“What’s in a name?” “Shut up, Juliet.”

To all the new teachers, substitute teachers, doctor’s office receptionists, and potential employers that I have had in my lifetime:

I just want to say that I’m empathetic of your struggle and I identify with you.  That moment scanning the roll sheet or the sign-in sheet or my email application, and you scroll past the Jessicas and the Tanyas and the Aarons of the world, and then your eye stops on my name, and you think, Poor guy.  Or girl?

In middle school and high school, I grew used to that pause after Goselin or Green, when I knew Hamilton was next and that poor teacher was in denial that, whatever they tried, whatever ethnic spin they put on it…they were about to go down in flames.  As often as possible I preempted the carnage, and just called my name out.  Because I’m a nice person like that.

And I’m not a shy person, generally speaking.  When someone asks me a question I will give them the answer, clear and enunciated.  None of this bs I keep running into with high school students, where the answer is mumbled and quiet and completely unhelpful.  (After two different students  named Estefani, I still have no idea how to pronounce it.)

I didn’t choose my name.  I like it, and I can’t imagine being named anything else.  But given the opportunity to name new people (say, children), I would have to think long and hard before saddling them with something that no one will ever be able to spell or pronounce without practice.

Oh, also, I’d save them the conversation of, “That’s different!  I’ve never heard that before!  Where is that from?”  I have given the full story as I know it (Dutch wedge of family pie; 7 and 9 generations back; we have no idea how it was pronounced originally; possibly a Dutch equivalent of Cynthia?), but I have also, when particularly flustered/in a hurry/irritated, just said, “Yeah, my parents made it up.”  (If I’ve ever given you that bit, I’m sure it wasn’t personal, I was probably just having an “off” day.)

My mother-in-law named her kids Lance and Drew.  This way, there’s no nickname for either one, there’s no lengthier versions, and no one will ever have problems understanding/spelling/pronouncing their names.  I love it.  I’m into nicknames, but it’s frustrating meeting that person who sometimes goes by Michael and sometimes goes by Mike, and you’re like, what do you want to be called?

I recently found out the guy I’ve been calling Harold for a month actually prefers Hank.  But no one ever told me that.  So I’ll make the switch now.  Awkward!

In fifth grade, a family friend suggested I change the spelling of my name to Sysha.  Which might have been helpful.  But I could never really convince myself that I wanted to give up like that.

I recently read an article that said that given two resumes with an equal level of experience, equally good references, etc, the employer will call the one with the “Americanized” name.  (I guess this depends greatly on the employer.)  They sent out equally matched resumes to a bunch of employers, one with “Rachel Miller” on the top and one with “Nikshanta Uluave.”  (Or whatever.)  And guess who got called in to interview?  I have definitely thought more than once, over the last year, about just sticking my middle name up there to make me more accessible to American (and xenophobic?) potential employers.

When Drew first started work at The Lion King and would mention his girlfriend Syche, everyone thought he was dating a black girl.  They were apparently kind of disappointed when they finally saw pictures and I’m just a plain boring white girl with brown hair.

In the end though, there’s more to a name than Juliet thinks, right?  I feel like my name has shaped me in a way that going through life answering to Shannon might not have.

So, strangers who are seeing or hearing my name for the first time, I appreciate your patience and your perseverance.  Please call me in for an interview, I am totally not intimidating at all.

And to the Yazans, Timmurs, Salevis, Siales, Anayelys, and Estefanis of the world (or even just the Bay Area): I really am trying to say it correctly.  It’ll help me out so much if you say it clearly if I get it wrong.

And don’t look at me like that, we’re in the exact same boat.

PS. My favorite name today was a guy named Orange.  And I’ve seen a lot of overly-complicated spellings of regular names, like Raychell and DeNiece.  (I’m not making these up.)

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6 Comments

Filed under Being a girl, Memoir, My name

6 responses to ““What’s in a name?” “Shut up, Juliet.”

  1. Mr. Syche

    They thought I was really cool when I was dating a black girl. Hard to tell them the truth.

  2. David

    Your comment about “answering to Shannon” brought to mind the male Shannons out there, who have similar problems with new teachers, prospective employers, etc. Just because people know how to pronounce a name doesn’t mean that all is well.

  3. Suzanne

    During the first weeks of a new school year or whenever there was a sub – my name was always butchered! How hard is it to say Suzanne and not Susan? AND when the teacher would call out Robert Nielsen’s name and then – long long pause – the entire class would shout out “Niewiadomy” – I’d just say “here” and if they were back the next day they would just butcher “Suzanne” again and skip the “Niewiadomy” part. Re: the Angel Dusty’s, Schwilika’s etc of the worlds – I often think that when a parent is choosing a name they should have to stand at the edge of a playground during recess and shout out the name. If no one laughs then it’s a go. And naming your child after your favorite drug should just not be allowed.

  4. Kaija

    My favorite little trick, especially at Starbucks, is this — when they say “How do you spell that, and then take a guess, I just agree with them, however they’ve decided to spell it. Makes them feel smart and we can just get on with it. I wonder what they think if they notice how it is actually spelled on my credit card…

    • Hello Kaija! It’s nice to e-meet you after hearing about you from Kirk. I’ll meet you for real at Invited Dress I guess!
      I never give my real name at Starbucks, and usually it’s not a big deal. But I did have a barista once actually notice the name on the credit card, and then give me a weird look. I was like, “Wouldn’t you prefer it this way?” Oh well. You win some, you lose some.
      See you tomorrow evening!

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