Underneath my yellow skin

What’s in a name?

Today, two of the letter I’ve read have had to do with names. Or rather, one was an update on Ask A Manager about noames while the other was about something completely diffirent, but the Slate commenters made merciless fun of the names used.  And they weren’t even that odd. One was an unusual spelling of a common name and the other was more of a last name, but it still wasn’t that strange.

There were so many comments about the names. So. Many. It really annoyed me. I will admit that I’m sensitive to names because mine is weird and has been mispronounced so many times. I have to give a friendly mnemonic for it, “Minna as in Minnesota” which really helps. It’s funny, though. My name is strange, yes, but it’s not that weird if you look at it logically. Words like dinner and winnow get the ‘inn’ part just fine. Throw an ‘M’ in the front and an ‘ah’ at the end like any other name that ends with ‘a’, and you’re good.

If you’re Taiwanese, then it’s pronounced ‘Mee-NAH’, said very rapidly. My parents call me that, so any white people who have heard them say it that way call me that, but with no tonal accents to it–which is really weird! I barely recognize it as my name.

South Asian people pronounce it more like Meh-na with no accent. Then, there are the people who for some unfathomable reason think it’s Myna, like the bird. WHich, WHAT??? That is not on. At all.

Back in the day, I would correct people. I did not want Westerners calling me anything but the first one. It was my American name, and I wanted people to learn it. It’s not really that hard though it’s not a name you hear often. Or ever. I never could find anything with my name on it. No little license plates or key rings or anytihng else. I hated my name when I was a kid because it was so weird. Other kids made fun of it and nobody could pronounce it correctly.

I got an endless string of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minnetonka, and every other iteration. And my favorite–Minnesota Fats. By favorite, I mean, fuck you very much. I had a teacher I adored who made a joke about ‘Winna with Minna’. It was supposed to be a positive tihng, but of course, it kicked off the kids making other rhymes with my name that weren’t as positive.

The year before this, I tried to go by a shortened version of my middle name. Not even the most popular nickname for my common middle name, but a rarely-used one. My teacher that year was great as well. He used the name I requested he call me, but I never responded because I was not used to it. I went back to my given name soon after, and I was resigned to being made fun of for the rest of my life.

Then, I went to college at St. Olaf, where every other person had a name that was some version of Kris. Chris. Kristin, Kirsten, Christian, Krissie, Kristine, Christine, and every other permutation.

I love my name now. It’s strong, distinctive, and it works well in both cultures. It is a tribute to the state in which I was born, and it’s beautiful in both languages. I don’t care so much about how it’s pronounced these days. I know who I am, so whatever. Again, it’s not MYNA like the bird, but anything else is close enough.


I don’t understand why people get so worked up about other people’s names, though. As long as it’s not derogatory, who the hell cares? Personally, I think names like John and Mary are boring as fuck–but that’s nothing to me. I ‘m not going to tell a John or Mary that their name is boring.

It really makes the person making the nasty comments seem like an asshole to me. You’re snarking on something a person has no control over, usually. And if it is a name they chose for themselves, then let them revel in it. Honestly, you don’t have to address the person by name (though it is very clear when you’re not doing it) if you don’t care for the name, but why so nasty about it?

That’s my feeling in general, though. It’s the libertarian with a small l in me. If it’s not hurting anyone, who the fuck cares? I honestly don’t get it. What someone wears or their name or how they talk–what is it to you?

I’m not talking about adapting to your surroundings. Of course if you work in a stuffy office, you’re not going to wear booty shorts and a see-through glitter top. But if you want to wear that while you’re lounging in your backyard, that is completely your right.

I don’t know. I’m so far out of the norm, I never know when I’m being outre and when I’m making sense. I really believe in living and let live–again, as long as the person is not harming others. So If someone wants to call themselves Zazzle, wear only orange, and eat only orange-colored food, have at it.

It just bums me out. I have no idea why people need to be mean to other people. Gratuitously, I mean. Why not just let people live their lives? I’m not saying I don’t judge people (I do), but I try to steer clear of things that aren’t their fault/don’t really matter. Someone’s name isn’t a big deal. How someone dresses is also not a big deal. Nor is what they drive (except for from an environmental standpoint), or any other societal markers. I know that’s a kumbayah thing to say, but it’s really what I believe on the inside. Just be kind to others. It costs you nothing. Or at the very least, keep it to yourself. I know that’s a weird thing to hear from me, but so be it.

 

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