What’s in a name?

For an inaugural post to this community I had illusions of writing something deep, unusual or really thought-provoking.  Instead, I’m settling for something simple and personal.

I am here upon Ed’s (@whatEdsaid) invitation and insistence.  She shared the video: Obvious to you. Amazing to others which was truly wonderful; however, that’s another story that belongs in another post.  See, Ed and I have never met face-to-face. In fact, our Twitter friendship is fairly new and grew out of a random comment on FOMO (ask Ed).

My name is Malyn.  Ed is the first and only person on Twitter to ask me how to pronounce my name. Seriously.  Why is that important?  It’s not like you need to say it when tweeting.  Well, I’m an immigrant from the Philippines and for as long as I can remember, Australians struggle to pronounce my name; I don’t really know why.  It gets tiresome after a while and so I no longer bother to correct people, even friends.  It’s just a name, right?

Yet it does matter because my name is my own. It is part of who I am.  It matters to me that people I care about get it right and thankfully, they do.  I appreciate when people bother to get it right and occasionally this happens.  Call it empathy but I do bother to try and pronounce other people’s name properly.  And that’s what this post really is about: bothering to get someone’s name right.

Do you bother to ensure you get your students’ names right? Your peers and colleagues? Acquaintances?  Inquire within.  A true inquirer bothers to ask.

p.s. Ed and I had a funny Twitter exchange on how to pronounce my name.  I’m not sure she got it so I’ll make it easier by attaching an audio recording (or try this).  And if she still can’t get it right, I’ll make sure she does when we meet face-to-face on Wednesday, because she bothered to ask in the first place.

About @malynmawby

a learner called to teach
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15 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. whatedsaid says:

    Thanks Malyn (pronounced Malene!!)
    I always enjoy posts with authentic, unpretentious voice… a bit of humour makes it even better plus this one seems to be for me, which is a bonus 🙂
    It always gets to me that immigrants take on different names to ‘fit in’ or more likely to make it easier for Aussies to pronounce their names. I know a Vietnamese couple called Julie and Jimmy (definitely not) and a Chinese couple called Wendy and Steven (just as unlikely). Why can’t they be called by their real names… it’s who they are!
    For those of you who fear you might be missing out because you don’t know what FOMO is… It stands for… Fear Of Missing Out.


    • Thanks Ed. In a way, it is about you – highlighting that you are a true inquirer because you bother to ask. But it is also about people and what matters to them. And it starts with the name.

      I love stories and do wish I was better at telling them. Authenticity is easier through personal stories and I hope that I continue to be ‘unpretentious’. And if I do end up sounding pretentious, by all means tell me so!


  2. Philip Cummings says:

    Interesting point, Edna. It reminds me again of my PZ experience. My study group had several members from China. Several took American English sounding names (to make it easier on us Yanks), but a couple refused b/c their name is so much a part of who they are. My name is regularly misspelled (I’m a 1-L Philip), but I rarely make a big deal about it usually out of compassion for the unintentionally offending party. That said, names matter and you show honor to Malyn and others by pronouncing their name correctly or asking them how to do so.


    • malynmawby says:

      I seem to have lost my reply to you so will do it again.

      Thanks Philip. I agree with you on all your points.

      Names matter. People matter.


  3. whatedsaid says:

    Maybe we can start our own inquiry…or continue rather! I have lots of questions! I wonder why people take on different names in that way and how it makes them feel. Does everyone feel their name is part of who they are? How about in some cultures where everyone is given the same name? eg apparently in Ghana your name depends on which day of the week your were born on. Will my 25 year old daughter ever forgive us for giving her a name she didn’t like?:-) I don’t like mine either but love that I know I am named after a great aunt whom I never met.


    • malynmawby says:

      I think most people like their names and certainly identify closely. There are those who don’t, however, and get it changed. My nephew (half-Greek) is one. Shortened his name but still Greek – like me making Malyn official as against just a nickname.

      I’ve got 3 sisters and we all have Maria as our first name – just like about 50% of Filipinas. Something cultural there, for sure, but with our family, it’s after my dad’s mum really. We all have second names and nicknames. I think mine’s the best. haha.

      And yes, it’s a worthwhile inquiry. Trust you to bring it up!


  4. Hi Malyn,

    An interesting blogpost. You might be interested in this post about names and identity: http://www.languageonthemove.com/language-learning-gender-identity/behind-a-name

    I do try very hard to pronounce my student’s names correctly but it is often a struggle for me to get them the exactly right, especially for tonal languages such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. My students are generally sympathetic as they are also struggling to get their tongues around Australian names and English words – I teach English to new arrival adult migrants in Australia! Some take English names, possibly to make it easier for the native English speakers around them, or perhaps because we make such a hash of their names they can’t stand hearing how we pronounce them.

    Thanks for posting the mp3 so I could hear the correct pronunciation of your name. Hang in there, and keep teaching those around you to get your name right! I think if they realise it’s important to you they will keep trying.



  5. What an awesome post, Malyn! I’t timely too, because I realized that I’ve been mentally misspelling your name (since Twitter usually autofills for me). Once I realized that, I figured I must be mispronouncing your name as well. Thanks for sharing and reminding us how important a name is!


  6. Hi Janelle. How’d you find me here? 🙂
    Thanks for your comment. So true, isn’t it how we rely on tech sometimes not realising the misspellings and the impact of those!
    Now that you’ve been here, you know how to spell and say my name. All that’s left is to say it in person….one day!


  7. pravinjeya says:

    Hey. Came here because u tweeted me. I really like this post. I actually know what you mean because for some reason I’ve had people struggle to pronounce it when it is pronounced how it is spelt. Looking at your name, I guess it’s the same in your case but correct me if I am wrong.


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