While Satyen is my name, most who know me call me Sat. I’m not sure when my name became shortened to Sat. I’ve no doubt it’s because someone found it difficult to pronounce Satyen. Shortening it was easier for them.
In entering professional life, I attempted to reclaim Satyen. But it just got shortened to Sat. Now, when people attempt to pronounce my full name, I just tell them to say, Sat. It feels odd not to.
In my mother tongue, Gujarati, Satyen means truth, as does Sat. But the pronunciation of both is something even I have got wrong. The ‘Sat’ part is more like Saat or Suht. The ‘yen’ part is either ‘ti-en’ or otherwise ‘yehn’. So phonetically it’s Saat-ti-en or Suht-yehn.
Complicated? Maybe. But something that I have appreciated and welcomed through the years is when folks actually ask me the correct pronunciation of my name. And even though they may still get it wrong, the sense of empowerment and belonging that simple gesture gives is immeasurable.
Empowerment because by answering, I’m able to express a part of my identity that, as an immigrant of Indian heritage, I’ve tended to hide or overlook just to assimilate more easily. Belonging because, well, their simple curiosity has brought me closer to them.
In fact, that sense of empowerment and belonging came just the other day when speaking with colleagues who asked if I have an actual nickname in Gujarati. Indeed, I do: ‘Saat-tu’ or Suht-ooh’.
But does any of this mean I will now change my name by deed poll to the phonetic translation? Or maybe ask people to pronounce the shorter version as Saat, Suht or even adopt the nickname Saat-tu or Suht-ooh?
Well, no. As welcoming as that would be, it would just feel odd. I now know myself as Sat.
But that’s my story. There are many others for whom this story is far different and sometimes more damaging to their sense of identity and with this inclusivity. Particularly those from minoritized ethnicities and especially in their places of work. That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the Edelman team that has developed the #MyNameIs ’Fuh-Net-Ic Filter’, which will mark the launch of this year’s Race Equality Week (7th to 13th February).
Check it out for yourself at my-name-is.io. It’s a simple tool intended to raise awareness of the importance of proper pronunciation of our names whilst providing a solution. You’ll get a phonetic translation of your name from NameShouts and an image like the one in this post to share on social.
If your phonetic translation isn’t in there, have a go at writing one yourself and help add to this growing community and valuable source of phonetic name translations. You’ll also help others who are seeking phonetic spellings of their names.
As complicated as it may be to say my name or anyone else's who suffers mispronunciation of theirs, it’s probably one of the easiest things we can all do to help advance diversity, equity and inclusion.