You Cannot Say My Name

Obviously, "Ankhesen Mié"* is not my real name.

My real name, of course, is no easier for Westerners - especially Americans - to pronounce.  My real name is purely Limbum (except for one of my middle names; it's Arabic), and Limbum is but one dialect amongst over two hundred in the Cameroons, spoken by less than 200,000 people worldwide.  So when non-speakers (and this includes some Africans as well) cannot pronounce my name, I'm neither surprised nor offended.  I don't think people who mispronounce my name are "bad" people.  Nor do I find them ignorant.

What annoys Moi is when white Americans get mad because I tell them they can't pronounce my name correctly.  They don't like to hear that they and I "hear" my name differently.  They don't believe in the fact that there's a tonal component to my language which is absent from English.  And they really don't want to hear how tiresome it gets when people routinely mispronounce my name.  They simply insist that I shorten my name to assimilate (you know...some bullshit they learned in Cultural Diversity 101) , that I should be prouder of my heritage, and just go by my first name.

Uh...I am proud.  That's sort of the point here.

I love my name; it's very beautiful, especially when my relatives say it.  Each time it comes up in conversation, my parents vy for credit.  My father insists he named me; my mother shakes her head and declares it was her idea.  I tend to believe my father more; it's not a common name amongst the Wimbum tribe, and none of our recent ancestors bore it.  That's typical of my father, by the way...digging up names uncommonly used by our people and branding his babies with them.

If my mother had had her way, all her daughters would've been named in Arabic, like her mother.

Black people from the West tend to be more respectful with these matters.  They do not want to mispronounce my name, and when they do, they're immediately apologetic and agree to call me whatever I suggest.  Some even try to attempt the "music" of the language, but mostly, when I say, "Call me ---" they don't get all "cultural diversity" on me.

I think the difference stems from white folks not liking it when someone tells them, "You can't do ---".  In a society which tells them they can do anything, be anything, and are the best of everyone, hearing something like, "You're not equipped to do such and such" sends them over the edge.  One time a white woman actually rolled her eyes and irritably said to me, "I lived in Africa, remember?"

Why, yes...she did.  Six months.  In Botswana.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*Ankhesen Mié, by the way, is Kemetic in origin (I know..."duh").  Roughly translated, it means, "She who lives for Mié", with 'Mié' being a feline deity (he also goes by the Kemetic "Mahes" and the Hellenic "Mios").  Notice how closely his name sounds like "meow".  The idea that the Ancient Africans - the first people to both domesticate and worship cats - named a cat god after the sound cats make amuses Moi to no end.

Comments

  1. One time a white woman actually rolled her eyes and irritably said to me, "I lived in Africa, remember?"
    Why, yes...she did. Six months. In Botswana.


    LMAO, fucking idiot.

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  2. When I changed my name to an African one at the age of 27, I was working at a small college. We had a lot of international students. Whenever I told American Whites my new name and how to pronounce it, they always asked if there was a "nickname" they could call me by because they didn't want to be bothered learning my African name. I told them, I didn't pay $300 and spend a morning in court for a nickname. And that they were [supposedly] educated people and could figure my name out. I even had an incident where I had to tell off another department's secretary (some chick I didn't even know) because she kept referring folks to me by said "nickname" that the Whites wanted to call me. These were students who, when they called my department looking for that name, were utterly taken aback by the fact that was NOT my name at all. They were all extremely apologetic and readily ratted out the chick who told them to call me that. That's how I found out who it was. I don't blame them. They were set up and that was NOT cool. I walked over to her department to her desk and confronted her. I asked her who gave her permission to call me by the nickname she came up with because I sure did not. I told her it was beyond presumption that she decided she was going to call me what she wanted despite my wishes. I told her it was basic human disrespect that she refused to call me by my legal name and that she would in future. And then I left. I think she complained to her boss, but her boss took my side and agreed with me (I knew and liked her boss. My boss was a douchebag).

    But the international students and teachers? All had no difficulties pronouncing my name. Even if they were a little confused and asked me to spell it, once they saw my name written down they all said the same thing,"Oh! It's pronounced the same way it's spelled!" And when I mean international students, I mean all non-Americans of ANY color, White, Black, Brown, every combo in between. THEY all got it, no problem, no drama.

    But the White Americans?! *smh*

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  3. well, moonwalker...just forgive him, right? ;)

    i think it's cuz we WP like to try out stuff that's exotic-sounding to us. i have a thai friend and its fun to try to 'hear' and repeat a thai sentance correctly.

    but i can see how a personal name would be different in that one wouldnt want it garbled.

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  4. Yup, we're supposed to be experts, remember? There's just no way that letters can form sounds our mouths can't pronounce properly. [/sarcasm] And we're the first ones to make fun of the Chinese pronunciation of English "r" sounds. *smfh*

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  5. @ Witchsistah

    My lil sis had a teacher who used to call her "Pretzel" instead of her name. It annoyed the hell out of my father.

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  6. LMAO, you must have stolen my diary! Kidding, I don't have a diary. Anyways...I know this all too well. People tell me my name is cool but I need to "shorten" it to make it "easier" for them to pronounce. Well, my name is already pretty short, only 6 letters and 3 syllables so it amuses me when I'm told its too long.

    My reply is "Really? Its shorter than the name Jessica...*shrugs*"

    Its always been white Americans that pull that "change your name/get a nickname" bull. Nobody else does it, not white Europeans, Africans, Black Americans, Asian-Americans, just them. its too much to ask they learn(or at least try) to pronounce your name. No, YOU have to change it to accommodate them.

    *rolls eyes*

    The only time I buckled was in middle school when I started playing for a new soccer team. I allowed them to call me "Uno". When Im playing soccer I dont mind my name being cut short. I understand that we have to be quick and it may be easier for my teammates to call me "Uno" or just pronounce the first two syllables of my name. Thats the only time I actually condone people calling me by my nicknames.

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  7. @Witchsistah

    LMAO, your experience = my experience, exactly!

    Especially the "its pronounced the same way its spelled!"

    Yup.

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  8. ts too much to ask they learn(or at least try) to pronounce your name. No, YOU have to change it to accommodate them.

    Yeah...that used to be my problem. Now it's, "I can say your name! Just gimme another chance! I can do it! I'm not like those 'other' Americans! I speak some Spanish! I lived in Korea for three weeks! My ex-boyfriend was Filipino! C'mon...just say it one more time and I promise I'll get it right!!!"

    No. You won't.

    And it's not that big a deal to Moi. Better you call me by the nickname I choose rather than the "deadened" version of my very musical name.

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  9. Even if they were a little confused and asked me to spell it, once they saw my name written down they all said the same thing,"Oh! It's pronounced the same way it's spelled!" And when I mean international students, I mean all non-Americans of ANY color, White, Black, Brown, every combo in between. THEY all got it, no problem, no drama.

    +1

    I have a really uncommon name. Americans, everybody always does a double-take. Like "uh... come again?"
    I don't think I've actually met someone, other than family members, who have gotten my name right the first time.
    However, people's reactions are really different.
    International students normally get it after I say it slowly, Americans (not all of them) seem not to get it and I have to write the pronunciation down. And then they go.. "Wow, it's exactly how it looks. It's so 'pretty'."
    Sometimes I wonder if that "pretty" is just an excuse because they couldn't get it until I spelled it out for them.

    I don't get offended unless you give me a nickname upon our first few meetings. Is it so hard to take a minute or two to learn my name?

    I don't if any of you went to/go to high school in the US, but substitutes are more thoughtful than actual teachers themselves in seeing/calling my name. It's funny how some teachers won't call/quiz me because they cannot pronounce it. ha

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  10. My mom recently had an experience in a beauty salon where an older rich white woman came in with her granddaughters and was talking loudly the whole time. At one point she tried to start up a conversation with one of the beauticians, who was East-Asian.

    "What's your name?"

    "Joanne."

    "No, what's your real name?"

    She told her what her name was.

    "How do you spell that?"

    It took a while to clear that up because the white woman was having trouble understanding the beautician's accent.

    "And what part of China are you from?"

    "I'm from Taiwan."

    At which point the white woman said that her mother came from Finland; she spelled "Finland" for the beautician, and explained it's geography.

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  11. Zaire Y
    "Well, my name is already pretty short, only 6 letters and 3 syllables so it amuses me when I'm told its too long.

    My reply is "Really? Its shorter than the name Jessica...*shrugs*"
    __________
    same exact situation for me, 6 letters, 3 syllables and you would have sworn I had a 17 letter German surname.

    When I'm called a completely different name out of pure laziness I just don't respond. It gets the point across because I've learned that they don't like to be ignored.

    I had a girl try to call me Ny, and she learned real quick that you don't get to cut off 2/3 of my name just because you're lazy trick. I don't play that, I guess I have a strong ownership over my name .

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  12. Oh, I hate this. People can't pronounce my name, I can't imagine how much trouble you have. People regardless of origin and ethnicity really hate being corrected, especially if you have to do it more than once.

    I can do most "foreign" names fairly well, you get used to it in the bio department where the majority of your professors and coworkers are going to be Asian, but I still get tripped up on Africa and South American names, no matter who much I want to say Acuecucyoicihuati effortlessly...or without my tongue crying.

    And your right, they've shown that if you didn't learn certain sound combinations as a child you probably can't learn them as an adult.

    /tangent. What's even more messed up, whether or not you learn an actual name for a color determines whether you can visually distinguish that color.

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  13. I guess my first names are easy not too many people had trouble pronoucing them. First name is arabic Aisha very common. Second name is yoruba Tayo (which of course has the prefix of Omo but I won't get into that)

    My surname on the other hand I did not get how people could not pronouce it they always got it wrong the first six times So I'll tell them to forget it but no they needed to try harder. The only person who asked me why I had a weird name was a mixed race boy (half black jamaican half white english let me point out his last name was Binns, just sayin.)

    The only person to get my surname right the first time was my friend in high school C. (who is japanese and black carribean)I was so happy I shed a tear and hugged and kissed the fool. It's pronouced just how it's spelled!

    Oh and the "I lived in Africa before" classic. The country of Africa is fantasic this time of year.

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  14. White Americans are very strange about names and speaking. Even if you tell most of them exactly how to pronounce even something simple and familiar to North American English, say, "quesadilla," they will immediately go with a DELIBERATELY anglo-manglo version of the word, as if to say "I'm not reducing myself to that." You're right for not giving such a special name to them.

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  15. Not surprised11/20/10, 12:08 PM

    I at times get annoyed when people mispronounce my name, because seriously there should be some common sense in it. I like ur name its pretty and that lady who said she lived in Africa, what the heck does that have to do with anything? There they go with that nonsense, they go to one country in Africa, and think they no every dang on thing about the whole continent. Ignorance.

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  16. My given name is an Arabic-English-Yoruba hybrid that even other Nigerians have difficulties pronouncing while my surname is pretty standard Arabic. I have a nickname that I don't mind people using because I'd rather my name not be butchered and its meaning rendered useless. Some of my Nigerian friends would sit people down and teach them how to pronounce their names but I'm lazy so I chose the easy route and went with a nickname.

    South Asians have no problem with my name, it seems it is a quite popular name over there except I spell it differently. At work one of my bosses (a Nigerian btw) calls me an entire different name, I still don't know why I answer her when it really upsets me.

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  17. "At which point the white woman said that her mother came from Finland; she spelled "Finland" for the beautician, and explained it's geography."

    *groans*

    But speaking of nicknames - I assumed you had to be very familiar with the person before nicknames could come into play. You know...friends, at least. Branding a nickname on someone from Day One is taking things too far.

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  18. And your right, they've shown that if you didn't learn certain sound combinations as a child you probably can't learn them as an adult.

    Pretty much. The ability to distinguish non-native phonemes (the sounds we put together to make up words, like "ah" vs. "uh") virtually disappears after the first year of life, so the brain can direct it's resources to learning the native language. Why people think they're some exception to the rule is beyond me--and what's so horrible about being corrected anyway? I feel more embarrassed for getting someone's name wrong than indignant that they corrected me.

    Namemelydia,

    I think you have a beautiful name, though when I first saw your blog title (I clicked your name from a comment on another blog), I thought it was a sentence. :-)

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  19. I had a girl try to call me Ny, and she learned real quick that you don't get to cut off 2/3 of my name just because you're lazy trick. I don't play that, I guess I have a strong ownership over my name .


    The chick I wrote about above had decided to dub me "Nikki" against my will. Yeah, I told her that I didn't pay $300 and spend a day in court for "Nikki."

    I'm curious as to what's been American Whites' long-term reactions to you regarding making them say your name correctly? I ask because whenever Am. Whites asked if there was a "nickname" they could call me by and I [always] told them no, I'm sure they thought I was being an uppity, difficult Negress. In other words, I'm sure I lost plenty of "good darkie" points with them for not privileging their intellectual laziness over my own name, identity and humanity. But they're so used ot PoC doing just that, they think it should be automatic.

    And then there's just the White reaction to being told "no" by PoC that's reminiscent of spoiled 8-year-olds.

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  20. My name is five letters, two syllables and people still mispronounce it. o_O and they do that whole, oh do you have a nickname shit, and I'm like its five letters, two syllables, is it really that damn hard?! Its pretty uncommon anyway,I've never come across anyone who has anything close to it. Aren't nick names for people who have a name so common that they need a second name to distinguish themselves from the other people who share their name? Like the Richards and Johns and Petes. They only have themselves to blame forcing everybody to be white and Anglocise their names.(There is a J in the middle of my name, its an uncommon French name) WP get all this education and they are so lazy that they don't even use it half of the time. Blame the education system its so inadequate, I'm glad other countries are showing us up.

    When I meet someone from another country I usually watch their lips move when they speak so I inadvertently follow their mouth movements when I repeat it. Using this method, and up until recently my education was largely self taught from books, I've never mispronounced anyone's name or offended anyone. I always make a habit of looking people strait in the face when I'm talking to them. Even if I'm doing something, I'll stop what I'm doing, or if I must continue working I'll make a point of saying, 'I'm listening to you I've just got to finish this right now', and I'll repeat alot of what they say back to them.

    I've developed a theory about WP in general:

    Anybody ever notice that alot of the time when they talk to you in general, they will avoid looking directly at you? They'll look everywhere else the ceiling a computer screen or strait ahead.

    Alot of times, like when I'm dealing with financial aid, I'm not even sure if they've heard me until they respond and I'll have to repeat myself until they answer and they still won't acknowledge me. Sometimes I move into their line of vision if I can, and continue to look them strait in the eye, and repeat myself and generally act like I'm stupid until I force them to communicate with me. This is aggravating to deal with on a daily basis though.

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  21. At first I thought it was me: do I have something on my face, is it my tone of voice, am I not making my request clear enough?, does my breath smell bad?
    but alot of them seem to do it, Especially when any disagreement comes up. Like how to say something or anything really. It's like they just expect to be right about everything and never have their opinions challenged at all. And then when they find out they are wrong, they never apologize for insisting that they were right before, they're just like "Oh." Or they nod like acknowledging their error isn't that important, or they change the subject.

    Reason why I'm in self imposed isolation right now. It's not because I can't socialize with these people, I just don't care to.

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  22. *snicker@anglo-manglo*

    I get the same shit - AND I HAVE AN "AMURKIN" NAME!!!

    I have a, what you can call, unisex name. So naturally people wanna assume that my "real" name is La____ or ____a or some shit.

    No, motherfucker, it's ____. That's my fucking name.

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  23. http://manglodrinks.com/

    Somebody owes me a mango smoothie now, I'm going to be craving that all day.

    Witchsista: I'm sad to say its not just the melanin-lacking part of America who has this issue. While I'm happy to report most of my coworkers aren't so bad (or at least admit they suck at it), my wife's coworkers, both chocolate and vanilla, are terrible at it. They are so bad the few Asian customers who are regulars will leave the store immediately if she isn't there or wait around for over thirty minutes just on her because she can actually say their names and doesn't talk with exaggerated hand gestures (I'm not joking no that one >_< )

    Also, since we're on the topic of language:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_18823_5-insane-ways-words-can-control-your-mind.html

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  24. It seems to me that WP wanna fuck up any POC's name, even if it's an Anglocized name. My name is 5 letters long,&it's Irish, yet WP wanna call me anything BUT that. I get "Katie" "Caitlin" "Kelly" and any other White name with 5 letters&two syllables. Sometimes I wish I had a less common name, because it's a bit of an insult to constantly be called by my last name, just because there are too many girls witu my name around.

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  25. Oh nicknames...

    My family calls me Jas, my boyfriend calls me Jas, and I even let my little cousin call me Jazzy. But I hate when people who just met me want to call me Jas. Way too familiar, way too soon.

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  26. Dude, what's with WP and wanting to nickname mofos they just met? I remember as a kid calling folks by their full names. If someone was introduced to us as Robert, we called him Robert. Not Rob, Robbie, Bob or Bobby. If someone's name was Melanie, we called her Melanie, not Mel or Lanie. We did this for all the years we knew them. We also didn't assume that nicknames used by family were meant for us. If you called your 250 lb, 6'5" cousin Tink-Tink doesn't meant I can or will or would! But I've heard of many a Black person having to cuss out a White person for calling them a family nickname simply because they overheard a family member call them that. What part of "You don't know me like that" is so damn confusing to y'all?

    Reason #28383 why I love The Man. When he told his nearest and dearest about me, he insisted they call me by my proper name. None of that nickname shit. His crazy mother was passive-agressive about it, constantly spelling it wrong when she sent us correspondence. I finally dealt with it by mispelling both her first and last name on a Xmas card. She's spelled my name correctly ever since.

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  27. I'm curious as to what's been American Whites' long-term reactions to you regarding making them say your name correctly? I ask because whenever Am. Whites asked if there was a "nickname" they could call me by and I [always] told them no, I'm sure they thought I was being an uppity, difficult Negress. In other words, I'm sure I lost plenty of "good darkie" points with them for not privileging their intellectual laziness over my own name, identity and humanity. But they're so used ot PoC doing just that, they think it should be automatic.

    And then there's just the White reaction to being told "no" by PoC that's reminiscent of spoiled 8-year-olds.

    The usual reaction I get is shock and embarrassment that they are actually being corrected, its like they can't believe its happening. The last time it happened I was in a group setting and the girl who was calling me by a completely different name clammed up immediately and kept her distance; which is fine by me. I don't like when people try to act extremely familiar with me when they know nothing about me and that includes trying to give me a nickname.

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  28. @Witch:

    " I finally dealt with it by mispelling both her first and last name on a Xmas card. She's spelled my name correctly ever since. "

    You's a fool! Hilarious! But she got the point, didn't she? Tit for tat, old bat.

    My real name is two syllables and five letters. It's orgin is Celtic, and people jack it up all the time. I'm at the point where I no longer bother to correct them; they simply become people I do not deal with. I feel like, if you take the time to say my name right, then you're worth getting to know.

    I am very, very aware of this when I get my new rosters every year and go through the names. I teach mainly Black and Hispanic and Latino students. Most of their names I get right off (and the students are pleased because I can pronounce their names). When I cannot, I have no problems asking for help because I need to know how to say their names. Whenever they say, "Just call me..." I say, "If that's what you want, but I would like to know your real name and how to say it." That works and the kids look at me with a higher level of respect, than say, another teacher who doesn't bother to try and get their names right.

    Your name is what it is and no one should get a pass because they can't or don't want to say it correctly. F dat ish.

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  29. You's a fool! Hilarious! But she got the point, didn't she? Tit for tat, old bat.

    Yup. And the fact she suddenly figured out how to spell my name afterwards betrayed her earlier actions for the passive-agressive b.s. they were. And she don't know me. I can out p-a her ANYTIME (thanks, emotionally dysfunctional family of origin). It also let her know tha was am NOT The Man's ex-wife. Ol' girl used to do all sorts of p-a belittling ish to her, and the ex-wife'd take it. Ish like when Mommie Dearest lost some weight, she'd offer the ex her old fat clothes since she allegedly didn't fit them anymore. Girl, if that were me, it would have been ON! I would have cut her down with a "Oh, you lost weight?!" as if to say, "I didn't notice because you don't look any less like a frigate to me." But she could never do that to me because even at my heaviest, I was thinner than she was at her thinnest.

    The Man told me he thinks his mom is confused about me, can't get a handle or bead on me (why in hell does she need one?) and is a little scared of me. I say, GOOD! Let that heffa fear my ass.

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  30. I don't like when people try to act extremely familiar with me when they know nothing about me

    *shudders* Irritates Moi to no end.

    Whenever they say, "Just call me..." I say, "If that's what you want, but I would like to know your real name and how to say it."

    Honestly, when people do that it, makes me twitch, because non-Africans have never been able to properly say my name. And I'm not mad that they can't, I'm just mad they cannot accept that they can't.

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  31. @K:

    How many times do I have to explain this to you people? They're White - they can do anything.

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  32. This post reminds me of this awesome video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1HIpmfxPTU&list=UUl3PwCk8l3ceh3FpaTDj8Ug

    ReplyDelete

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