People with foreign-sounding names have at one time or another been subjected to mispronunciations, and it can be very embarrassing.
Speaking from experience as someone with a foreign name, I’ve heard it all whenever someone I’ve met for the first time attempted to read my name out loud.
Depending on the situation, I’ve had to decide whether or not it was worth my energy to correct the individual who was butchering my name.
Redditor aita734 is a 16-year-old male who emigrated to the U.S. with his mother. He experienced one such occasion where someone mispronounced his mother’s name.
When the encounter led to some drama, he visited the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for telling someone they’ve been calling my mom by the wrong name.”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“For context, I’m 16 M[ale], my mom and I moved to the USA a couple of years ago and we both have very evidently ‘foreign’ names.”
“However, my mom’s kind of looks like it could be a misspelled version of an English name, if you squint, so people will sometimes call her this other name, which, while spelled kind of similarly, sounds different.”
“She usually corrects them if they called her by the English name, except for when it’s like, the Starbucks guy or something like that.”
“Just before quarantine started my mom joined a book club, never got to go to actual meetings and instead they’ve been doing all of it online, through Google Meet, and I’ve seen some of the other ladies from the club just on screen before.”
“Earlier today, I saw one of them IRL [in real life] for the first time, while I was at the pharmacy. She recognized me and came over to say hi and was all ‘Oh you’re [my mom]’s son’.”
“Except she didn’t say my mom’s name, she said the English name, so I said ‘hey, it’s actually [my mom’s real name]’.”
“She just stared at me and then asked me what I was talking about so I was like ‘My mom’s name is [her name], not [other name]’. And well now things were very evidently awkward so I just kind of said goodbye and walked off.”
“Forgot about it until about half an hour ago when my mom came to inform me that evidently since she’d been friends with this lady for months, she hadn’t corrected her on purpose, and that I just made both her and her friend feel embarassed and I should’ve thought better about saying anything.”
“She wants me to apologize to her friend. And, like, IDK [I don’t know] why my mom’s decided to just let people call her another name, and I also don’t think I did anything wrong.”
“The lady had her name wrong.”
Strangers on the internet were asked to declare one of the following:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors weighed in with their most “no a**holes here” decision.
“I’m going to go with NAH.”
“1.It’s natural to want to stand up for your mother. (not an AH)”
“2 The friend was never corrected so I can give her a slight pass ( not an AH)”
“3 While I’ll always encourage people to speak up when their name is mispronounced your mom must have decided that’s not a battle she wants to fight, which is her decision (not an AH)” – Trashmanjoe
“I would apologize and explain just as you did here that it’s a common mistake and your mom doesn’t always correct people, and that she probably felt too much time had passed to mention it.”
“Let this person know that it’s not a big deal and if I were you I’d say that I didn’t do a good job explaining it and the lady shouldn’t worry about it.”
“NAH. Your mom didn’t correct her at first and then after time had passed it felt strange. But sometimes it’s good to be diplomatic. You did nothing wrong but telling this lady you didn’t explain it correctly might make her feel better.”
“In the future maybe your mom will correct people sooner. It’s kind of a funny thing she has to live with and I can see why she doesn’t correct everyone but that would be the best thing to do.”
“She should say the name first and say ‘people confuse it with this other name but it’s actually pronounced __________.'”
“It’s not a big deal. You’re totally right but sometimes we can take the blame even when it’s not ours for things like this.” – dog_star_
“NAH. You didn’t deliberately do anything wrong.”
“Apparently your mom was ok with her name being mispronounced, but you didn’t know that.” – thiswasyouridea
“NAH. When you have an unusual name you spend a good chunk of your socialising time correcting pronunciation. It gets old very fast. Sometimes it is easier to answer to Janice rather than Janie for example.”
“Your mum may have very well corrected the woman several times, but it just didn’t ‘stick’ in the woman’s memory, or she may have just let it slide. You are certainly not TA though for correcting the woman.” – saran1111
“NAH. Unfortunate case of miscommunication if she was deliberately not correcting them, but you had no way of knowing that as she likely didn’t have a reason to bring it up in particular about someone you weren’t directly associated with.”
“I would probably do the exact same thing in your shoes if I heard someone I knew being addressed incorrectly.” – DuskLordX
“NAH. But if your mom is ok with them calling her the English name, shouldn’t be any issues. I don’t mind when people mispronounce my name either 🤷♀️ I understand your stance too, why you corrected the lady.”
“But apologizing is no-go. If anything, your mom should just explain to the lady why she did not correct them, and decide on a new norm on which she prefer to be called in her group, whichever she is most comfortable with.” – DiscountFlaky
“NTA. Properly pronouncing someone’s name is a basic respect. It doesn’t sound like you were rude about it. She may have been embarrassed but it’s good she knows now.” – holyylemons
Overall, many of the Redditors were not able to identify any a**hole in the situation and they recommended clarifying the pronunciation at an earlier stage when meeting people in the future.