Golden Globes award winner and super-talented Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor was on the Ellen DeGeneres Show a few days ago where he talked about his movie ’12 Years A Slave’ and joked about how his name has been severely mispronounced.
One one occasion, the action explained, a lady on the phone thought Chiwetel was asking about going to a hotel…lol. In fairness, Chiwetel could easily be a tongue twister for some people.
Watch the video real quick and I’ll continue…
Chiwetel’s experience is one that resonates with a lot of us with foreign names. I remember during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, then candidate Barack Obama joked about how his name had been butchered. From ‘Barack Osama’ to ‘Barack yo’ momma’, he’s heard it all.
For us Africans/Nigerians in diaspora, we can identify with Chiwetel and the president. Even folks with English or popular first name usually have that African last name that people struggle to pronounce.
I noticed that some people are very keen on the correct pronunciation of their names. They go the extra mile to correct anyone who mispronounces their names.
If you’ve been to other countries, there’s a high chance your name has been mispronounced. How do you deal with it? Do you just ignore it and move on or do you try to get people to correctly pronounce it (I don’t see anything wrong with either choice). Better still, do you come up with easier ways to pronounce your name – ‘funkify’ or shorten it? I have done it all!
Of course if your name is ‘Ogborikokoshosho’ or ‘Nwokpokpokpo’, you really need to help us out and shorten it…lol.
Personally, I’ve been through many name cycles. My official name is Olusegun Aminu and I go by Segun, which is the norm. In the past 10 years, I went from Segun (Shé-goon) to Victor (my rationale was Segun kinda mean victor), then to Olu – short and easy to pronounce, you’d think, but some people still called me Ulu – and finally back to Segun but mostly pronounced as ‘see-gun’. These days, I don’t even bother correcting it. I have embraced the pronunciation.
Next time I’ll write about African names Vs. common English names.
For now, share your experience on how you handled the mispronunciation of your name.