As a child, Farra Kwiatkowski was more than just frustrated having to correct people after they mispronounced her name.
“When I was a little kid, I use to get embarrassed because I had to keep saying it,” the junior psychology and pre-nursing double major said.
Kwiatkowski’s name is still constantly being mispronounced, even by teachers who call out roll everyday. Dr. Andrew Karpinski, a social psychologist at Temple
who specializes in self esteem, said that our name is mostly related to us and can affect the way we behave.
“The higher the self esteem I have, the higher I like those associated with me,” he said. “If people mispronounce your name, they’re insulting you and that’s a threat to your self esteem.”
Sophomore Muhannad Qasem said he doesn’t mind when people say or spell his name wrong.
“I went through that in high school and other stuff,” said the secondary education in physics major. “In elementary school, people used to mispronounce it. I’m used to it now.”
But a name is more than just a few letters put together to make a sound that catches our attention when we hear it. Everything about ourselves changes involuntarily. Our weight, hair style, height and even blood, are not the same now as when we were born. But our name will always remain as is, unless we alter it ourselves.
For some parents, a lot of thought and effort is put into naming their children. Kwiatkowski, who no longer minds failed attempts at saying her name, said that when she plans to have children she will name them after her best friends and brother.
“I want to name them after people I’d like for them to be like,” said Kwiatkowski, whose first name is her mother’s maiden name. Aleida Silva-Garcia, a sophomore biology major, said her name is very important to her.
“Both my mother and grandmother have the same name, so it has kind of passed down,” she said. “I’ve heard it also means ‘a woman with wings.’ I guess that would be an angel.” Flubbed pronunciations don’t offend Silva-Garcia either.
“I don’t really mind because I don’t expect
anyone to pronounce it right,” she said. “But if they pronounce it correctly, it makes me happy.”
Karpinski said that there is another reason why we react the way we do when people say our names incorrectly.
“Let’s say you’re a Republican and people affiliate you as a Democrat. You get upset when something about you is wrong,” he said. “Your name is a part of you. When people get it wrong, they’re wrong about you.”
Camtran Thach, a sophomore political science major, has a Cambodian last name and a Vietnamese first name. Sometimes she said she feels as though she is battling with an ethnic identity problem.
And when people say or write her name incorrectly, they’re not helping her with the situation.
“I feel like I’m losing my name and my identity. They’re taking away my identity when they say it wrong,” she said. “After a while I get tired and don’t care anymore.”
Karpinski also said that there have been studies conducted with people and their names. The results showed that people like the initials and letters of their names more than those of others. For senior biology major Enoch Kogeit, even if people don’t like the letters in his name, they should at least recognize it and not add in other letters.
“My driver education teacher in high school always got it wrong. I’d tell him it’s pronounced as ‘E Nock.’ He kept calling me ‘En Nick,'” he said. “I’m like, ‘Where did you get that from? There’s no [letter] ‘i’ in my name.'”
Kogeit said he shares the same biblical name as his grandfather, and believes that it means ‘dedicated.’Every name has history and personal meaning. No matter how unfamiliar a name may be, a genuine attempt to pronounce it right is appreciated and expected, especially if the person corrected you before.
“It’s who you are. You should feel special,” Thach said. “People should just call it that and not by anything else.”
Anne Ha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.