Call Me by My Name and Nothing Else: A Look Into the Importance of Correctly Pronouncing Names

This past week brought forth the conversation of name pronunciation when Fox News host Laura Ingraham and guest, Joe diGenova, mentioned that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does “the Latina thing where she does her, you know, ‘Anastasio Ocasio-Cortez,’” said diGenova, mocking how AOC says her own name in a Spanish accent. At first listen, it was hard not to feel some form of second-hand slight. As a Latina, I also do the “Latina thing” where I pronounce my name in Spanish. I do it because that was the name I was given: the consonants within my name are softer than in the English language. Yet as I continued to listen, it became apparent that both host and guest were missing a key element in why AOC was doing the Latina thing; AOC has kept the correct pronunciation of her name and not Americanized it, but they insinuated it to be a thing of the “left." AOC is multilingual (she’s said so herself in a response tweet) and a part of being multilingual, in some cases, means pronouncing a person’s name in another language.

Courtesy: CBN News


This then brought on the question: should there be more of an effort to correctly pronounce names? Even if a name like AOC’s can easily be Americanized? According to studies, yes, especially when in the classroom. Research has found that when considering a classroom, which is often home to a diverse sector of the population, a teacher’s pronunciation of a student’s name plays a factor in that student’s socioemotional well-being. In addition, mispronunciation can lead to a sense of alienation, both in the student’s own culture and in the classroom. Teacher Adam Levine-Perez has suggested that “mispronouncing a student's name fails to establish an environment of trust, sends the message that perseverance is not important, and communicates disrespect.”

Speaking to students then made it clear that many do prefer their names pronounced as they are said in their native language: I myself included. Although this is not always the case, Janine Roa, a senior at FSU, says she doesn’t mind. “As long as they say my name I am fine with it.” In the end, it comes down to preference. Junior Kevaun Gayle recalls instances when his name was mispronounced, and called another name altogether, “Kevin” rather than Kevaun. “I want people to identify me as I identify myself. I was not given the name Kevin. That is not my name. It is Kevaun. My family gave it to me and it’s a part of who I am.” 

Names can be a tricky thing because there are so many pronunciations and spellings out there. When remembering Shakespeare’s infamous question, “what’s in a name?” one could be drawn to think that names hold little significance other than a person’s title. These titles, depending on the party, however, are tied to identities, and to call someone by their given name can be liberating.