#405 When someone pronounces your name right on the first try

It ain’t easy.

When I graduated from college they draped us all in slippery black gowns, put square hats on our heads, and sat us down in the hot steamy arena to wait patiently for our names to get called. When they did we got up and swished across the stage to accept little ribbon-tied rolls of paper representing years of early morning classes, all-night study sessions, and months of stressful exams.

I remember they got a fancy-pants professor from the Linguistics Department to read everyone’s name off a sheet of paper. She was mostly aces, too. Ng’s and Png’s couldn’t trip her up cause she’d just ing and ping like it was no big deal. Of course, she butchered a bunch and I’m pretty sure I was Neil Pasta-rike-ah that day.

But you know what: that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s totally fine.

Because we all mess up words all the time. Seeing new names and saying them right is tricky business and not for the faint of heart. I am terrible with names so my only strategy when I see a toughie is saying “Sorry, how… how do you say your name?” Of course, after they tell me I realize I’ll never be able to do it justice so I nod and smile and avoid ever saying it again in my life.

Of course, it’s this constant challenge that makes it so sweet when someone actually nails it on the first try.

If you actually pull it off we say good work, tongue twister.

Today we salute you as a brother or sister.


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159 thoughts on “#405 When someone pronounces your name right on the first try

  1. I have one of the easiest and most pronounceable last names ever. If someone butchers my name, I don’t give them too much leeway ;)

    My mom and I like to play a fun game where she brings home her roster (she teaches art, so she has about 500 students) and we test our skills at a little Guess How This Name is Pronounced. Now that I’m teaching, we can play with my class list, too. It’s pretty hilarious. She’ll report back with how many she got right on the first try.

    Also, at my college graduations, we sat wherever we wanted [within our degree sections] on the arena floor and went up by rows. We took with us a little card with our names and credentials on it, and the lady who read the name whispered it to us first to make sure she’d get it right. It’s a pretty cool system.

    1. Let me preface this by saying that I love my name. Not in a vain way, nor that it’s fairly unique, I just like the way it sounds. I can get two nicknames out of my name. Awesome!

      I have two of the same letter pronounced differently in my name. One is a short e, like in Jen, and the other is a long e like in Eva, but put them together and most people think it should sound like Jen-ever (but drop the R). I know my name might be hard to pronounce upon first glance so I’m usually pretty forgiving. It’s embarassing to mispronounce names and I’ve mangled a few myself.

      On the flip side, anyone who knows how to pronounce my name usually asks “Oh, like the city?” and I smile and say “Yes, like the city.” I’m in the same club as all the Victorias, Devons, Madisons, Austins, Virginias and Charlottes. Hooray!

    2. For our undergrad graduation, the professor went down the line backstage and wrote the phonetic pronunciation of all our names on the card under our degrees.

      Also, I love my last name (Pichon). My mother taught me as a youngin how our last names (her maiden’s LeBlanc) is a dead ringer for telemarketers. “Ms. Pick-on? I’m sorry, she’s not here.”

    3. During practice for high school graduation while we were doing stuff the people assigned to announce our names came around and practiced them to us so we could correct them so they could make notes if need be and get them right. I didn’t notice any glaring mistakes, though my last name is as easy as my first name and so is my middle name.

      I don’t know what my college does though, as I have another year and a quarter left of my 5 years (yay dual endorsement in elementary and special ed!!!). Laura, did this system take up time? At least when they got it wrong?

  2. My last name is rather uncommon and a lot of people have difficulty saying it and spelling it. I always feel a little shocked whenever someone actually pronounces it correctly. There have been a few times where I’ve told a person how to say it and they still get it wrong. Now I’ve begun telling them to pronounce it like “Rivet.” haha.

    1. Oh, a definite there. While I have a fairly common name, the spelling is unusual (for the area, it’s more common in other places) and no-one spells it correctly the first time.

        1. I know someone who spelled your laura as Lara and would get angry if anyone got it wrong. She would promptly remind anyone before they even got the chance to ask. I’m not saying that’s you, but some people need to take a chill pill about it.

  3. My name’s pretty hard to say wrong, but you wouldn’t believe how many people spell “Daisy” incorrectly. “Dasey” is a favorite.

    1. Has anyone spelled it out daisee, or daisie , or daysee, or what would be funny daizee, or dayz (of course that would be a 5 year old) but it is funny to see all the ways they come up to spell your name. I once got a Karrisa. Am I a pirate? I didn’t think so. But I haven’t had any other really funny spellings of it. Share how else, that wo0uld be interesting to see.

      1. Dayz or Day-z is kind of a nickname for me. People do it but they know it’s wrong.

        Let’s see I’ve had Daysee, Daisee, Dayzee is not as uncommon as you would think. Daisey, which a teacher actually did all the time and made no sense to me.

        It’s not like people have to write your name that often so it’s not a huge issue, but it does happen and it is weird.

  4. I spent the summer working for the census. Every day I would spend half the day listening to my co-workers mangling people’s names and the other half trying to successfully guess the correct pronunciation for the names I had and i loved it when people told me I got it right some some obscure Norwegian name or rushing through a very long Asian Indian name. I found I really Love diverse names. Bring it on!

  5. Oh my god, i have only come across a very few people who can say my name properly first try. It’s Zosia, pronounced Zoh-sha (you can see why i use the name Emmy on the internet- there arent too many Zosias around are there?) Every new teacher I meet either pronounces it Zoe-see-a, Zoh-see-a, or just hesitates a while until a say ‘It’s Zoh-sha.’ Most of the time the whole class answers for me when the teacher gets it wrong and i only have to put up my hand :P
    I just want to say that this awesome thing should DEFINITELY be higher up on the list.

    1. Lol my friends do that too in school especially for subs and new teachers. For some reason people always call me Kristin or kurstin and once I even got Kristine! No sorry just Kirsten pronounced kearsten. Lol my field hockey coach called me kristin for 7 years even though I’d always correct him

    2. My last name is just as daunting as my first name (starts with an ‘h’, sounds like a ‘v’) so on the first day of classes or whenever we had a substitute teacher they would go down the list and stop dead after ‘Jackson’. I would just put up my hand and say, ‘That’s me. I’m here.’ Most people eventually learned to say it right but when I graduated they butchered BOTH names so badly that I didn’t respond and one of my classmates had to say , ‘I think that was your name.’ :)
      Very shocking when someone actually gets it right!

      1. Ugh, that would have been very embarrassing! There was a girl in my year 3 class with the start of her name ‘Mh’ being pronounced as a ‘v’. every relief teacher we had would pronounce it as ‘Maharee?’ No one liked her. And there is another girl in 8/10 of my classes (as she likes to remind me) with the same deal- it is pronounce ‘neev’ but she gets ‘NEEam’ and ‘NeeAM’. Why cant parents think of these things when they choose names??

    3. My friends used to do that to me in High School, but usually the other way around! They would start to say things that kind of sounded like my last name but they all knew it wasn’t right just to annoy me and the teacher then I would have to give my correct last name. Which is Hruskovec by the way.

      1. That doesn’t seem too hard. Is it pronounced like it looks? Because a lot of the time a name is pretty easy to pronounce and people just try too hard.

  6. Yeah, the Latinisation of my name has a silent K. I have never had anyone get my name right in the first try. Ever. Having that happen would be


  7. I’ve got one of those ‘obscure Norwegian names’, and I’ve yet to get an American/Brit to pronounce it right even after I demonstrate. Even some Norwegians find it challenging..!
    But when they do, on the first try, it’s AWESOME :D

  8. Y’all know what? For you american/english people I guess this happens very often, but for me, being italian, sounds strange, ’cause italian is pronounced as it’s written…

    The fact is that I fully understand you… Everyone pronounce my last name the right way, but the problem comes when my last name has to be written! So everytime this happens I silently take a look at how people write it, ready to point out the mistake… It happens 99% of the times!

    What a surprise I had when (for the very first time) a young lady ASKED ME how to write it, to avoid mistakes!
    So… thumbs up for her!

    FYI, my last name is Vergagni and everyone writes Vergani…

    How would you pronounce it?

  9. My name isn’t hard. I am use to being called the wrong name all together. A lot of people throughout my life has called me Rachel. One guy didn’t even come close and was calling me Shannon for a year.

    My work, ok well….my department in another state…. has a lot of people with hard to pronounce names. They usually end up with a nickname.

    1. Yeah – people are always forgetting the second D in “Freddo”..

      I mean – I’m not Fredo from the Lord of the Rings.. get it right.. ;)

  10. I rarely ever get anyone spelling my last name correctly…even when I spell it out for them. I scratch my head wondering how difficult is Amorim?

    1. ugh, ive never answered a phone call to a telemarketer. it must be painful. But ive always wondered, how do you read those symbols that show the pronunciation? what is it, like the greek alphabet or something?

      1. So glad someone else asked this too. I went into a Chapters right after your book was released and instantly realized I have no idea how to correctly pronounce your last name.

  11. my sister got tired of our friends mispronouncing my name, and so she came up with a little mind trick to help people – everyone knows someone named “Lisa” so the same way that you have a cat or a dog, i’m a-lisa.

    i don’t think it’s a very tricky name, but not many get it right on the first try. when they do, it’s awesome :)

    1. I wouldn’t have gotten it right either… My God daughter has you name in her middle name but it is pronounced EE-lissa.

  12. My name is not that hard, Carissa Halliday, yet I’ll ALWAYS get someone calling me clarissa, or asking for one s and 2 r’s, or my biggest pet peeve is when they call me holliday. It is not the hardest name in the world, I think it is pretty easy, but there will always be someone to butcher it, and I will always correct them.

    (But it is not the worst, I had a friend in elementary school, who had a polish last name, and it is like jerkiwitchz-probably not even spelled that way, but 20 times harder, and at recess my other friends and I would try and guess how to spell it)

    1. Yeah a teacher at my school has the last name Juransinski so everyone, even the people that work in the office, call him Mr. J. And we also have Mr. Oelschlaeger (Osh-lang-er)…..everyone calls him Mr. O

    2. haha two sisters in my year have the last name Jendzredzak or something like that. But it is very annoying when everyone thinks my last name is pronounced Da-BROW-ski and i always had to say
      “ugh….. its a SILENT ‘w’.”
      Zosia Dabrowski. What a fun name to have in Australia.

  13. I have a very annoying silent “h” in my last name.. (i.e., my name includes a “th” but it’s pronounced as a hard T).. So my name is mis-pronounced far more than it’s said correctly…

    But to be honest – I don’t really blame people – I think my name is spelled kind of stupidly. I mean, I’m sure I’d get it wrong if I saw it for the first time.

    That being said, it never fails to be grating to hear it mis-pronounced, even if it happens several times daily.

    1. I have a friend with exactly the same problem. And it also sounds quite grating when mispornounced, even to me.

  14. This is definitely a most awesome thing!

    I have a Ukrainian last name, so other people of Uke/Pole/Russian descent can figure it out, but the rest of the planet doesn’t even know where to start. I’ve had some people mispronounce my name so badly, I didn’t even know they were calling for me (like at a music festival when I was in elementary school).

    When I am dealing in person with someone, where they ask your last name to fill out a form, I don’t even say it–I just start spelling it. They then try to say it, fail miserably, and I smile politely back and correct them. They try again and still get it wrong. Sigh.

    What I really don’t understand is when someone gets my first name wrong….how difficult is Colleen? In the past year, at my place of employment, I have been called Halim (Hal-eem) no less than 5 times. How do they miss the hard C when I answer the phone and say, “Colleen speaking?”

    My guess at Neil’s last name is Paz-risha (think like Patricia, but insert z in the middle) or Paz-reesha.

            1. I always sort of read Neil Pas******a because whenever I see a name like that I kind of skim over it. Looking at it now – pas-REACH-a, I think.

  15. Unless it’s a nice French Canadian, no one cam correctly pronounce my last name -Poirier – poor-yay. This has never bothered me because that’s not even the correct French way to say it. What astonishes me is how often people can’t understand how I spell it. They get tripped up with the second ‘i’. 99% of the time the conversation goes like this: ‘P-O-I’ .. ‘yes’ …’R-I’ ‘WHAT?!’ I was only on the fifth letter!! How did I lose them! That 1% when they’ve already used the top row of the keyboard seamlessly to fill out the form makes my life!

  16. With Shimotakahara as my last name, I developed very thick skin indeed! (To be honest, it was a challenge for me to learn to spell “Shimotakahara” as a kid….)

  17. Most often people add letters to make my name easier for them to pronounce. It doesn’t matter how often I correct them I will always be Kendra, Kenya, Kiana, Cayenne (seriously!), Kenna, Kennan and so on and so forth. It is actually quite funny to hear what people come up with.

      1. Nope. It is actually pronounced
        Kin (like kindergarten)-na.
        Once you know the secret it is actually ridiculously easy, but it still takes people a while :)

  18. My real name is Jesse Frodelius.
    Anyone reading this, say it out loud…
    You probably got it wrong.
    If you got it right, I am truly impressed as it doesn’t happen often.
    Pronounced- FRO DEEL EE US
    as in… a”fro,” that’s a good “deal,” the letter E, us

  19. I will modify this to “when someone spells your incredibly easy/common name super uniquely”. My surname is “Jones”. My favorite spelling? Jhoanez!!

  20. Oh my real first name (Denesia) always gets pronounced wrong. I think that it is said like it’s spelled: Dee-knee-sea-uh, but I get Duh-knee-shuh so often that I just go with it.
    I find it funny thought that the only teacher that was able to say my name correctly the first try (and consistently say it right), is my French teacher who is actually from Belgium. The only names she pronounces wrong are the English versions of French names.
    Daniel becomes Dahnyelle, Jack becomes Jahk, Amanda: Ahmondue.
    Atleast at graduation rehearsal they call out all the names, do a practice walk, and if he says any part (First, middle, last) of your name incorrectly, you write the pronouciation on the list he has. :D

    1. Man, I wish they’d done that at my graduation. My name was mispronounced twice! The number of teachers who, after knowing me (and quite possibly my older sister before me) for a year, still pronounce the “o-w” in my name like they would say “ow that hurts” is infuriating!
      It’s Rowley. As in rowing a boat. Is that really so difficult? I guess it’s just an occupational hazard of being an English kid going to school in an Italian neighbourhood.

  21. I also have a friend named Mia……..it’s pronounced Maya.
    And a friend named Truc: Trook.
    I know them both very well, but no matter what, whenever I read their names on something I say Me-uh and Truck; without fail.

  22. Story of my life!!

    As a child I was always called Ravi-oli because of my name.

    It’s spelt, R-A-V-I, but it’s pronounced, Ruh-Vee. Come on now!! Most common boys name in India!!!

  23. Hahaha, OK I read this, and I had an instant flashback to my sister’s graduation at the Dalhousie School Of Nursing. The Dean of Nursing, or whoever he was, had the glorius and humiliating task of reading off over 200 names, and he had better pray he got at least 99% of them right. There were two problems, the first being Halifax has many different races, and many of the names were from African origin, something most people wouldn’t be able to pronounce. The second problem being, the dude had an awful stutter. And not the nervous kind, where you trip over your words once or twice. No no, this was where the last name “Duffy” was “D-d-d-d-d-d…Duffy.” and “Stevens” was an horrible mess of S’s and T’s. My mom and I crossed our fingers, literally, when my sister got up, ready to have her name put to shame by this dimwad who would have been placed better in the audience, quiet. Her name came out clearly and stutter-less, thank goodness, but we felt awful for everyone else’s names who got either mispronounced or barely pronounced at all! (;

  24. Heh, my real name is Lucy Smith so I never have any trouble, except for the occasional person who doesn’t listen and calls me Lisa, or people who double check that it’s spelled with a ‘y’ and not an ‘ie’. And only once in my life have I had to spell my last name. But that was when I was booking a table at a restaurant and the guy on the phone didn’t have the best grasp of English, so I forgave him. I’m kind of glad really, I always feel a little sorry for people who always have to correct the pronunciation of their names.

  25. I loved reading this!
    I’m in high school and there’s always a sense of acomplishment when I get a name right! It feels so good when the nod their heads and say “yeah, that’s my name…”
    I lobe your posts~!

  26. This is my favorite in a while. School used to go like this: teachers and subs would always mispronounce, and I’d have to correct them. Eventually, my classmates would be the ones correcting them. Once we reached high school, we’d given up, and were just like “yep…close enough!” People have always had trouble pronouncing mine on the first try, and it’s only recently that randoms have actually gotten it right on the first try, and it is ALWAYS awesome!

  27. because I always get ” aleash-ah” or “alecee-yah” or this or that…but I never get the proper ALICIA ….why oh why!!!?? but when I do –I always make sure to say EXACT PERFECT PRONUNCIATION!!! I THANK YOU!! or sometimes I just say ” how about alice ?” ..hah

  28. Hehe my first name is one of those really common names that has a k instead of a c, thus causing mass pronuncing confusion and the inability to spell my name correctly even with help.

    My middle name is Alake , which everyone butchers, even after I tell them. For the curious it’s pronunced- ah-låh-kay (anyone get it right?)

    So when my graduation speaker said both names perfectly correct on his first try, it was seriously totally awesome!!

      1. Hahaha not at all, my first name is very common, this-my middle name is a bit random and misleading.

        Btw I have a friend named charissa, and she gets a similar butchering with clarissa, which bassically leads me to blame pop culture for our problems like nickolodeon

  29. i’m lebanese, and my last name is ‘yachouh,’ pronounced to rhyme with “cashew”. i’ve gotten ya-shoush, ya-couch, ya-shosh, yoo-cow, ya-chow, ya-choo…INFINITE butcherings, from peers, friends, teachers, bosses, and administrators alike. And don’t get me started on misspellings…

    1. I was totally half asleep reading this, and pronunced your name easily without trying. I’m starting to notice that a lot of this name butchering is from trying too hard to pronunce it correctly and that annoying misleading voice that keeps going like “noo it can’t be pronunced that way”!

      1. That’s very true. There have been little first-time correct pronounciations for me, but your point seems to be very valid. With all of our silent J’s, and Ch’s, and silent letters, we overthink hard-looking names. A lot of times our face-value guess at a name tends to be correct. xD

        1. Mine isn’t even silent anything or hard yet people get it wrong because they grow up with someone else spelling (or saying it) a different way. I mean, how hard is Carissa Halliday? Yet I’ll always get a cLarissa. hOlliday. Where did those letters come from?

  30. I went from a relatively easy last name to a ridiculous one no one every pronounces right. Great way to tell who really knows us when calling and who is a telemarketer.

    At my seminary graduation they had our name on the card but it also spelled phonetically for the reader the exact way we told them when we applied for graduation. No mispronunciations at all.

    1. Awesome. If only they did that for everything, and none of that greek alphabet pronunciation guides, who understands those? We need the normal. Ca as in car iss in as is a as in uh. Way easier with word association.

      1. Er, it’s fairly simple. While it uses Greek symbols, it’s not “Greek”. If you look up a list, I swear, it won’t take you more than an hour or two to learn.

        1. Additionally, as a non-native English speaker, I’d find American-English centred phonetic spellings not only confusing, but also aggravatingly ethnocentric. Besides, how’d you express sounds not present in your particular branch of English?

    2. They did that for my graduation. They gave everyone cards with their full name, and told us to write down how our names were said; for Yachouh, I wrote yah-shoo. Everyone’s name went smoothly. (And our school was a melting pot…so it was a challenge xD)

  31. As a teacher in a very multicultural school in Toronto, I dread having to read off the attendance list on the first day. I always get somebody’s name wrong – and I know how, in an instant, I can go from being Ms. D to “that teacher that mispronounced my name!”

    What’s worse is that some students don’t correct me, so I go on calling them by the wrong name all semester! This drives me crazy! I tell all my students that they should be proud of their names because they were chosen for a reason. A few gentle reminders are all I need so I don’t make the same mistake again.

    1. That reminded me. I know some of my friends who have been called by the wrong name (I mean first) an ENTIRE semester. Seriously, if it is wrong, go tell the teacher. Most kids are afraid though, of getting in trouble. Ask if there is anything else they’d like to be called, or if you got anyones name wrong.

  32. Oh goodness, YES! You are so right! My whole life anyone who doesn’t know a member of my family personally have said my last name wrong, and it got annoying pretty fast:P Then, this fall, I moved to a new city and now everyone’s getting it right:D Yes, it does feel AWESOME!

  33. This reminded me of another awesome thing. Reading the names and making fun of them on the credits. Or trying to read the name lists in the bible. Awesome.

    1. My friends and I always read random names off the credit, and thank them for doing a good job on their work on the film. We figure that actors and screenwriters and directors and such get enough credit, the people doing the grunt work should get some too, lol.

  34. Oh gosh, I have had so many problems with this at work!! Approximately 2/3 of the employees in the dining halls on campus are international, because that’s the only place that will hire people without social security cards. I’ve gotten pretty good at pronouncing Asian names – Zhang? Qian? Xinyi? Yuek See? No problem, I got it!

  35. ahaha!
    so true for me
    but it’s ok with me
    i always have fun
    hearing different versions!
    regardless if i spelled it
    they sometimes still don’t get it right
    so i say, maybe it’s how i pronounce it.
    so there, it’s all my fault

  36. My name, which I think is the easiest name of all, Barbra, people ALWAYS write Barbara. I still haven’t figured out why. It must not be very popular spelled that way or something.

  37. I went from being a Russell (17th most common name in the United States) to marrying a Wiltfong (which, although there are quite a few Wilfongs, without the “t”, there are just about NO Wiltfongs WITH the “t”). I have much more sympathy now for people with unusual last names.

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