what’s in YOUR name?

posted by jroselkim

The receptionist at my gym always has a trouble with my name. She’s taken my membership card for more than a week now, but every time I pronounce my name for her – “Jihyun Kim” – she assumes a blank look and asks: “what letter does that name start with?”

In fact, there is no “J” sound in Korea. The phoneticization of the first syllable – 지 – is pronounced somewhere between a “J” and a “Z.” You put your mouth in a more of a straight plane than you would with forming a “J” with your mouth. In fact, speaking English has taught me about all the hidden regions and art of moving one’s lips that Korean simply does not have. However, as time goes by I find myself exaggerating my lips to pronounce my name in an “Americanized” way – to my gym receptionist, for example – and I can’t say I like it.

(On a side note, if you speak another language than English, do you notice that you move your lips a lot more when you’re speaking English? When I was staying in Paris for a brief period, my Italian roommate would be constantly amazed by the amount of lip movements Americans and Canadians would have when they conversed, compared to the British. Apparently North Americans do everything big, from bulk stores to pronunciations.)

Then there’s my other name – Rosel – a name that was supposed to clear up the confusions of Westerners. My very Catholic family baptized me when I was just about a week old. In Korea, the church gives you a (Westernized) baptized name at the ceremony. (My brother’s baptized name, for example, is Francisco) Mine happened to be Roselle, who was supposedly a French saint. Even for a baptized name in Korea it was unusual. Then there was my father dealing with my immigration papers, in which he (mis)spelled my name as “Rosel.” Cue even more confusion. My “Canadian” name has been pronounced just about everything from Rozzle, Russell, and Rosil. One of my professors never bothered to learn the correct pronunciation of “Rosel” (even though I corrected the pronunciation during a private office hour meeting). My host dad in northern Quebec once ventured timidly into the territory of “….Marcelle? The dinner is ready.” (after I had been living in his house for three weeks)

So, between my unpronounceable first name and my equally confusing middle name I lead a pretty fun, confused (and postmodern?) existence. And I’d like to ask you, azns: what kind of a relationship do you have with your name? What’s the story behind your “English” names, if you have one?

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1 Comment

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One response to “what’s in YOUR name?

  1. David

    I never did understand why people had so much trouble with your name. People had a similar problem with Raisa. I think the S throws everyone off for some reason.

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