“Is that your real name?”
I knew from a young age that my name will bring a lot of questions. But I never not liked my name, I thought it was unique at least over here in the U.S. Sure it took a lot of tries for people to say it correctly, but after a couple tries of them getting it wrong I feel sorta awkward having to tell them it’s wrong again.
“Yup, that’s my real name,” I answered with a smile on my face, proudly wearing my name.
“What’s it mean?” he asked with a confused look on his face.
“Nothing, it’s just a name. It’s Polish if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Cool.” after that he just walked away with a confused look.
It was the first day of school, that meant new teachers. I already knew that I’m going to have to go through the whole name process, where the teacher needs to learn my name. For most people, they didn’t have to stress or worry about getting their name mispronounced. But that isn’t the worst part of the whole ordeal, them trying to get you to adjust by asking if they could shorten it or call you something else, giving me that feeling of them simply not caring enough …
There I was sitting in my new seat waiting for the teacher to start class as the kids are rolling in, each of them taking seats next to their friends. I was happy to be in the class, I had a good seat where I could see the board and sit next to all my friends. The teacher picked up the paper with all of the student’s name and started going through the list, breezing past all the names. I sat there wondering to myself, what silly sound will he make for my name. There was a pause, silence.. I already knew it was me he stopped for since we just went by the letter “O”. He glanced up to scan the class briefly, expecting to see a big name tag on my forehead. “Ma-ke-edge” the kids in the class that pretty much already knew my name burst into little chuckles, all of them already knew it was me and they all looked at me.
I was a shy kid and I still am. Being embarrassed like that and now having the entire class look at me made me very uncomfortable, feeling really awkward. I hated moments like these, it made me feel just different because I don’t have a “normal easy name”. They always happen on the first week of school, after that it goes away. I raised my hand and utter my name pronounced correctly: “Ma-ch-a” but the a being sound like you were reciting the alphabet.
The idea of names and naming thing is pretty big in our society. When we make new medical discoveries now, one of the first things we do is name it. There’s just a huge system of names and naming things that we all use. Practically everything has a name in our society, especially people. It’s something that gets planned before you’re even born, at least now it is. Name’s are a pretty big deal, it’s one of the first impressions you have on a person, this becomes even more important when you don’t see them physically too. It’s important to have your name respected for what it is. Sure you can have nicknames, but only if you consent to it. Having people force a nickname upon you because they don’t want to put in the small effort to just saying it correctly, is just wrong.
I do, however, understand that my name is hard to pronounce for a non-native speaker and I don’t expect people to get it right the first time. Asking and showing effort of getting the name right is all it takes. Teachers have plenty of students, therefore certain names can be hard but if they still respect it and show or act that they are trying to say it right, it also counts. Names are a part of who you are and if you reduce the name without care you also reduce the worth that person and show a lack of respect for them.
Plenty of times I had people come up to me and ask me what my name meant. Apparently names have meaning to them like “the wise one,” or “lucky one.” I didn’t really know that was a thing so when I got asked that, I didn’t understand.
“It doesn’t mean anything it’s just a name.”
That was my go-to answer, I justed wanted to go back to my cursive homework so I can snack on my gummies..
“I never heard of that before… But are you sure it doesn’t mean something?”
I got pretty annoyed and I didn’t want to go into a full on discussion about my name and it’s origin, followed by a little geographical lesson of where Poland is.
“It’s Polish if that’s what you’re asking, it’s sort of a common name there, but I can assure you it’s not some sort of weird spelling of another name or a bizarre mispronunciation of a utensil.”
That’s usually what got the person to realize that it was just foreign, yet unique name.