My Journey with My Name

The proper pronunciation of my name is MEH-reen but I’ve heard a wide range of mispronunciations growing up (things like MAHA-reen, like where did that extra “a” even come in from?). I’ve had people give me even more ridiculous nicknames because they couldn’t be bothered with properly pronouncing my name. Mars and Mo weren’t too bad, but Maury? Seriously?! I even mispronounced my name so that it would be easier for other people to pronounce it. In the beginning, I cringed hearing “marine” but eventually became numb to it.

I initially saw “marine” as a reclamation of the mispronunciation of my name because I was deciding how people were mispronouncing it, but that honestly isn’t any better. No one should be mispronouncing anyone’s name in the first place and no one should have to create a mispronunciation, or “Americanized” way to pronounce their name, either. I understand that there can be difficulty pronouncing certain names, especially if it’s a name you haven’t heard of before. But I don’t think the proper response is creating a “new” name for that person. Instead, there should be more invested effort into properly pronouncing them.

Sleepy girl in bedThe journey leading up to me finally deciding that I wasn’t going to let anyone mispronounce my name anymore was a long journey. I remember being a child and trying to tell people how to properly pronounce my name and being called something completely different. Being 5 or 6 years old and being called something that you don’t identify as your name but understanding that it’s referring to you hits different, to say the least. Growing up, I distanced myself a lot from my heritage and culture.eeing my name as an extension of that only made it more difficult.

However, in high school I started to make that journey to reconnect with who I was. Since I was about 16, I would hand pick a new friend or two each year who I felt could handle the actual pronunciation of my name and teach it to them. If we belonged to the same ethnic group or similar ethnic groups, I would also introduce myself using the proper pronunciation because I felt like they would have an easier time pronouncing it and it wouldn’t run the risk of them “othering” me. 

December of 2019, I went to a Leaders of Color training for a climate justice organization called Sunrise Movement. The space at this training was incredibly refreshing and healing, and I felt comfortable enough that when I introduced myself at the beginning, I used the proper pronunciation of my name. It was so surprising for me to find out that there wasn’t that big of a difficulty for people in pronouncing it and how people thought it was so beautiful.

Hawaii Girl Happy Explore Jacket Beach AdventureThe training only lasted a weekend, but feeling so seen and heard with this simple gesture made me want to continue this. So after that weekend, I decided that I would no longer go by “marine” and go by my actual name. I started to record videos of me going over the proper pronunciation of my name and posting them on social media for my friends to see. The reactions I got from my friends were everything I needed and pushed me to continue to have people properly pronounce my name.

With this being said, I encourage you to use 2020 to reclaim who you are, your narrative and your name. We live in a society where people deemed different can be pushed to the fringes with their autonomy disregarded and it’s important that we stand up to that, not only for ourselves but others as well. I deserve to have my name properly pronounced, as do you.