What’s in a name? Often a lot!
Take my name for instance. “Lida” is of Dutch origin and is the same as the name of a dear family friend of my parents. Recently, I had a conversation with a gentleman who repeatedly struggled to pronounce my name. As he continued to try to get it right, he began to giggle when he couldn’t pronounce my name correctly. He kept giggling, apparently entertaining himself. Then he started getting silly and singing the “Banana Fana Fo Fanna” song as I listened … unamused.
I gently offered a suggestion, “You can remember it as: ‘You can lead a horse to water’…” That didn’t seem to help. I was still called Lydia, Lisa and Linda for the remainder of our conversation.
Names are very personal. Whether your name is easy to pronounce (“Bob”) or more complicated (“Lida”) it is your unique calling card to the world, chosen by your parents. Some names carry history, legacy, special meaning or ethnic significance. Our world is global – in person and online. Today it is more common to encounter names that seem unusual to us.
When faced with a unique and hard-to-pronounce name, here are some suggestions:
1. Respect that the person’s name may have religious, cultural or personal significance. It’s all right to ask where their name comes from, but don’t mock the name or the fact that you struggle to pronounce it. Often, someone with a unique name is proud of the history and significance of the name and could share an interesting story!
2. Try for a mental match in your mind to help remember the pronunciation. My example (above) is one option, or try “Preeta” is pretty; “Ramone” was a popular band in the 80’s (Ramones); and “Suni” is sunny.
3. If the name is challenging to pronounce phonetically, ask for help. This isn’t the first time we’ve been asked to repeat our name. Someone with an unusual name is used to having it mispronounced, but appreciates being asked to clarify.
There is a lovely young lady who does pedicures in our local nail salon. Her nametag reads, “Dana” and she is from Mongolia. Recently, I asked her if Dana was her American name, and if so, what is her native name? She proudly told me her name in Mongolia is “Dahfka.” I said to myself, “Oh, like Kafka!” Every time I see her in the salon, I make a point of saying, “Hello, Dahfka!” and she is elated!