The newest microaggression: Mispronouncing someone’s name

A reader sent me a link to, a right-wing libertarian website, describing the newest form of microaggression: mispronouncing someone’s name. (They, in turn, took most of their story from a CNS News report (also a conservative site) by Amy Furr. As you’ll see, the reader was dismayed to have to find this stuff on right-wing sites, but it’s simply not reported on Left-ish media sites, which ignore this kind of story for obvious reasons.

At any rate, Furr says this (my emphasis):

Hundreds of school districts across the country have taken a pledge to “pronounce student’s names correctly” to avoid the “microaggression” of mispronunciation.

According to ‘My Name, My Identity: A Declaration of Self,’ a national campaign launched in 2015 by the Santa Clara County, Calif. Office of Education (SCCOE) and the National Association for Bilingual Education, a teacher who mispronounces a student’s name can cause that student “anxiety and resentment”.

“Mispronouncing a student’s name truly negates his or her identity, which, in turn, can hinder academic progress,” according to Yee Wan, SCCOE’s director of multilingual education services.

Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, says it is a sign of “microagression” when a teacher mispronounces, disregards, or changes a child’s name, because “they are in a sense disregarding the family and culture of the student as well.”

The Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada is one of 528 school districts across the country that have recently implemented a campaign to “pronounce students’ names correctly” – including names teachers and administrators find difficult or unfamiliar – in order to be sensitive to the ancestral and historical significance of a child’s name.

Truly, a good teacher should make every effort to pronounce a student’s name properly, though it’s hard to do when you teach 100-200 students, as I often did in beginning evolution. There is simply no time to go around the class during the first session and have everyone say their name, so you have to learn names during either labs or office hours, and you can forget both names and pronounciations for a lot of students. But seriously, does it really “negate a student’s identity” to have their name pronounced incorrectly in a large class?

If that’s the case, then I was negated many, many times—and still am. My name is rarely pronounced correctly (like a “coin”), but more often as Cone-ee, Coin-ee, Cone, and all possible permutations. But of course I am a white male, and so there’s no chance of identity negation. (Nor did it ever both me, but of course I have Privilege: It’s okay to mispronounce my name.) The campaign is most likely aimed at minority students—not blacks, but perhaps Hispanics, Africans, or those from the Middle East, and, of course, Poland, where there are no vowels.

What is the evidence for psychological damage? The National Education Association cites a study showing that mispronounciation of names does this:

The effects can be long-lasting. In 2012, Kohli and Daniel Solorzano examined the issue in a study called “Teachers, Please Learn Our Names!: Racial Microagressions and the K-12 Classrooms.” They found that the failure to pronounce a name correctly impacts the world view and social emotional well-being of students, which, of course, is linked to learning.

What appears to be missing is evidence that, as Furr’s piece suggests, mispronounciation hinders academic progress itself.

Nevertheless, it’s a matter of simple civility to try to pronounce everybody’s name correctly, for it shows you are paying attention to them as a person, whether they be white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. Sometimes it’s harder to pronounce foreign names, so some slack should be allowed, and of course when I lived in France, working in academics, nobody pronounced my name properly.

But “microaggression”? No way—not unless you’re bigoted and boorish enough to call all Hispanic males “José”.  To turn this into a political issue conflates incivility or difficulty with language with being a bigot or racist, inflating the ever-expanding sphere of the Offense Culture. As the piece, written by Lenore Skenazy, notes:

So far, 528 school districts have taken the pledge to try to get names right—which you’d think most teachers would do without a pledge.

But if they never quite get the accent right? Is that really a diss or simply the fact that with a melting pot like America, some names are going to be (am I microaggressing?) harder to pronounce? My family and I hosted an exchange student here for a year and I don’t think we ever pronounced “Giovanni” like an Italian. We said it with our American accents. This did not seem to stymie him in any way.

It’s interesting that the reader who sent me this link has a name I’d have trouble with, too, but it’s not a name associated with “oppressed people.” He also felt bad being allied with the Right on this issue:

Now, with my genetic and cultural heritage as a Scots-Irish-Anglo-German-Welsh-Cherokee-Jew and with my very Irish, very long last name, I have always had my name mispronounced, as has my son with his traditional, but quite common, Welsh-origin name  that gets mispronounced and misspelled, I had no idea I was supposed to be offended and to have felt abused, but then I’m sure this counts for us; we’re not “ethnic” enough to count as aggressed against, I suppose.
I’m sure getting sick of this Looney-Left regressive stupidity.  I’m also getting sick of finding myself siding with the Right.
I think that many of us, including me, don’t like agreeing with a fair amount of what we see on right-wing websites.


  1. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    My middle name, Lynn, is one that was bigendered (like Jean) until roughly 50 to 75 years ago. I have once in my life been asked if I was bothered having a “girl’s name” as my middle name, and noted it was my mother’s maiden surname, the surname of my maternal grandparents.

    (It’s now THE most common middle name among women and a popular suffix to women’s names like Jocelyn or Madelyn.
    African football player Lynn Swann born 1952 is the most recent vintage notable American male named Lynn.)

    About 10 years ago I was in the San Francisco Public Library and saw an elderly African custodian exit the elevator with a nametag that said “Lynn”. I pointed and said, “Lynn, that’s my middle name”.

    He replied, “Yessir, we gotta show these ladies who that name really belongs to!”

    Clearly, men named with formerly bigendered names that have been rendered female are an oppressed class. There needs to be some research into what the side-effects of assuming men named Lynn are female really cause!! Loss of testosterone, shrinkage, who really knows what the impact of this might be.

    This comment is like the picture below:

    • Taz
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      I believe Johnny Cash has done some work in that area.

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Written by Shel Sivlerstein!

        My daddy left home when I was three
        And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
        Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
        Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
        But the meanest thing that he ever did
        Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue.”

        Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
        And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk,
        It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
        Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
        And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head,
        I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue.”

        Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
        My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
        I’d roam from town to town to hide my shame.
        But I made a vow to the moon and stars
        That I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
        And kill that man who gave me that awful name.

        Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
        And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
        I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew.
        At an old saloon on a street of mud,
        There at a table, dealing stud,
        Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me “Sue.”

        Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
        From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had,
        And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
        He was big and bent and gray and old,
        And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
        And I said: “My name is ‘Sue!’ How do you do!
        Now your gonna die!!”

        Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
        And he went down, but to my surprise,
        He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
        But I busted a chair right across his teeth
        And we crashed through the wall and into the street
        Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

        I tell ya, I’ve fought tougher men
        But I really can’t remember when,
        He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
        I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
        He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
        He stood there lookin’ at me and I saw him smile.

        And he said: “Son, this world is rough
        And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
        And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along.
        So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
        I knew you’d have to get tough or die
        And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.”

        He said: “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
        And I know you hate me, and you got the right
        To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
        But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
        For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
        Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you “Sue.'”

        I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
        And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
        And I came away with a different point of view.
        And I think about him, now and then,
        Every time I try and every time I win,
        And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him
        Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Is the derivation of “Lynn” from Linden (tree)?

      • Alpha Neil
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Linden trees?

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        From a gaelic word meaning “Lake”.
        “Linden” is of Dutch-Germanic origin.

    • eric
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      You think Lynn brings up questions, we hosted an exchange student (male) with the name Kim.

      Of course, that was before microagressions and similar concepts. So nobody cared.

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I had a male classmate in primary school named Kim – and of course Kipling’s Kim was a boy.
        I’ve also had male colleagues named Robin, though it seems to be more commonly a girl’s name.

        • Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink


          • Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            Leslie, in the US. In the UK it’s male; Lesley is the female version.


          • Merilee
            Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink


          • nicky
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            Hillary! 🙂

            In French they have a lot too, but generally the female version is spelled with an extra ‘e’.
            Rene(e), Jose(e), Pascal(e), Dominic(que), etc.
            In Xhosa too: Simpiwe, Xolisa, Aphiwe, Asanda, Lindani, Phumzile, Olwethu, and many more. Although I’m no expert, I guess that about half the Xhosa names can be used for both sexes.

            • Merilee
              Posted September 28, 2016 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

              I think that Sikh first names are mainly interchangeable with the middle name denoting the gender.

    • Suzanna
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      My dad’s middle name is Meredith. It’s a Welsh boys name meaning ‘great lord’ (also sometimes given, supposed falsely, as ‘sea lord’). Names move across genders all the time. I still primarily see Meredith as a boy’s name.

      As to the mispronunciation I’d love to see these idiots pronounce ‘llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      I take it from the context that you are male. The ‘Lynn’ gave me no trouble (I know a ‘Lynn’ who I had assumed was female until corrected, so now I know better) – but I had assumed the ‘Joni’ was female. As in Joni Mitchell.

      My first name’s Chris, though I have been called ‘Cess’ (I assume the person misheard as ‘Cecil’ and shortened it, at least I hope that’s what he intended), and occasionally in print, ‘Christ’, which raises all sorts of issues.


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

        … and as jblilie points out, ‘Chris’ is often short for ‘Christine’ (though in my case it’s short for ‘Christopher’ of course).


        • Posted September 28, 2016 at 1:59 am | Permalink

          Sometimes short for “Christian”, too.


          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 2:13 am | Permalink

            Oh shit, I’d forgotten that. I am microdisconcerted and somewhat micropeeved.

            That was microunkind of you.


          • Zwirko
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:14 am | Permalink

            One of my g-g-g-g-grandmothers was named Christian. Another was Nicholas.

  2. GBJames
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Is it a microagression when someone calls me “Jim”?

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Or me “Bill” or “Billie”? (Happens all the time …)

  3. J.Baldwin
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Lest our friends at be micro-aggressed by being mislabeled as a “right wing” website, you might want to be (not overly) sensitive to their avowed libertarianism, which places them well left of center on social issues, even as their economic policy positions tend to be right of center. I don’t know many right-wingers who favor marijuana legalization, support gay marriage, and fight against the censorship of pornography on 1st Amendment grounds–all positions regularly taken by writers.

    • GodlessMarkets
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      I was going to make a similar post, but you said it better anyway.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      That site was chosen because it was not the hard core right, but the top listings for the story WERE on far right sites.

    • Flemur
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Reason is also somewhat atheist(-ic), but they do have a streak of SJW-ism.

    • Carl
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Jerry, if you think Reason is “right wing” would you please write a column explaining why? It strikes me you are Greenwalding one of the few media outlets that had the courage to publish the Danish cartoons.

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        I took it back below and substituted “libertarian” above; I was going from a quick scan of the articles. My error.

        • Carl
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

          I salute you.

  4. Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    …when I lived in France, working in academics, nobody pronounced my name properly.

    Awww. You’re just being modest.

    • Flemur
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      When I lived in France (20km from Nice – probably more modest) nobody pronounced my first or last names correctly and I never pronounced anything correctly.

  5. J. Quinton
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    “What is the evidence for psychological damage? The National Education Association cites a study showing that mispronounciation of names does this:”

    Heh. Whenever I read any sort of study, no matter how well designed, I have to remind myself to beware the man of one study.

  6. Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It seems strange that this is a thing. When I taught, I would try to get it straight on the first day, and I would write their names phonetically on my seating plan if it seemed difficult.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Ah, a seating plan! Most middle and high school teachers have 30 X 7 = 210 or more students in a day. That would be a helluva challenge for me (and I have an excellent memory).

  7. Merilee
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    OH,no, the horror!! I am constantly being called Merilee’, with the empha’ sis on the last sy la’ ble, when in fact I am
    Merrily, and life is but a dreeeeem.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Shoot! I’ve been mispronouncing your name in my mind for years now! At least I am now enlightened.

      No aggression of any magnitude intended.

      • Merilee
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        You are forgiven😸 How do you pronounce Darrelle (first or last name?)?

        • darrelle
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Thank You!

          My first name is Darrell, rhymes with “barrel” not “Ferrell.” The “e” is the initial of my last name. When I first created an on line identity years ago Darrelle was the first thing I came up with that wasn’t already taken, including my full name.

          • Merilee
            Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

            That’s no help as I would pronounce barrel and Ferrell the same way ( and Mary, marry, and merry). Are you east coast US?

            • darrelle
              Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              My family on both sides are from the Reading Pennsylvania area and the pronunciation has everything to do with that. I myself have never lived there.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      Merilee, merilee shall I live now
      Under the blossom that hangs on the bough…

      Sorry… couldn’t resist…

      ‘Micro-aggressions’? Trying to pronounce people’s names right is a simple matter of courtesy. And of course choosing to mispronounce someone’s name is to be deliberately rude. But when you’ve lived in East Asia as long as I have and have had your regularly mispronounced by people, through no fault or ill intent of their own, it really ceases to seem very important.

  8. Lamar Hankins
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    When I was in law school in the 1970s,I was talking with a professor who was Jewish. I referred to another professor, whose name was Rosenbaum as Rosenblum. I meant no disrespect. I simply was not familiar with many Jewish surnames at that time in my life. The professor with whom I was talking kindly explained to me that many Jewish people consider such mistakes to be anti-semitic. I did not know this and was glad he told me. Since that time, I have been more careful to get such names correct.

  9. jaxkayaker
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    As J.Baldwin notes, the writers and editors of aren’t readily pigeonholed as right-wing. It’s notable that the author of that blog post is also the author of a blog and book “Free-range kids”; she’s opposed to helicopter parenting. A careful reading of her post reveals that she is skeptical of the microaggression claims.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      when I googled this yesterday, thinking(hoping) it was an Onion article, the very far right sites like Breitbart were covering it and came up first in the listings, Reason was the least ideologically frozen of the bunch, which was why it was chosen to represent the issue.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Okay, I stand corrected about!

  10. Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Like you, Jerry, my last name has been mispronounced the vast majority of the time. Any possible way to mangle it, they found it!

    (It’s “Bligh- (as in Captain Bligh) -Lee”, or, if you are in Norway, where it comes from, “Blee-lee” (‘Murican phonetic))

    Was it annoying? Sometimes. Invalidating (whatever the hell verb they use)? No way.

    All that said, I go out of my way to pronounce people’s names correctly (and to call them by name when I greet them). I speak English, German, French, and a little Italian and Spanish, and I’ve traveled in Asia and Africa and all over Europe so I can often figure it out.

    I work with people from all over the globe. (My Irish colleagues, and we have a huge number of them — multiple facilities in the Republic — often have the names that give me the most trouble! Many spell their names in traditional Irish spelling (not sure if that’s even the right phrase!) and that’s really hard for me to figure out, even after a lot of experience!)

    I’m glad one of the commenters mentioned Wales: besides Poland another place that vowels go to die! 🙂

    • darrelle
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Heh. I got lucky. Nearly everyone mispronounces both my first and last name. It has never bothered me, though it has on occasion amused me.

      No one but my immediate family says my 1st name correctly. It is the same issue that many people have with the name Barry. The “a” should be pronounced as the “a” in “barrel” rather than as the “e” in “berry.”
      I’ve always found it a bit puzzling that most people have a hard time pronouncing it correctly even when you demonstrate for them.

      This really pisses my sister off, but I’ve never been bothered by it. To this day if my sister is within hearing she will very often interrupt and correct the person. Listening to the person trying to imitate my sisters proper pronunciation is often amusing.

      As for my last name, everyone wants to add an extra “e” in the middle of it. Both when pronouncing it and writing it. I think they just find it so unusual to have so many consonants together that they figure something must be wrong.

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        But what is your last name?


        • darrelle
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          Simply, Ernst.

          • Posted September 27, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

            Ah. I see you are in ernest.


            • Merilee
              Posted September 27, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

              Which, of course, is very important:-)

            • darrelle
              Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

              I try not to be!

              • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                It’s like a cryptic crossword clue: Leaving the East, his name is in ernest. (The simple clue might be: Max —, dadaist and surrealist artist.)


          • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

            You would have been fine in the Seattle area: There used to be a local hardware chain of that name. 🙂

            • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

              Though it was pronounced the ‘Murican way, not the German way.

              • darrelle
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

                I’ve always thought it interesting that in both Spanish and German, both Indo-European but evolved to sound quite different from each other, Rs are often rolled, but quite differently! In Spanish rolled Rs sound musical, but German manages to make them sound harsh.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:43 am | Permalink

      Until now, I’ve had you as J B Lilie in my mind. Sorry!

      My own surname has around 27 different correct spellings (and countless wrong ones), and several different correct pronunciations, so I’ve long since given up worrying.

      McLachlan, since you ask. Pronounced by me: Mac-loch-lan.

      • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        Yes, SO many spellings of that name! Most common here in the US seems to be McLaughlin.

        I would pronounce your name as you phoneticize it (without coaching — seems obvious but must not be).

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted September 30, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          McLaughlin is commonly regarded as an Irish spelling. I recently met a man whose name is spelled exactly like mine, but he pronounces it Mac-lach-lan (“a” as in “hat”). A common mispronunciation (in my view) is Mag-loch-lan, but there is a TV reporter on BBC Scotland who appears to prefer it.

  11. Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    One of my wife’s colleagues recently required help from the principal of their school to call the police.

    She was greeting a girl (2nd grade, 6 or 7 years old) by shaking her hand and saying, “good morning honey, welcome to school!”

    And the mother’s reaction was, “Her name’s not honey! And don’t you ever touch my child again!” And it went downhill from there … To the point where the police had to be called to escort the screaming mother out of the building.

    People have no idea the shit teachers have to deal with these days.

    (Oh, and if a kid does poorly in school? Always the teacher’s or school’s fault. Always. Parents and students have no responsibility for performance. And with an attitude like that (passive observer) is there any surprise they aren’t doing well? Don’t get me started.)

    • Rita
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I agree the mother overreacted, to say the least. However, I have an extreme dislike of having someone who doesn’t know me, calling me “honey”, or any other term of endearment. It happens all the time with retail workers and servers. I think it’s rude.

      • Rita
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        And, being addressed as “young lady” is worse, since I’m 71.

        • nicky
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          Here you would kind of endearingly be called ‘ouma’ (meaning ‘granny’, but it is not considered disrespectful or patronising -no microagression) or tannie/auntie. In Xhosa you would be ‘sissi’ or just ‘mama’, slightly familiar, but respectful.
          Strangely the word ‘skattebol’ or deminutive ‘skattebolletjie’ (litt ‘treasureball’ or ‘treasurehead’) is used for female children and adults, but -that is the puzzling part- for males only for adults (by females). All this for people one does not know (or hardly), of course.

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Sure, as an adult, that would be disrespectful. But to a 7-year-old? One of your students whom you are trying to make feel welcome?

        • eric
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          I agree. And I think Rita is missing the larger point about Jerry’s article, which is that we shouldn’t be taking offense at every little faux pas and accidental insult we get. If Rita thinks a teacher calling a 7-yr-old “honey” is overfamiliar or demeaning, I get it. I respect it, too. No problem; you say to the teacher “hi, I’d really appreciate it if you called my daughter by her name, [x], or “young miss” if you can’t remember that.” And then you move on with your life. The problem with the ‘microaggresion’ movement is that they don’t act this way; they appear to think faux pas should be treated like major incidents. Here, they claim it’s psychological damage.

          The far left seems to demand tolerance of others but never shows tolerance. Part of tolerance is tolerating other people’s careless or just socially different conduct towards you. Letting things go. Lumping it. Having a thick skin. And they seemed to have missed that part.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 27, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink



          • nicky
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            I don’t remember who said it, but ‘microagressions require only microreactions’ sounds so right.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      What a wonderful school day this mother provided to her daughter.

      • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        The daughter was crying, trying to get her Mom to back off and then trying to get her to leave.

        Poor thing!

  12. GodlessMarkets
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    See this Seinfeld bit where Elaine struggles to pronounce Ian (Een)

  13. Pliny the in Between
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    My given surname has never (not once) been properly pronounced by someone not previously corrected and is often still mispronounced by colleagues of long standing.

    Often people try to school me in the correct pronunciation of my family name citing its deviation from what they expect to hear based upon my ethnic background.

    When I received my advanced degree the Dean was given phonetic spellings for all the graduates. Unfortunately, I was not consulted…

    This issue has been traced to some fellow at Ellis Island who decided that my grandfather’s name needed tweaking for this nation’s consumption.

    Talk about your macro and micro – aggressions.

  14. Flemur
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    NEA: Yee Wan … was faced with the overwhelming and unfair decision over whether she would keep her native name or change it to something more “Americanized.” Why? So that educators would not struggle over the pronunciation.

    I worked with a bunch of Chinese people, and most of them came up with a “European” name for themselves before they came here, but then those “overwhelming and unfair” new names weren’t used much, if at all.

    On the other hand, none of them could pronounce the boss’s name correctly.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      I’ve started working with a lot of Korean firms recently, and everyone I deal with has an – affected? – Anglophone first name, presumably for “our” benefit.

      OTOH, in parts of Italy an Anglophone man’s name is ”posh” and it can be quite embarrassing when you assume from the name that they can speak English.


  15. MP
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Good luck to teachers for pronouncing heavily Sanskritised South Indian names or Indian names with letters not available in English alphabet

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Even some of the more typical ones, if they are long.

      I have some sense of Indian names, place names, various words, even from various locales in India. And still some names are hard.

      (I’d guess that my engineering colleagues are about 15% of Indian heritage, mostly 1st-generation immigrants to the US. This has been a common theme throughout my career.)

      • MP
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        This could be partly due to the fact that majority Indian names are derived from Sanskrit, which has a tradition of joining the words with a modifier to form a longer word. There are strict rules on which letter gets omitted or modified when joining these words. The modified letter normally becomes “half letter”.

        Also, most Indian languages have a hard and soft T, D and Gs. In addition, the letters a”, “e”, “u” and “y” are pronounced differently in India. All of these adds to a hell of a confusion when an Indian arrives in North America. Indian names “Japan” and “Tushit” get a whole new meaning in North America

  16. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    When I was in research, we were surrounded by faculty, students, and post-docs from all over the world. It turned out that the lab next door had two people named José, and as a joke someone suggested to call them Jose-A and Jose-B.
    That was pretty funny then, and the low-brow humorist in me still thinks its funny.

    • Bob Murray
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Ah! The old classic, Spanish Firefighter twins joke.

  17. Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Flippantly, I always thought that people had a right to be called what they like but if you spell something Smith and want it pronounced as Jones you are probably not onto a winner.

    Less flippantly – and taking PCC(E)s example of French – how should one pronounce the name of the French capital? Does it depend on where one is, and does the Texas town of the same name get a different pronunciation?

    The British and American pronunciations of Ian (example above) and Colin are completely different. Which is “right” or is it context dependent – I know at least one American Colin, born in Canada, who uses the British (perhaps also Canadian?) form. Colin Powell btw says that he grew up with the British pronunciation and it was switched for him, and without consultation, by America – can one microaggress someone in his position?

    So, I do my best at a personal level, but call bs on the whole debate.

    People can’t even spell my damned name (often when it is written down in front of them). There are at least three common substitutions used in various combinations. I normally spell it out and then folks transpose it wrong anyway (“….yes a,r,d; that’s why I spelled it out for you”…..”).

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Interesting on the name Colin. I (as a USian) had never heard it pronounced in the manner of Colin Powell’s public pronunciation when I first heard his name. I’ve yet to meet or hear another one pronounced that way.

      Based on how it’s pronounced in British movies, I’ve always heard it pronounced in the British way.

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        That’s interesting – it’s an unusual name here and he was the only USian I knew of with the name for a long time. I know his parents were from Jamaica, which has strong British ties.

        OK – here is what that font of all knowledge wikipedia says:

        Despite his parents’ pronunciation of his name as /ˈkɒlᵻn/, Powell has pronounced his name /ˈkoʊlᵻn/ since childhood, after the heroic World War II flyer Colin P. Kelly Jr..[14] Public officials and radio and television reporters have used Powell’s preferred pronunciation.

        That’s a little different than the version I remember him telling during an interview, although the end product is the same – a change in pronunciation, although to his choice.

    • eric
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      I had honestly never heard the non-British pronounciation of “Colin” until Colin Powell. I have no idea where it came from; I don’t think even in the U.S. that the long o in that name is typical. Even among USAians, I typically hear the short British o used in that name. More like fallin’ than trolling.

      Speaking of that short o…when my family went to Australia, the Australians couldn’t understand why my parents would ever name my sister Barney. Her name is Bonnie, but my Pennsylvania dutch family pronounces the o as a longer “ah” rather than the very short Aussie/British o. Thus, they thought we were saying Barney. 🙂

  18. TJR
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Just call everyone Bruce, to keep things clear.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Or Sheila.

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Which used to be/maybe still is one of the terms for “girl” or “woman” in Australia and New Zealand: “Did you see that sheila over there?”

        • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

          Indeed! 🙂

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          As in those immortal lines from Barry McKenzie:

          “…Where are you from asked this nosey Pom
          As I downed the amber fluid.
          So I told him straight, Australia mate,
          and I feel like getting plastered.
          But the beer’s all crook and the Shiela’s look
          Like you, you Pommy bastard.”

          (‘Pommy’ = English)


        • Filippo
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

          Watch out for that sheila with the shillelagh!

          (This would be truer during the last generation or so in the U.S. navy. From my experience in the U.S. navy, a “shillelagh” is a length (approx. four ft.?) of fire hose with a duct-taped handle, used judiciously on the gluteals of “pollywogs” by “shellbacks” when crossing the Equator. One is a “golden shellback” if one crosses the Equator at the Prime Meridian or the International Dateline.)

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:59 am | Permalink

      Is your name not Bruce, then?

  19. Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I have a last name that pretty much cannot be pronounced correctly by an English speaker, since it contains sounds and sound combinations that don’t exist in English language.
    Since I had no idea that mispronouncing (and I assume misspelling as well) my name is a microaggression against me, I used to collect letters with misspellings of my name just for fun.
    But now that I’ve been woke, I may use my collection of microaggressions to file a lot of microlawsuits demanding some serious microrestitution and microdamages.

    • eric
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Do those get resolved in microclaims court?

      • GBJames
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Judge Little presiding.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Very droll. So, yeah, why do micro-aggressions deserve a macro-apology?


  20. eric
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Truly, a good teacher should make every effort to pronounce a student’s name properly…But seriously, does it really “negate a student’s identity” to have their name pronounced incorrectly in a large class?

    As some other commenter stated a few weeks back, if it’s a microagression then the person should only get microupset about it. To that I would add: we should also expect any negative to come out of it to have microimpact on someone’s identity. Unless they have a microidentity.

    If that’s the case, then I was negated many, many times—and still am. My name is rarely pronounced correctly (like a “coin”), but more often as Cone-ee, Coin-ee, Cone, and all possible permutations.

    My last name is a slight permutation on a ‘regular’ name, but its so odd that people regularly “correct” my spelling of my own name. This has even occurred on legal documents – my High School diploma, for instance. The school principal took extra care to get it right because he knew about the problem, but someone at the state administrative office decided I must’ve spelled my own name wrong and changed it. So technically I haven’t graduated from High School, even though I have a PhD. 🙂 Its gotten so bad that some of my relatives have legally changed their name to the regular spelling, just so they wouldn’t have to deal with it.

    But, through it all, instead of getting microaggrieved I tend to get microamused. Its much healthier, IMO. Though maybe only microhealthier.

  21. jeremy pereira
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Ha ha.

    Being English with a Portuguese name means I must have suffered cumulative macro aggression. Almost nobody I ever met from my country of birth knew how to pronounce my name without me having to carefully school them. There isn’t even consensus in my extended family on the correct pronunciation.

    Given that I did pretty well academically anyway, I can only presume that my name has robbed me of a Nobel prize.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      So your name doesn’t seem that hard. (Maybe I’m just displaying my ignorance of Portuguese!)

      Can you give us the phonetic version of it?


      • jeremy pereira
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        My Dad pronounces it to rhyme with Madeira. I gather that in Portugal, that would be considered incorrect. In Britain, people always get confused over the erei part, usually coming out with pee-air-a or variation.

  22. Dean Reimer
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    In a university or college context I completely agree that the failure to pronounce someone’s name correctly is of minor consequence. I’ve been to university, in classes ranging from several hundred to 30 students, and I don’t know if I was ever called on by name. It just doesn’t happen enough for lecturers to gain familiarity with pronunciation.

    But the research cited above refers to a K-12 context, and in that case the repeated failure to correctly pronounce someone’s name is, I think, deliberate and inexcusable. Face it, if you have a class of 30 kids and can’t figure out how to pronounce everyone’s name over the course of a ten month school year then you are mispronouncing it on purpose.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure about that.

      Incompetence maybe; but malice seems unlikely. Most teachers are working really hard to do the right thing.

      I have a friend (very bright and otherwise accomplished) who has studied Spanish and French and has spent more time in Mexico, Spain, and France than almost anyone else I know.

      And he still, very frequently, mispronounces basic words in French and Spanish. I have to work hard not to react.

      I honestly think there are mental deficits in these areas for some people.

      • eric
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Its not necessarily mental deficits OR malice. Two thoughts.

        First, some sounds are just difficult to make depending on which language you grew up speaking. Many US native English speakers have a hard time rolling their r’s. Native French speakers can’t say the English word “owl” correctly. And pretty much anyone not raised speaking a tonal language is probably not even going to hear some important tonal differences, let alone correctly pronounce them. These sorts of pronunciation problems are not a question of effort or memory or good intent, they’re ‘muscle memory’ type limitations that can be extremely hard to overcome, even for the most socially conscious and linguistically careful person.

        Second, its worth remembering that “K-12 teacher” can run the gamut from a 21-year-old, barely-passed-community-college person who just likes summers off to 40-year-veteran-schoolteacher-with-PhD. When someone tells us that “teachers” are making pronunciation mistakes, its probably not the latter that are the guilty parties. I have no doubt some younger and less educated teachers just don’t necessarily know how to pronounce words right. If someone is misspelling words in their senior year college essays, that person is not going to undergo some magical transformation upon graduation that makes them better at the language come September when they start their full time job.

        • Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          I agree, all around.

          Confounding thing for me is the friend I mentioned actually can pronounce the words correctly — I’ve heard him do it on occasion! And he has learned several languages.

          I agree that languages are often hard for USians (who’ve never needed to know another language).

          I started learning other languages (fairly intensively) when I was 13, so maybe that helped some.

        • Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          My son’s teacher (a pre-retirement lady) at a meeting with parents when the class was in 1st grade:
          “I sometimes confuse names, I hope nobody is offended when I call Mustafa – Mehmed…”

          • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

            OK, this story is totally non-PC.

            A friend and I were in Egypt (Sharm El Sheik). He is/was a certified scuba diver. He went out on a dive boat into the Red Sea (while I just snorkled from the beach — which was amazing as well!).

            On the dive boat at lunch time, he and some other clients want something from the crew. One leans over the side of the flying bridge and yells, “Mohammad! Mahmud! Abdul! Ahmed!”

            Abdul pops his head out, “yes sir?!”

            The guys says to the other clients, “had to be one of those four names!”

            In Egypt, this was nearly true (at the time, early 1990s), pretty nearly every man you met was named one of those four.

            • darrelle
              Posted September 28, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

              No Aziz?

              Aziz, LIGHT!11!1!

      • Merilee
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        More likely an aural deficiency. My bf and my ex-husband are hopeless at recognizing the different sounds. Not a matter of IQ. I find foreign languages pretty effortless but don’t ask me to draw anything that looks like anything recognizable.

        • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          I agree. But the guy is an amazing musician, naturally talented!

          To me it just points to the level of “compartmentalization: of brain function at the subconscious level.

      • lkr
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        “I honestly think there are mental deficits in these areas for some people”

        Thanks, jb, and you really ought to realise that statements like this are not taken well by those of us who do have hardware+software impediments to processing language.

        In my case, I had frequent ear infection in childhood, causing enough hearing problems to be referred to audiologists. I believe I adapted to large mid-range frequency cutouts by simplifying my phoneme charts, and also by parallel processing uncertainties — what might have been said. [A great way for a kid to become a punster, many possible renderings of a partially heard phrase are obviously wrong, but very funny].

        I’ve studied a number of European languages, and have always found it to build the new vocabulary and grammar needed for basic competency in reading. But I cannot understand speech in any of these languages — my phoneme mapping breaks down so badly that I usually hear noise [not even blah-blah!] I’ve never studied tonal languages, but the Chinese spoken in the university sauna may as well be music.

        I might say I understand spoken Spanish a bit [at least the Univision dialect], as its phoneme map isn’t very difficult for English speakers. But even then I cannot replicate the sounds of that language. This may involve a motor problem, but for the most part I can’t droduce a sound I can’t define!

        It’s interesting to compare my struggle with language with my wife’s abilities. She has much more difficulty than I with written language, but picks up new languages and dialects like a third-graders. Earlier this summer she crammed to learn Russian for a bicycle trip that went through back-roads, no English countryside. And had a ball. In the same situation, witht he same prior effortI would have been ahead in reading newspapers, but would simply be lost trying to converse, even from a phrase bood.

        To return to the microaggression take on pronouncing names.. It is not fair to assume that poor pronunciation is a sign of laziness or cultural insensitivity. Humans are not universally capable of learning new accents even in early adulthood.

        • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

          Full agreement with your last paragraph.

          I’ve seen it (heard it) many times.

        • Posted September 28, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          This is why I find a fundamental difference between my given name (the name you see attached to this post) and a friend from years ago whose family name was written “Hryckowian”. (Polish Romanization, without diacritics, of a Ukrainian name.)

          He explained the first day we spoke in school how to pronounce it. All the sounds exist in English, so one can memorize how to say it, as I did. What appalled me is that the teachers generally never learned to say it in all the time we were there – and my friend was a good student and often receiving awards and things, so there was lots of opportunity.

          Contrast that with my name, which I don’t expect native speakers of many languages, including French, to ever get, since the sound written “th” does not exist in many.

          However, I don’t think “microaggression” is the right word for how my friend was treated.

          I might add also I had one instructor in CEGEP who took attendance the first class and asked us to answer the question “what should I call you?” in response, in case it was different from one’s legal name, or pronunciation was hard, etc. I think this should be something like standard procedure …

  23. Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “But “microaggression”? No way—not unless you’re bigoted and boorish enough to call all Hispanic males “José”.”

    As they repeatedly make clear intent doesn’t matter. Since the target doesn’t know whether you are a bigot you are obliged to act in a way that assumes they think you are.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I wanted to add that I was raised, when in doubt, to give people what people say the most charitable interpretation. Apparently the new default is to assume racism, sexism, homophobia, Xenophobia, or bigotry.

    • eric
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Well, empathy and consideration are hard work. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt requires you think through what that might be. You can’t expect a SJW to talk, maintain their ire, and show charity at the same time, its just too much!

      • Posted September 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        Darn: Everytime I see “SJW”, I egocentrically translate it as “Single Jewish Woman.”

  24. tubby
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s because everyone mispronounces my name the first few times that I just don’t care and that I realize it’s not a micro aggression. People make mistakes. Nine times out of ten they figure it out quickly because it’s often embarrassing to them.

    The people who continually mispronounce it or make a big deal about the spelling… well, that’s just jerks being jerks. Some people don’t grow past the age of 13.

    • tubby
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      My icon has changed. I hope I haven’t been misspelling my email address. Is that microagressing myself?

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Mine changed last week when I was in Taiwan. Not entirely sure why, using the same e-mail address – it enters automatically so not my fingers – but I ended up being impounded for posting approval and got a new icon. Switched back when I returned.

        • tubby
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          I haven’t changed location, and hopefully I haven’t caused PCC any trouble. My IP might have changed though since there was a significant Internet outage for me last week.

  25. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Most people I meet mispronounce my name. I’ve been called everything from “Larry” to “Ouch” and it hasn’t bothered me one bit. This is such bullshit. It is obviously the outgrowth of self-righteous extreme PC folks running out of things to get upset about but still feeling a pressing need to be upset about something, anything. Too bad their ultra-PC religion doesn’t allow them to get upset about things that actually matter, like the spread of conservative Islam and terrorist violence around the world.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      “I’ve been called everything from “Larry” to “Ouch””

      Wow. It’s not like either of your names is very challenging!

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        He’s obviously an avatar of the Eternal Champion.


    • Dean Reimer
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      If you knew someone for 10 months and they still called you Ouch, and made no attempt to get it right, it still wouldn’t bother you?

      They aren’t talking about someone mispronouncing it once or twice.

  26. Andrew
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Identity is a comfort blanket for adults.

  27. Darren
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    When I was in high school, circa 2002 or 2003, I had a math teacher who couldn’t pronounce an Asian student’s name. He instead said, “I’ll call you Ching, how’s that?” I never saw him do anything else racist or inappropriate towards the student, but that has always stuck with me as being wildly inappropriate and hurtful. For the record, he always mispronounced my name as well, referring to me as “Darien,” though that seemed unintentional.

  28. Mark Reaume
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I never thought my last name (Re-Ohm) was difficult to pronounce until I left my home town. The worst I got was Resume!

    Key & Peele had a good sketch on this subject matter (language warning!):

    • Kevin
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      This link works better (at least where I am).

      Key Peele Substitute

      Absolutely dEvIne.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      IIRC, Key & Peele think NOTHING off-limits to be made fun of.

      How about an infant with two cancerous eyeballs which must be removed? (Actually happened – there was a photo in the newspaper showing the anguished parents holding their child.)

  29. David Harper
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    We must hope that Professor Kohli never visits the cities of Leicester [1] or Bicester [2] here in England, otherwise she runs the risk of micro-aggressing the entire population by mis-pronouncing the names of their home towns. And she should never even think of visiting the Vale of Belvoir [3].

    [1] Pronounced as if it were spelled “Lester”.

    [2] Pronounced like “Bister”.

    [3] “Beaver”. No, really.

    • Craw
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Or the Scots Ruthven, “riven” (short i).

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Don’t even start on the Scottish. Some of the place names have been simplified (Druimuachdar is often rendered as Drumochter) but most of the mountains haven’t. Sgurr Dearg, Aonach Eagach, Buachaille Etive Mor – I can spell them but I can’t even begin to guess how to pronounce them.


    • Graham
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Nor should she risk visiting Over Peover in Cheshire

      [Peever rather than Pee-over].

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      Or Yachats, Oregon. (Ya-hots) Everyone who moves here has to learn how to pronounce Willamette (accent on the second syllable) and Oregon (accent on the first syllable, Or-eh-gun).

      • Merilee
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, too many people nit from the west coast seem to say Oregone, as in gone…

        • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

          Pretty much every (US) mid-westerner — including many who frequently visit Oar-i-GONE … 🙂

          • Merilee
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

            Not to mention most Canucks, who also say Mary-land, and New Orleens.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      Gloucester. Worcester. Cirencester.


      • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        I know the first two, the third has always baffled me. Can you please give the phonetic? Cheers!

        • Merilee
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          And Cholmonderley(sp?) = Chumley

        • TJR
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          Cirencester = Sigh-ren-sess-ter

          • Posted September 28, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

            But occasionally “sister”.


            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 28, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

              I thought ‘sister’, but Wikipedia says that’s only occasionally used, more often ‘sirensister’ (roughly as spelt).

              Apparently ‘sisister’ is also heard.


  30. Gareth Price
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Gareth is apparently not a common name in America and since I moved here I have frequently had it mispronounced and mispelt. When I spell it out in a coffeeshop, the cup invariably come back with “Garth” on it; last week it came back with “Galph”

    When I say “My name is Gareth – G A R E T H” it really shouldn’t be difficult to get that down correctly. I don’t consider it a microaggression or dimishining me as a person but it does annoy me, although I can’t quite say why.

    • eric
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Well, at least they aren’t calling you Girth.

    • Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Strange. I’ve known many Gareth’s in the US and no Garth’s (except the famous country guy).

      And it’s not like it;s hard to figure out Gareth, either!

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        pardon the apostrophes …

    • Merilee
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Btw, you’ve misspelled “misspelled.”😸

      • Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Well…..according to the dictionary you are correct.

        BUT, it says that misspelt is the English form of misspelled. So Gareth missed an s…

        Starbucks usually can’t spell Simon either. And it has even less letters than Gareth

      • Gareth Price
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        I actually looked up whether it should be “misspelt” or “misspelled” and, according to the first and only site I checked, either is OK. I then managed to leave out an “s” ! I guess there is a double irony to it.

        • Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Well it made me look it up, which is good – it’s one of those words that always feels wrong, no matter which way I write it. A cost of moving to a country with a similar language to the one we grew up with, perhaps.

        • Merilee
          Posted September 27, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          Just teasing you, Gareth. I think Brits say spelt and Yanks, spelled:-). I hadn’t even noticed the missing s.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:52 am | Permalink

            We say both, just as we sometimes say or write ‘learned’ & sometimes ‘learnt’.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:26 am | Permalink

              Or ‘burned’ and ‘burnt’.

              As a conjecture, maybe the ‘ed’ form is the past tense of the verb and the ‘t’ form is the adjective. I burned the toast; my toast is burnt.

              But I don’t think I’d try to push that too far.


              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink

                I think it is often a matter of a perhaps unconscious sense for euphony as to which one says (or writes), as with ‘among’ & ‘amongst’ and ‘while’ & whilst’.

              • Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:48 am | Permalink

                “amidst, amongst, and whilst are all pretentious affectations and should never be used in your writing if you want to be taken seriously.”



              • Merilee
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink

                Great link, Ant!

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink


              • Merilee
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink


              • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

                We do (in the midwest US) too. Exact same usages.

              • Merilee
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

                That’s how I’d differentiate between burned and burnt, but I’d never use spelt ( except for the grain) or learnt.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

                There was this comment on the little pedant’s rules and anathemas for ‘good usage’ that Ant links to:

                ‘Amongst, whilst, and amidst are proper, British English. I grew up overseas and learned British English but now live in the us and still use them regularly. I’m the least pretentious person out there. Yes there are obnoxious people like madonna out there but sometimes people on this continent need more tolerance for other dialects of English too.’

                I grew up in Britain and warmly agree: those usages are perfectly good British English, and people move quite naturally between, say”among’ and ‘amongst’.

    • Gareth
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      I spent my teens living in the Netherlands, and have recently moved back here.
      Between their ‘g’ being considerably different, and not really getting the whole ‘th’ thing, my name was pretty much a non-starter.
      I came to hate introducing myself for a while (I don’t have much self-confidence), but got over it eventually.
      If I knew I wouldn’t see that person again, I just introduced myself as Geert, closest Dutch sounding name.

      And if that wasn’t enough, I was educated in international schools, most nationalities get it wrong first time, and some never get there.
      Heard it all Gaah-rat, Gou-wuf, Ga-ret-he, and then some.

      Nowadays, thanks to a certain football player, its less of an issue.

      That said I’ve taken to using the Japanese transliteration of Garesu online, as it seems to encourage people to shorten it to Gar or Garo, which is what my Welsh relatives call me.
      Much better than Garth or Geert.
      Extra bonus is that its never already taken, though now that I’ve told you, I think that game is up.

      I’m also hearing impaired, so I have an official excuse to bollocks up other people’s names :p

      • Gareth
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        And another thing, up until I think the 2003 version, the British English spell checkers in MS Word didn’t recognise my name and always offered to change it.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink

          Which seems very odd, ‘Gareth’ being a good Welsh name, and in the English version of ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ to boot.

      • Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Yeah, the “G” and “th” thing in Dutch! That would be really hard!

        A friend named Greg had a hard time in Denmark. He became Krik.

      • nicky
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        I’d think the Dutch ‘Gerrit’ would come slightly closer than ‘Geert’?

        • Gareth
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          True, its less common though.
          But with the popularity of a certain politician, maybe I should switch to that one.

  31. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    The intentional mispronunciation of a surname can certainly be done as an act of aggression.

    Think of Sen. Geary mispronouncing “Corleone” twice in Godfather II — the first time, giving it an oblivious WASP-y pronunciation from the bandstand at the first-communion party; the second, with a hyper-Italianate pronunciation during the meeting in Michael’s study.

  32. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I would guess maybe one in ten get my last name right. It is just expected to come out wrong. A much more important factor that irritates is growing up in a small town where everyone knows you. I did not know how bad that was until I went away to the big cities and actually got to live unknown. What an improvement that is.

    • Merilee
      Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      How in the world can Schenk be mispronounced? But then Indian and Philippino call centers have a helluva time with Olson…

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:16 am | Permalink

        Clearly it can be misspelt (or misspelled 😉 ).

        Now that I know how to pronounce your name, Merilee, it makes me smile every time 🙂

  33. Craw
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s spelt “Luxury Yacht” but it’s pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove.

  34. murali
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Texas school board and evolution:

    Jerry Coyne’s name is mispronounced here

    between 3:10-3:20.

  35. geckzilla
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    In high school, we had an exchange student from India, or maybe it was Pakistan? Gosh, I forgot. In typical lackadaisical teenage fashion, several of my classmates decided it was best not to put forth any effort in pronouncing his name correctly. We called him Donut. I will never remember his real name, because we never called him anything but Donut. He seemed amused by it and happy to be accepted. Hopefully he’s doing well these days.

  36. Posted September 27, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Many of my American colleagues pronounce my first name like a female relative rather than like an insect. I find that … odd.

    But I’m sure I screw up the vowel sounds in some of my European and Asian colleagues’ names.


    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      Strangely, I pronounce a female relative the way you pronounce your first name. Perhaps something to do with coming from Glasgow.

  37. Posted September 27, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    And nobody deals with microagression like Samuel L. Jackson …


  38. murali
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    In the Poirot TV series (with David Suchet) a few English characters mispronounce his name.

    E.g., “The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly”.
    Marcus Waverly, when corrected by Poirot, responds with a dismissive ‘quite’ 🙂

  39. Jeanne Aloia
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I have had people ARGUE with me that my first name is pronounced “Jeannie”. No it is no. And my last name? I have been called everything from “Aloha” to “Oahu”. I always say my last name is pronounced A law ya. As in, “If you are a New York attorney, you are “A Law-ya”.

  40. Posted September 27, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    My antisemitic 5th grade teacher mispronounced my name, when I was a new student at the school, and then turned a blind eye when the other kids not only threw the disgusting version in my face, day after day, but started ganging up and cornering me with threats of “The Jews killed Jesus”, as though they were going to attack me for it. A couple years later, I was attacked, twice, in two different classes.

    That was the start. The bullying continued for five full years, until I entered high school. Luckily, the high school combined kids from enough junior high schools to dilute my attackers, and the new (to me) boys found me attractive enough that the bullies kept their distance.

    Those five years were hell, and that hell was deliberate. Not one other teacher stepped in to help, over all those years.

  41. ladyatheist
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Teachers should get their students’ names right. It’s not like they’re strangers. There are only so many Spanish surnames and the rules for pronouncing Spanish are relatively simple. Mispronouncing it after being corrected once or twice would certainly seem deliberately insulting.

    If a Spanish speaker pronounced ‘Jerry’ as ‘Hairy’ day after day that would certainly be cause for concern.

  42. Bill
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    “I think that many of us, including me, don’t like agreeing with a fair amount of what we see on right-wing websites.”

    So what if you agree with the “right”?

    The left-wing has been peddling a bunch of nonsense and dangerous ideas for some years now.

    Take a look a the left’s love for identity politics which is partly responsible for the rise of the alt-right/white nationalism movement and is dividing people in a way that in a very similar way to the racism of old.

    Take a look at the rise of comrade Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-semitic populist from the UK.

    Take a look at Justin “i’m a feminist” Trudeau promoting a gender segregated mosque.

    The left lost whatever moral high ground they might think they have.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      And what moral high ground have, say, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump & David Duke? I, too, dislike the ‘regressive left’, along with the Trotskyist nit-pickers and other fanatical dogmatists I came across in my youth, but I nevertheless wonder why, when all across Europe and elsewhere, including the USA,chauvinism is growing stronger and chauvinists are coming closer and closer to power, people such as yourself seem to be exercised only by what, in a undiscriminating manner, you term ‘the left’ and seem to remain oblivious to the threat posed by the extreme right.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        I might add that, with the historian Tony Judt, who was, by shallow standards, a man of the ‘left’, I have time for such writers and men of the ‘right’ as Ernst Junger or the English poet Charles Sisson or an unclassifiable philosopher like Leszek Kolakowski,who wrote the greatest critique of Marxism ever written, just as I have time for such writers of the ‘left’ as Edward Bond & Harold Pinter, Orwell or Bertrsnd Russell. One may learn to see reality from many sources, and I find this division of humanity into ‘left’ and ‘right’ simply infantile.

      • Bill
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        Oh my, where do i even start?

        My point is, if you find moderates on the right that you happen to agree with, there’s no shame in that. In this day and age there’s plenty of lunatics on either side of the spectrum, and thinking that agreeing with a right winger on issues, is some kind of moral failure is hilariously out of touch.

        As for your rise of the extreme right comment, i’m afraid this is another failure of the left to address people’s concerns.

        The left’s failure to address the threat that islam/islamism/whatever poses and it’s labeling of critics as racists is just one of many examples as to why people are voting for the extreme right.

        Now you can chalk this up to the regressive left wing of the “Left”, but to the common citizen it makes no difference (is there such a thing as a non-regressive left wing party out there?). Only the extreme right parties are listening, so if you are truly scared of them, spare me your self righteousness and butthurt, and go tell your fellow leftists to wake the fuck up (or better yet, create a non-regressive political party).

        • Tim Harris
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          I find very odd the insistence of some on this website that Muslims should be held accountable for their beliefs, whereas when it comes to the beliefs or prejudices held by the extreme right, the right is not accountable and people cannot be held accountable for voting for them: it’s all the fault of what you, an American, call the ‘left’ (I say this, because Americans often seem to have very odd ideas about they suppose the ‘left’ is). But, consider: perhaps those terrible ideas on the left which you so much despise are the consequence of the behaviour of the right – the Farages, the various chauvinists who have taken power (Poland, Hungary) or are closer to taking power in Europe, the Drumpfs, the David Dukes, the George Zimmermans… You are adopting a double standard, wallowing in inconsistencies. As for the question about ‘non-regressive left-wing parties’, I suggest that you do a little research and learn a little about history, especially outside the USA. I was not, I’m afraid, much moved by your show of temper at the end, complete with the cliche ‘butthurt’.

          • Bill
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

            “it’s all the fault of what you, an American, call the ‘left’”

            I’m not american, and the left has lost the plot completely.

            A neocon (Hillary in case you are wondering) is about to become the president of the USA because apparently she leftists decided that she represents their interests better people like Sanders.

            Also in case you are trying to make the point that the european left is any better, just take a look at the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

            “the Farages, the various chauvinists who have taken power (Poland, Hungary) or are closer to taking power in Europe, the Drumpfs, the David Dukes, the George Zimmermans”

            I like how you just grouped in a bunch of people who have fuck all to do with each other in a desperate attempt to make a point.

            Butthurt doesn’t quite describe you, i’m sorry about that, incoherent is more accurate.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted September 28, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

              Thank you for your spleen. If you seriously believe that ‘leftists’ are all splendidly in favour of HC, or that the Democratic Party is, or has been for a number of years now, anywhere near being a ‘leftist’ party… well, I shall say no more.

              The political mess we are finding ourselves in derives not so much from the faults of leftists or rightists, but from the near-dogmatic belief in the ‘market’ (it is this belief that has encouraged massive immigration, not welcoming lefties), and from the assumption that politics is a mere epi-phenomenon of economic forces and that if you take care of the pennies, as it were, the politics will take care of itself.

              I am very glad that a moderate Muslim is now mayor of London, and that the racist campaign mounted by his adversary was unsuccessful.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 29, 2016 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                I might add that I hold no brief for HC, and certainly not for what has hitherto seemed to be her assumption, where foreign policy is concerned, that if you bomb some country you dislike, it will miraculously turn into a splendid democracy overnight – an assumption shared, of course, by David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, Tony Blair & the great Dubbya (I shan’t mention Henry Kissinger & Richard Nixon). And then when refugees start pouring out of the shattered, war-torn area, you raise your draw-bridges and vote for Brexit & Drumpf (that sounds like the name of a particularly foul delicatessen). As a matter of fact, I largely agree with, for example, the excoriation of PuffHo and the stupidities of the ‘regressive left’, but only wish that people might be equally exercised by, oh, let us say Fox News or the Daily Mail and the power and influence they have had and still possess and the lies they trade in; but, no, it is some entity called the ‘left’ they seem to be single-mindedly concerned with, to the point where they seem to be less interested in looking at political realities dispassionately and in trying to come up with some answers to problems than in banging away on the same limited part of the keyboard all the time.

  43. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 27, 2016 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    As usual, the well-meaning have taken a good idea and run it into the ground.

    With personal names as with place names, I’ve always taken correct pronunciation to be like scoring a minor point in the general knowledge quiz that is conversation.

    If someone can’t get a name right then it reflects on them, not on the name’s owner. If the owner of the unusual name makes a fuss about it, though, then they lose points.

    People almost always get my surname slightly wrong. I’m used to it. I only bother to correct them if it’s for some official record.


    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      People almost always get my surname slightly wrong. I’m used to it. I only bother to correct them if it’s for some official record.

      Me too.

      With personal names as with place names, I’ve always taken correct pronunciation to be like scoring a minor point in the general knowledge quiz that is conversation.

      I recently met a man with exactly the same surname as me, but with a different pronunciation. As it’s his name, I now make the effort (and it’s very hard) to pronounce it his way when addressing him. Fortunately we all go by first names these days, but I have to be very careful when introducing him.

      • Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink

        I’m struggling to think of other ways of pronouncing “Brains” …

        Same comment for your real surname. None of the few Wp pages for people with that surname that I sampled had any pronunciation guide, which suggests that most people think that there’s one, obvious pronunciation.

        Mine’s been misheard (and thus written down) by people from Sheffield as “Hallam”, the name for the local area.


        • Posted September 28, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          “brains” as either “bra-ins” (two syllables) or “branes”/”braynes” (i.e., the standard way in English).

  44. Tejas
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Your article made reference to an Italian name pronounced in an American accent. Now if I were to try to imitate an Italian accent to get the pronunciation right, I can be accused of cultural misappropriation. So damned if I do and damned if I dont.

  45. Posted September 28, 2016 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    …it’s spelt Raymond Luxury Yach-t, but it’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove”…

  46. Filippo
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    In my K-12 substitute teaching travels, generally going to a different school at least 75% of my gigs, I have no opportunity to previously confirm the correct pronunciation of names, though I have a pretty good track record of pronouncing them correctly.

    I preface each roll-taking with the statement: “I apologize in advance if I pronounce your name incorrectly. Please say ‘here’ and NICELY tell me how to correctly pronounce your name. (There are of course seating charts but that doesn’t help with pronunciation.)

    The occasional student does take umbrage at being called “Miss” or “Sir” (since I can’t possibly remember names during that no more than a day-long encounter), insisting that I call them by their names, or by a nickname which is not on the roll. (One young lady responded, “Little Miss has a name!” Another young male primate complained to another teacher about my addressing him as “Sir,” and she proceeded to set him straight on the matter.) Blame it on their youth, I suppose, but from whom do they learn this breath-taking sense of entitlement and “specialness”?

    (When I introduce myself, I do so in a fun way as an ice-breaker, purposefully mispronouncing my own name in several different ways, which they find quite funny. I guess I’m allowed to make fun of my own name and, anyway, I’m a white male, eh? I end up telling them that all they have to remember Is Mr. first letter of last name. I occasionally say (usually on the heels of a student taking umbrage at my mispronunciation – despite my pre-emptory apology – that I myself don’t REQUIRE them to remember my name, which is of course plainly writ large on the board).

    • Filippo
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Today, I subbed in music. In the music storeroom, there were 8-10 sombreros. I brought out several, and let all pre-K students, who wanted to, to don them.

      I trust that it was OK with SJW’s that I allowed non-Hispanic students to don them.

      • Merilee
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        Oh, nooooo, you’re in deep trouble. I hope you didn’t dare lead them in a Mexican Hat Dance🙀

        • Filippo
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          I guess I went off the deep end in that I, a Scots-English hillbilly born in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, played the guitar and sang “Cielito Lindo” while they played percussions instruments and danced.

          • Merilee
            Posted September 28, 2016 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            Sounds like a great time was had by all!

  47. Andrew West
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    This is even stupider than normal, because how can you learn to pronounce someone’s name correctly unless you practice?

    Nobody gets something novel right the first time round.

    For example, I have quite a few Estonian friends, and some Chinese friends. Good luck pronouncing any of their names correctly on first try.

  48. Dominic
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    We could all have numbers!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      I am not a number…

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:20 am | Permalink

        Damn! Beat me to it!

        There weren’t many actors could get such a marvellous snarl into their voice as McGoohan.


  49. Marilee Lovit
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Once I was asked by children of new friends of mine, “Why do you have a horse’s name?”

    Turns out, they had known a horse named Marilee (but I don’t know how the horse spelled it). I rather liked sharing this horse’s name especially when they told me that Marilee sometimes jumped over her fence and ran away.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      I love it!

      (You probably never heard that before.) 😉

      • Merilee
        Posted September 28, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        Great story, Marilee! Maybe I’ll steal it because the horse might have spelled it “my” way🐴
        Fish called Wanda, horse called Ma(e)rilee…

        Do you pronounce yours with the emphasis on the first syllable.

  50. Pete
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I had no idea I’d been microaggressed continuously for as long as I can remember. I am also quite certain I will continue to be microaggressed for the indefinite future. Unless I move to Finland. But then, again, maybe that’s not a group that can be microaggressed against. This is all getting way too confusing.

  51. Curt Nelson
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    This has been going on with Iraq ever since the US invaded, and it’s not a difficult name. It’s Ear-rock not Eye-rack.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      How about Qatar?

    • Merilee
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      EYErack drives me crazy. Even Bernie Sanders and some talking-head American generals say it that way! To me it sounds as bad as saying EYEtalian. Just plain ignorant.

  52. Nate
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    This is crazy. I can see it could be a problem when some pompous jerk mispronounces a name on purpose (which I have actually seen done), but it negates their identity? I’m sorry, some people give their kids names that are just very difficult to pronounce, or even spell them in a way that their preferred pronunciation does not allow for (and I am not necessarily talking about foreign-born kids). I once encountered a parent that had a child named “Mercedes”, except that they spelled it “Merdedes”, and the parent became very upset when asked if that was the correct spelling.
    I had a student from Africa in a class this year, and I tried my best to pronounce the name according to the letters used to spell it, and was told “Not even close” by the student. he did not, however, bother to tell me how to actually pronounce it… So, now I just call him by his last name.

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