The Name Game

Neyat is an Eritrean-American girl who is an aspiring writer. She enjoys reading teen fiction, looking up obscure music artists and celebrities on Wikipedia, and traveling. She hopes that one day when you teens are tired and middle-aged, you will walk into your local bookstore (to get away from your spouse and kids) and you will notice a book on the front display with her name on it as the bestselling author.

“What’s in a name?” inquired Juliet of Romeo. Well, in my name, there are five letters, two syllables, two vowels, two consonants, and a letter with a split personality, smack-dab in the middle. I’d include the pronunciation of my name, but in all reality, I don’t know it. One might wonder how another could fail to know the pronunciation of his or her own identity, but, such is my life.

It may seem a bit odd that I’m stumped on how to correctly say my own name, but from my days in diapers to now, I’ve heard hundreds of variations of it, that I’ve landed in a place where I can’t seem to identify with just one. Some would kindly suggest I get to the bottom of this and ask the main source, but unfortunately, both of my parents enunciate my name differently, as do my sisters, as do my friends, and as do my teachers. Hyperbolic statements aside, I am literally questioned of the correct pronunciation of my name at least once a day. Whether it’s coming from a substitute teacher, a person I’m meeting for the first time, or even my closest friends, who are just dying to know the “real” way to say my name.

My mom claims she can’t distinguish the different ways people address me, but after over seventeen years of dealing with this slight hindrance to my life, I’ve come to narrow it down to three main pronunciations; the first one being pronounced as knee-yacht, the second one as knee-at (rhymes with cat), and the third as neigh-yacht. Sure, it would be simple to just pick one and move on, but, to do that would mean having to force some people to have to change the way they call me after years of being accustomed to a certain way. So, to prevent giving favor to one pronunciation over another, when I meet someone new, I say my name the way the person near me says it, not to confuse them and make them think they’ve been mispronouncing my name.

Even though I’m really flexible in the way I allow folks to address me and have yet to completely turn down a version of my name, some people are still afraid to even utter it. It’s quite disappointing really, sometimes when a person approaches my group of friends to say hello, everyone gets a warm greeting except for me, all because the greeting giver feared saying my name wrong. How do I know this is the case? Because, after becoming closer to me, people have admitted to doing this. It doesn’t just end there, either. Whenever I go to an event where I’m surrounded by new faces and we play some sort of name game, no one picks on me, in hopes of avoiding mispronouncing my name.

Due to instances such as the ones I have mentioned, as a young child, I frequently dreamt of the day I would change my name to something more common and painless to say. Alas, I’d be able to find it on key chains and license plates at gift shops, or in a book of baby names, or even in my own school. I would never be the girl with the foreign, hard to pronounce name again. That would be the day, I’d think to myself.

My name comes from Eritrea, as does my family’s heritage. It is in the Eritrean language called, Tigrinya, and it means pride. It’s a tad on the ironic side, but I’ve finally grown to take pride in my name. All of those years, I’d longed for a new identity, and I’d been anything but proud of the one I had, but, now, I follow the meaning of my name, and I cherish its uniqueness.





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