If I say my name, people can’t spell it. If I spell my name, they can’t say it.
My name is a collision. Either the T or the G ran a red-light, and both consonants were driving fast enough that the metal twisted around each other like hesitant tongues. The wreckage is enough to leave everyone confused. Telemarketers, friends, first dates… they all stumble out of the car in a daze. They forget what they were going to ask as they try to make sense of shattered glass and bent fenders. Their words, like so many shocked victims, come out halting and unsure: Ring-con, Raintagen, Rennigan, Rhine-gen, Ring-a-tang?
When I was in kindergarten I told Ms. Honea that I wanted to be famous. When she asked me why, I told her that I was tired of people pronouncing my name wrong. I always thought I was a little young to already be tired of things. At age 10, I considered marriage off-limits because I didn’t want to condemn someone else to my fate. At age 15, I got really into Germany and history and my heritage. At age 20, I broke up with a girl who misspelled my name in a love note. At age 25, I’m considering pen names to make the life of my readers easier. Names, I’m discovering, are a touchy subject.
So now that I’m a teacher, I take names seriously. I scan my roster, practice each name, and beg kids to correct me if I get it wrong. Sometimes, I’ll get students like Anijah or Bekweh or Mamadou… And I’ll say their name wrong. Looking at their faces is like looking in a mirror and I know that pained expression on their face is a practiced one. Sometimes they tell me its okay or that they don’t care how I say it and I put my foot down. Confuscius said that the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names… and even though you can measure what I know in teaspoons, I’m still trying to get a little smarter each year.