NPR: Graduation Readers At MIT Go The Extra Mile To Pronounce Names Correctly

I really enjoyed this NPR story about how MIT try to get accurate pronunciations of names at commencement. They’re really trying to make sure they get every name right:

When we feel that we just aren’t comfortable with the pronunciation of the name, we will send an email to 60, 40, 75 students, sort of depends on the year, saying I would like to pronounce your name correctly at commencement. Could you please call my voicemail and leave your name slowly twice? And, you know, thank you very much.

The piece is only short — a little under five minutes — and worth listening to in full. The transcript struggles to convey the nuances of pronunciation, it’s hard in written text!

My name is on the simpler side, so it’s rare for my name to be mangled — but I still notice and appreciate when somebody is trying to get the names right.

On the flipside, something I find particularly tiresome is people who don’t just mispronounce names, but try to joke about doing so. “Oh dear, isn’t Welsh so hard to pronounce, woe is me.” An inability to even try to pronounce certain names isn’t funny or clever, and laughing about it just draws attention to your laziness. Growing up near Wales, I heard a lot of jokes from English people about the unpronouncability of Welsh names – this from a country that has names like Gloucester and Worcestershire.

If you’re introducing somebody at an event, it’s polite to ask how their name is pronounced. You don’t have to be perfect, but you should at least try.