When you’re young, it’s hard to realize why it matters to pronounce others’ names correctly, let alone learn it. Acknowledging the significance of names are beyond important. I’m pretty sure most of us have met multiple people with the same name, one may say, “traditional American names.” For example: John, Emily, Sarah, etc.
How many Americans do you meet with that name?
They often said to me growing up, “Hadiatou … that’s so hard to pronounce.” This led to my displeasment towards my name as I went through elementary and middle school.
My name was on that I loathed. My name made me incapable of introducing myself to others. My name’s distinctiveness made me feel undervalued. For seven years of my life, I made myself believe I did not belong in a place like America. It was until I started wearing the headscarf my sophomore year of high school, I realized that I allowed others’ unwillingness to adapt to a unique name take control on how I felt about my primary identifier: my beautiful name. Allah has blessed me with a unique name while living in the United States; this easily gives me a way to instantly stand out among everyone.
Hadiatou originated from the Fulani tribe of West Africa and means gift in Arabic.
For every teacher, interviewer, or coworker I’d encounter, I’d either hear, “your name is beautiful, I love it!” or “I’m never gonna be able to get that!” It was always one of the other, never in between.
If you were to ask seven year old Hadiatou if she’d like to change her name, she would have done it in a heartbeat. Now, she doesn’t dare let anyone address her until they learn how to pronounce her name.
My name matters!
In this world, we will always meet someone with a name we’ve never heard before, (after all, this is America: the land made up of people from all walks of life). It is crucial for us to understand how much it means to people when we make efforts to pronounce their names correctly.
Believe it or not, it’s insulting to some if you ask, “do you have a nickname,” or “can I just call you …” just because the name is unfamiliar. Make an effort to show the person you care enough to learn how to pronounce their name, they will remember and appreciate you for it! To be open minded is one of the greatest gifts. Not many people can push themselves to do it, but you can!
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