• Amrutha Ramesh

What’s in a Name?

Photo credit: Jon Taylor/Unsplash

Identity has many facets. From birth, everything that you do, are, possess or associate with can play a role in shaping up your identity. Among the hundreds of things that make you you, would you consider your name to be one?

I would. My name is very indicative of where I am from, maybe even more than my external features. The way it is spelled out would easily let anyone reading it know which country I am from and, if they knew the country well, it would also tell them exactly which part of the country I belong to. Although I did not like it for a long time during my younger years and asked my parents why they could not have picked a better one, I grew to love it – especially after moving to a different country where there were very few people with the same name as mine. It has become so intertwined with my identity that being known by any other name would be like addressing a different person.

Whether a person prefers to be known by the name that was given to them by their parents or a name that they chose for themselves based on personal preference, people are usually quite attached to their names. For most people, it would be their first possession in the world and may represent their origin – from the place they belong to, to the history of their ancestors. This is more so in the case of a lot of BIPOC’s whose names are dead giveaways of their roots. Is it right, then, to ask them to change it for the convenience of people outside their culture?

I still remember the day I was asked to include a name in my resume that would be easier for others to pronounce - preferably with the easier name first and my actual name in brackets after that. The justification for this was that recruiters would be embarrassed about not being able to pronounce it right while contacting the candidate. I was told that my name could be the reason why I would not be considered for jobs – recruiters would look at my name and move my resume straight to the rejected pile. It was not a suggestion; it was something that had to be done to increase my chances of getting a job.

The hours I spent to get the format of the resume right, add important details about job-related situations I had been through, explain the skills that I had improved during each job and having the resume screened by others did not matter. The years I spent doing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, the work I put in to polish my skills just so I could reach greater career heights – they were insignificant. My name was all it would take for them to reject me.

Although the advice was given by someone that I will always be grateful to, for his incredible help and words of motivation when I needed them the most, the fact that I could lose certain opportunities in life because of one of the core aspects of my identity hit me hard.

My actual name being reduced to optional information in brackets in my resume so that it would stand a chance of being scanned was a little too much. The fact that the person who had asked me to do so had decades of experience in the job market made me trust his words. I wondered if this is the reality in companies although they advocate against discrimination of any sort during recruitment.

I was left with a lot of questions. Are my achievements and skills that inconsequential? How would it feel to be known by a name that you have no attachment to? Also, why would I really want to be in an organisation that rejects people based on how difficult it is to pronounce their name?

I was lucky to get into a company where everyone seemed to want to learn the correct pronunciation of my name and asked me to correct them until they said it right. Even if they paused for a few milliseconds before saying it, they would make sure to always include my real name in conversations. After years of being told my name was too difficult and visibly hesitating every time someone asked my name, this was a very refreshing experience.

I do not mind being asked a hundred times to teach you how to say my name. I would love to tell you what it means. I love the fact that my name is a big indicator of where my roots are and appreciate all the conversations that start because of it. I would also not mind telling you my nickname – the one my friends call me by occasionally. However, I would like you to take a few seconds to learn my name, especially if there is a need for you to communicate with me frequently. Whether a person wishes to go by their birth name or a different name that they identify more closely with, it would mean a great deal to them if others were ready to spend a few seconds of their time to get it right.

For all the people with ‘difficult’ names that you do not want to change and for those who hesitate before telling someone their name for the first time wondering if it might seem too hard, I hope you feel comfortable using it wherever you go. On the other side of the situation, if something as simple as showing your willingness to say someone’s name right may make them happy for at least a little while, wouldn’t it be nice to do it? It may not seem like a huge leap forward, but it would certainly be a step towards the larger goal of complete inclusivity that we have been hoping for.🔥


Amrutha Ramesh @amrutha.ramesh is a Business & Engineering graduate currently working in the IT industry, who turns to writing whenever her thoughts or emotions become chaotic. She also loves reading, dancing (alone in her room) and falling down YouTube/Wikipedia rabbit holes.

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