My Name is My Name

Normally, I keep this blog to very enduring shallow topics which explains the blog title, Shop, Eat and Sleep.  Recently, I was very moved by this article on The Root entitled I Hate My Ghetto Name. Can I Change It?   In summary, a young lady named Laquita has felt plagued for most of her life primarily by  insensitive colleagues and strangers by what they perceived as her moniker being "ghetto." Laquita has even thought about changing her name so she can conform more into mainstream "white" society.  My name is Shaunya pronounced   Sean and just add the ya, however I do prefer the au in my name to be softer than the hard pronunciation of the ea in Sean. Yeah, I'm specific like that. I think my name is pretty simple for a number of reasons, it's seven letters and two syllables. If you really get down to the nitty gritty from a speech perspective it is a name that is melodic and rather easy on the mouth. A soft intro  Sh, a relaxed middle aun and a closing yet feminine ending  ya. Yet, with all of that I have spent a many a years having my name butchered mostly by adults, whom are suppose to have a command on the language. Oddly enough, children whom are creatures of being led by example usually pronounce my name with very little issue on the first try.  I am usually surprised when individuals add letters to my name changing it to  Shaunda or Shawanna, or they take letters off Shauna or mispronounce it as Shania as in Shania Twain.


Most recently, I was in a class where the instructor a young Black woman just couldn't say my name correctly. After my third time of correcting her she said to me "Well, whatever, can I call you something else?" I replied yes Ms. Hartley in which she balked as if it was below her to greet me by my last name and I just thought it was a suitable resolution to her speech and diction issues. There was no way in hell, I was a week away from my 33rd birthday and I was going to allow a stranger with lazy diction issues to give me a nickname. I don't do nicknames, my parents  calls me Shaun,   I have no control over that,they  changed my diapers, they can call me whatever. The instructor seemed slightly pissed off and for the rest of the class she just refereed to me as "You". At the end of the session one of the other members of the class a petite White woman said " Can you tell me what the hell was so hard for her to say your name?" While  another student, a Black woman with a more complicated name than mine said "Well to some people names are really hard, so I can understand what she is going through." I giggled because homegirl's name was not easy on the lips but as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that people live in bubbles.


When I was 11 I came home and told my parents that teachers were having a problem pronouncing my name.   My parents told me that they were educators and just like you have to learn their topics, they need to learn how to pronounce your name.  Correct them when they say it incorrectly. My parents spent a lot of time thinking about what to name me. From what I pieced together, they wanted something soft and unusual but not hard to pronounce. Funny enough, when I was born, the woman in the bed next to my mother didn't have a name for her daughter and found it perfectly normal to name her daughter Shaunya as well, which to this day has made my mother livid.


As a woman of color, I have found that more often then not, White people  especially men will never take the time to say my name correctly. I once worked with a woman named Shoshanna and her name was always pronounced correctly,  and my name was always butchered.  One day I mentioned to one of the gentlemen who said my name incorrectly and asked what could have been the issue. From that day on, he pronounced my name correctly.

When parents are naming their newborn children, they are putting a lot of thought into how you will be introduced to the world. There are many facets into naming your child. It is a combination of education, class, creativity and culture. Your name is the reflection of your parent's thoughts at that time and as you get older and embrace your title your moniker you will either love it, hate it or be ambivalent.  It is your title the first stamp your parents put on you and your first introduction to the world.

Can a name be ghetto, can a name work against you? Can a name be too much  of any culture and work against them? Do Human Resource Managers look at names and say we should pass that name sounds too Japanese or too Latin, probably not.  African-American culture is copied and commercialized when White America likes it and when it isn't understood it gets mocked. To Laquita, what others think of your name is their business and if they mock you or judge you by it, it shows their ignorance not yours or your parent's.