Canadian radio host Nana aba Duncan decided a decade ago she no longer wanted to go by nicknames and instead reclaim her full Ghanaian name, pronounced Nuh-NAA-buh. She put a name pronouncer in her email signature, and patiently corrected people when they didn’t get it quite right. She got a lot of support – but she also still faces struggles.
A woman at a party insisted she could never pronounce Duncan’s full first name, laughing instead at how different it was and asking where she was from. “She really, really acted like I had just come from another country… I really felt like I was so foreign to her,” says Duncan, who has lived in Toronto for more than 40 years. At another get-together, a guest explained that her name was hard to pronounce and unilaterally reverted to ‘Nana’ instead. Then there was the co-worker who sang Duncan’s name to the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: “Na-Na-Na-BAAAAAA.” No one else’s name became a musical spectacle, just hers.
There are also those who use their real names, only to have people repeatedly mispronounce them. “[Getting names wrong] can go under the radar for a lot of individuals. Other people can see it as, ‘oh, it's not that big of a deal’,” says Myles Durkee, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who specialises in race, identity and cultural code-switching. “What makes it detrimental is the chronic pattern of doing this consistent mispronunciation. And the ripple effects from that are much more adverse, signalling to the individual that they're less important, that they're less valued.”
Read the full article at BBC.