Or is it a protection from unreasonable demands?

    2. Archi-detect*

      Similarly, in college, you could tell the difference in professors who had kids and those who didn’t- those who didn’t tended to have a lot more work assigned for the sake of it and higher expectations. Personally I don’t have kids but I am a huge believer in a good work-life balance so I blame my kitties lol

      1. allhailtheboi*

        OP1 – surely part of good DEI is accepting a diverse range of accents? Maybe I’m biased because I’m Southern English so I likely have a similar accent to Simon, but if I worked at a company which insisted I change my entire accent I would be the one feeling excluded and alienated because of something I can’t change. And where do we stand on speech inp3diments/personal quirks in how we speak? I, for god knows what reason, can’t pronounce ‘th’. It comes out as ‘f’. If ‘Arthur Smith’ got cross at me for the slight mispronounciation (which I literally cannot do ‘th’. And it’s in my own surname!) I, once again, would feel really alienated and certainly not included or have my diversity and uniqueness accepted.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Nesting fail or not, this is the correct angle for a DEI-based interpretation of #1.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      My reaction to the idea of a *four-day* work retreat? Here goes:
      Aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh!

      I don’t think I’d even use cuss words. Inarticulate horror and dismay is about the best I could manage.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I understand that some people would really enjoy this sort of thing and be able to make it work, but companies that chose to do these kinds of activities need to make them truly optional and make sure that there is no fall out from not attending. I know for myself, I probably couldn’t make this work. It’s ridiculous to think that a retreat, that’s probably supposed to be seen as a reward, could be used to fire someone from their job if they couldn’t participate.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Ordinarily, I could make this work. But not currently – my spouse has cancer, probably terminal, and I’m just not doing overnights away from home.

    4. TPS Reporter*

      yeah I don’t have kids and would also be extremely horrified by this “reward” of a retreat. sharing a room with a co-worker has to be an absolute last resort emergency situation. This does not sound like that situation at all.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I’m going to hazard and guess that the manager organizing this doesn’t have to share a room…

    5. Space Needlepoint*

      I am angry as well. This is a completely unreasonable ask. Four days? Not to mention having to share a room! People have kids and overnight childcare is ridiculously expensive–you can’t assume there’s a spouse or a relative handy. Heck, people have pets that need feeding.

      I’ve been to user group meetings for work that took several days, but it was at a resort hotel and those who traveled in had their own rooms and locals could go home in the evening. The only required evening activity was a banquet. None of our employees were hourly, though.

  11. MagdaRose*

    Everyone on earth “has an accent”, Alison. Americans included.

    Maybe Simon should start nagging Paula to stop putting Rs where there aren’t any – it’s our JOB not our JARB, Paula! Or wait until something more personal comes up, like she can’t pronounce the name of his hometown. BridgeWATER not WADDER, Paula! Nip this playground stuff in the bud.

      1. vegan velociraptor*

        The headline on the problem refers to “a coworker with an accent” – that did read to me as if there might be coworkers without accents.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I took that to mean “an accent different to that of the area in which he was working.”

        2. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Right – Americans tend to use this for non-native/non familiar accents. It does land a bit oddly to non-Americans.

          1. Jack Russell Terrier*

            I think we’re into the weeds here because Americans tend to say ‘you have an accent’. I haven’t noticed other people saying that. It’s not meant to be judgemental, but if you have never heard that before it sounds a strange thing to say.

      2. Green great dragon*

        “because he has an accent” in your answer is what MagdaRose is seeing.

      3. Happy Mondays?*

        “The issue is that Simon is pronouncing Paula the way he does because he has an accent” – this reads as if Simon is unusual in having an accent. It sets him up as the one who is different because of it.

        It might be better phrased as “The issue is that in Simon’s accent this is how his mouth forms those particular sounds”.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This both contravenes the rule about nitpicking phrasing, and assumes (a trend in this subthread) that people are unaware that different accents exist. “Joel has an accent” = “Joel’s accent is different from the most common accent around his physical location.”

      4. MagdaRose*

        Yes, you wrote that Paula needs to understand that Simon “has an accent”, as if she and Americans in general don’t. Like US English is the neutral / standard thing and everything else is Other.

        1. CheesePlease*

          I mean, in a US-based office, generally speaking, the regional accent is the standard. Is it wrong to say so? You could have the same problem with someone from the deep south working in New York or someone from North Dakota working in LA. You don’t even need to be from a different country for accents to sometimes cause confusion / irritation etc.

        2. Fluffy Fish*

          In an US office comprised primarily of US based people US English will be the neutral/standard thing.

          Given that, Paula does need to understand Simon has an accent that influences his pronunciation.

          No one on earth suggested US English is always the default nor that other accents don’t exist. Alison is literally giving the person who wrote in advice specific for their situation. Heck if someone from a different region of the US had the accent, the advice would be the same.

          Kindly, you are very much reading into and taking offense at something that isn’t there.

        3. Nancy*

          There is no one ‘American’ accent, and Americans know they have one.

          Simon has an accent that is different from the one in the area he is currently in, so it will stand out.just like anywhere else in the world when someone with a different accent moves to the area.

          1. Nina*

            Americans know they have one.
            I live in an area that is frequently heavily populated with American tourists. Americans in my experience often do not know they have an accent. They also often don’t know that American dollars won’t work in New Zealand, but that’s another story.

        4. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I don’t have an accent in my office, in my region. If I went to another office, in another region – in the US or abroad – I likely would.

          Accents are context based.

        5. jasmine*

          I do wish Americans would acknowledge their privilege here instead of insisting that the phrasing is fine. There’s a reason people are pointing it out. This isn’t necessarily all that different when a POC can’t perfectly articulate why something feels racist and non-POC simply insist that logically it isn’t racist (saying this as a POC).

          1. blah*

            These are not remotely the same thing, and it’s silly to even equate them. Alison is from the US – of course in this context what she means is that Simon has an accent not normally found here, not that Americans don’t have an accent whatsoever. All of the answers she provides is based off of her experience in the American workplace.

            1. jasmine*

              But this kind of response it exactly what I mean. It’s not for you do decide it’s not the same thing.

              1. Person Person*

                If everyone has an accent, how is it not for anyone to decide it isn’t the same thing.

        6. Observer*

          Yes, you wrote that Paula needs to understand that Simon “has an accent”, as if she and Americans in general don’t

          No, she wrote that he has an accent rather than an attitude problem. That’s pretty explicit.

          So much so, that this nit picking almost feels likes it’s not being done in good faith.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think that would so unbelievably rude, and therefore horrible, advice for Simon; did you also miss the part where he isn’t asking for advice?

      1. JM60*

        Intentionally is key here. The reason why this advice is rude, but Simon isn’t being rude, is that Simon isn’t pronouncing her name that way intentionally.

    2. Roland*

      That feels like language nitpicking. Neither OP nor Alison were being judgemental or implying that their ways of speaking are correct and/or default, they are just using the very common and understandable shorthand where “has an accent” is short for “has an accent… that is different than the accents of most people around him”.

    3. Nancy*

      The letter isn’t implying that Americans don’t have accents, there are many different ones in the US. Paula could sometimes hear her name pronounced similar to how Simon says it in the Boston and NYC metro areas.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Aside from the other great points that have been made, there is a HUGE difference in importance between the pronunciation of a personal name and just everyday words. While I agree that Paula is out of line here, it’s OK to be more concerned about her name than “job” or “water”.

    5. Dandylions*

      As an American who lived in Australia…I had the accent not them.

      This concept I thought was pretty well understood?

      No need to be obtuse about the fact that “Simon has an accent” is shorthand for “Simon has an accent that is different then the majority of people he works with”

        1. Tio*

          So does America, at least 4 major ones and multiple subtler divisions. If a southerner came into a northern office we’d say they had an accent and vice versa. There might be some light teasing along the lines of “No YOU guys have the accent!” but nothing serious. Everyone has an accent, but who is considered to actually have an accent in a group depends on the main speech pattern of the group. Honestly kind of shocked everyone wants to argue about this

      1. Katie*

        I agree. I live in the south but my parents were from New York. I had an accent to them because I didn’t have a southern accent.

  12. Chirpy*

    #1 – On the one hand, sure, some accents are just going to alter how a person says a name, and Paula has to accept that. On the other hand, as someone with an unusual, non-English name, I hate when people don’t take correcting pronunciation seriously, because I’ve had a LOT of people just plain not try, or get angry when corrected, or just flat out refuse to use my correct name, and if management/authority figures shrug my concerns off, it’s infuriating. Names are important, and it’s important to get them as close to correct as possible. So I do think something should be said to Simon. He may honestly not be able to change his pronunciation and isn’t doing it “on purpose”, but Paula needs to know that her concerns were taken seriously, and telling her to “get over it” shouldn’t be done lightly. She may be overreacting, but she also may have spent a lifetime being called the wrong name, which can be pretty awful when done maliciously, and that should be taken into account.

    1. Nodramalama*

      But that’s the issue here. I’m not sure I would call this a mispronunciation. Simon likely does not hear an ER when he says it, the way that Australians do not hear an up talk or to some people Mary sounds like Merry.

      1. NorthBayTeky*

        Mary/merry/marry
        They all sound the same to me. That is not a good example.
        It may be a good example for some, not all.

        1. Lizard the Second*

          It’s a perfect example BECAUSE in your accent they sound the same, while in my accent they are all completely different sounds. It illustrates the difference in how people hear and say words.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Yes, exactly. And this is like NorthBayTeky’s colleague Mary asking them to stop calling her Merry. You probably can pronounce Mary like she does, but only by consciously faking her accent to pronounce her name every time, which is always going to be an effort.

            1. Anonychick*

              I actually wouldn’t even say you “probably can” pronounce it correctly by faking it: I told this story above in more detail, but a dear family friend spent literally the entire ~30 years she knew me trying DESPERATELY to pronounce my rhymes-with-marry name correctly, but no matter what, it still came out closer to rhymes-with-Mary.

              1. Flor*

                Agreed. My husband is Scottish and teases me for saying Mary, marry and merry all the same, and I literally CANNOT make them sound different. I try! They sound different in my head! But they all come out with some weird Canadian diphthong in the middle like mairy.

                It wouldn’t surprise me if Simon cannot even hear that he’s doing this, because in his accent it’s so normal and commonplace.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Merry and Mary are the same to me, but marry is different. I’m gonna maaa-ry him. Mary is my friend and she is merry.

                  I can’t even hear the difference in the latter two. You’re probably correct in that Simon can’t either.

                2. ThatOtherClare*

                  If you’re curious, I posted a comment above with a (Mary/merry/marry) technique you can try, which involves pretending you’re at the dentist. It may or may not help, but it will certainly give you and your husband a good laugh!

        2. Nodramalama*

          It’s a perfect example because to me those words are all pronounced differently

          1. UKDancer*

            Same. I had a Canadian colleague who heard Don and Dawn as sounding the same and genuinely didn’t believe the rest of the team (all British) heard them as different sounds.

            We can’t control easily how things sound to us

            1. Aquatic*

              Weirdly, my friend from Philly can tell whether I mean Don or Dawn even though I can’t detect any difference in his I’m saying them (or how they are).

        3. Snoodence Pruter*

          It’s a great example because it makes it very clear that pronunciations differ between accents and that doesn’t mean anyone is saying it wrong. You just happen to be one of the people described.

        4. Artemesia*

          Many people insist these are distinct, but I too can neither hear nor say them differently. Mary and Merry sound and are said the same by me.

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            I can hear the difference … when people actually say them differently. Likewise, for me (raised in California), Harry and hairy sound the same but for folks raised in the Northeast (I think?) they are distinct. (Not sure it’s the Northeast, just remember that it played into the dialog in an episode of Bewitched.)

            It’s such a slight difference in the vowel sound that we can’t really reproduce it in regular writing. Likewise, there’s that old knock-knock joke that baffled me as a kid, because there was no way on earth that “orange you glad” could come out sounding like “aren’t you glad”… to my California ears. But when my friend from somewhere in the Northeast said the color name, that old joke suddenly made sense.

            1. coffee*

              I have only just now realised that the punchline of the joke is supposed to sound like aren’t.

        5. Person from the Resume*

          To me Mary and merry sound the same and are pronounced the same, but marry is very different. I am am kind of baffled how to make Mary and merry sound different.

          An accent is not the same as a mispronunciation. Paula does need to stop being upset about it. It’s not disrespect; it is an accent. Certain language parts/letter combinations just come out differently in different accents.

          It is the same/not the same with Americans trying to pronounce “foreign” names. The Americans do need to make the effort to learn to say the name properly. But there are just some sounds people cannot make and often cannot hear the difference between because of the languages they learned as a child. They need to make the effort to get as close as possible with their American accent.

          1. MarryAMerryMary*

            for me it’s Mary and marry that are the same and merry is different. I wish this thread came with sound files because I’m wildly curious how you say these words.

          2. ThatOtherClare*

            It’s a vowel length distinction. If you say ‘meeeerry’ that’s the same sound as ‘Mary’ in most accents that distingush the two (I’m not brave enough to say “all”, but im struggling to think of an exception). People who make the distinction cut ‘merry’ off short and extend ‘Mary’ a little bit longer.

        6. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          I worked with a woman from Texas who did not really have a strong accent; however, she could neither hear the difference nor speak the difference between words like “hill” and “heel” (and maybe “hell”). It’s not just that she said them the same, she did not believe us because when we repeated them to her differently, she also heard them the same. Mary/merry/marry is the same. (I do not hear nor say them differently, but I know they are in some accents.)

          1. adk*

            My mom is Brazilian. The ones that got her early on were Leather, Letter, Ladder, and Leader. Oh, and when she head a retail job selling (among other things) bed Sheets, she had to carefully pronounce the word every time so as to not swear at work.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I think that’s possibly true, but it did sound to me like no one was actually asking Simon. And he may be able to adjust the pronunciation of a name—I’ve lived overseas and adjusted the pronunciation names to preference in similar ways before, even if it wasn’t the natural way I’d say that sound. I didn’t “hear” the difference at first but could still mimic a different sound later. And maybe he can’t ever do that, but I don’t think it should be an assumption any more than he’s doing it intentionally “wrong” should be the assumption now.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I completely disagree. I (American) once knew someone from the UK named Martin — it would have been physically possible for me to refer to him as “Mah-tin”, but I didn’t, because that would have been ridiculous. As someone said upthread (search the comments for “Doro”), it would be more likely to come off as making fun of the person for their accent than respecting their name.

      3. Chirpy*

        The issue is:
        1. has anyone actually asked Simon? Do we know he really can’t work on improving? Or was it just assumed, given his natural accent?
        2. Paula needs to know that her concerns are taken seriously, and that management understands that name pronunciation is important and is willing to uphold that where possible. She also needs to recognize the effects of Simon’s natural accent means he likely won’t get it perfectly right. If she knows he’s trying, that may help.

        (If she’s never heard that accent before, she might not understand this. It could also be a totally different issue with Simon or management is the real problem, and it’s just coming out here.)

    2. LingNerd*

      It’s an issue where Paul literally does not hear the difference unless concentrating very hard and even then might not. It’s called intrusive R and it’s well-documented thing in some accents, where an ‘r’ sound is inserted between a word that ends in a vowel and another word that begins with a vowel. It’s the equivalent of asking an English speaker to pronounce the tones in a Vietnamese name. It’s just not going to happen, at least not consistently, without several months of consistent practice. And some people still wouldn’t get the hang of it then!

      I do think people need to make an effort to pronounce names correctly of course! But there’s a big difference between practicing a few times to get the hang of sounds that feel a little awkward on your tongue and having to learn how to make phonemes in a completely different way when you can’t even hear the difference

    3. TheOtherLaura*

      There are no good one-sided solutions here.

      Telling someone that their accent or dialect is unacceptable is offensive.
      Being persistently called a name you have not agreed to being called, too.

      If I meet someone whose attempt to pronounce my name is just too painful for my ears, I give then an alternate name to call me by. Because one of the many people who could not pronounce my name was pre-teenaged me.

  13. London Software Developer*

    Speaking as a Brit, who has read through most of these comments…

    My mouth is perfectly capable of making both a “short a” sound (a-as-in-tap) and a “long a” sound (a-as-in-cart), so to me, at least, it seems feasible to try and distinguish between “Paul-ah” and “Paul-ar” (or “Paul-er”, to rhyme with Caller) as different sounds.

    The first thing I thought of when I heard this was the battle between the north and south of the UK on words such as “Bath” – in the south, we pronounce it with a long a, in the north, we pronounce it with a short a. However, I’m perfectly capable of pronouncing it either way. That said – when someone with a strong northern accent pronounces Bath with a long a, or someone with a southern accent uses a short a, it’s obviously an effort – and usually sounds a bit like a mockery (often, to be fair, it is!)

    This is rather moot if Paula has been anonymised to the point of a totally different pronunciation.

    All that said… there’s nothing in the original email that suggests that OP or Paula has ever brought this up with Simon. If they have, and he’s refused to make an effort, that’s on him. If he’s acknowledged the difference, made an effort and failed, then Paula should drop it. If he *can* pronounce the difference, and just forgets to do so consistently, then it’s fair for either Paula or OP to remind him on occasion.

    As Data says – one is my name, and the other is not.

    TL;DR – Just because someone has an accent, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t pronounce someone’s name in the way that person prefers, and it’s neither rude nor inappropriate to ask them to at least make the effort. If, having made the effort, they are still unable to pronounce the name correctly, that’s the point at which to drop it.

    1. Nodramalama*

      I disagree. I’ll take my own example as an Australian where my ers sound to other countries like as. So Roger sounds like Roga. But it doesn’t sound like Roga to me. I can, theoretically, hit the ER hard on Roger so an American doesn’t hear Roga. But it is something I would have to think about and purposefully over pronounce every single time I said their name. It would be fairly exhausting to remember to do every time, and I would likely revert to RogA a lot. Because it is in no way a natural sound for my mouth to make.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I don’t think it’s unreasonably exhausting to remember to say someone’s name as they prefer it.

        It’s not completely the same, but we sometimes get questions where someone, for example, “just can’t remember” that their colleague abhors a nickname. Maybe their sister has the same name and goes by the nickname, so it’s ingrained. But we’d tell them to make an effort, right? Why is this where we draw the limit?

        Plenty of name-related things require effort. Say someone changed their name. Or has a foreign name. Or an unusual variant.

        If someone is capable of saying it right, just not bothering to make the effort seems pretty disrespectful to me (it’s different if they’re actually physically not capable).

        1. Nodramalama*

          It’s not the same as those other examples at all. Roger and RogA are the same name. I am pronouncing it with an er, but to YOU it sounds like an A. Australians don’t hear it as A. It is not a mispronunciation. It’s a quirk of accents. It’s not the same as refusing to use a nickname.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Ok, what if Paula was German and pronounced her name with the “au” sounding like the “ou” in “house” instead of like an “aw”? Would you use her pronunciation or your pronunciation? Is it the same name? What about people with uncommon pronunciations? Annas that want to be Ah-nnas?

            I think the pronunciation is part of the name. Paula/Pauler and Roger/Roga are very close, and it’s accents from the same language, so it seems trivial, but where is the line? It wouldn’t matter to most people, but it does matter to Paula, and I think she deserves for people to make an effort.

            1. bamcheeks*

              where is the line?

              I don’t actually think there is a hard distinction, but I do think it’s reasonable to ask how much effort it takes, particularly in this case where it seems Simon is the one who is in a minority as a British person in the US, rather than the person having their name mispronounced being the minority. To me there’s a big difference between, “I am constantly surrounded by people who mispronounce my name, and that grates” and “there is one person whose pronunciation grates because he’s not from around here, and I demand that he change”. My instinctive sympathies are with the person who is not in their home environment and is probably doing a lot of other compensating / adjusting that Paula doesn’t even see.

              I don’t necessarily think there’s any harm in asking, but as I’ve said elsewhere, I do think Rs are one of the hardest sounds for English people to hear or change.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I think that’s a reasonable take.

                This comment section is hitting me a bit hard right now because it feels like everyone telling me I can’t ask for any effort to get my name pronounced right. As someone with a difficult name, it’s really hurtful.

                1. I should really pick a name*

                  The majority of the comments are trying to point out the difference between someone not trying to pronounce a name correctly, and someone who can’t recognize the difference between the two pronunciations.

                  There ARE a few people who are saying it’s inappropriate to even ask someone to try, but they seem to be a vocal minority.

                  As someone who has a name that people screw up frequently, I usually give a couple of corrections, and if I recognize that they don’t hear the difference, I give them an alternate pronunciation that I find less annoying and they can actual distinguish.

                2. Orv*

                  I get where everyone is coming from, but I feel there’s a strong vibe here of “non-English speakers get to insist that their names be pronounced correctly, but English speakers have to just suck it up if people don’t say their names right.”

              2. londonedit*

                Yeah, there’s a difference between remembering that Andrea in Accounts is ‘An-DRAY-ah’ and Andrea in Marketing is ‘AHN-draya’, and what Simon is doing, which is putting an unintentional ‘r’ sound between Paula’s name and another word, like ‘I asked Paulerand she said…’, rather than ‘I asked Paula – and she said’. That’s a thing some English people do without even realising they’re doing it, and it’s not that he’s getting her name wrong, it’s that putting it next to another word that starts with that similar sound makes the two run into each other.

              3. GythaOgden*

                I think the harm in asking is further alienating Simon over something that he probably already sees as divisive through no fault of his own and ending up pushing him out of the org altogether.

                Paula needs to be told that different people speak differently and to stop being such a diva. That’s what would generally happen in any actual workplace I’ve been in, not the weird simulacra people conjure up here.

            2. nodramalama*

              this is not Sara vs Sarah. its not a pronounciation thing, its an accent thing. the line is that what you would be asking is “say Roger in an American accent rather than your own”. That is exhausting and unnatural, and not a reasonable thing to ask of someone.

                1. Nodramalama*

                  No, the as in Sarah and Sara can be pronounced differently. The a in Sara can sound like a long aaahh

        2. Awkwardness*

          But a nickname and more or less selective mispronounciation is different from accents. If I was a “Jürgen”, I would get a lot of Jüügen or Jürgn, but very rarely a perfectly pronounced Jü-r-gen.
          This are slight variations due to accent which will be found in all other words too, not a seperate “could not remember” name as “Jörg”.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I think it would also sound a little bit overstressed and snarky? Like if I were to use a different accent to my own just to pronounce someone’s name, it would come out sounding like I was saying it in all caps. I don’t think Paula is considering that her name, said in her accent, is going to be corduroy patchwork on a silk dress – it will jar against the rest of his accent.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          But what do you do with names from a different language then? Are you going to call Marie Mary and Joaquin Djo-a-kwin?

          Also, imagine for a minute if this was a name from a different ethnicity. Your “corduroy patchwork” comment would come off really, really badly.

          1. Nodramalama*

            They’re not the same examples. It’s like how some people up thread make no distinction between Merry/Mary and marry and some do. That’s not the same thing as someone’s name being in a different language.

            1. al*

              right. my name is Alice (AL-liss), and the french pronounce that sort of as ah-LEESE, but i can switch between those two pronunciations. but not only is there no distinction between merry/marry/Mary for me — i just asked my husband to pronounce all three because he grew up in a place where they say them differently, and i can’t even hear the difference. idk how i would learn to say them differently when they all sound identical to me lol

          2. Brain the Brian*

            No, but I’m also probably going to skip the “French R” in Marie lest I sound like I’m making fun of French people. Paula is a a standard English name, and Simon is pronouncing it the way his own native variety of English pronounces it. Comparing that to someone who deliberately mispronounces or makes no effort to learn non-English names is, frankly, a pointless straw man’s argument.

          3. amoeba*

            As stated above, yes, I do that and so does basically everybody else I know (in my quite international circle here). Even – especially – with my own name. I mean, saying “Hi, my name is [amoeba in a German accent] would be so, so weird and hard to pronounce! Every German Joachim I know pronounces their own name as Djo-a-keen” while they speak English. Every Peter, most Davids, etc, etc. (And I’d still say Marie, bur pronounced the English way, not with the German throaty “R” because that would be super hard to include in an English sentence!)

            Corduroy patch on a silk dress is the perfect image, actually.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I have also worked in very international contexts and I always pronounce people’s names as they say them in their language! It’s so jarring to me to call someone something that’s not their name.

              My own dirty lens is that my name doesn’t even exist in any language except German and Dutch. The amount of effort people make to get it right is very important to me. And I wouldn’t accept the Dutch version either.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I think I’m going to have to bow out of the discussion because it’s making me unexpectedly emotional.

              2. EJC*

                You may think you are pronouncing the names the way they are in the area the person is from, but you may not actually be. That’s the whole point of the letter—people make sounds that they don’t consciously realize they are making.

                1. Snoodence Pruter*

                  Yes, exactly this. You can be stringing all the same sounds together and stressing the same syllables, but they will come out with your accent, because your mouth makes sounds in a particular way. If you share a first language, the other person may be able to tell whereabouts you’re from. If you don’t, the other person will almost certainly be able to tell you’re not a native speaker. That’s not a problem!

                  People are commenting as if Simon is offensively assigning Paula a completely different name because he can’t be bothered to learn her real one. He isn’t. They’re saying the same name, in the same language, with different accents. This is what an accent is, and we all have one. I bet Paula doesn’t say Simon’s name in exactly the same way that he does, either.

              3. Smithy*

                If you’ve spent the majority of your life having most people not pronounce your name correctly, I think the amount of frustration you’ve gone through is understandable. And also why I don’t think this is a one size fits all topic.

                My surname is an Anglicized version of a German surname. Not just an American English pronunciation, but also changes to the spelling that have happened over literally hundreds of years being in the Americas. In my daily life in English North America, my surname is pronounced correctly 90% of the time. Outside of the Americas, in particular with other German diaspora communities or German speakers, the correct pronunciation is more like 25% of the time. And in one case, I had a boss for 3.5 years who’d regularly ask me how to pronounce my surname. I’d tell her, but she never got it right no matter how many times she heard me introduce myself or I’d tell her how to pronounce my surname.

                For me though, coming from an environment where I was both used to the other pronunciations but also the majority of the time having my name pronounced correctly – it was easier to understand how difficult a shift this was. If I’d rarely heard people pronounce my surname correctly, I could see how much harder this would be. Paula is having her name pronounced as she prefers most of the time in the US. So I don’t think you need to see yourself as necessarily being given the same advice.

              4. Spencer Hastings*

                I know Emmy is probably not reading this thread anymore, but I have to say I’m intrigued by the implication that if Martin Smith from London, Martin Johnson from Dallas, and Martin Müller from Salzburg showed up at her office, she would pronounce “Martin” differently depending on which one it was. In the international environments I worked in, that was not the norm, so if there’s one where it is the norm, then hey, TIL.

                1. Smithy*

                  I think the reality with pronunciations is that this is ultimately a more qualitative reality as opposed to true hard and fast rules. Names like Marie or Martin are going to have those different accented pronunciations – but not be as markedly different as Agnes is in French vs English. Where even in an English accent you would make notably changes in the pronunciation of Agnes to mirror the French pronunciation without using a French accent.

                2. Elspeth*

                  I know two Kirstens at work, one Keer-sten and one Ker-sten. I do pronounce those differently, because one is a long vowel and one is a short vowel. I don’t think I pronounce the Rs in the same way as other languages would, though, and if a Kirsten wanted the R to be emphasised or rolled in some way I’d trip over my own tongue and be physically unable to pronounce it

                  My own name gets pronounced three or four different ways by coworkers. Pronouncing the p like a b, emphasising the S (elz-beth) rather than the L (el-speth). Whatever. You can tell it’s me. The one I do correct is the addition of a random syllable (elz-uh-beth) but if people need to do that because they physically can’t say the sp consonant cluster, then I don’t stress

              5. Hell in a Handbasket*

                You probably don’t pronounce them the same, though. Think about when someone learns a new language as an adult — they are almost certainly going to speak that language with an accent, not like a native. They can’t change this through effort of will, or even (usually) through years of practice.

              6. There goes that news van again*

                I am saying with no sarcasm at all but umm I hope you don’t ever have any trips to like, Philadelphia, PA and surrounding suburbs planned. Or New York City. Or Boston, MA.

                But definitely not Philly. Because I just feel like the accents there (especially Philly) and us residents saying your name in our …unique tongue will probably not go over well :-(

                That seems to be the takeaway here :-(

              7. Estrella the Starfish*

                It’s very unlikely that you are pronouncing their names exactly as they would, just that you are hearing it that way. That’s just how accents work!

            2. EchoGirl*

              Yeah, I have a name that has a pronunciation quirk depending on language/accent. For the sake of an example, I’ll use the name Ilsa (not my real name but has the same quirk). Basically, the way my parents pronounce my name is ILL-sa, but a lot of non-native English speakers have trouble with that first vowel sound, so I also get called EEL-sa on a regular basis. Maybe it’s because it’s been going on practically my whole life (I went to school with a lot of people who spoke Spanish as a first language), but I don’t register either pronunciation as “wrong”, just different.

              Ironically, I’ve also had a lot of experience of people mangling my name — which is not nearly as common as the example name I used — just because it’s unfamiliar, and that drives me crazy. But there’s something about the two scenarios that’s just different in a way I can’t entirely put my finger on.

              To the example above — no, you’d pronounce Joaquin as Wakeen (AAM callback FTW). Which is a reasonable approximation, but not quite how a native Spanish speaker would say it, which is kind of the point.

              1. amoeba*

                Yup, same for me! Regional/accent variations are a completely different story than just… getting it wrong. Like, if you pronounce my name the way it actually is pronounced in English or French, absolutely fine. If you just get it wrong as in, use a related but different name, not so great! As an example, let’s say I’m called Marie – that is indeed pronounced differently in English, German, and French, and all three are fine and sound correct to me. But “Maria” or “Mary” don’t.

                (Although I’ve stopped caring as my name actually exists in most countries, but isn’t very common in any of them…)

            3. Allonge*

              If that is your work culture, then that is fine, but I also work in international circles and we don’t automatically go with the English pronounciation, and most people at least attempt to learn the ‘original’. We ask how people’s names are pronounced.

              Lots of people will get it wrong, and/or don’t care that much (about their own name), and that is fine.

              1. Myrin*

                Yeah, same. It’s not relevant to me anymore in my current environment but when I worked at a university, people generally at least attempted an approximation of the person-in-question’s native tongue. Some were more successul than others, of course, but you generally didn’t just change names in accordance to the language you were speaking – yes, that might’ve stopped the sentence’s flow in some cases (although surprisingly often it didn’t!) but it was a matter of principle for many of us.

              2. Ellis Bell*

                Of course you should approximate the person’s way of saying their name as closely as possible – but it should never be nitpicked to the point the person has to change their accent. Even when the accent can say the sound, it won’t sound exactly the same. When I teach phonics to EAL students it’s important I correct the phoneme, not the accent. It’s okay if they some things (even names!) with a flavour, so long as they’ve used the closest ingredient they’ve got.

                1. Allonge*

                  I suppose the issue here is:
                  1 that Simon likely has the ‘ah-sans-r’ sound at his disposal, so it’s a bit in-between
                  2 that nobody actually told Simon (at least what I am getting). Any reasonable person would attempt the approximation you describe, but mind-reading still does not work

                2. bamcheeks*

                  He has the “ah” sound as his disposal pronounced by itself, but he likely doesn’t have a way of getting from a terminal vowel to a starting vowel without passing through “r”. Saying “Paula’and I” without going “Paula ‘randI” takes a huge amount of conscious effort for me– it’s not naturally available to me even in my carefully-enunciating and public-speaking accent, never mind my day-to-day one.

                3. metadata minion*

                  I’m a little confused here — differences in accent often are differences in phoneme. “Sarah” as pronounced by an American and “Sarah” as pronounced by a German, for example, are going to use different phonemes for potentially everything except the initial S.

                4. Spencer Hastings*

                  Metadata Minion: that’s exactly it. If someone said “Sana” instead of “Sara”, that would be corrected (wrong phoneme). But if they have an “r” in there, which “r” it is is a matter of accent, and wouldn’t be corrected.

            4. Aqua*

              yes, I work in a very international office and people put a lot of effort into learning each other’s names correctly AND there are differences in pronunciation based on accent. It would sound bizarre and probably come off as racist if I dropped into a bad Chinese or Indian accent mid sentence to say someone’s name. With Chinese names I try and produce the sounds as closely as possible but I’m not going to do the tones when speaking English, and most of my Chinese colleagues don’t do the tones in Chinese names when speaking English either.

              1. Smithy*

                Absolutely this.

                I’m also in an international office, and I do think the effort without changing your accent is the key. Especially when it’s a language you don’t speak. The French and English pronunciation of Agnes is different enough, that within the parameters of an American English accent I’m going to do my best to get close to the French pronunciation without using a French accent. However, for a name like Marie – that has more subtle changes based on language – I’m going to default to the American English pronunciation.

                1. Lunar Caustic*

                  Yes. I started learning French as a teen, and I can only say a proper Parisian “R” sound when it is surrounded by certain verbs. So I guess if I was speaking English to a French person with a name I couldn’t pronounce correctly, I would probably go ahead and say their name with English pronunciation. On the other hand, if I was speaking French to them, it would feel more natural to do my best to hit the French pronunciation since I’m saying everything else “wrong” anyway and at least I’m being consistent?

              2. Orv*

                I call this the “NPR effect,” where a newscaster will be talking in midwestern broadcast English until they hit a Latino name, and then they’ll suddenly code-switch into a Mexican accent. I get the intent but it’s rather jarring.

          4. bamcheeks*

            Are you going to call Marie Mary

            It’s really funny to me that this is the example everyone keeps going to, because my name is Mary and I have lived in Germany, and you almost certainly do! The only German I know who could pronounce Mary the way I say it was bilingual from birth and specifically bilingual in English English. I know many Germans with very, very good English, and even the ones who have almost no German accent pronounce it like an American would, not an English person. :D

            1. Myrin*

              It’s always such an interesting “dose of reality” for me when I learn the real name of someone who I only know by their internet moniker – in my head your first name is “bam”! :D

              1. bamcheeks*

                I generally try not to give my real name, but since everyone is talking about how British people, Americans and Germans say Mary– well, I do have some relevant expertise in this area!

          5. Ellis Bell*

            Would I disparage someone by not even attempting the obvious sounds in thier name? No. Would I use an entirely different, totally unrelated consonant sound, when I have the right phoneme ready and available in my accent? No, I wouldn’t do that and it isn’t the same thing at all. I’d be able to hear and pronounce the right initial consonant of Joaquin (if you can’t make a w sound at all, it would be both obvious and different, but you still wouldn’t snap a J sound in place even in that case). Were talking about the softness and
            stress of vowel sounds with such minimalistic differences that the accent in question can’t even hear it. In order to approximate it they would have to change everything and go full on mimic so that the other vowel sounds are changed too, (so it couldn’t just be Pawlar to Pawla, they’d have to go from Pawlar to Paa-la l, change their pitch and stress the first syllable, instead of the second, in a way none of their other patterns would match) and mimic an accent in a very obvious way in order to do it.

          6. UKDancer*

            I think you have to try and say the name correctly but equally it’s important to recognise that not all mouths can make all sounds or hear differences. So I had a Spanish colleague and I tried to say his name (Jorge) correctly. He said it was not correct. I could hear no difference between how I said it and how he said it. He could.

            He accepted that I was trying my best and I think that’s all anyone can do.

            I think this is why at least one of my Chinese friends prefers to use an English name. She says it’s easier than having the Chinese one pronounced incorrectly.

            1. Smithy*

              Yeah – I lived in a non-English speaking country where my first name was just difficult for a lot of speakers. Where even spelled in the language of the country and pronouncing it phonetically….it was tricky. However, a common English nickname was much easier and people would regularly default to it. Think of a name like Elizabeth but everyone deciding you’re now a Beth.

              In my case it was a nickname of my full name I never cared for, but also recognized how difficult the full name was. In my case, since the split was more 50/50 – I just rolled with those who nicknamed me. But if that split was different or I lived there longer – I could see opting for an easier to pronounce nickname of my own.

        2. Nodramalama*

          Oh yeah when I say Roger with an ER I sound like I’m trying to be in a western. I think Americans would probably think I’m making fun of them.

          1. Gray Lady*

            YES. British people trying to “sound American” in one off ways like that sound like BCC productions from the 80s with American characters, which were always ridiculous renderings of American speech. Unless, of course, they are either exceptionally gifted at mimicking accents, or have received coaching, or something of that nature.

            He’s not “not trying” to say her name, or saying “his version” of her name, or saying “something like” her name that he’s familiar with, he’s saying her name with the same vowels and consonants she uses, but his accent renders those sounds differently. The Joachim example above is a good one. I’m not going to insult someone by calling him “Joe-tchim” when I know it’s not said that way, but my “properly German” Joachim is never going to sound like the way a native German speaker would say it, despite my best efforts.

      3. Stardust*

        Then you would fall under LSD’s last point: “If, having made the effort, they are still unable to pronounce the name correctly, that’s the point at which to drop it.”
        You can’t really “disagree” with someone saying there are many people who can, without much effort and energy, pronounce the same word in different ways. That’s just a fact.

      4. Chirpy*

        Remembering the pronunciation of someone’s name is no more exhausting than remembering their name! If I have two colleagues and one is Laura (English pronunciation of Lore-ah) and one is Laura (Spanish pronunciation of Lauw-ra) that’s no different than remembering the difference between Bob and Steve.

        1. londonedit*

          But in this case Simon isn’t misremembering the pronunciation of Paula, he’s simply slightly changing the ending when he runs her name into a following word that starts with a vowel. And that’s a standard thing that millions of people with different British/English accents do. Simon probably can’t even understand what the problem is, because it’s simply a feature of his speech that when he says ‘Paula and Jane are in the office’ it comes out as more like ‘Paulerand Jane’. That’s what Paula objects to, and that’s something that’s incredibly difficult to erase from your speech patterns.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          There’s a big difference between remembering one colleague is Lay-la and the other is Li-la, or using French Sylvie instead of British Sylvia to what’s being asked by Paula here; fundamentally changing the way your accent works. If your accent doesn’t pronounce ‘er’ at the end of a word, for RogERR or change the flat a in Dan to something more rounded like Daahan; you just don’t have that accent and it’s not something you can magic up or fake.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Oh, and I was so confused by your saying Lore-ah and Lauw-ra is pronounced differently because in my accent words spelled ore and au are the exact same, which just goes to show you nothing is easily universal (I’ve never seen the spelling auw). I looked it up and I would spell the Spanish version “Lowra”, and I agree with you that it’s an easy pronunciation adjustment. That’s because differentiating between the sound OW and the sound OR is so much easier than changing how your entire accent pronounces sounds, or being able to drop the intrusive R part of your accent.

      5. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

        It reminds me of the scene in My Cousin Vinny where Vinny calls the defendants “two youts.” When the judge can’t understand him, he can in fact overpronounce to make it sound like “two youthhhhhhs,” but it’s clearly an effort and sounds unnatural even to me, who always says “youths” with the “th.” There’s a huge difference between doing that once for clarity and changing the way you say it in everyday speech.

    2. Weegie*

      As discussed upthread, it’s called an ‘intrusive R’ and it’s A Thing in some regional accents. Agree with Nodramalama that Simon will have been speaking this way all his life and it would be exhausting (and near-impossible) for him to change that. It might help Paula to understand that this language feature exists, and that Simon is not doing it deliberately.

    3. Lizard the Second*

      I’m Australian. If I pronounced an American’s name the way he or she would (eg “Dahn” instead of “Don”, or “Care-ul” instead of “Carol”), I would definitely sound like I was mocking them.

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, yeah, and this. Most people would probably assume I was making fun of their accent if I tried that.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, my name’s Emma and there isn’t an American pronunciation that’s the exact same as what I’m used to (Emmeh) and some American accents the last A is really stressed, like EmmAH. Scottish accents totally change the E sound, so that it’s Ehhhhma. I completely love these variations and I consider them all to be correct, and to be a faithful representation of my name. I think it’s really sad that people are so unused to variety in speech that they can’t wrap their heads around this. If another accent used my exact, mimicked, accent to say my name I’d find it weird and off-putting.

      3. Gray Lady*

        Yes, I’m trying to imagine Simon carefully saying “Pau Lah” and dropping the r sound. He’s no doubt capable of doing it, but there’s probably going to be a micropause every time he does it, it will probably be overemphatic, and it will be more pointed and attention-drawing than her just accepting that “Paul-er” is the way “Paula” entirely respectfully comes out of his mouth.

        1. The Space Pope*

          I hope in return Paula would try to pronounce Simon’s name in his accent, because I imagine the “i” would be different in the two accents. It’s only fair.

    4. Give it a shot*

      I completely agree. I may not be able to change how I pronounce something, due to my accent, but I deserve the chance to try! And I would definitely want to know if my pronunciation of their name is upsetting someone.

      1. Safely Retired*

        Yes, it is a disservice to Simon to keep him unaware of the situation. Even if he can’t change how he says her name, he should at least know it is happening as it can impact their relationship.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’m truly on the fence about this. I think there is no way of knowing whether this is going to come across to Simon as useful information, or be like one of those letters where someone’s been told that X complained about their body shape or something and the letter writer is left completely bemused trying to work out what they are suppo