Originally Published: June 20, 2018 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: Seventy-one years ago, my father decided to honor his kid brother and heritage by naming me Iaina, the female derivative of Iain (also spelled Ian), and I have had to correct others’ spelling and pronunciation of it ever since. I have not learned how to live with it, and no matter how long I live, I never will. I chose a nickname for this reason, Janie (not Jane), and people get that wrong, too. My first-grade teacher insisted I was misspelling and mispronouncing my name and “corrected” me on a daily basis.
I was having dinner with a friend of 10 years in a local restaurant this week, and she was chatting with an individual at a table beside us. She introduced me as Jane, and I corrected her and said my name is Janie. She then said my real name is Iaina but mispronounced it and butchered it. I was livid because she has known me for so long and knows how much it bothers me that people mispronounce my name, so I corrected her again.
I do not feel that I am honoring my name or heritage and almost want to stop responding to anyone who calls me by the wrong name when speaking with me or corresponding with me. It is not a small thing. How do I get people to understand that it is important to acknowledge the correct spelling and pronunciation of everyone’s name? — Janie
Dear Janie: It’s no wonder you’re frustrated. Our names are deeply intertwined with our identities. When people don’t make an effort to accurately pronounce your name, it’s as if they’re saying they don’t care who you are. I’m sure that’s rarely, if ever, their intention, but it is nonetheless the effect.
Though you shouldn’t have to repeatedly correct people, don’t be shy about doing so. Your friends, of all people, should take the matter seriously, and it sounds as though it’s time for another talk with your friend about how her dismissal of your name amounts to a dismissal of your feelings.
Mainly, I hope your letter is a wake-up call for anyone reading who is guilty of this behavior. When meeting someone new, people should do their best to learn how to say the person’s name correctly. Repeat it back to the person, and ask for clarification if you have to. Yes, it means putting yourself out there a bit, but it makes the person feel seen, acknowledged and important, and it sets a tone of mutual respect — well worth that extra smidgen of effort.
Dear Annie: I can understand why “Camera-Shy Grandma” doesn’t like to be photographed, but she should consider the fact that her stepdaughter likes pictures of people who are important to her. My brother was killed in Afghanistan 10 years ago, and I can’t find a single photo of just the two of us together as adults. What I wouldn’t give for one today! — Kyle C.
Dear Kyle C.: I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. You are 100 percent correct, and my failure to address that angle of the issue was an oversight that I regret. I’d like to amend my earlier response.
Camera-Shy Grandma: Try to grin and bear it for at least a few photos from time to time. You’ll be giving her family a gift for the future. Don’t worry so much about your appearance, either. To them, you’ll always just look like beloved, beautiful Grandma.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.