Why do I let people butcher my name?

By Chelsey Omoerah

My mom has always loved messing with me. She likes to see how I will react when she says something out of the ordinary, knowing just how gullible I can be. When I was in elementary school, I asked her why she and my dad decided to spell my name the way they did.

They told me they got the name idea from Chelsea Clinton, which is a whole other story, but they felt like the spelling was odd and changed it. My mom jokingly told me that if I didn’t like it, she could take me to get the spelling legally changed. I was in shock and so excited.

No more were the days of my “Chelsey” being spelled in every possible way except the correct one. Of course she was kidding, but why did the prospect of changing my name excite me so much?

I remember one time I was showing her a note from my college and career counselor, Ms. Adams. The note was so kind and she was praising my work ethic, but one thing was wrong: she misspelled my name.

I didn’t even notice the spelling because I’d grown accustomed to seeing my name spelled every way possible. Misspelled on t-shirts, on roster lists, in letters, and anywhere in between. I like to pick and choose my battles, but is this battle really worth the trouble?

Why does it make me feel bad to correct someone when they misspell my name? The embarrassment I felt was hard to shake when I got my “Peer-Leading T-Shirt” in high school with our names all listed on the back.

My name was spelled Chelsea Omerah. Both first and last misspelled. Kanishka Patel’s name was spelled correctly and so was Enid Appia’s. Shouldn’t mine be one of the easy ones? It was forever printed on the backs of thirty students along with myself, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.

One step further is the pronunciation of my name, my last name in particular. As a kid, I was envious of my classmates with the simple last names like Martin and Carter. They could live confidently in the fact that their name would almost always be spelled and pronounced correctly on the first try.

They would never be questioned about what the name means or where it comes from in order to give others valid reasoning as to why they should pronounce it correctly. Is the fact that it’s my name not enough of a reason?

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During my senior awards night, I mustered up the courage to go to the woman in charge of announcing names for each award so I could tell her the proper pronunciation of my last name. We went over it a few times, and I even wrote out the clearest pronunciation I could on the sheet for her right next to my name. Expecting no problems, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my name called incorrectlymultiple times.

Your identity is largely found in your name, and every time I allow someone to misspell or mispronounce my name, I feel like a part of me is being muddled.

It’s hard to speak up without feeling like I’m complaining about a mundane detail, but on the other hand, it makes me feel insignificant—overlooked even—when people don’t make an effort to spell or pronounce my name correctly.

Recently, I’d even stopped giving my last name out in introductions in an effort to avoid the issue. A friend of mine noticed what I’d been doing, and I’ll never forget what she told me.

She said, “If you stop giving my full name, people will stop asking for it.”

I have to make people put in the effort now or they won’t ever have any reason to later. My name is important. My name is original. My name is Chelsey Omoerah.

 

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