I gave a Toastmasters speech on this last month. After being exhausted by people still messing up my name (after being a member for well over a year), I just decided to do a speech on the importance of learning people’s names. There was another member who made a grand deal of giving me a quarter every time he got my name wrong, but he’d do it in half dollars. WTF takes half dollars in stores? You can imagine the looks I got when I tried to spend these damn things.
By the time I finished that speech about why it is a matter of respect to learn people’s names without making a big deal out of it — and pointing out all the white people in the crowd with four- and five-syllable names from European countries to prove it’s not just a brown/black thing — the folks I was talking about had a light bulb moment. And finally my name was pronounced correctly by the few people who repeatedly butchered it. Sometimes passive aggressive speeches work out quite well.
Still though, it does rub me wrong that a temp (who was Asian with a long last name) told me he likes to get “normal” names first before trying to get “those other names.” And I’ve had at least four or five black women stare at me blankly and go “Do you have a nickname?” Minority groups can be just as guilty of being name snobs, too. As I said in my speech, “I don’t need you to like my name. I just need you to learn it.”
My nickname is Montie, which ideally makes it easier for people to pronounce my name. It’s literally in the middle: Sha-MONTIE-l.” Four syllables. But at Starbucks and Argo Tea and business calls, I just go with “Montie” or “Vaughn.” I don’t need to know these people for more than 60 seconds on a call or to get my tea, so how they pronounce my name makes me no difference.