Names and Saying Them

I have the horrible habit of, in my head, calling people by the name of what I think they look like instead of their actual name. For example, there could be a person named Butter, but I think they look more like a Jelly, so I’ll call them Jelly (not out loud, of course).

I’m making an effort to stop. I consciously use their actual names in my head were I to think of them. It’s in that brief moment when you first see someone when things spiral out of my control.

ARACHNID: “Hey, Butter… elly!!”

BUTTER/JELLY glares with the fire of a thousand flaming suns at ARACHNID. ARACHNID spontaneously combusts.

It’s a nightmare when you call one of your closest friends by something other than their name (that is also not an applicable nickname).

Except for a few mortifying instances, this issue thankfully doesn’t occur often because I tend to never use people’s names when I’m talking to them.

PEOPLE: Hey, Arachnid!

ARACHNID: Hi. (Note the lack of “People”)

I never really thought about not-saying-people’s-names until a few weeks ago. I can’t remember what prompted me to think about it. Possibly someone said my name and I thought, Huh. I never say that person’s name. Or maybe I was trying to get someone’s attention and my usual methods were insufficient and I had to scream their name, and it felt awkward in my mouth. When I usually try to grab someone’s attention, I put my sock on my hand, along with googly eyes that are always conveniently located in my pocket, and throw a spectacular puppet show. Sorry, just trying to get your attention, dear reader. Making sure you’re not yet bored out of your mind and simply skimming these words for any sort of emotion to break the predictable mundaneness of daily zombie living. When I usually try to grab someone’s attention, I tap their shoulders. If that fails, I’ll wave my hand obnoxiously in their face or simply give up and flop over like a deflated version of those dancing balloon people thingies outside of car washes.

On the rare occasion that I use someone’s name, I more-often-than-not stumble over it like a bunny leaping over a boulder the size of Mount Everest (I’ve lost track of that simile. OH WELL). It’s not how it looks. I know your name, I really do! Just… AHHHHH. I can pronounce words.

I think the name I stumble the most on is my own. You never really say your own name often, and with such little practice with it, I’m terrible at saying it. I can barely eke out the traditional pronunciation, and even then, I have to repeat it back to you; I can’t come up with it off the top of my head. But, as my name is my own, I get to decide how to say it, right?

Is it A-rack-nid, like a horrible hacking cough, or is it A-rah-ch-nid like that itchy rash?

The main reason I decided to go with a pseudonym (Yes, I’ll admit, it’s a pseudonym. My parents did not actually name me Arachnid Weaver. But I will deny it if you ever ask) is because the name on my birth certificate is a pain to pronounce. It’s not the worst out there, but whenever anyone asks me how to say it, I usually have to repeat it multiple times, and even then, it’s a fifty-fifty shot.

But sometimes even I don’t pronounce it right (according to the pronunciation I prefer. If we go the traditional route, I never say it right).

I was always trying to escape my name. When I was four, I asked my mom why they didn’t name me Golden Girl (I’m glad they didn’t. And, yes, four-year-old-me wanted a superhero name. She didn’t yet realize that they had secret identities. She thought Spider-Man’s parents named him “Spider-Man” as a powerless infant). When I was in kindergarten, I’d occasionally put a name other than mine on my papers (probably a pain for the teacher to sort, but at least I was consistent). When I was ten, I wanted to legally change my name for my birthday (I didn’t).

4 thoughts on “Names and Saying Them

  1. I always make sure that prospective friends know how to pronounce my name from the beginning because it’d be weird to correct them after I’ve known them for a while. With substitute teachers, I’ll try to teach them, but I don’t try very hard because I’ll never see them again, and even if I do, they probably wouldn’t remember. So I usually decide that it’s close enough.
    Are you talking about something like synesthesia?


  2. I think all of us South Asians will have to experience the eye rolling moments of non-South Asians pronouncing our names wrong. Even with the longer names, for us it can be difficult to pronounce. I legally changed my name because it was very similar to the word ‘mouthy’ (same meaning) which the teachers said suited me perfectly (I was one heck of a confrontational kid). But, um, I still believe they should try and pronounce our names right!

    I think there is a condition, or something of the like, where individuals can taste a persons name or something which makes it hard to call them by their actual name. Out of curiosity, do I seem like a Sophia?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my friends in middle school had a really tricky name, so whenever we had a substitute and they were calling attendance, they’d pause when they got to her name and she’d say “Here” into the silence.
      You know dhak nams/nicknames? My official name is Bangladeshi, so the ones Americans use, they can’t pronounce. My dhak nam, however, is American, and it’s the one that all the Bangladeshi people I know use, and they usually can’t pronounce it. So I’ve just come to accept my Americanized Bangladeshi name and Bangladeshified American name.
      It’s hard to tell without having ever met you in person, but I think you seem like a Sophia. However, I always say/think the full “Sophia Ismaa.” The names I have for people are usually irrational and I haven’t been able to find correlations between them and their designated people. For example, Peanut, Mouse/Mice, (Gold) Fish, Artichoke, etc. They all seem to be animals or foods. Or, if I meet a new person, I’ll sometimes “name” them after the main character of whatever book I’m reading. It’s harder to catch myself when I do that because they tend to be actual names.


      1. I think if it is a substitute teacher, a respectful way would be to simply make an attempt, ask if they’ve pronounced it incorrectly and if they have, teach them how to pronounce it. I always find it strange when white people pronounce the name Ahmed like ‘Aaaaaaaah-med’ and we just go with it. No, it’s Ahhhhh (emphasise the h) med. It’s really not that hard to pronounce Ahmed. It’s a microaggression that, unintentionally and sometimes intentionally, others South Asian people.

        I knew one schoolmate who’s name was Zahin, but I’m not sure if it’s a Dhak name? And another who’s name is Sara, but that’s easy to pronounce. I’m guessing your name is something in vein to Sara?

        Paha, my unicorn loving little cousin sister calls me by my full name, but a few others do too. I like it, I like my name. 🙂 I think it must be similar to the phenomenon I mentioned, but I guess you don’t taste the name, but recall it with sensory objectifications or experiences!


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