‘It’s offensive’: Students on why pronouncing their names properly is a big deal

We’re made to feel bad for having ‘difficult’ sounding names but in reality they’re not difficult, you’re lazy and inconsiderate


Three years after the pair’s appearance on Love Island, Yewande and Lucie’s beef came to light via old Instagram comments unearthed on Reddit. After being asked how she felt about Yewande calling her a “horrible person”, Lucie responded claiming Yewande had “always bullied” her.

Since the comments resurfaced, Yewande responded to the allegation in a tweet saying Lucie “refused” to call her by her name. Other Islanders, such as Amber Gill and Amy Hart,  also weighed in supporting Yewande.

Amber revealed that Lucie had asked to call Yewande by “Y”. As in a single letter of the alphabet.

The thing is what Lucie’s done is something most ethnic minorities with non-Anglo names have had to go through. And I hate to break it to you, it’s not acceptable.

It starts in primary school with a teacher absolutely butchering your name, or kids teasing your “funny sounding” name. Then you reach secondary school and college and start wishing you had a name that was “normal”. Then you hit uni and you’ve given up trying to correct people, and you’ve lost a part of your cultural heritage and identity.

We’re made to feel bad for having “difficult” sounding names, but in reality they’re not difficult, you’re lazy and inconsiderate. My name is Asif, and no you can’t call me “As”, or “Ass”. You can call me Asif, it’s four letters, I’m sure you can hack that.

If we want to benefit from the wonders of multiculturalism, like a greasy kebab after a night out, or an Indian takeaway on a Friday night, it’s time we start respecting the names and people that come with it.

We asked seven students from around the country about their experiences and journeys with their names, from secondary school until uni and beyond:

‘I’ve gone by so many names I can’t keep up’

I’ve gone by so many names I can’t keep up.

To be honest, I get that a lot of people get annoyed by it, but for me it’s amusing. I find it funny that some people are so uncultured that I need to make a ‘white’ name for them to address me with.

In Year 9 my Chemistry teacher called me “Annie” or “Ernie” the whole year.

Unni Shaik, Southampton Uni

‘It gets really annoying’

My name is supposed to be pronounced “So-gee”, but people always say “Sod-zee”, so I’ve resorted to not correcting anyone anymore because it takes too long. Have also been called horrible versions like “Sodiz” or “Soggy”.

Some people choose not to say it at all and not ask me and be really awkward about it. It gets really annoying, for example, they’re doing the register for training and in front of everyone they butcher my name instead of just asking.

Nat Sodzi, Bristol Uni

‘It really undermines someone’

At the end of sixth form we had a celebration assembly, and our head of year would call out our names and celebrate our achievements. She was saying all the other names, but when it came to my Tamil surname she said “I’m not even gonna bother attempting that”.

At the time I didn’t really think much of it, but then realised that it was offensive because she took the time to learn and pronounce everyone else’s name, it really undermines someone.

Daniel, Southampton Uni

‘I’m just hiding behind my nickname’

It’s fucking irritating. That’s why I came up with the nickname Lion when I came here nearly eight years ago. If I lived in Lithuania that’s a normal name people would call me. I’m just hiding behind Lion.

In secondary school the worst people were supply teachers. This women just called me Lewis for ages.

Liutauras Kiltinavicius, Southampton Uni

‘They just say it like they read it rather than finding out’

I get called Karen or “K-eye-ren”. Like if we had a substitute teacher they would assume I was a boy and be surprised when I was not. It’s a unisex name because it’s Sikh, and most if not all names are.

I feel like they read it and for some reason assume it’s pronounced “Kir-an”. They just say it how they read it rather than finding out or asking nicely.

Kiren Doyle, Warwick Uni

‘Just ask’

Not many people get how to pronounce my name. I get that being Sudanese my name won’t directly translated, just ask.

Bishoy Yassa, Queen Mary’s

‘I got really embarrassed’

This is why I go by Sanj rather than Sanjana.

When I was younger I got really embarrassed when someone said my name wrong, but that sort of stopped as I got older. I wouldn’t say I ever got annoyed because I get it’s not a name many people have heard before. But if I have told someone how to say it a couple of times it can get annoying.

I’d hate when we had a supply teacher and I used to wait for my name because I knew they would say it wrong.

I do quite like I have a name that can have a nickname, but it would be nice if people switched between Sanj and Sanjana.

Sanjana Rao, Southampton Uni

Related articles recommended by this write:

• Yewande addresses claims she bullied Lucie, saying Lucie ‘refused’ to say her name

• ‘It’s like an invisible war’: Black students on life at a majority-white uni

• ‘You’re so exotic’, and other things ethnic minority Soton students have heard whilst dating