muslim girl portrait

The Names You Give Yourself

Read this: “The Names They Gave Me

I am sick of all the people fawning over this, like her altering her name is some great misappropriation of her culture and we all need to be more sensitive. Give me a fucking break.

“‘Don’t let them give you an English nickname,’ my mother insists once again, ‘I didn’t raise amreekan.'”

Well, then maybe you shouldn’t have come to America. You uprooted your daughter out of your country and put her in a totally different environment.  What did you expect to happen? Your daughter’s been living in America for eight years, God forbid she should absorb some of the culture. I’m sure your country is so great, except for the part where you left it to come here.  And I hope you’re being delightfully ironic that you’re so sad that no one can pronounce your name when your mother can’t pronounce “American.”

There are millions of Americans with different names, different spellings, and they all think they’re special. Join the fucking club.  If I went to some other country, I wouldn’t expect anyone to pronounce my name. The phonetics just aren’t there. The alphabets are different. Their mouths have been speaking different vowel sounds all their lives.  I don’t expect anyone to take a linguistics course just for me. Americans can’t pronounce my name right now. My sister is in Nepal, and I can’t imagine what they’re calling her.  If I’m in a foreign land, and someone wants to assign me a different name that’s easier to say, I won’t shirk.  That’ll be my name in that country.  We do it in foreign language classes.

Moreover, some people just have problems with pronouncing stuff. Doug Walker couldn’t correctly pronounce anyone’s name in his “Avatar: The Last Airbender” vlogs.  And they were right in front of him. When me and my family went to Cancun, Mexico, I could not get my dad to stop saying “Bonus Nachos”, instead of “Buenas Noches”. It seems easy to me: “Bwen-nahss No-chays”. I guess some people just have a bad mind-to-tongue connection, like hand-eye coordination.

“When the barista asks me my name, sharpie poised above the coffee cup, I tell him: “My name is Tasbeeh. It’s a tough t clinging to a soft a, which melts into a silky ssss, which loosely hugs the b, and the rest of my name is a hard whisper — eeh. Tasbeeh.”

I want to see you try this, so I can watch the barista punch you in the face, you self-absorbed, pretentious bleeding-heart.

We’re not all Millers and Johnsons. Americans may look Caucasian, but our names reflect our backgrounds. Do you know how to say Doug Mientkiewicz? Or J. Michael Straczynski? And these are straight white males. And don’t get me started on all the spellings.  Do you know how many variations on “Caitlin” there are?


Yes, being from a differing culture, being non-white, non-male, means that things are more difficult for you than for me. But don’t blame it on your name. Your name is just an identifier. An ID. A pointer to a much larger object that has depth and personality. If you define yourself by your name, you’re doing something wrong.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.