Jamaija Rhoades- Staff Writer
I have a habit of holding my breath when the teacher gets to my name when calling the roll. Shortening my name to make it easier for others when they are addressing me. Letting people slide when they mispronounce my name but are somewhat close to being right, so I just say “close enough” and keep it pushing.
These are all habits I adopted at a young age when I realized that I have a very unique name or, as I have often been told, “a name too hard to pronounce.”
I have been called EVERYTHING under the freaking sun: Jamaica, Jumanji, Jamelia, Jamysia and even Jamaheeha. Jamaica, okay, I could kinda see how you got that because it has all the same letters, just one different, but Jumanji and Jamaheehaa? Those two just felt like my teachers and peers saw my name and said to themselves, “ehh let me just think of something that starts with a J and sounds pretty crazy.”
Seeing the difficulty people had pronouncing my name, or being laughed at when the teacher mispronounced my name and hearing comments like “my people, my people” after I muscled up the courage to correct folks when they got it wrong, made me hate my name with a passion.
I went by Jasmine for a while, but that quickly ended when my mom realized I was allowing people to call me names other than the one she gave me. When Jasmine did not work, I started going by nicknames with friends and just prayed that these oh so educated teachers would be able to read what always seemed like a simple word to me.
When it came to correcting people when they butchered my name, I always seemed to have this inner battle with myself. Of course, I wanted to correct them, but I also always had this fear of feeling like the bad guy if I corrected them. As I got older, I realized that this is a struggle all people blessed with unique names have and that many of us believe the constant hiccups people have with our names just shows they really do not care what our names are.
“My name isn’t even hard. It’s just Ry-land, that’s it, no special way to say it or anything. When someone mispronounces my name, and I try to correct them, it just makes me feel like they don’t really care,” said Ryland Staples, a Journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland.
I always found myself longing for a name that was easy for everybody to say, and that did not make me feel like I was somehow being too difficult. Too difficult for wanting to be called by my actual name… Pretty insane now that I think about it.
After over more than a decade of being called names not even close to my own, I finally sat myself down and said, “sis, this is YOUR NAME, YOUR FREAKING IDENTITY, correct these idiots!” Sounds harsh, I know, but after years of being called Jumanji (a movie about a board game that comes to life), anybody would become a little hostile.
To all my homies with unique names, I want you to remember you have every right to correct somebody when they mess up your name; it is YOUR name, the one word that is yours and yours alone. If you have to be the bad guy to ensure that people address you correctly, then so be it. Ruffle some feathers if you have to. I bet you they will not forget it the next time around.
Now, for those wondering “how the heck do you pronounce her name,” it is JUH-MAY-ZHUH. Handle my name and the rest of the unique names out here with care. Sounding out your words will take you a long way.