Those with names more obscure or foreign than Michael and Jessica don’t need to read about how people butcher the pronunciations and spellings. They’ve experienced it. And those who’ve faced the mistakes have likely had to deal with personal and professional contacts getting their name wrong on a regular basis.
Sure, there are productive tactics you can use to help people you meet—and those you’ve known for years who still make mistakes—get it right. But there’s also a healthy amount of frustration involved when you’re constantly faced with people getting it wrong.
And while you want to keep it calm and professional when you’re correcting people (yes, always!), you might need to let off some steam elsewhere. Enter: creative venting.
Just one quick note before we jump in: Be careful about public shaming that’s explicitly or even implicitly directed at a specific individual (because that definitely won’t help build a constructive relationship).
1. Collect Your Favorites
Amy Geduldig, a publicist in New York City, says she’s usually pretty tolerant of mistakes but keeps a top five favorite misspellings and mispronunciations list to take the edge off any frustration. The list changes, she says, “but at the moment it’s DeBeldig, Gedunij, Geduldigger, Geduli, and the always popular GeduldiNg.”
2. Write a Poem
Siobhan Burke, a dance critic for The New York Times and lecturer at Barnard College, gets mistakes in pronunciation and spelling frequently enough that she includes “Sha-von is how you say my name,” in her Twitter bio, and she once tweeted a pair of haikus
about the subject:
(Part 2)— Siobhan Burke (@siobhanfburke) January 12, 2018
You are writing to ask me
To review your show
Her haiku inspired me to write one of my own.
3. Make it Part of Your Twitter Brand
Khushbu Shah, senior food editor at Thrillist, pleads with people in her Twitter bio: “Please don’t spell my name wrong.” But they do, all the time. “I started collecting all the typos into a doc at my last job and made it my pinned tweet.”
here is a list of names people have addressed me by via email in the past four months pic.twitter.com/nUJCZhXm8T— Khushbu Shah (@KhushAndOJ) September 8, 2016
“After my pinned tweet took off, I realized more people sympathized than I realized, so I started tweeting out the more ridiculous ones,” she explains, with commentary in poetry and prose. “Shouting it out on Twitter has sort of become my ‘bit’ if you will, and I try to get creative with those tweets, I think it has gotten a few more people to spell my name correctly. Maybe.”
roses are red,— Khushbu Shah (@KhushAndOJ) May 17, 2018
violets are blue,
if I ever get too loud,
tell me to pic.twitter.com/PAXr91v9wv
SOMEONE FINALLY GOT MY NAME RIGHT!!!! pic.twitter.com/ihCZdH3Mqx— Khushbu Shah (@KhushAndOJ) April 19, 2018
4. Find a GIF That Expresses How You Feel
If you’re a more visual person than a wordsmith, you might want to find an image or a GIF (or a series of them) that expresses how you feel when people mispronounce or misspell your name.
Alejandra Salazar, an assistant producer for WNYC, shared an example on Twitter, depicting how she feels when people insist on calling her Alexandra in their responses despite the fact that “my name appears like three times in every work email I send.”
My name appears like three times in every work email I send but I still get responses addressed to "Alexandra" on a near-daily basis. HOW pic.twitter.com/pWOw8DFSGy— Alejandra Salazar (@alejandramsc) March 19, 2018
Here’s how I feel when I spell out my name for someone at Starbucks or the bagel shop and they write down “Stab”:
So make sure you correct colleagues and contacts who get your name wrong with professionalism and poise. But maybe there’s an innocuous way—from this list or one of your own—to let out some of the frustration that builds up over time.
You don’t have to post anything on social media if you’d rather keep your venting private (maybe it’s a collage you add to periodically or just what you think about when you’re kneading bread). Either way, it might help prevent you from exploding in someone’s face next time they call you the wrong thing.
Photo of person staring at computer in frustration courtesy of JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images.
A longtime word nerd and bookworm, Stav studied history and dance at Stanford and later journalism at Columbia. Before joining The Muse, Stav was a staff writer at Newsweek, where she wrote about everything from Nazi hunters to Chinese adoptees to Good Girls Revolt, the real story and fictionalized TV show about a 1970 gender discrimination case at the magazine. She prefers sunshine and tolerates winters grudgingly.More from this Author