Quantcast

«

»

Aug 21 2013

“Please don’t call me that” is not the same as PC or censorship

Imagine you’re at a nice social event: drinks are passed around, you’re amidst friends and new, amicable strangers. Your friend introduces you to one of her friends. Imagine, like me, you have a very uncommon name for those here. You introduce yourself.

I can replay this scenario, because it’s happened to me 3,456 times.

“Sorry?”

“Tauriq”

A blank stare. “Ah, well it’s nice to meet you.” (Worse when it’s on the phone because you receive nothing but silence.)

“So Toreek…”

“-It’s Tauriq, actually… No stress on either syllable. Tar as in road. Rick as in short of Richard. Rhymes with ‘stick’.”

Now, most people get it here or eventually come to pronounce it properly, after they’re surrounded by those that can (I have smart friends who, when realising their friends are not getting the pronunciation, say my full name instead of pronouns and say it loudly). This is typical.

However, imagine someone said: “No, I prefer to say Toreek. It’s easier for me.”

This isn’t my name and I have no reason to respond to this. I hope no one would think I was being unreasonable to politely request the person not call me that, since that’s not my name. Now, imagine this person persists.

“Oh, I know that’s not your real name or how you want me to pronounce it, but since you’ve given me little to no way to actually pronounce it, I’m more comfortable using this term to refer to you.”

What’s to stop me from calling my new friend Mr Blubberfish? I prefer Blubberfish to Michael or whatever and its more memorable. I’ll see Mr Blubberfish at social events and I will yell: “Hey, Blubberfish!”

I’ve provided fairly simply means to pronounce my name. If you can pronounce “tar” and “rick”, you just need to put those words together. I’m not asking to learn a new language.

Imagine I express consistent disapproval of mispronunciation. “This is not my name, please don’t refer to me as such.”

Mr Blubberfish – I mean Michael or whatever – says “everyone seems to get offended about something nowadays! We have become a hypersensitive society. Toreek is much nicer sounding than Tauriq any old day!”

Like me, I hope you think this is a strange, rather bullying response – my view doesn’t matter, nor that I’d rather not be referred to as “Toreek” taken into account. This doesn’t mean there aren’t people who don’t mind or who call themselves Toreek. But I am not one of them and therefore you are not referring to me, by this name. You might as well be calling a rock a shoe because it “sounds nicer” or is “easier to pronounce”.

The real comment

That previous comment response however is based on an actual comment concerning the use of the term “prostitute”, over the term “sex worker”.

“Everyone seems to get offended about something nowadays! We have become a hypersensitive society. Prostitute is much nicer sounding than sex worker any old day!”

Sex worker rights, like gay and women’s rights (among many other causes), is an area of concern to me for many reasons – primarily because sex workers are unfairly treated, viewed as non-persons, due to backward policies and a stigma around (paying for) sex and a consistent fear of women’s autonomy. I have friends fighting this cause, too: Many of them have indicated their preference for the term “sex worker”, and/or that they find the term “prostitute” offensive.

This could be for a number of reasons. For example, the association with “prostitute” as a verb, which is usually pejorative and degrading.

But it doesn’t matter. It’s not hard, nor does it appear to serve much purpose in continuing to call sex workers prostitutes when they’ve requested you not do so. Furthermore, by calling them sex workers you can find out whether the term prostitute is offensive later. Erring toward less offensive terms matters, since it shows we care about the impact our words have and that we’ve taken into account those who are the unfair targets of malicious attacks and dismissal.

Compassion and censorship

The comparison to my requesting my name be pronounced properly was meant to bring out the disconnect people have between showing respect towards others and cries of PC, censorship and tone-policing.

We ought to all recognise that words and the use of them really do matter: they’re the tools by which we convey our beliefs, opinions, etc. They’re often our only way to judge the threat or friendliness of another – aside from behaviour. If you think words don’t matter, ask anyone who’s been brought to various stages of anxiety, depression and suicide from online bullying, vicious misogyny, racism, etc., from complete strangers who have done “nothing” but send mere pixelated words. We’re not all Samuel L. Jackson, we’re not all emotionally-anchored and surrounded by the rocks called loved ones.

To claim “censorship” over “compassion”, PC over politeness, is to only reinforce that you don’t actually care about language and, therefore, the other person; it’s to continue weaving the cocoon of solipsism that’s being pointed out, preventing you from actually acknowledging someone that’s not you or like you. This doesn’t mean unnecessary censorship or policing of words or phrases doesn’t exist: mockery of religion, politics and ideas – even monarchy – resulting in bans or firing is problematic.

But it’s fallacious, black-and-white thinking to claim that any time, anyone requests you not say or refrain from saying something it’s censorship: This shows you don’t recognise nuance in a complicated world; you fail to acknowledge that different things require different responses even if they appear – at first glance – the same.

Yes, sometimes we can claim “PC gone to far”. But we must recognise that language isn’t a free for all, just as beliefs aren’t a free for all. We live among others who actually need to live with the consequences of stigma and pejorative terms. Ask them what they prefer – it’s not hard and it shows you actually care, like any decent person. And if your right to “free speech” matters more than marginally, minisculely trying to make someone more comfortable – which would not impede anything you’re doing – then perhaps you need to reassess why you’re engaging with others at all.

NOTE: Not that it matters, but my name being refused proper pronunciation is not based on any actual incident. No one has rejected the pronunciation of my name; just been unable or forget to pronounce it.

46 comments

2 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    I think there’s a certain degree of racism/colonialism in it, too. I’ve known friends with names unusual or different, and heard replies like, “Well, I don’t mind if you call me Kate or Caitie or pronounce it as it would be in Irish contexts, so you don’t get to mind if I use your name in the way I want to use it.”

    Not recognizing, for instance, that the experience of someone with an unusual name is not the same as that of someone with a name commonly-found in their context: unusual names lead to unusual bullying, as I found with my birth-name. So for me now, as Cait (or Katie or Kat’leen or MMM’Q), to say “Well, it wouldn’t bother me, so you’re not allowed to be bothered by it” would be to ignore the commonness of my name, ignore the white privilege that means my name is “familiar” to my compatriots, ignore the constant pressure to conform to the mainstream.

    Speaking as someone who’s done it, “sex worker” is way more comfortable for me as a label than “prostitute” or “whore” or any of the other billion offensive names for people who do one of the few trades found in pretty much every society.

    Good post, Tauriq.

  2. 2
    carlie

    However, imagine someone said: “No, I prefer to say Toreek. It’s easier for me.”

    That happened to Quvenzhane Wallis with a reporter, who tried to call her “Annie” instead because the name was “too hard” (she’s starring in a remake of Annie). Even at 9 years old, she realized that was a bullshit line of thinking and told the reporter no. Point being that if someone under the age of 10 can understand that “don’t call me that” isn’t an imposing rude insult, adults should be able to figure that out.

  3. 3
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    The shit that kid has had to go through, for the crime of being Black and having a gorgeous and fairly rare name.

    “Your name is too hard”? So…a ten-year-old and her friends can manage it, but you can’t. Which of you should be working as a reporter again?

    Actually, that’d be an awesome show. I would get cable again to watch Quvenzhané Wallis read the news. Her facial expressions alone would be worth the price. I hope she gets as long and lucrative a career as she wants.

  4. 4
    Pen

    Wow – it’s funny how the name analogy must seem so obvious to some people. My real name contains syllables that are unpronounceable by virtually all people in one of my countries. I’ve been known by a different name per country since I was an infant. I do sometimes wonder if I have the best of all boundaries but that isn’t one of the things that bothers me.

    As for names of groups of people, I completely agree with you and always go with the consensus if there is one. It isn’t always easy because of linguistic drift splitting the community in question or the need to communicate across cultures or with people of multiple cultures who each use a different consensus. Race terms are classic for this. ‘Black’ or ‘white’ had better be adjectives in Britain but in Australia and sometimes the US they can be nouns. ‘Coloured’ is banned from our vocabulary so POC makes us cringe. I’m told ‘Mulatto’ is still acceptable in the Caribbean and appears in a lot of literature, but the UK and US don’t like it much, nor do they agree on an alternative. ‘Gypsy’ is apparently no longer acceptable though a meaningful alternative doesn’t seem to have emerged. And I currently have an issue in my writing with Native American/American Indian. I’m told the latter is preferred but I have to write about Indian Indians in the same piece. No problem with ‘sex worker’ although I expect it to also evolve. The thing is that when respect isn’t granted to the group in question (and it still isn’t for sex workers), disrespect will soon attach to whatever name is used, causing the group in question to reach for a new one.

  5. 5
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Great post, but I have to disagree with this somewhat:

    To claim “censorship” over “compassion”, PC over politeness, is to only reinforce that you don’t actually care about language and, therefore, the other person

    I wrote about this back in April. If someone really didn’t care about language, they would just change theirs. That they’re so insistent shows that they do care – about reinforcing their power in the situation and/or about some beliefs the words they cling to convey or systems they reinforce.

  6. 6
    Guest355

    But sex workers really are called “prostitutes.” Look it up in any English dictionary.

  7. 7
    LicoriceAllsort

    I’m a little surprised (in a good way) that you haven’t had people insist on calling you a quote-unquote “American” name, Tauriq. I have a fairly common-among-white-US-women, easy-to-pronounce name that has a few common variants. I still get regularly get people who mispronounce my name intentionally, because they “like” a local variant “better”. (Not surprisingly, their preferred local variant is usually also associated with upper-crust folks.) I’m sorry that my name is unsophisticated, people; it is what it is.

    Regardless, I’m pessimistic that your name example will resonate with the people who’re actually making complaints about having to substitute their preferred 3-syllable term with “sex worker” (ohmahgawditssohard). Here are the 15 names of people making complaints in the thread you linked to, starting with the comment you quoted: Debra, Jonathan, Deb, Ariel, Susan, Kathy, April, Marty, Kristy, Megan, Anna, Tracy, Raina, Frederick, Bob. For the most part, these aren’t folks who know what it’s like to have people botch their name pronunciation. However, they probably do encounter nicknames where they don’t want them (Debby or Freddy or Meg) or full names where they’ve chosen nicknames (Deborah, Katherine, Martin). Even so, that misses a lot of the bigoted undertones of insisting on a name that has very different class or ethnic connotations. Unfortunately, they don’t exactly seem like imaginative types, so even this example would likely fly over their heads.

  8. 8
    leftwingfox

    That didn’t take long.

    One of the most important lessons I ever got in english was the idea of connotations.

    Which would you rather be called, child-like, or childish?

    Both mean the same thing: having the properties of a child. But through cultural repetition, “Childlike” evokes a sense of innocence, wonder and playfulness, “Childish” invokes petulance, whining, and tantrums.

    In a broad sense, descriptive words towards oppressed groups are often not chosen by those groups, but applied to them by outsiders. This is especially true of slurs. Often these groups choose words without the cultural baggage to describe themselves in a positive or at least neutral methods.

    Finally, a person’s individual relationship with a word is going to vary depending on how they grew up with it. Some people might reclaim a slur to make it their own, other people have too much baggage.

    It’s a sign of basic courtesy to address people as they prefer to be addressed.

  9. 9
    leftwingfox

    Gypsy’ is apparently no longer acceptable though a meaningful alternative doesn’t seem to have emerged.

    It’s “Romani” as far as I know.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people

  10. 10
    Ben Zvan

    Reminded me of Data in ST:TNG saying “One is my name; the other is not.

  11. 11
    dukeofomnium

    I’m with you. If you feel a need to refer to your occupation by a euphemism, then you should consider a line of work you can describe honestly. We prosti — I mean, we “sex worker” the language far too often as it is.

  12. 12
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    (This may be kinda OT, but it’s related to the first thing.) [TW: Racism]

    9 years ago, my mom became the pastor of a small church in Marin County. (Note: Marin County, CA, is considered a very “liberal” area. It’s one of those places where consistently 80+% will vote Democrat.) When we arrived, it was already a fairly multicultural congregation (sadly, an unusual thing). We were introduced to the twenty or so regular members, including a Vietnamese woman named “May” and an African-American woman named “Mary”.* There was nothing unusual in the introductions. Just going down the line, “And this is Linda, her husband Joe, and this is Bobbi and Bill and…” Nothing to tip off that something was seriously wrong.

    A few years later, when “May” was cutting my hair (she owned a salon) for whatever reason I decided to look more closely at her certification on the wall. Something was wrong. “May,” I asked, “who is ‘Anne’?”

    “That’s my name,” she told me. And told a story about how there were two women at the church named “Anne” so another woman declared it to be too complicated, and because Anne reminded her of a “May Flower” (her personal nick-name for Anne), she decided Anne should change her name, and Anne went along with it because she didn’t want to cause any trouble. I asked if I should call her Anne instead of May. “It’s fine,” she told me. “I like it. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” So I didn’t. And Anne stayed May.

    About a year after that, my Mom had become much closer to her. She finally admitted that she hated being “May”, had always hated it, but didn’t think she could say anything. So Mom started calling her Anne again. I did, too. When people at church heard the different name, they asked her what she preferred, and she was able to say, “Anne is my name.” And over time, almost everyone called her “Anne” though some people–including me!–would still slip up from time to time, because we’d known her as “May” for so long. I haven’t been around the church in a couple years, but Mom says Anne is Anne to everyone, and now corrects people who get it wrong.

    With “Mary” it didn’t take near as long. She was closer to my own age, so we became friends. When I went over to her house, I found that all her friends and family called her ShaQuana. When I asked about the difference, she said the first day she came to church and introduced herself, a woman said, “Oh, I’ll never remember how to say that,” and decided to name her Mary because it was “easier to say”. She was so shocked she didn’t know what to do, and she didn’t want to rock the boat. She said it was embarrassing to try and correct people later when they already knew her name was “Mary”. She didn’t want to tell people to stop calling her Mary, but she also preferred that I call her by her real name. So I did, my Mom did, and when her family started attending the church, of course they all did, too. It didn’t take long before the rest of the church caught on (it was a really small church) and now everyone calls her by her real name. (It probably helped that the woman who had changed her name stopped attending the church once a “lady pastor” had been called.)

    So it happens, and it really sickens me. I can’t imagine how one could feel so fucking entitled as to change a person’s name because they don’t like it! UGH.

    (And I won’t even go into how the pastor of the Haitian congregation, which meets in the afternoon on Sundays in our shared building, has had an incredibly hard time getting people to remember the simple fact that he isn’t African-American. He may be black, but he’s Haitian. And while most people just apologize–but still don’t bother taking the time to fucking remember–there have been a couple people who get mad and are, like, “How am I supposed to know what to call you when you people keep changing your minds!”)

    I will say that since the “white flight” (after two large, extended black families started attending the church, three of the white families suddenly found other churches where they felt “more comfortable”) there’s been a lot less bullshit at the church. Well. A lot less of that particular type of bullshit–it’s still a church, after all.

    * I changed the names, because I’m no longer in regular contact with these women since leaving the church and I’m not able to get permission to use their names.

  13. 13
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    Another beautiful example of how people whose rhetorical strategy is “go to the dictionary” a) have no argument to make and b) are almost always ignorant assholes.

    Sure, it may be confirmation bias, but y’all work really to keep confirming it for us.

  14. 14
    punchdrunk

    East Indian/American Indian is fine for clarity.
    You seem to be talking about style guides for writing, which are going to vary between audiences/publications. The OP is about an individual (or group) explicitly asking that you use their preferred nomenclature.

  15. 15
    Rike

    When I first came to this country (from Germany) and was accepted for a job, the bookkeeper there asked me for my name. When I told her “Ulrike”, she said “You have to do something about that”.

  16. 16
    Axxyaan

    If someone prefers I use “sex-worker” instead of “prostitute” I wont argue about it and just use what they prefer. However I do wonder how long it will take before “sex-worker” will just sound as negative as “prostitute” and people will start looking for yet another term.

    I have seen this happen in dutch. First we called people with some disability “gehandicapte”, (handicapped). Then we would call them “invalide” (invalide), sometime later is was “mindervalide” (lessvalide) followed by “andersvalide” (otherwisevalide) but in the end the stigma associated with being disabled just jumped to the new word that was used to refer to people having a disabilty.

    So is it alright if I sometime try to suggest this part of the fight is futile. That if you want to have a word without negative connotations you first will need to make substantive progress in how our society sees these people, because otherwise the new word will soon enough sound just as negative as the first.

    But in the mean time I will use the word people prefer on how they call themselves.

  17. 17
    Nepenthe

    The term for this is the “euphemism treadmill”, just fyi.

  18. 18
    keelychaisson

    “Sex worker” is not a fucking euphemism. It still has the same literal meaning–making money from providing sexual services–as prostitute, and it is honest; does not obscure that meaning by being vague in a way that may mean some people don’t get what the term means. But as a term, “sex worker” just doesn’t have the same level of baggage attached to it that “prostitute” or “whore” does. I mean, how many women, sex workers or not, have been abusively and nastily accused of being/looking like a prostitute by a person in their life or a random person on the street? Think that number is a lot bigger than the people who have been cruelly referred to as “sex worker”s? I’d wager that it is.

    I don’t think asking to be referred to by a name that isn’t considered a fucking slur is too much to fucking ask.

    And yes, as someone pointed out down thread, there is the problem of the “euphemism treadmill”, in that eventually people will start using “sex worker” as a slur, and then people will reject that word as well. But I don’t see how that is your problem in the moment. All you’re being asked is to use a word that hurts the people it describes less. Is that really so fucking hard? Is “not prostituting the language” really more important than the entire group of people described by said language?

  19. 19
    Richard Simons

    East Indian/American Indian is fine for clarity.

    Except that, to me, an East Indian is someone from the East Indies, not India. In Canada, American Indian groups prefer to be known as the First Nations, after the constitution was changed to refer to the French and English derived communities as Founding Nations.

  20. 20
    punchdrunk

    That’s why I mentioned style guides for writers, who have to account for their audience and publisher’s preferences.
    I’m Cherokee, and my family uses ‘Indian’ and ‘East Indian’ for clarity. If someone prefers something else, I’ll use that.
    I think you’re making it more complicated and mysterious than it needs to be.

  21. 21
    jaggington

    If you talk about “prostituting the language”, you clearly do not mean “altering the language in exchange for money”. You are referring to a perceived degradation of the language, a making of the language less pure and ideal and more base and compromised. So your attempt at a witty analogy in defence of your own point of view is a failure; it actually reinforces the point being made by Tauriq.

  22. 22
    Joe G.

    I tend to go with the flow around such names. I will use whatever term an individual uses to define themselves.

    I’ve also seen over the years that terms that once were viewed as less pejorative become more pejorative. For example, “mental retardation” and being “retarded” were seen as less negative than the previous terms of “imbecile” and “feeble minded” here in the States.

    My guess is that this will eventually happen to “sex worker”. Societies must fundamentally change their attitudes about sex-for-hire along with sex, sexuality, and gender before a person who provides sexual services for pay is seen as doing legitimate work. Until then any term associated with that work is vulnerable to being eventually associated with the negative attitudes of that society.

    In the mean time, I prefer “sex worker” over “prostitute” for the very reasons that Tauriq mentions above.

  23. 23
    Tauriq Moosa

    Ha @ “altering the language in exchange for money”

    Thanks.

  24. 24
    Tauriq Moosa

    Thanks, Keely! I’d edit out the “fucking” (since target of ire might switch off if being sworn at) but otherwise, appreciate the response.

  25. 25
    ildi

    Same issue with how people pronounce Appalachia.

  26. 26
    Pitchguest

    Yep. People who use dictionaries sure are ignorant. And assholes. I almost forgot that one. You’re so right.

  27. 27
    Jacob Schmidt

    …people whose rhetorical strategy is “go to the dictionary”…

    VS.

    People who use dictionaries…

    Someone has trouble reading.

    (Hint: Ignoring connotations is ridiculous)

  28. 28
    smhll

    I found that all her friends and family called her ShaQuana. When I asked about the difference, she said the first day she came to church and introduced herself, a woman said, “Oh, I’ll never remember how to say that,” and decided to name her Mary because it was “easier to say”. She was so shocked she didn’t know what to do, and she didn’t want to rock the boat.

    Whoa! I knew about White Privilege, but didn’t realize that going around renaming people was a thing that privileged people feel entitled to do. Arrrrrgggggghhhh.

  29. 29
    Kevin

    As Mark Twain once observed, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between ‘lightning’ and ‘lightning bug’.

  30. 30
    spastic6particle

    @12:

    Renaming people is sadly not a new White/American Privilege practice. What is worse is when POCs buy into it because they think it’s for their own/their children’s benefit. My mother intentionally gave me a name that means “white wave” in Welsh Gaelic because she knew it would be easier for me to integrate. ‘Murica! F*&k YEAH! /irony.

  31. 31
    Tecolata

    I have not personally run into the “name” issue but know several people who have. In college I had a Japanese-American friend named Kimi. Pronounced Kee-Mee. How hard is that? Her supervisor insisted on calling her Kimmy instead. There was an uproar in schools when Hispanic children were told their “real” names were Thomas or Martha instead of Tomas or Marta. This isn’t even new; decades ago I read a writer’s tales based on her childhood as a Norwegian immigrant in the 1930s. Her name was Katrin and her sister Kristin. The teachers called them Katherine and Christine. There is no “th” sound in the Norwegian language so she was called stupid for not being able to pronounce “her own” name.

  32. 32
    trish

    My problem is not that my name is foreign to people I interact with – it’s that so many people assume they have a right to call me a nickname before they even know me. My given name was Patricia & my parents Called me Patreesha, Treesha,Treesh & Tree – all of which I hated (and never heard used by anyone but my parents & Judge Judy). I also don’t like Patty or Patty (and the only bright spot in the nicknames for Patricia is that Patsy & Trixie are now rare enough that no one has called me either of them in years).

    When I was 7, and not aware of legal name change, I found out Trish was a nickname for Patricia, and chose it as the least-obnoxious option (my family refused to use it, except to make fun of me for wanting to use it).

    All my life, people have been calling me “Pat” or “Patty”. Some of the worst offenders are medical & dental assistants. They’re standing in the waiting room, reading off a piece of paper with my full name on it, and can’t be bothered to say “Patricia” – they call for Pat. And they get cranky when I tell them I don’t go by Pat. I get this a lot too: “Hi, My name is Trish” “As in Patricia?” “Ok, Pat” Arrgh.

    A couple of years ago, a newspaper lifestyle column about readers’ minor peeves published a letter I wrote about not wanting to be called Pat. In he next column they published a response form a woman named Kathy (no multiple-nicknames issue with *her* name) saying that since her child was murdered I had no right to care what people call me. After that, I had my name legally changed.

    After the expense & effort to change my name on all ID, accounts, titles, & inform numerous agencies (& often pay fees to update records), I was still discovering entities I had forgotten to tell 2 years out.

    And today, I had two people think it was hilarious to call me Patty, and when I said that my legal name is Trish, tell me that “pattee” is an acceptable pronunciation of Trish.

    Do people named Elizabeth go thru this “Hi, I’m Liz” “Nice to meet you, Betsy” or Richard, “Hi I’m Rick” “Hi Richie” or is it only Patricia that inspires such belligerent nickname foisting?

  33. 33
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    That is seriously obnoxious, Trish. I’m lucky – well, no, since I picked it, it’s not really “lucky” – that my name is fairly common, and that it really only has one or two ways to alter it. Caitlin becomes Cait or Caitie fairly easily, but not much else (Katherines, on the other hand, do get a lot of different ones: there’s Kathy and Kath and Kat and Kate and Katey and Kit and Kitty). I generally have to spell it, for people who’ve become used to the odd ways in which people distinguished themselves with a fairly common name (Caitlyn, Kaytlyn, et c.), but people only call me one of the three, and I’m generally good with any of them, since they’re all closely related.

    I know my friend Jennifer – whom I fondly call “Niffer” with her permission – really hates people shortening her name, which is how I came to call her Niffer. When someone calls her “Jen”, she says “-nifer”, and simply won’t answer if they don’t start calling her by her actual name. Jenny, Jen, no good. Jennifer only. Once I was in a show with her (an all-women Hamlet; she was Horatio, I was the Ghost/Player King/Priest) and two other people who didn’t mind being called “Jen”, so for the duration, she was Jennifer, one of the Jens was Jen, and the other was JenJen. The latter is my foster daughter, and I still call her JenJen now, with her permission.

    Really, how hard is it to simply respect someone’s identity enough to call them by their name? Or to at least ask if an altered version is okay? Basic respectful behaviour, I’d have thought, but apparently not on everyone’s list of that.

  34. 34
    hoary puccoon

    It didn’t occur to me until reading this that probably most of my friends mispronounce my name. It has a “th” sound in it, and I spend most of my time in places where people speak either French or Spanish, so the “th” comes out as just “t.” It’s never bothered me, because I know they’re trying to pronounce my name right.

    On the other hand, when I lived in Chicago, a friend of mine, a Greek named Vasilis, was introduced to another American. And the American said, “Oh that’s too hard to say. We’re just going to call you Bill.” Now, that really did bother me. I was embarrassed for Vasilis and mortified by my fellow American. (Fortunately, everyone went right on calling Vasilis by his real name.)

  35. 35
    trish

    Thanks so much. CaitieCat – so often I run into people who are actually miffed that I don’t like them choosing what to call me. I can’t tell you how rare you are in understanding how upsetting it is to not just be assigned a nickname by people who don’t know me, but to get rude responses that label me the problem for requesting they call me the name I actually use.

    The most frustrating thing for me is that I’ve already legally changed my name – twice if you count taking my husband’s last name. I’m not one who cries very often, but yesterday, that whole “pattee is a pronunciation of Trish” freaking broke me.

  36. 36
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    I’m not surprised. I get the same way when people call me “sir”, which thankfully doesn’t happen much anymore (except for that one company, and I just stopped dealing with them; if they can’t make a note on their file that says “CALL THIS LADY MA’AM OR WE LOSE HER FUCKING BUSINESS”, then I’m not interested in their business). It’s basic manners, or was when I was growing up, that you address the person the way they tell you to address them.

    The only pronunciation of “Trish” that matters in addressing you is the one you use. Any other pronunciation is clearly meant to address someone else. But of course, fixing it like that for you makes you have to be all confrontational and insist to people, which is hard in its own right, and leaves you trying to make individual solutions to societal problems, which is unfair, not to say impossible.

    So, yeah. Grokked. Trish it is, unless or until you say different. :)

  37. 37
    trish

    Thanks CaitieCat. The initial “Pat” is something I could almost forgive, if the person who did it would politely retreat when I say, “No, I go by Trish” – which has *never*, in my experience, ever happened.

    But more than the initial decision to choose to employ a nickname on someone they’ve never met before, it’s the “who do you think you are” vibe I get when I request that the person call me Trish that really wears me down. I hate conflict, especially with people who clearly don’t care about my feelings (why do so many of these types work in doctor/dentist offices?!)

    I’ve even had fantasies of a back-at-cha response of assigning the nickname “Dick” to everyone who calls me “Pat/Patty/Pattee” & when they protest saying, “Oh, I thought we were assigning each other Nixon-based nicknames.”

  38. 38
    trish

    That people would just assign an unrelated nickname, Bill, to a foreign citizen named Vasilis, shows the exact sort of disregard for the feelings of the humans they are pretending to be social with that I’ve encountered among so many Americans all my life (I am American, so I run into a lot of Americans).

    Also, the loss of the usage of Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss So&so is a loss to social life. I don’t want to be pretend friends with every random person within earshot.

  39. 39
    Divizna

    “That happened to Quvenzhane Wallis with a reporter, who tried to call her “Annie” instead because the name was “too hard””
    I can’t help but wonder… why would “Ms. Wallis” be too hard to pronounce for a native English speaker? Or do American reporters routinely address actors by the first name?

  40. 40
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Depending on the time, Tomas & Marta’s story might not be too bad. When I was little it was a fun educational game to translate our names into other languages. This worked quite well if European, as the common Christian saint names have equivalents in many languages. Stephen is Stefan or Etienne or Esteban or whatever. And you could go with the traditional meanings and look it up in non-European languages, too, or do transliterations.

    The idea that a name can be translated seems not to be popular any more. Note that this does not in any way justify the horribly patronising re-naming to some other random name. Anyway, they got it wrong. Vasilis should be Basil or Rex or Roy, not Bill :)

  41. 41
    Nick Gotts

    But the main (I think) representative body for British Romanis/Gypsies calls itself the Gypsy Council. There’s no general rule other than: if in doubt, ask what particular individuals prefer themselves and any ethnic or cultural group they belong to, to be called. If not initially in doubt but you get corrected by someone you’re referring to, accept the correction gracefully.

  42. 42
    Nick Gotts

    Pitchguest has no trouble reading; it’s being a decent human being he finds impossible.

  43. 43
    leftwingfox

    Agreed completely.

  44. 44
    twincats

    Regardless, I’m pessimistic that your name example will resonate with the people who’re actually making complaints about having to substitute their preferred 3-syllable term with “sex worker” (ohmahgawditssohard).

    Okay, how about this: Try calling a graphic designer a commercial artist. You will be corrected.

  45. 45
    leni

    Also, the loss of the usage of Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss So&so is a loss to social life. I don’t want to be pretend friends with every random person within earshot.

    I don’t mind this. I prefer not to be publicly designated by strangers according to my marital status, presumed or otherwise.

    I understand this is considered polite by people who may be used to it, but as a female it’s just another irritating reminder that our age and presumed relationships to men determine the titles we are given. I hate it and it’s a tradition that won’t die soon enough for me.

    In my utopia, my god damned name is good enough for strangers. I don’t want them guessing about my marital status either. Not their business unless I make it so. Even worse, making strangers guess my age so they can make the appropriate binary shift from Miss to Ma’am.

  46. 46
    Andy Deandrade

    Pleasant and really interesting post. Your point of view is more or a lot less the same as main. Thanks!

  1. 47
    Occasional Link Roundup » Brute Reason

    […] 3. Tauriq explains that asking to be called what you’d prefer to be called is not “censorship” or “p…: […]

  2. 48
    Conversational Etiquette | Lynley Stace

    […] “Please don’t call me that” is not the same as PC or censorship at Freethought Blogs is written by someone called Tauriq who finds often that people can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce his name. I, too, have a slightly unusual name — not Lesley, not Lyndsay, not Lucy, not Stacey — and I’ve always found it a good barometer of character, whether someone gives a shit about me as a person or just wants something, based on whether they can get my name right. My name is one of those which doesn’t stick well in the head. I don’t know why. It has too many l’s, true enough. You’d be amazed at how often a facial expression says, ‘I have no idea what you just said your name is and frankly that’s ridiculous’. It was worse for me living in Japan, the land of no l’s, which gives me some empathy for those who are permanently foreign. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>