Free-Range Kids

Education Officials: Mispronouncing Students' Names Is a Microaggression

'Truly negates his or her identity...'


Dreamstime / Monkey Business Images

Mispronouncing a student's name constitutes a "microaggression" in many schools today, including those in Santa Clara County, California.

Mispronunciation is taken as a diss to the child and the child's heritage.

With a name like Skenazy, I guess I get dissed all the time. I'll bet Mr. Soave does, too. (Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, not so much.)

Anyway, Associated Press's Amy Furr (pronounced fur?) reports that the Santa Clara Office of Education along with the National Association for Bilingual Education launched a campaign called "My Name, My Identity: A Declaration of Self," in which it says that hearing a mispronunciation by a teacher may cause the student "anxiety and resentment," which in turn can "hinder academic progress."

Writes Furr:

"Mispronouncing a student's name truly negates his or her identity, which, in turn, can hinder academic progress," according to Yee Wan, SCCOE's director of multilingual education services.

Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, says it is a sign of "microagression" when a teacher mispronounces, disregards, or changes a child's name, because "they are in a sense disregarding the family and culture of the student as well."

So far, 528 school districts have taken the pledge to try to get names right—which you'd think most teachers would do without a pledge.

But if they never quite get the accent right? Is that really a diss or simply the fact that with a melting pot like America, some names are going to be (am I microaggressing?) harder to pronounce? My family and I hosted an exchange student here for a year and I don't think we ever pronounced "Giovanni" like an Italian. We said it with our American accents. This did not seem to stymie him in any way.

But Furr quotes a former teacher writing in the Cult of Pedagogy (what a perfect name!):

"mutilating someone's name is a tiny act of bigotry. Whether you intend to or not, what you're communicating is this: Your name is different. Foreign. Weird. It's not worth my time to get it right….

"And before you get all defensive about the bigotry thing, let's be clear: Discovering that something you do might be construed as bigotry doesn't mean anyone is calling you a bigot. It's just an opportunity to grow."

Agreed: You should try to pronounce everyone's name right. The "Pedagogy" piece suggests asking the student how it's pronounced, which I think most teachers probably do. But there are many ways to show respect, and if those are present, mispronunciation shouldn't negate them. Singing off key doesn't mean you hate a song.

NEXT: Clinton Suggests Paying States and Cities to Fix Bad Licensing Laws

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Speaking with a foreign accent is cultural appropriation. So choose what you’re going to be bitched at for.

    1. Yep, perfect catch 22.

      If the students name has accentuations specific to their native language using them will be “cultural appropriation”, not using will mean mispronouncing their name and be a “microagression”.

      lose – lose, just like the SJW’s want it….

      1. Oh no, it’s not lose-lose….it’s an opportunity for you to grow, you ignorant hater.

        1. But I want a Nguyen Nguyen situation.

          1. haha! You Nguyen the Internets today sir.

    1. I was reminded of Sir Raymond Luxury-Yacht

    2. Anyway, Associated Press’s Amy Furr (pronounced fur?)

      I am pretty sure it is pronounced Fuhrer.


  2. I microaggressed so many Italian Americans when I was a substitute teacher.

    1. Growing up we had a regular sub named Hoffenrichter, who of course, we referred to only as Mrs. Boa Constrictor. The nickname fit her attitude as well as it pretty apparent that she hated us, though I can’t imagine why…

      1. I let the kids call me Mr T, was easier than watching them try to handle a Polish surname.

        Plus I could then pity fools.

  3. Fuck that noise. Having a name I can’t pronounce correctly the first time is a microaggression against ME.

    1. We’re gonna be getting rid of these people here… First, Mr. Samir Naga… Naga… Naga… Not gonna work here anymore, anyway.

      1. Still better than Michael Bolton.

  4. I’m thinking a really dark-skinned Hispanic kid named Jaime could really clean up in the victim olympics.

  5. “Mispronunciation is taken as a diss to the child and the child’s heritage.”

    Kind of places the onus on the taker then, doesn’t it?

    1. But you should KNOW how the taker will react. Not reading his/her/ou’s mind is a micro agression,too.

  6. Raymond Luxury-Yacht approves of this long overdue policy.

    1. When the TSA was on their “Ask people how to pronounce their names so we can trip them up if it’s not really their ID” campaign, I always told them my name was pronounced Throatwobbler Mangrove. They decidedly did not get a kick out of it.

  7. I bet Welsh’s name is mispronounced all the time.

    1. Also Shackleford.

      1. It’s Shackelford, numbnuts.

      2. Sheik-la-ford, of course

    2. Your mom mispronounced my name when she yelled it out last night.

      1. Dog? She’s dyslexic?

      2. She didn’t mispronounce your name, she was yelling my name.

    3. Nobody else can handle 6 consonants in a row.

  8. Children whose names are mispronounced need to learn to stand up on their tippy-toes and scream at the top of their still-developing lungs that they will not be name shamed, and demand retribution from the institution that hired this bigot.

  9. I suppose pronouncing “Shithead” as “Shit Head” would be a microagression.

    1. Sha-theed.

      1. Don’t try to church it up boy.

  10. I’ve always considered it rude not to try to pronounce someone’s name correctly. Rudeness is not bigotry. It is not a denial of anyone’s identity, cultural or otherwise. It’s just rudeness, and we’ve all got to deal with it whether we like it or not. Yes, it does send the message that learning to pronounce a name is not worth someone’s time, but considering that the majority of people can’t use or pronounce a plethora of other words correctly either, it seems a sisyphean effort to expect them to budge on that one small consideration. Diction in general isn’t apparently worth anyone’s time anymore.

    1. Defining racism and bigotry down is a sign of the times

    2. My name is always mispronounced.

      And dear me, don’t move to Quebec if this makes you nervous.

      If only you heard the debate for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois. It would make Americans and decent Canadians recoil in shock at the insularity.

      Donald Trump is a pussy compared to the shit we have lurking in the PQ.

      I will expand in the PM links.

      1. Person: Mr. Ruf-fis?
        Rufus: It’s ROO–fis! Not Ruf-fis!

        1. Roof-ees? Like the drug?

    3. *Try* and fail is one thing. Apparently though you’re not supposed to fail and be able to handle names in languages that have sounds that English doesn’t or even ones that depend on pitch for sublte (to us) differences in meaning.

      Of course – no one else should ever feel the need to simplify the name they use with Americans so we don’t butcher it so badly. Apparently respect and courtesy only go one way.

  11. Different people within my own family pronounce our last name different, damn microagressors.

    1. I suggest you launch Title IX lawsuits against each other.

    2. Self-hatred. Probably acquired it from being completely surrounded by the whiteheteropatriarchy.

    3. Same here. Still if there’s one thing you are allowed to be pedantic about it is how you pronounce your name.

      1. No.

        You have a name in order so that other people can identify you, not so you can identify yourself.

        Narcissists can go to hell.

  12. Is it a microagression when a Yinzer talks too?

    1. There is nothing micro about a strong yinzer accent. Too bad that true yinzer talk is going the way of the dodo. I can count on my fingers how many unironic speakers of “n’at” and “yinz” I’ve actually encountered.

      1. Only slightly related, Intrusive R is a hate crime.

      2. Were they dawntawn?

        PA’s got a variety of distinctive accents. Yinzer, Scranton, Philly, PA Dutch English,and my own southcentral PA which sounds a bit like Baltimore and Philly together. Water is “wodder” and “color” is “keller.”

        1. Nope. Dahntahn Pixxburgh is fairly cosmopolitan. The true yinzery accents are found out in the larger isolated towns in a 2 hour radius from the center city.

        2. My old lady who is from Eastern PA calls the creek behind our house a “crick.” Drives me crazy

    2. The existence of Yizners is a macroagression against the rest of society.

      1. As long as the Stillers have 6 Lombardi trophies, they don’t care. Do you onderstand?

        1. Some teams have 13 NFL titles.

  13. Then I’ve been microaggressed against by everyone who has ever said my name.

    1. Same here. No one ever pronounces my last name correctly the first time. They butcher the shit out of it. Sounds like we’re victims, where can we file for that victim status?

      1. I want some of that sweet victim money.

        1. You should go on strike until you get it, like Canada did for that sweet Internet money.

    2. But you got your revenge when they said it three times in a mirror, didn’t you?

      1. Dude, I’m the opposite of Candyman.

        1. I would think you’d be like an actual Candyman. You show up and kill people by jamming all the candy bars you can’t eat down their throats.

    3. Huh. Maybe I shouldn’t have named my second son “Exnkp!afnsm”.

  14. “they are in a sense disregarding the family and culture of the student as well.”

    It’s only ok to disregard a family and culture if the person is a white heterosexual male of European descent.

  15. Alright class, good afternoon. I’m the substitute teacher, Sister Mary Elephant. How about everybody in the classroom say your names out loud, starting here:

    T’varisuness King
    Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace
    D’Squarius Green, Jr.
    Ibrahim Moizoos
    Jackmerius Tacktheritrix
    D’Isiah T. Billings-Clyde
    D’Jasper Probincrux III
    Leoz Maxwell Jilliumz
    Javaris Jamar Javarison-Lamar
    Davoin Shower-Handel
    Hingle McCringleberry
    L’Carpetron Dookmarriot
    J’Dinkalage Morgoone
    Xmus Jaxon Flaxon-Waxon

    1. You should have mixed John Doe into the middle of that list.

      1. Rip Slagpec! Dirk Stakeface! Bolt Vanderhuge! Punch Rockgroin! Smoke McManmuscle! Bob Johnson!……wait…..

        1. I have that t-shirt

          1. Key and Peele football intro FTW!

    2. One time when my son was younger, he brought home a copy of his class picture. The list of names was pretty close to that.

    3. and don’t forget “Le-a” is pronounced “lee-dash-ah”

  16. Claiming something is a microaggression is itself a microaggression. It seeks to negate the culture and identity of the alleged microaggressor who most of the time is just innocently trying to be polite by using common words and phrases to communicate ideas or ask questions rather than trying to “negate” anyone’s culture or identity.

    1. With that pointed out, shouldn’t leftists start emitting smoke and saying “does not compute” over and over like when Captain Kirk confounds a computer with logic in Star Trek?

      1. They would need to be capable of logic first.

  17. My last name is a bastardized anglicized french canadian thing. I don’t mind one bit. Last name pronunciation shifts and spelling changes have a long history in this country. Why do these people hate heritage?

    1. You have the wrong heritage. Too white.

  18. Its probably not a coincidence that this mispronounced name nonsense isn’t coming from people named Smith or Jones.

    1. And they’re the ones who should be bitching the most, as their names were changed at Ellis Island

  19. Huh. I get microaggressed against all the time and I never even knew it. Teachers often fucked up my name in school and every telemarketer or pollster that calls me microaggresses the shit out of me. I’m amazed I can get out of bed in the morning.

  20. Mispronouncing a student’s name truly negates his or her identity

    No it doesn’t.

  21. My Polish cousins are going to love this. The surname Wleczyk is now essentially a lawsuit factory.

    1. that was my first thought – no one could possibly be as oppressed as the Polish under this standard.

      My name was mispronounced and misspelled throughout my school days. Hell, the way my family pronounces it isn’t even the proper Italian pronunciation. We’ve been microaggressing….ourselves, I guess?

    2. Just wondering, do Poles know what vowels are? Seriously, they’re pretty useful, they should try them out some time.

      1. Polish isn’t even the worst for that. I met a guy once, I think he was Serbian, whose name was spelled Srjn.

        1. I knew a guy named Szczys once. I believe it’s Polish.

          1. I wonder how that one is pronounced. “Zizz”?

            1. He pronounced it “Shtsh”, but no idea if that’s the right way or not

        2. I know a Serbian named Ilijia or “Eli”. Good dude, he once told me to “never trust a Greek!”

      2. How about genuine Hawaiian names?

    3. “wool-a-chek”?

      1. Vlay-chek

        1. I was close. I would have went with Vleh-chick.

          1. I would have guessed the L had a slash through it originally, so the name would be VWE-chick, more or less.

  22. Aren’t there societies that are incapable (practically speaking) of pronouncing certain sounds because their langauge doesn’t contain them, or the never learned how?

    So, who wins that battle of the aggrieved?

    1. Incapable or just unwilling?

      1. Well, like the traditional asian R/L thing.

        They probably could, but there are some real barriers, as I understand it.

        1. I’ve heard the same thing about certain (IIRC) Slavic dialects. Certain sounds just don’t exist in both directions and it possibly takes years of training to get the speech patterns right.

        2. Or even the Spanish rolled “R” sound. Some people have a really hard time with it.

        3. Or the ? in Khoe. (Glottal click)

    2. The lawyers

    3. My OTB Chinese friends pronounce Flushing as “Frushing.” It happens all the time (stereotypical joke or not). But there are plenty of other words where the L is prounced the way you’d expect it.

      Point is, how do I trick one into correctly pronouncing the name?

      1. Sue them of course.

    4. Every day I was in Costa Rica: “Braite”

  23. When a telemarketer calls the house and botches my last name, I know I can hang up without listening anymore.

    1. when we first moved to Virginia 30 years ago, the phone company apparently tried to deduce our last night by reading my dad’s incomprehensible scribble, so we were listed as the name “Cauallj” This led to great merriment on my dad’s part, as he would tell phone salesmen “I’ll buy whatever you’re selling if you can say my name correctly”

  24. Boy, this shows what an old fart I am. When I was a kid, walking to school in the snow (uphill both ways), it wasn’t the teacher’s job to “show regard” for my heritage; that’s what my family was for. The teacher was supposed to teach me to read and write. It was made plain to me that the whole world didn’t revolve around me and my issues.

    And git off mah lawn! (points M1 Garand)

  25. Anyone ever hear it when an Asian person cannot pronounce an Indian name, no matter how many times they try? It’s some epic micro-agression stuff, but no one seems to know that. I guess they need more edumencation into the way of looney toon whitey progs.

    1. An Indian name? What, like Choctawhatchee?

  26. Philosophical question: Do I microaggress myself by preferring a nickname to my given name?

    As an aside, I rather like that my browser’s spellchecker doesn’t recognize “microaggress” or “microaggression.” I hope that it stays that way for as long as possible, hopefully until after the SJWs move on to some other Newspeak terminology for whatever it is that crawled up their collective asses and aggrieved them so deeply.

    1. That’s an interesting question. I’m the same way and get irritated when someone uses my full name after I’ve introduced myself by nickname.

  27. No no no, it’s spelled, “Raymond Luxury Yacht,” but it’s pronounced, “Throat Warbler Mangrove”.

    Just in case Pro Liberace isn’t tuned in.

  28. My fucking last name has been mispronounced my whole fucking life. Where’s my pony?

  29. The ref microaggressed my son’s entire soccer team during check-in yesterday. My favorite was Byrce: “Bree-say? Bree-say?”

    1. I was amazed and amused to find some Ameticans pronounce Seamus as see miss. Like how can you live in this country all your life and not come across enough potato-eaters to learn how it’s pronounced?

      1. I suspect a lot of people are familiar with the name but don’t know how it’s spelled.

        I remember when I first encountered the name “Sean” in writing and thought it was a different name pronounced “seen”. Of course I was about 10 years old at the time. All the wimpy parents who spell the name “Shawn” aren’t helping.

  30. With a name like Skenazy, I guess I get dissed all the time. I’ll bet Mr. Soave does, too. (Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, not so much.)


    1. Paging Jack Woltz.

    2. Vincent Ludwig *offering Frank a cigar* : Cuban?

      Frank Drebin: No, Dutch-Irish. My father was from Wales.

  31. With a name like Skenazy, I guess I get dissed all the time.

    El Skeezy!

    1. Do sheezy!

      1. Or, ya know, Fo sheezy like I actually typed…

        Fucking phone.

  32. Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, says it is a sign of “microagression

    What’s the penalty for misspelling?

    1. Can it be misspelled if it isn’t a real word?

    2. Same as forgetting your number, losing your spoon or playing grab-ass.

  33. I’ll just leave this here…..VsN0Wk8zkk

  34. Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, says it is a sign of “microagression”

    She’s Indian, dang it. WTF.

    I’m going to mispronounce her name as “Raita” instead of “Rita”.

    I like finishing off my Indian buffet lunches with Raaita.

    O/T: Anyone seen the show “Outsourced”. The Indian call center workers used to repeatedly mispronounce “Todd” as “Toad”. Should Todd have felt microaggressed?

  35. I knew this was going to come back to haunt us.

    And this is obligatory.

  36. My Italian forefathers were so microagressed that they Americanized their last name. I suggest that others that get butthurt over having their name mispronounced do the same.

  37. What if I have a speech impediment or hearing loss. Then aren’t you really micro-aggressing against me for calling out my disability? Thilly people.

  38. It should also be a micro-aggression to ask student how to pronounce their names. Why should someone named Smith be spared the anxiety and trauma of having a teacher not immediately knowing how to pronounce the name?

  39. This is getting beyond ridiculous. My last name gets mispronounced all the time, yet I don’t throw a fit about it and label the person a bigot. Hell, I’ve even had documents returned to me that misspelled it despite them having record of the correct spelling. It can be annoying at times, yes, and it is respectful and professional to try to get it right, but it’s not a goddamned hate crime if someone mispronounces your name.

  40. Just for clarity, is Dwyane Wade microagressing himself when he pronounces his name as if it were Dwayne?

    1. That is DEE – Wayne – Wad -Aye. Sheesh!

  41. The Cult of Having Nothing of Value to Contribute to Pedagogy So We Invent Shit Like This…

  42. My first grade teacher never spelled my first name properly, even after repeated attempts to correct her mistakes.

  43. “they are in a sense disregarding the family and culture of the student as well.”

    So NOW they’re not blank slates?

  44. Everybody better be pronouncing cis gender shitlord correctly or I will feel very micro-aggressed.

  45. My name is german and would use umlauts in the original. My ancestors came over 150 yrs ago and each generation changed how they pronounced it. Not one person in 50 has ever pronounced it right, and almost no one has ever spelled it right, even when I spell it slowly for them (never mind just from the sound of it). Am I micro-aggressed? hahahaha I can’t be I’m white. But seriously, aren’t we getting a triffle sensitive these days?
    Oh, and I look on the bright side, that no one gets me mixed up with someone else, like they do with John Smith or other common names. Nor are there 100 other people with that name on Facebook or elsewhere.

  46. My foreign math TA butchered my simple one syllable name so bad I couldn’t even understand it. That didn’t bother me. Not being able to understand him when he was teaching did.

  47. Neither a name nor outward appearance capture someone’s “culture” except to a bigot, as the SJWs are. For example, a 3rd generation Italian is no more Italian than I am. My friend who grew up in Northern India was raised wearing western T-shirts with slogans and playing video games, to which he is still addicted. I heard the following conversation at a National Lab in the halls:
    Fritz: describes experiment he is about to start
    Joe: “but that means you will be up all night!”
    Fritz: (in a thick accent) “No problem, I am German!”
    Fritz is black

    Or a guy who sounded like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, and was riding his bike down the hall, wearing socks with sandals, safari shorts and looking and acting all the world like an eccentric British professor about to go collect butterflies….was Chinese.

    or my friend with Spanish (not Hispanic) ancestry, who finally learned some spanish as an adult since everyone kept talking to him in Spanish…
    Names tell you very little about a person’s culture and are not sacred. Many foreign names are actually poorly spelled when translated into English and the same name may end up different for different immigrants.
    The whole thing is idiotic.
    Of course it is polite to try, but some people will never be able to say a 5 syllable Indian (from India) name right, no matter how virtuous they are.

  48. People always pronounce my last name as McGloglin. It’s not.

  49. When the Chinese tanks (Russian?) roll up on our shores in a decade, they are going to find masses of neutered scared little people fingerwagging at each other, and completely defenseless. Hell, the attacking armies might just shake their heads and go home.

    But maybe I just described Europe in about 3 years?

  50. Must suck for the immigrant parents who cannot pronounce the English names that they have given their children so they can feel more American.

  51. I’m inclined to think that people with weird names deserve what they get.

  52. I’m glad Canadian Rock icon Randy Bachman has a thicker skin!

  53. If those who can’t, teach, who teaches education?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.