No, I Do Not Have A Nickname, This Is My Name

I am not going to change my name because it is “too hard to pronounce”.

Petiri Ira
Sep 17, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash

Please learn to pronounce my name correctly, it’s not that difficult.


People in the African and Asian community with non- Anglicised names often have to explain how their names are said and since the majority of people they come across in their lives are not willing to put effort into learning how to pronounce their names; they resort to providing a nickname or an English name.

What We Have To Endure

People with non-Anglicised names have found themselves in situations where they have been asked to provide a different version of their name that is easier is to pronounce or providing an English name to make it easier for their counterparts to pronounce. This has been repeated and continues to be repeated across the globe in places where that kind of name is “uncommon”, this is a toxic habit that forces people without English names to conform to names that suit those who they are surrounded by find easy to pronounce. The harm this causes is that erases a part of that person’s identity, their culture and their native language over time.

Imagine this, you’re a new student and you’re sitting in homeroom while the teacher is taking attendance, you know you’re name will be called in a few moments. You try to calm yourself down and prepare for the dreadful moment that creeps ahead. A few moments later, the teacher twitches their eyes and stutters on the first few letters of the name they are trying to read. You know it’s you; great, here it comes.

“Excuse me, how do you say your name? Do you perhaps a nickname? Or an English name that is easier to pronounce?”

The Effects Of Not Trying To Learn How To Say Our Names

Firstly, there is no problem in asking how to pronounce said students name as you may simply not be familiar with the name. It is justified to ask how it is pronounced so that you can learn how to say it correctly. However, asking someone if they have a nickname or an English name is incredibly rude. It suggests that trying to say their name is too much of a hassle and it is not even worth trying to learn. This is othering; it separates the person from everyone else making them feel like an outcast, feeling as though they do not belong. By asking them if they have an English name implies that the only normality in terms of names is when the name is a common English name, this has everlasting effects as it builds insecurity and deep-rooted self-hate in one’s culture and native language. This forces them to try and assimilate into society.

Misconceptions About Our Names

What usually happens is that when people hear our names for the first time, it immediately sounds foreign to them and society will label us as exotic and offensive. This is completely wrong. First and foremost just because it may sound foreign to you does not mean its exotic. Just like other names, our names hold great meaning and connect us to our cultures, our parents gave us these names hoping we could connect to our cultural identity more, it helps us reclaim our power reminding us we do not need to conform to society’s idea of a “regular name”.

What You Can Do

Instead of asking someone if they have an English name or a nickname that is easier to pronounce, stop to think what pain it may cause them. Rather kindly ask them how to say it correctly, they will greatly appreciate it because throughout their lives they have had to adjust their names to make it easier for people to say. Consider their cultural identity, and educate yourself on their background it will open your eyes to the struggles ethnic minorities have had to endure over the past centuries.

From now on, say our names.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social…

Petiri Ira

Written by

WEOC Member, Bylines in Momentum, Cultured, AnInJustice, Equality Includes You, The Pink, Illumination, AfroSapiophile and Age of Awareness.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social justice. Open to all.

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