Don’t you DARE let them give you an “easier” name.

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Don’t you DARE let them give you an “easier” name.

i was chatting to a black grade six girl yesterday afternoon as we struggled through some Afrikaans homework together about Vasco de Gama.

Before we got started with the homework, i asked her what her name is.

She said it for me, followed by the words, “It’s very hard.” She then added her nickname and the english name her sister gave her.

i said her name back to her with a question mark intonation at the end and completely nailed it first time round. It’s really not so hard when you’ve had a bit of a language course and practiced a little bit. She seemed suitably impressed. i said, “It’s really not that hard actually.”

We did some Afrikaans Vasco de Gama.

A while later i looked at her and said, “Do you mind if i tell you something?”

She said, “No!”

i said to her, “You have a beautiful name. Please don’t ever let anyone make you change your name just so that it’s easier for them. People call me ‘Brent’ sometimes and i hate that. In extreme cases i have been called ‘Bread’ or when going as Brett Fish, even ‘Breakfast’. i don’t let them get away with that. And i don’t think you should either.”

She said she thought i was right.

i asked her if someone struggled to say her name, would she prefer that they just used her nickname or would she be okay if they tried it a few times until they got it right. She said she would be okay with someone struggling to get it right.

We did some more Afrikaans Vasco de Gama. She tried to read the word ‘renaissance’ and stumbled over it and gave it a ‘renai-whatever’ vibe. i stopped her and told her how we could break the word down into ren and aye and sans. She klapped it first time.

i felt genuinely educated and inspired and hopeful just by spending an hour with a young lady helping her with her homework and i look forward to our next conversation.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

This is one of the things that makes me the angriest, as small and random as it may seem to some people.

If you as a white person can get your mouth round “short no fun caramel frappuccino”, “colloquial” and “existentialism” then you better start putting in a little bit of effort to learn someone’s name. Even if it makes you feel a little bit embarrassed to have to stumble through one or two tries before you get it right. It is the height of me wanting to vomit on your shoes [and entitlement and rudeness and racism and and and] to expect someone to change their name just so that you can more easily get your tongue around it. [Especially when so many black African names have so much depth and meaning to them and you got your name because it was your grandfather’s middle name or that character on the television that your mom liked so much]

Step Towards. Then repeat.

You may well find a rainbow eventually at the end of that road.

[Someone linked me to this statement by Uzoamaka which i may have been unknowingly inspired by for the frappuccino comment!]

uzo Adaba


About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.


  1. Socially Inadequate May 27, 2016 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I spent my whole life telling people to call me by my given. My parents spent time giving me my name. I wouldnt want to insult them. My name bring me great happiness, so fuck those lazy people. I enjoyed your article.
    Regards, Socially Inadequate

    • brettfish May 27, 2016 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      i hope your parents didn’t name you Socially Inadequate cos that’s a little weird. Ha ha it’s Guillermo, right? and yay for standing up for your name [and sorry if i got it wrong cos it was a long time ago when i heard it]. i love your comment so much!

  2. Robyn Baker June 7, 2016 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Brett, I LOVE this post!!! I’ve been heavily convicted of this over the past year or two. Getting people to change their names to prevent me from feeling embarrassed by the possibility of prouncing it in the wrong way is complete rubbish!!! It’s been so engrained in us that it’s ‘okay’, but it’s far from it. The other day I asked a friend of mine (one whose name I first struggled to pronounce) what his name meant. It was absolutely beautiful!! So much so that it brought me to tears. His name’s meaning was so in line with the incredible person that he is! Thanks for this!!

    • brettfish June 7, 2016 at 8:22 am - Reply

      Thanks Robs, absolutely. This one has always been so huge for me and i don’t know why it doesn’t make a lot of black people more angry. It really tends to be laziness or perhaps fear of getting it wrong that keeps us from trying and yet a name is one of the most personal things someone has and so it is so much worth the effort.

      love b

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