Check out my byline.
Tricky name, right? It’s Irish. It’s got an accent (known as a fada). To further complicate matters, it also looks like it rhymes with my last name (it’s actually pronounced “ahn-yah”).
I love my name. It keeps things interesting.
At this point, I’ll pretty much respond to anything (almost everyone in my life purposely mispronounces my name as a nickname). During any sort of roll call or introduction, I find myself preparing to blurt out a correction and an explanation. I pause before telling baristas my name, as I silently contemplate giving an easier-to-pronounce alias (which probably just makes me look sketchy or amnesiac).
Basically, I don’t really care when people occasionally mispronounce my name. It comes with the territory.
That being said, making sure that people are getting your name right can be a big deal. As PBS reported, name mispronunciation in the classroom can negatively affect students, especially those who are ESL or the children of immigrants.
Plus, it’s annoying.
That’s why Business Insider spoke with national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman to get some insight on how to correct accidental name-manglers.
“It’s important to politely set it straight from the beginning so you don’t have to have an increasingly awkward conversation down the line,” Gottsman says. “Simply be honest and inform them of the correct version of your name the first time you hear them say it wrong.”
Unsurprisingly, directness is your best bet.
Gottsman even broke down what a potential correction could look like:
Person 1: “It’s great to meet you, Julia.”
Person 2: “Thank you so much. Actually, my name is Julie with an ‘e.’ People confuse it all the time! It’s so nice meeting you as well!”
Person 1: “Oh sorry about that!”
Person 2: “No worries at all! I knew you would want to know.”
However, what if you failed to nip things in the bud? Years ago, one of my bosses accidentally mispronounced my name for quite some time. Let me be clear: This was not that person’s fault. I had failed to correct them in the beginning, and then things snowballed. Also, I didn’t really care. It was a minor mistake, as far as mispronunciations go. They said my name like it rhymed with a certain rapper who had just released a critically acclaimed album, which I thought was pretty funny.
So, how could I have remedied that situation?
Well, Gottsman notes that I could have simply told them a story or left them a voicemail where I referred to myself in the third person.
I could have gone with something like:
“And my friend said to me, ‘Áine, I can’t believe you fled into the woods without saying goodbye to anyone at the party!'”
Alternatively, you can definitely go ahead and be more direct about it.
“If the first opportunity to correct someone is long-gone, telling them privately, without embarrassing them is the most comfortable way to explain the name faux pas,” Gottsman told Business Insider. “At all costs, avoid coming off as frustrated or annoyed — the situation is already uncomfortable and adding emotion makes it more prickly.”
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