My name is never pronounced correctly. In fact, I'm more surprised when someone does say it correctly. If I meet someone who might be in their 50's, I usually correct them with, "It's Liza, with a Z." Otherwise, I'm usually stuck with however they pronounce it. Now, my last name always gets messed up, too. TAloosen. TaluSAAAN. Taulsin. Talulusan. It's never done right. (hence the spelling of my blog name "To Loosen" which is how my last name is pronounced).
I actually don't think my name is all that difficult. To me, it sounds completely un-Asian. It doesn't even sound of a particular racial/ethnic group.
It wasn't until I gave birth to my daughter and named her a somewhat unique name - Joli - that I insisted on pronouncing names correctly. With the popularity of Angelina Jolie (whom she was NOT named after), you'd think people would get her name right. Nope. She's called "Julie", "Jolene", and even "Julia." I insist on correcting people when they mispronounce her name. After all, I GAVE her that name and it's spelling and pronunciation has meaning to me. Once I became outspoken about her name, I found myself correcting people when they mispronounced my own name. I found my voice.
So, this latest incident really ticked me off when I read about it. In short, it's about a businessman who bought a hotel and insisted that everyone Anglocize their names. As the staff was made up of many Latinos, Martin (Mar-TEEN) was told to become Martin (MAR-tin). Marcos became Mark.
The article in-and-of itself is totally crazy. But, what gets me is the post-article "Poll" that MSNBC created that gives you these options:
VOTE: IS IT EVER OKAY TO MAKE EMPLOYEES TO CHANGE THEIR NAMES?
YES, if employers deem it necessary for communication with customers.
NO, such a rule discriminates against immigrants and foreign workers.
WTF? "discriminates against immigrants and foreign workers?" What about "discriminates against anyone who isn't named John, Mark, Luke, or Paul? " Last time I checked, names aren't solely tied to immigrants and foreign workers. There are plenty of Americans who have names that get jacked up all the time. Heck, my name (and my daughter's name) only has TWO syllables, and that gets butchered to no end!
Why is MSNBC equating "names" with "immigrants and foreign workers"? People are named after their grandparents, friends, and hybrids of other people's names. I quite possibly found the poll more disturbing than the article, if that's possible!
I make it a point to pronounce people's names correctly. I make a point to ask how they would like me to say it, too. I'm married to a "Jorge" who doesn't roll the "R" in the middle of his name. To his family, he is Jorge ("George"). To our friends and his co-workers, he is Jorge (HOR-hay).
I find that people have trouble figuring out some Chinese names (most notably, the ones that start with "X") and instead resort to just calling them by their last names (which tend to be shorter). Or, out of frustration, a few of my friends have simply made up another name to have people call them. So, JongSu becomes "James".
Want to work for social justice? Learn people's names. Learn how they want to be called. And, when they tell you, accept it. Don't try to change it unless they ask you to change it. And, work through assumptions that any "ethnic" name must be something foreign.