The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

Opinion: Why Pronouncing Someone’s Name Correctly Matters


The first time I had to correct someone’s pronunciation of my name was on the first day of kindergarten. My five-year old self sat on the alphabet carpet anticipating roll call. My teacher flew through the list but hesitated with a pause when she saw my name, Suha. I heard her call out “sew-ha,” and immediately spoke up, something my mom instilled in me since I could talk.

As I continued to go through school I always knew my name would be said incorrectly. Whether it be at the beginning of a new school year or when there was a substitute in the classroom–I was prepared to correct their pronunciation. I wondered how a simple four-letter name could be so difficult, and trust me I’ve had my two syllables butchered into names I didn’t know existed.

The name Suha (so-ha) comes from Arabic origin, meaning a “star from heaven.” I always loved my name and had never met anyone with the same spelling. I felt a sense of power when correcting another person, but soon enough that started to fade. With fellow classmates making fun of my ethnic identity and funnily enough comparing my last name, Siddiqui, to Squidward,  I experienced a strong desire to be more Westernized. Wishing, hoping and wanting my name to be more American, like Sarah or Sasha.

A name is someone’s identity. A name holds the history of a culture. A name encapsulates the legacy of those before you. Your name is the first label at which you identify and is who you are. After several instances of mispronunciation, it is easy to accept defeat and let others say your name whichever way they’d like. This occurrence is especially common for people of color.  Invalidating and constantly mispronouncing someone’s name is a blind act of microaggression. These incorrect repetitions allow for someone to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their culture and heritage, and force us to believe our names are not of value. Demanding that your name be spoken correctly is a rebellious act against Western integration.

I will not let you mispronounce my name and disrespect me with acts of ignorance and disregard for my culture. In an unfortunate world where those of nonwhite origin anglicize their name to “blend in,” with the dominant Anglo society, I refuse to do so. I insist on having the same level of recognition given to any other individual, regardless of their background.

If you encounter a name that’s unfamiliar to you, the solution is simple: ask the person how to pronounce their name correctly. A long history of incorrectness means we don’t expect you to get it on the first try, but by actively putting in the effort to say our names accurately a mutual sense of respect is given. This paves the way for genuine understanding and appreciation between individuals. 

As we navigate a world that doesn’t always adhere to our cultural upbringing, it becomes increasingly important to ask for respect and remember that our names deserve to be said the right way. If someone is mispronouncing your name, correct them. Although it can be awkward to interrupt someone while they are talking, it is crucial to remember that you carry a rich history filled with stories and a legacy of those who came before you with your name. Names are the front-most factor in our identity and create a distinction in character. They hold power and are the only thing that is solely ours. 

My name is who I am. So pronounce it correctly.

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