Names contain power to make us feel happy, sad, angry, anxious, foolish or any number of feelings. One of the most frustrating thing about names is constant mispronunciations.
For most of my life, my name has made me feel anxious and foolish because people often mispronounce it. I always needed to repeat my name two or three times for teachers, strangers or interviewees.
Funny thing is, my name isn’t even that difficult: Ruthann. My first name is simply “Ruth” and “ann,” but often times, teachers and strangers pronounce it “Root-hann,” “Rozanne,” or “Suzanne.” For instance, most of my high school teachers would read my name off the roster as “Root-hann,” but when I pronounced it correctly, they would think I said, “Rozanne” or “Ruzanne.” “Root-hann” was the most embarrassing by far. It sounded nothing like my name, and it was weird. “Rozanne” and “Suzanne” were what people thought I was saying when I spoke my name. It was just weird to me. I believed that this problem was unique only to me.
These constant mispronunciations made me nervous at the beginning of every semester. The fact that I have social anxiety to begin with never helped. I would sweat, my heart raced and my face flushed while my classmates turned looked at me, straining to hear my timid voice. My voice probably made it all the more difficult to hear because it doesn’t carry across a room. So, all this nervousness about talking in front of people plus repeating my name was overwhelming. Thinking back, I think the teacher was just as embarrassed as I was.
College professors usually pronounced my name right the first time. I don’t know if it’s because their reading skills were better or what. While writing for the campus paper and taking journalism classes, I got used to saying my name for interviewees over the phone and in person. With age and practice, I became less nervous in general, so repeating my name is no big deal anymore.