My first name is relatively common and normal for a country A where I'm from. Currently I live in a different country (B) and recently started working with a lot of people from some other country C.

In their (country C's) language my name sounds exactly like a word for something inappropriate, so people from there are visibly uncomfortable pronouncing it and often intentionally mispronounce it. Let's say, my name translated to their language would be Penis (that's not my real name), and they pronounce it as Pens, or Penas or something like that.

To me it's not a big problem as long as I understand that they are talking to me and not to somebody else, so I don't correct them anymore. However, other people (not from country C) aren't aware of this issue, and I have conversations like that sometimes:

person from country C: Hey Panas, about this email...

some third person: It's Penis, not Panas.

How can I resolve these situations without making anyone feel uncomfortable, or at least as little people as possible? In country B, where we all live, my name doesn't mean anything offensive, if that's important.


How can I resolve these situations without making anyone feel uncomfortable, or at least as little people as possible?

Solution 1

If you have more than one name, ask them to call you by any other name you have and is comfortable for them.

Solution 2

If you already have a nickname, ask them to use the nickname.

Solution 3

Choose a new name / nickname for yourself, for their use. People from Asian countries do this massively when they have to interact with people from "western" countries. They just choose a western name in addition to their name.

One of the most famous examples is "Bruce Lee" (original name: Lee Jun-fan).

My own example. I am from country M and currently live and work in country N. People here find it relatively difficult to pronounce my name. I offer them the choice to use the first half of my name, which happens to be very commonly done in my country M anyway.

  • 1
    You may add addressing the OP by last name. Or maybe just initials.
    – aarbee
    Oct 5 '20 at 7:32
  • +1 On a personal level, initials can be very good (see C.J. Lewis). In a work context, a name is required at least in formal situations. OP cannot introduce himself to some manager as "K.O.". Even funnier, let's hope that his name is not something like "Francisc Ukulele". Imagine the dialogue: "I am F.U. Who are you?"
    – virolino
    Oct 5 '20 at 8:18
  • 2
    @virolino : "I am F.U. Who are you?" = I'm B.A.R :)
    – OldPadawan
    Oct 5 '20 at 8:44
  • @OldPadawan: :))))) That is a good one. I had to think for a few seconds to get it.
    – virolino
    Oct 5 '20 at 8:49
  • And completely in the same "fun name" area ^^. To strenghten your answer: in my native language, my family name is also a common name, with as many play on word / jokes you can imagine. In English (I lived in the US for years) it's more of a scary (Halloween style) utterance, so, to avoid this, in both languages, I would 1. make a fool of myself in a very funny manner 2. make the joke 1st: "like in xxx, boo!". People get the hint, and choose whatever alternative you proposed.
    – OldPadawan
    Oct 5 '20 at 9:09

I know two people with such names: One's last name is Peniis, the other ones translates to "Fucker". Other people are from a town with is written just like something sex-related. What they usually do is own their name: They just say (when introducing to peers) "Just like the sex organ, but with two i" or "just like what everybody's favorite activity is". If people don't want to say their name and stutter or pause, they encourage them to to say it. Usually these situations give a laugh and people learn to say the name (after all, using the name you wish is more important than not wanting to say penis). In more formal situations, they would say "Fucker. Yes I know it sounds inappropriate, but it actually comes from ..." (And you could say here that it is a common name in yoir country and what it means etc.)

Please note that my answer is based on your example that your name is similar inappropriate as penis. "Penis" is, at least in my region, at best mildly offensive - it is the proper word, schoolchildren are encouraged to say it instead of other words, every publication related to sex would use this world and it hardly ever gets censored somewhere. It would be different if your name was something like "I am paedophile" which can not be taken as lighthearded.

Another thing that comes to my mind: The conversation you cite with A, B and C sounds to my eyes uncommon. A, B and C all talk/chat together, B misnames A and then C corrects? I find this strange as I would expect that C waits for A to correct, as A is present and it's A's, not C's name. My point is: This situation is maybe due to C's "correcting" personality and will not occur with many other people. My point is that you may explain C afterwards (one to one) the situation and that people from B's country have a problem with your name.

  • 1
    "sounds to my eyes" is similar to, or opposite from "looks to my ears"? :)
    – virolino
    Oct 7 '20 at 13:24
  • @virolino I suspect the submitter's native is language is German or a related language and it's an attempt to translate the phrase: "in meinen Augen" (literally: "in my eyes") meaning something along the lines of "as far as I can tell". Oct 7 '20 at 15:15
  • @Marianne013: you are totally right about "in my eyes", I also understood exactly that. What I found amusing was the association "sounds" with "eyes" :) Most likely, it is an unintended mix of "sounds to me" and "to my eyes"...
    – virolino
    Oct 8 '20 at 5:05
  • There, much to the amusement of many Brits, plenty of people called "Wank" in the USA, especially in the NY area, and, as far as I know, they don't suffer many ill-effects. Oct 8 '20 at 17:27

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