“The casual racism of mispronouncing an Asian person’s name”


If it were a different name, I’d have a different response.

The casual racism of mispronouncing an Asian person’s name – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)

There’s a lot less here than I expected.  I wind up wondering how it got into my Yahoo! news feed.  On the one hand, given the current wave of attacks on Asian Americans, we’re all currently sensitized to anything anti-Asian.  On the other hand, in PC MSM gatekeepers, the word “racism” normally triggers self-abuse.

My interest is names.

Related: Choose your name
Related: What’s in a name?

I am sensitive to issues surrounding names.  In my years teaching, I had many, many immigrant students, from many different countries.  Some used Americanized names, some not.  Either way, for anyone, regardless of ethnicity, it’s a crucial feature of caring and respect that the teacher learn right away the correct pronunciation of a student’s name.

There is the singularly un-funny Ray & Peele sketch from 2012, wherein a substitute teacher whose background is ghetto, becomes furious over the conventional pronunciations of the names of the middle-class, white students in his class.

The flipside of that sketch, and of special concern to me, has been the commonness of African Americans’ giving themselves or their children names that do not follow the rules of spelling-to-sound mapping inherent in the American language.  It’s no wonder such children are marginalized.  Two examples:

N’denezsia Monique Lancaster
Fenqwavious Lopez

Whether the spelling of a student’s name follows that spelling-to-sound mapping is crucial.  The reporter, Ashley Lee, includes a long complaint from one Hasan Minhaj, but I cannot take it seriously because I doubt his name has ever been mis-pronounced.

The reporter’s consternation began like this.  At an awards ceremony for the Los Angeles theater community, the presenter mis-pronounced the name of an Asian actress nominee.  Her name was “Jully (pronounced like Julie) Lee.”  Whether that is an Americanization of her, perhaps, Chinese or Korean name; or supposedly her American name; whether she chose it, or her parents; that spelling poses an immediate problem.  In American English, a vowel followed by a double consonant is normally short, not long.  If she had wanted it to be pronounced like “Julie,” she could have spelled it like “Julie.”  In fact, she could have spelled it “J-u-l-i-e.”  That would not have been mispronounced.

If it were a different name, I might have a different response.

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