The Struggle of an Uncommon Name

With a full name almost 30 letters long, I learned a good chunk of the alphabet when I was very young. My last name is a handful; I completely understand when people aren’t able to pronounce it. Most people actually give up when they read it. There’s usually a lot of funny reactions too, when people see my full name written out for the first time. That’s not really my main grievance though. Despite my first name being only 6 letters long, I’ve had a lot of issues with people not quite understanding it. To me, it seems quite easy to say, but I’ve heard so many variations for my first name. It makes me think that people just can’t seem to pronounce it right. I’ve heard Arianna, Auriaune, Arianee, Arina, and Irene. I personally pronounce it Ah-ree-anne, which I think it’s fairly phonetic. Maybe it’s just the jumble of letters forming my last name that worries people, and makes them forget about carefully reading my first name. 

I know that I should be proud of my name. My name has a rich history, with origins traced back to Persia. It also has strong ties with my French-Canadian heritage. It’s not a terribly uncommon French name, which, funnily enough, led me to share the same name as my math textbook in the sixth grade. When I introduced myself to one of the lab assistants in my first year of university, he got excited because my name matched the series of French rockets sent to space in the 1970s. Although it’s arguably a pretty simple name, and widespread in certain parts of the world, in Canada, most people struggle, and I’m not quite sure why. 

Canadian flag Hermes Rivera / Unsplash

The most common thing that bugs me with my name is the fact that many, many people call me “Arianna”. Despite repeatedly reminding people that my name does not end with an A, it just seems to stick. It’s frustrating to keep correcting people on how to say my name. None of the sounds are phonetically odd to native English-speakers, and yet stringing them together is seemingly an impossible task. I can’t even imagine the difficulty people with more complex names go through, having to teach each individual how to pronounce their names, one syllable at a time. Sometimes, people just go by nicknames to avoid the struggle. Even in emails, people continue to misspell my name, even though my name is written in the send box. 

woman sitting in front of Macbook Photo by from Pexels

I’m sure everyone else with a slightly-different-but-not-very-uncommon-looking name has similar problems, constantly correcting people when they get one or two letters off, and eventually realizing the futility of trying to teach everyone you meet. It’s such a small change for everyone else to make, but for me, it makes me feel heard and respected to be called by my own name. My name is Ariane, not Arianna. I wish people would stop calling me someone else’s name. Living in a country with so many cultures and individuals mixing together, we should all be better about this. 

Although it is sometimes sad to never find my name on a souvenir keychain, I really do like my name. I am the only one with my weird, mixed and unique name. It is an amalgamation of my cultural history, and creates an interesting talking point when I meet people. I don’t have to add weird numbers and symbols when I want to create a new email address, and I’m never confused with other people in my class or tutorial. People do always seem to remember my name, even if it’s incorrect, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.