html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Only peasants make fun of names.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Only peasants make fun of names.

Remarkably similar.

My dad told me to never ever make fun of someone's name. He says that you can't think of anything funny to say about someone's name that that person hasn't heard in a lifetime of having that name.

That's totally true, but the more important reason to never make fun of an ethnic name is that it exposes you as shamefully parochial and ignorant. People with any breadth of exposure step up to learn new names with respect and a careful ear.

Via Obsidian Wings and Yglesias, respectively.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Mitch said...

A friend teaches high school science in Alameda. He says he had a student once named Lovely Starlight, which I think is actually pretty cool and poetic, if difficult to live down on the playground. But he also had a student named Tricycle, which I would have a hard time saying with a straight face.

It's like they say, comedy is tragedy that happens to someone else.

12:14 PM  
Blogger bobvis said...

I always try to have a sense of humor about people making fun of my name. At the same time, I have noticed that the people who try to get the most mileage out of making fun of my name are on the parochial side.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

Come on, how can you not snicker at "Tokyo Sexwale"? I agree that making fun of someone's name for sounding "different" than the names you're used to hearing is parochial (like, making fun of "Barak"), but names that sound like funny words or combinations of words in your own language are just funny. I wouldn't describe any of my coworkers as "parochial" but we still had a good giggle when we received an international order from a Mr. Cock.

3:19 PM  
Blogger jens said...

"He says that you can't think of anything funny to say about someone's name that that person hasn't heard in a lifetime of having that name."

That sounds like a challenge to me!

I'm pretty sure when I asked that one cashier named Sherry whether she was a fino or an oloroso the blank look I got was sincerely blank.

And I must confess I did enjoy David Letterman's top 10 list years ago when he was asking what the top leaders wanted for Christmas, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali supposedly wanted "Another Boutros"

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

What you say indeed is correct. Making fun of another person's name, whether ethnic or not, is something that always must be avoided.

On the other hand, I get annoyed with people (I've known some) who are all offended if their names are mispronounced. A simple correction is fine, but anger at the speaker is not. Especially when, as is usually the case, the mispronunciation is entirely innocent.

8:33 PM  
Blogger guy said...

Come on, how can you not snicker at "Tokyo Sexwale"?

When you note that his surname is prounced rather closer to Sequalé? Full explanation at here in the 3 July entry near the bottom of the page.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Come on, how can you not snicker at "Tokyo Sexwale"?

By knowing there's a guy on the other end of that who has to wait for a second and a half every time he's introduced for the smile to fade. That adds up.

Experience: my hair is very big, very curly this morning. Leave it? Brush it?

7:21 AM  

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