Name

I find it incredible that my name has a greater chance of being pronounced correctly by an American than an Indian.

Krishanu is not a common Indian name. It is intrinsically a Bengali name, and it is not even a common Bengali name. For this reason (not that it is justified), most Indians who hear my name for the first time somehow automatically processes it as one of the similar sounding name listed below, without registering what I just told them. Two seconds ago.

Krishna – I hate this the most. Specially when they ask me, if my name is derived from this. It is not.

Krishnu – A combo of Krishna and Vishnu, or what?

Krishnanu – What? How?

Krishnau – This is mostly South India specific.

Krishnendu – This is very specific to Bengalees as this valid Bengali name is more popular than mine.

Ok, if this happens the first time ever you are talking to me, I’ll grant you the benefit of doubt. But for this to happen not only the first time I’ve corrected them, but also in subsequent conversations, or even the same one, is not pardonable.

Americans on the other hand take a few seconds to play back in their mind what I told them and make an effort to make it sound right. Most of the time they get it. If my name is printed on paper or on the screen, it becomes easier as I just have to tell them, “It is pronounced just the way it is spelt. Kri-sha-nu”. Done.

I was talking to this Indian guy from work on the phone the other day. We have worked together before, though not recently. We have exchanged emails. He addressed me as Krishna when I called him. First time, I thought, I’ll let it pass. During the conversation he kept the Krishna going. Just before hanging up, I brought up what my name really is. He was flustered and said, “Oh I’m sorry, Krishnu!”

Really? If you are, you’ll send me 500 written lines of “I will call you Krishanu“.

Or take the example of this person who e-mails me back, changing my name to Krishnau and insists on calling that. So I replied back to him with letters in his own name juxtaposed incorrectly, deliberately. That got his attention! Next time when we talked on the phone, he asked, “I think I’m not saying your name right ..” and I corrected him. Again.

Now compare this with the numerous Americans who I have interacted with at work and while playing football (soccer). They might require a second hearing, but when they say it loud, most get my name first time. Some ask me if there is a shorter version – like Kris or Krish – but then get on.

Not that I haven’t had Americans calling me variations of my name, mostly Krishana. The association is then with the more common Chrissana (which is a girl name!).

In college and subsequently in my work life in India, which were out of Kolkata, I have had more instances of people – Indians – mispronouncing my name, than I’ve encountered in my life in the US.

Is this a cultural thing where something as important as a name is not given a second thought and people take it on themselves to say it whichever way they please to? Is it because the US is such a melting pot and people are cognizant of so many variation and forms of names that they make it point to say it out correctly?

Footnote: I am very comfortable with my name and I thank my parents for coming up with something so unique. Krishanu is a synonym of ‘fire’ in old Bengali.

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Categories: Culture, Language, Rant | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Name

  1. As a foreigner in India my name is constantly mispronounced, and even my husband found that incredibly odd because “Cynthia” is not even a hard one to pronounce, most of the time people end up just calling me Sandhya. Funny I had a neighbour in Bangalore who is South Indian and Christian who was also called Cynthia exept her name was spelled Cynthya, and she told me she face the problem of people not calling her by her name all the time too. Granted it might not be a common name in India, it doesn’t mean it gives people a license to butcher it. In 8 years in India even with me spelling my name on various pharmacy bills, pizza ordering account and even immigration paper (where the guy had my passport under their eye to type the info in their computer) not once did it get spelled properly, or even spelled in a way that would at least lead to pronounce it right, at this point I just wonder if it isn’t just disrespect, because one has to be incredibly stupid to listen to the spelling C Y N T H I A pronounced slowly and end up writting stuff like: Santa (ho ho ho), Sinta, Sandhya, Sita, Cynda, Sindia, Sindhi (and yes I got all these and more) I even had a pizza delivery guy question wheter I was entitled to my pizza, Dominos pizza wrote my name Sandhya in their data base, I tried to correct it every time I ordered they never did, and one day i get a smarty pant telling me “you aren’t Sandhya” and me to say “yes I am” (tired of trying to explain that they did the blunder in the first place) and the guy to retort “But that is an Indian name!” and me exasperated to look him square and say “So????????” at this point he resigned himself and left but I could tell he was still puzzled. But really? Isn’t it insulting enough to have your name mispronounced and then someone venture that you must not be who they thought you where because the name they butchered int he first place morphed into an Indian name that apparently as a foreigner I’m not entitled to have??Grrrr

    • Wow, your travails triumphs mine in so many ways, I feel a little guilty about this post! I can totally empathize ….what can I say? Hang in there!

  2. Hima

    I guess it depends on the person. Some people just don’t want to listen. I had people call me Hema, mostly people from chennai coz its a common name there. But even after seeing my name in print, most of them don’t correct themselves. Some people do. American’s at least ask me if they said it right. Or when I correct them, they apologize and I was surprised that they try so hard not to butcher it as opposed to others who wouldn’t even listen.

  3. Hima

    And by the way I love your name. Even I noticed its unique and found out its meaning when I was searching for names for my son.

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