Say my name
“And what’s the name for the order?”
“Olachi. O-L-A-C-H-I. Olachi.” I made sure to speak loudly and clearly to avoid any misunderstanding. I waited for my drink while I heard others’ orders being called. “Venti Java Chip for George!” “Tall Chai for Yi Fan!” “Sean! I have a Lime Refresher for Sean!”
You can imagine my confusion when I heard: “Latch! Latch! I have a tall Pumpkin Spice for Latch!” I waited for the door hinge name sake to come and claim their drink, but I soon realized that Latch was me. Latch. The barista thought that my mother and father, in their right minds, named me Latch. Like a window fastener.
This is not new to me—people mispronounce and misspell my name daily. What made me mad is the fact that this barista definitely knew that my name was not Latch, but didn’t bother to correct himself. I am well aware of the fact that people do give fake names for orders, but Latch? He had to have known that he didn’t hear correctly.
I’ll give a bit of background. I, along with all of my family members, have a Nigerian name. Specifically Igbo. In our culture, names are not given halfheartedly. Not to say that other cultures don’t put thought into names, but in our culture, names carry a very, very big significance. Names are usually given based on the family’s current situation so each name is a story. For example, when my grandmother was pregnant with my father, she was going through a very rough time within her community, and she was considering moving away from her home (which is a major concern). She ultimately decided to stay to keep her family together. So my father’s name translates to “here is where I will stay” or “here is where I belong.”
Regardless of the culture, names are very important. They are the first gift we are given as we enter this world, and they are the last thing that people remember about us when we are gone. Disrespecting a name is disrespecting that gift, and that is exactly what the barista did. Especially after he gave every other name the respect it deserved.
Now let me clarify: I am not angry that he did not pronounce her name right, I am mad that he didn’t even try.
The lack of effort is what really gets my panties in a twist. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Um, can I just call you O?” I would be making it rain in every club from Tijuana to Jerusalem. The worst has to be, “Oh my! I just don’t even know where to start!” Here’s a radical idea: Start with the first letter. Then move on to the next one.
All I am asking is that you put even the slightest bit of effort into learning names. Some names are more difficult than others, I get that. It is really important to respect each different cultural and ethnic background, especially at a school as diverse as Columbia. If I can form my mouth into the shapes necessary to say “Mary” or “John,” I don’t think it is too much to ask for my name to be said correctly. None of the sounds is foreign. That being said, I do not care if you decimate my name on the first try, but I do expect that you try. I’ll even help you if you get it wrong. Say it with me now—Olachi. Awe-La-Chee.
See! Respecting new names can be fun!
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