What is your name?

The Power of a Name: Embracing Cultural Diversity in Everyday Introductions

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Would it, though? Was Shakespeare correct in implying that names don’t matter, but what matters is who we are to each other?

Maybe.  But a funny thing happens when I introduce myself to people.

When I tell someone my name, they will often repeat it, Tasha? No, KASIA, with a K. Oooh, then I either get a giggle or a confused stare. I used to have a colleague call me Tesha for years (yes, like the singer), even after several people have corrected him numerous times.

When they see it written, though, their visual memory takes over and the pronunciation struggle begins. Kayshia? Keishia? Kaaaa-see-ya? Or, just plain…Cash. I generally chuckle along with them and reassure them that I’ve heard it pronounced many ways, and it’s no big deal, I’ll respond when someone calls (or attempts to call) my name. And I will, because I understand the struggle. And I appreciate more those moments when a native Polish person calls out my name correctly, because it sounds like music to my ears.

Here is the ironic part! Kasia is not my official name, it’s short for Katarzyna. It’s equivalent to Katie or Kathy being short for Katherine in the USA. I dare you to pronounce that one!

Names. They’re like personal trademarks, handed down by our parents who either spent nine months agonizing over the choices or did quick five-minute brainstorming session before sealing our fate. But here’s the kicker: names carry different weights and meanings in various cultures, something we often overlook in our day-to-day interactions.

Take for example the name Michael. In the West, it’s as common as finding a Starbucks on the corner. But in Israel, Mikha’el has a biblical resonance, echoing stories of archangels. Move over to Japan, and Mika might be a common female name, an adorable nod to the Japanese word for beautiful.

So, what happens when East meets West, or North meets South? A cultural melting pot of names! And let’s not even get started on the fun of pronunciation. Just like myself, people with unique or culturally rich names often find themselves playing a game of ‘Name Pronunciation Bingo’ at every introduction.

Here’s where the magic happens though: when we take the time to learn about someone’s name, we’re not just getting syllables right; we’re bridging cultural gaps. We’re showing respect and interest in their heritage. Imagine asking someone named Aarav about the meaning of their name and learning it means peaceful in Sanskrit. Suddenly, there’s a whole new layer to that person you didn’t know existed.

It’s not just about avoiding the embarrassment of calling someone Cash when their name is Kasia. It’s about connecting on a deeper level. Each time we make an effort to learn and pronounce a name correctly, we’re saying, “I see you, I respect you, and I value your culture.”

And let’s not forget the fun part! Names can be a great conversation starter. Ever met someone named Luna and resisted the urge to ask if they love the moon? Or chatted with an Iris and wondered if they have a thing for gardens? Names can be windows into a person’s soul, or at least into some pretty interesting stories.

So, next time you meet a Katarzyna who goes by Kasia, take a moment. Ask about their name, chuckle over the pronunciation gymnastics, and enjoy the melody of a name that’s music to someone’s ears. Because, my dear Shakespeare, names do matter. They’re the sweet sound of diversity and the starting point of every great conversation. Let’s make each one count!

By the way, in case you’re curious, Shakespeare asked this intriguing question in Romeo and Juliet.  So what do you think?  Do names matter?

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