The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Students open up about the struggles they face with their non-Western names

OLLA MOKHTAR
campus editor
olla.mokhtar@my.tccd.edu

Names have been stripped of their originality and meanings due to their “hard pronunciation” and Americanization.

Whether it be Arabic, Spanish or Vietnamese in origin, for native-born English speakers it is hard to pronounce which leads people with ethnic names a choice to Americanize their names.

SE Campus student Rashwinder Kaur uses an Americanized name but still was able to tie it to its original meaning . The suffix “ras-” meaning sweetness with the suffix “-winder” or “-inder” to make up her name Rashwinder from Punjab.

Being that her name is not of English origin, people mispronounced it her entire life.

“I’m a first-generation American and came here when I was 5 years old,” she said. “I grew up in a predominantly white community where none of the kids were exposed to any cultural names. So, I always had to deal with hearing complete perversions of my name, whether it be students or teachers.”

Kaur proceeded to refer to herself as Rashi, omitting its original pronunciation.

“I genuinely can’t remember a time when I said my first name the way it should’ve been pronounced since it had been butchered since kindergarten,” Kaur said. “I do remember trying to get others to say it in the closest American way possible that was still slightly similar to the original though.”

She narrated the story of how she was named, being that her mother wanted to name her either Rashmi, Rashmeen and Rasham. 

“My mom actually never wanted to name me Rashwinder,” she said. “However, patriarchal customs won over, and my dad and his family chose my name and left me with this. Ironically, no one in the family even calls me Rashwinder. They all just refer to me as Rasham. Even outside of [my] family, I’m never called Rashwinder unless it’s a substitute teacher butchering it beyond recognition — everyone just calls me Rashi.”

South Campus student Fatimah Habeeb immigrated with her parents to America in 2016 and had a more pleasant interaction with native-born English speakers.

“I always try to explain the meaning behind my name and how it’s originally pronounced

in Arabic then they would try to pronounce it the correct way,” Habeeb said. “I felt that they were curious about how it’s pronounced in my culture and felt that they liked my name and

were familiar with it.”

The name Fatimah is of Arabic origin meaning the shining one, captivating, chaste and infallible. It also has a religious significance, Fatimah being the name of the daughter of Prophet Muhammad in the Islamic faith.

Habeeb expressed her opinion about her name and how she does not wish for any other.

“I like my name due to the beautiful meaning behind it and feel complimented by it,” she said. “I have never felt like I wanted to have another name. I like my name and am happy with it.”

Like Habeeb, SE student Haneen Alkewaifi is also an immigrant with Arab origins in her name. Her parents named her after the Arabic meaning nostalgia, longing, yearning or loving.

“I Americanize my name because I know it is hard for most American people to pronounce my name’s first letter, so I Americanize it to make it easier for them,” Alkewaifi said. “When I say my name, some people ask me to repeat it because it is their first time hearing the name Haneen. Some of them ask me what it means, and some of them call me honey because it kinda has the same pronunciation.”

When asked whether she would change her name she said that as a kid, yes. However,  when she learned the meaning of her name she changed her mind and said that she would never change it despite the wrong pronunciation by native-born English speakers.

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