May the NAME be with you!


dr. Eugen Schochenmaier

Mondonomo, Chief Scientist

Jan. 5, 2022, 12:37 p.m.


According to the New Oxford Dictionary of English, the word “name” means “a
word by which a person is known, addressed or referred to” as well as “a
reputation, especially a good one”. It means that a person’s name has a double
function. Firstly, it is the most basic and most important means of verbally
distinguishing one person from other persons. This can be called the social and
economic function of a name. Secondly, referring to a person’s name is a means
of referring to that person’s reputation. This is the personal function of a name.
If a person’s name is misused or placed in a false light, this person’s
reputation is likely to suffer. As a result, this person’s well-being will be
damaged. Everyone therefore has a social and economic as well as a personal
interest in his name being used correctly.

The same idea applies when our name is mispronounced. Most people take great
care to make sure they pronounce another person's name correctly, especially in
introductions. The reason for this concern is that people generally resent the
mispronunciation of their name because mispronunciation amounts to a
distortion of their identity.

For example, Canadian radio host Nana aba Duncan went by ‘Nana’ at school to
make it easier for other people and to avoid the anxiety caused by having to
correct them. But as she got older, ‘Nana’ no longer sat well with her. Her
parents, who came of age around Ghanaian independence in the 1950s, gave her
a traditional name to honour their own culture; amending it felt like a betrayal.
So, Nana aba decided a decade ago she no longer wanted to go by nicknames
and instead reclaim her full Ghanaian name, pronounced Nuh-NAA-buh (you
may check this name here). She put a name pronouncer in her email signature,
and patiently corrected people when they didn’t get it quite right. She got a lot of
support – but she also still faces struggles.

May the NAME be with you !