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Davide Mastracci

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Why I'm Keeping the Name You Can't Pronounce

Posted: 11/09/2012 5:42 pm

My Italian name, Davide, is impossible to pronounce for 95 per cent of the people I meet. The difference a single vowel can make is incredible, because I know that if you take away that "e", life would become a lot easier for me.

My name usually draws some sort of reaction from people. Sometimes I get a compliment, which I always appreciate. Every once in a while I'll get some sort of insult or joke. But usually, I will hear the person repeat my name improperly (Day-Vid, Dah-Veed, Dah-Vee-Day, etc). So yes, if you know me, and you're reading this article, you probably pronounce my name wrong. If you have not met me yet, you would probably pronounce it improperly as well. (The correct pronunciation is "Dah-Vee-Deh.")

But that's fine, I have accepted the fact that most people cannot pronounce my name, just as there's certain names I have difficulty with. The thing is, though, I have always used my actual name, and unless I become a fugitive on the run, I will continue to do so. I do not care if David is easier for you, and no, you cannot use a short form.

I insist on using my name for many reasons, but one of the major ones is that I did not always like it. As a kid, it was a burden to carry at times. Something as simple as introducing myself to other people was a cause of anxiety as I was never sure how they would react.

In fact, my parents always like to remind me of how, as a five-year-old, I begged them to change my name to Frank Smith since it was more "normal." I cannot recall ever asking to join the Smith family, but there are lots of Frank Smith's in the world; people who abandon their real names, or Americanize them, because of societal pressure. Names which deviate from the WASP "standard" are often perverted, so Giuseppe becomes Joe, Francesco becomes Francis, and Alexei becomes Alex.

No one should have to feel as though they need to alter their name to fit in. Despite this, many people do, regardless of whether it's out of convenience, fear of discrimination, or compliance to North American culture. Beyond being extremely problematic, this indicates a failure of multiculturalism. North American names continued to be perceived as the norm, which everything else can either conform to, or stand out from.

Yet, even taking the numerous societal factors which encourage people to use Americanized names into account, people still usually have agency over the name they go by. As such, I encourage people to use the "authentic" version of their name, if they like it. And from personal experience, it seems that as people grow older, they often do.

A greater amount of "foreign" names in Canada presents a challenge to the North American standard, and makes it evident in day-to-day life that Canada is not a country for one cultural group. Something as simple as reading a class list can become a learning experience; a reminder that different cultures cannot be ignored.

And so, to my fellow ethnically named friends who are often subject to "What?" "Can you repeat that?" and the "that's ... interesting," please tell the truth when someone asks what your name is. Your everyday choices can help make Canadians more concerned with where someone is going as opposed to where they came from.

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