“Thanks /they-ya/, have a great day!”
My eyes immediately lit up as I heard Lora from The Hub say these words. The genuine warmth in her friendly voice was evident, but it was honestly her pronunciation of my name that resonated with me, especially because I had never taught her how to. It may have been a small thing, yet it meant the world to me, and I still think about that little moment today.
The mispronunciation of my name has never been a stranger to me. Back in my native country, my surname was constantly misread as /dah-vis/. After migrating here to the United States, I hoped to leave those experiences behind—until people started calling my first name as /thee-ya/. Now, it has become a pet peeve that I’ve learned to shrug off because I hesitated to correct people.
After all, it’s “not that deep,” and it’s still my “name”… right?
However, as I remember these encounters, I begin to realize and reflect on the significance of names and the profound impact they hold.
First of all, our names are not mere labels. They are essential to shaping our identity and individuality. For instance, my name means a lot to me because it embodies the beauty of my bicultural identity—with my first name being of Filipino origin and my surname representing my American upbringing.
With that, intentionally taking the time to correctly pronounce one’s name is not simply an act of politeness. When we make an effort to do so, we can acknowledge and honor people’s identities. Although it may appear insignificant to some, it actually holds a huge power to show respect and consideration—a way to let a person be seen and heard and give a striking message that “you matter, and your identity holds value.”
In addition to that, learning to pronounce names also shows a genuine interest in knowing people. It demonstrates a sincere curiosity in understanding a person beyond our assumptions and preconceived notions. It allows us to recognize that we all carry unique experiences behind us. As a matter of fact, some people may even have very fascinating stories about why they were named as such! I’ve discovered a lot about my friends’ backgrounds simply by asking about their names.
Therefore, through this conscientious effort to ask and know how to say their names according to their preferences, we are able to approach people with a willingness to learn about their true selves. It is a meaningful gesture that communicates our interest in building a relationship.
In our world filled with diverse identities, our names hold a deeper significance than what we may think. A name is more than a mere combination of letters—it is a vessel of a person’s identity and unique stories to tell. That being said, as we navigate through complex human identities, it is quite common to feel overwhelmed by the number of differences we each bring to the table. Knowing how we can best appreciate or celebrate them may feel like a challenge. However, maybe we could just begin with the most basic step: the seemingly simple act of learning how to pronounce a name. And perhaps this tiny step would then become a bigger leap in creating a more inclusive community—a world where everyone feels seen, heard and celebrated for who they truly are.