“Give your daughters difficult names,” Warsan Shire wrote. “Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right … Give your children difficult names, so the world may learn how to unfurl its tongue in the direction of our stolen languages.”
Well, I'm one daughter who received a difficult name. Growing up in the US, when the substitute or new teacher paused while reading the attendance, I knew it was my name. It's fairly easy once you've understood how it's pronounced. Ye, I've heard all sorts of variations - Ashoni, Ashina, Ashanti, Sheena. When people asked if I had a nickname, I always said no. "Ash" reminded me of a plate of dirty cigarette ashes. In the digital age, I've accepted the nickname Ash or Ashi since it's easier to type.
Indians tend to call me Ashwini, since Ashini is so unique. So, my first comment is "no W". It's a fine name, but just not mine. So, they're just as confused with my name and usually call me Ashwini anyway.
Professionally, I haven't had any noticeable issues with my name. When I introduce myself on calls, I usually say "I'm Ashini, etc." I've learned to take a pause because some people thought it was Mashini. Recently I acknowledged a client who said my name perfectly out of the gate. He joked that he noticed one of the other team members calling me all sorts of variations on my name. When that happens, I take it as a flaw on the person's side - not mine. I have no problems saying my name.
With that said, I've had fake names in my back pocket if I don't feel like spelling or explaining my name to the hostess at the restaurant who just needs to put my name down or the barrista who has to write on a cup. I used to use "Ashley" or "Jeeni" (off my maiden name Jani). When I got married, I hijacked my husband's nickname of "Sandy" since I know I've started acknowledging that one when the hostess calls us.
Last week, I noticed something unusual for me. I was travelling for work and was asked by the Starbucks barrista holding a cup and marker, "Can I have your name?" I responded "AJ" and that worked. I loved it! I don't know where it came from. Those are my initials for about 3/4 my life, so it makes sense. However, it was buried and just came out when I was away from home and alone.
So, thanks for allowing me to indulge in my own name for a bit. But I think that's my response to 'give your daughter's difficult names". You may give her the name, but how she chooses to wear it will be up to her.
On that note, I love that Annika has been specific about the pronounciation of her name since she was little. She's Annika - rhymes with Monica and Hannukah. She's been called Ann-ika or A-nika, which are common pronounciations. Then, she surprised us by using "Nikki" as a avatar names.