On names, changing them, and pronunciation

Kale lskale at metaplaxia.net
Wed Mar 12 19:44:42 EST 2003

At 12:28 AM 3/12/2003 -0800, Denise DeGraf wrote:
>christian nutt danced around singing:
>>i also know a peter nguyen. people say "n'guyen" basically. (as opposed 
>>to "ing'uyen" i suppose.)
>Hmmm.  Here it is pronounced "new-yen" I believe, but I might be 
>wrong.  It might actually be "ing-yen" -- I'll have to pay more attention 
>next time roll is called in a large lecture.  (Over 40% of students at 
>Berkeley are Asian of one form or another, so you can guess what our roll 
>call sounds like.  :^)

No, I don't think it's "ing-yen" unless they're being particularly 
creative.  "new-yen" seems to be the usual anglicized pronunciation.  In 
Vietnamese, "ng" is pronounced more like the "ng" at the end of "sing" (I'm 
not sure how to represent the rest of it.  The version I'm familiar with 
sounds like one syllable with several vowels and a rising tone.)  It's just 
easier to go with the anglicized pronunciation, though that can cause some 
problems if your name is Phuoc or Duy (which some teachers pronounced as 
"die").  It was funny when my friend told me this story, but I'll bet it 
could get be really annoying.  I had another friend in elementary school 
named Dung, which I gather is a very pretty girl's name that is pronounced 
completely differently in Vietnamese than it is in English.  One summer 
vacation, she came back to announce that she'd changed her name.  Once I 
learned what the word meant, I understood why.

As for me, I learned years later that my parents changed my name as a 
baby.  Apparently, they'd let my uncle name me, and I guess they just 
weren't happy with it.  I'm glad in retrospect because I think I would've 
grown up to be a different person if I'd carried that name. Me, I would've 
liked my current name if I hadn't had mispronunciation issues--no one else 
would pronounce it the way my family pronounced it.  I got over that, 
because it's an unreasonable expectation as most of them didn't know the 
sounds and the others wouldn't expect the unusual pronunciation of what 
happens to be a fairly common name.  But then many people wouldn't go with 
my approved anglicized version either even though I made it as simple as 
possible.  I thought about changing my name many times, but I actually like 
my name; I just don't like other people calling me by it.  Besides, I 
couldn't decide what to change it to.

(not my real name but a joke on my name and a very nice vegetable too--at 
least the Chinese variety)

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