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  • Writer's pictureVaishali A. Patel


Updated: May 3, 2021

Oh, whats in a name? If you are an immigrant child, you know this happens often. Your teacher taking attendance… Jennifer, Jack, John… ummm, Jag—death (Jagdish-Indian name).

I remember in school, every student in class turning around and looking at me pleadingly to rescue the teacher every time he paused. They all wanted to tell me, “ oh just say “here”…. we would like to actually learn, you know?” To sound really intelligent my teacher would even add extra syllables or vowels as if it wasn’t complicated already. So every time I saw him pause or struggle I jumped up and said,”here”!

This is a struggle of every ethnic person. So most of us have our real names and then an American name to make life easier for everyone else. I used to work at Disneyland in high school and I remember one lady reading my name tag and calling me “Vaseline”. Not sure how Vaishali sounds like Vaseline? So to make life easy, Vaishali became Shelly for every non Indian person or place. I will introduce myself with my real name first and if they come back with, pardon me? or sorry? I will say it one more time then I switch it to my “American name”.

I understand sometimes, when you have a name like Venkateshramakrishananmurthy( Ven-kat-sh-rama-krishna-moor-tea) yes you need a shorter nick name. May be Vinny? Or you can certainly insist on making sure everyone you encounter learns to pronounce your name correctly and properly.I personally prefer to choose the interaction to connect on issues and subjects that mean more to me than my name.

Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” At the end of the day, its just a name! It does not change who you are.

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