What’s in a Name?

Growing up, I used to think that having an Ethiopian name was the worst thing that could happen to me. During roll call the teacher would always pause before my name and instead of waiting for them to mispronounce it, I would quickly yell out, ‘Present!’

I used to dread the first day of school, all the way up to twelfth grade, because gone were the teachers that had familiarized themselves with my name and hello to the new ones that didn’t have a clue on how to begin to pronounce it.

Amusingly enough not much has changed; a part of me still dreads meeting new people as I know that I will have to repeat my name about 3 times, seriously, at least 3 times.Image

‘Ak-lil.’

‘Aklili’

‘No, Aklile’

‘Akel?’

‘Ak-lil’

‘How do you spell it?’

‘A-k-l-i-l-e’

‘Aklili!’

‘No you don’t pronounce the –e at the end.’

‘Oh…Akel?’

By this point I am tired of correcting and I usually just smile and apologize for the fact that I have an impossibly hard name.

But frankly speaking, why should I apologize? I have a beautiful Ethiopian name that has meaning behind it and was given to me by my parents. I cringe when people try and shorten it so that it fit the standardized tradition of names.

No, you may not call me Lily, or Lil.

This is no way a stab at anyone who has mispronounced or misspelled my name; this is me finally appreciating my name and the fact that it is a representation of where I come from. Gone are the days where I wished I had another name or begged my mother to change my name (yes I really did do that).

My name is Aklile. You may call me Aklile.

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13 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Wonderful story! Sorry you’ve had to pass through all the botched attempts on pronounciation, but at least it’s bought you to a place where you own your name and see it’s intrinsic beauty… welcome to yourself!

  2. i went by the name Sarah when i first came to Bingham cause i didn’t want to draw attention to myself. But i found the courage later to ask for it to be changed in 8th grade.

  3. Hi Aklile,
    You are regurgitating a part of my life right now. I also have had teachers scrunch their faces when calling out my name and hold their breathe a little longer when attempting to pronounce my surname.

    There’s even been members of my community that fail at properly saying “Ariam” with the rrrrrrroll of the ‘r.’ I used to pronounce my name for people as easy as possible and felt discouraged to explain the meaning because it usually leads to more questions.

    Now it’s not dreadful.

    This piece is inspiration for my own site.

    Thanks 🙂

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