Americans Mispronounce Your Name

Want to hear your name mangled in crazy (and hilarious) ways? Just ask an American to try and pronounce it. It’s one of the things you’ll surely have to get used to if you study in the U.S.

Nareg shared this story with The Armenian Weekly:

I was at a coffee shop with an Armenian friend of mine, and the person who took our order asked for a name to go along with it. I immediately said to myself, “No way am I about to spend half an hour going through ‘Nareg’ with this white American,” and then I looked at my friend. His name is “Shant.” I sighed and said, “Joe.” It was a coffee place, after all, and so “Joe” came naturally. Ever since, Joe has been my “restaurant name” in the States.

Some people take this idea even further and choose an American name to use during their time in the States. Neither Tara nor Nick were born with those names, and Jihye introduced herself to me first as Jade.

So, for the Question of the Week we’ll be looking at having a foreign name in the U.S. …
[Update: See what our bloggers had to say about having a name Americans can’t pronounce]

Do Americans have trouble pronouncing your name? What strategies have you used to help them out? How do you feel about your name in America – is it funny, embarrassing, annoying, or a mixture of all three when Americans can’t remember how to say your name?

Want to hear an example?

My friend Kate recently appeared on our Cambodian radio broadcast to pick the winners of their monthly contest (winners get an ipod or a Flip camera! If you’re in Cambodia you should enter). Here she is trying to say the name she picked out of the hat – Air Kaoleap:

How do you think Americans would pronounce (or mispronounce) your name?


  1. I live in Western Canada, and find that it is very easy to pick out the Americans. Not only is the English language dialect easy to pick out – using the verb “call” instead of “phone”, meaning “I will phone you later” – dissects the Americans from the Canadians quite easily. I have travelled to Eastern Canada, you know, where they speak french and don’t care to shift to English for convenience. In Eastern Canada, it is interesting to see the personalities change regarding language – even if you are trying to speak french, they roll their eyes and walk away. The opposite was true when I visited Paris a few years back. I asked for help coming off the subway, and tried – in french – to explain where I was going. The folks I asked were thrilled that I was even trying to speak their language. In broken English, they helped me find my way. As an aside, I also have a “restaurant name”; it is Priscilla, because everyone is named Jennifer. I find that in most parts of the world, if you give the language a good college try, most people are encouraged to assist. Jen, aka. Priscilla

  2. I have difficulties everytime!

    In class, or at starbucks or even friends I’ve known for 6 months don’t know how to pronounce my nam, they make funny names of it every time 😉 So once when I was at starbucks I just called myself Emma haha (my friend made this name for me).

    1. haha Thanks for sharing that story! Are you studying in the US right now? Hope you’re enjoying it (other than having to keep repeating your name!)

      1. Yes I’m studying here for almost six months 😉 And I will return in June, so one quarter left!
        I’m really enjoying my time, especially the weather (I study in SoCalifornia ;)).

        1. Wow, well I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here. I agree Southern California is a really nice place to be. If you ever want to share some of your experiences with our blog readers, let me know!

  3. Ah, get over it. I’ve lived most of my life overseas and had to do the same thing with my name in Asia. Americans are not much worse, and no better, than the common people from other nations.

  4. The audioboo thing isn’t working I’ll try to upload something as soon as possible :p

  5. Haha I will post me pronouncing my name as soon as the audioboo thing is ready :p and I will test this a lot next year because I’m probably going to study in the states next year 🙂

  6. She did a pretty good job! 🙂 I would pronounce my name the way it should be pronounced but I don’t know how t record something and post it here 🙂

  7. I’m pretty sure they would pronounce my name wrong :p Not all the americans but most of them! 🙂

    1. @Sam Where are you from, if you don’t mind me asking? We can test your theory if you want…want to hear some Americans have a go at pronouncing your name? 🙂

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