Posts Tagged ‘names’

How do you say that name?

One of my co-workers stopped by my cube today and asked if I could read a few names off a post-it for him.  He and his wife are pregnant with their first child.  They are both from India and worried about choosing name that will be true to their heritage and home country while also being easy enough Americans to pronounce correctly.   Bhavesh had 6 names on the list, I managed to pronounce 4 of them correctly.  Not too bad!

One of my favorite parts about being an engineer is the amazing global cultural diversity in our field.  I get to work with engineers from around the world who now live in the US as well as engineers working around the globe.  I’ve been lucky enough to work closely as I move from project to project with engineers based in India, China, Israel, Poland, Russia, and Malaysia.  I can’t even begin to document the diversity of my fellow cube-mates.

I can tell you that the most difficult names for me were Polish.  They just looked like a string of consonants.  Almost everyone in Poland went my a nickname that was some shortened, Americanized name.  For example, Krzysztof went by Kristof and Izajasz by Ijaz.   I think it’s sometimes even more difficult to pronounce names unfamiliar to you because when you ask how to say it, you get an answer veiled in a heavy accent.  (which makes repeating the name especially difficult when you hear it over the phone).

One of my most embarassing moments this past year was running a meeting with five Polish engineers on the phone and needing to call on one of them to answer a question.  I saw his name in the email, but had no clue how to say it.  I ended up just asking the question without addressing it to anyone.  There was dead silence on the other end.  Finally one of them asked, “who was that question for?”  Thank goodness they couldn’t see my face!  I did my best to blurt out a name and thankfully one of them picked up on who I meant and called on him for me.  You could hear the smile in his voice.

Names are so important.  They brand us in a way.  Often you’ll hear parents say that their children act like their name.  When you hear a name you conjure up initial thoughts of what that person might be like.  Bhavesh is smart in taking time to do some research and choose a name that will make life for his first born a little easier here in the US.  I’ll continue being thankful to work with diverse people around the world and keep practicing my pronunciations.