7 things everyone with an unusual name deals with

Weird names

Weird names

Cheyenne Perry

People with uncommon names face every day struggles a person with a more “normal” name may not understand. Three Kent State students, Ayobami Crawford, Ile-Ife Okantah and Aphdin Cadile, shared the ways their names are special and ways their names can single them out. They discussed the things they hate about living with an uncommon name, and reasons why they love it:

1. #TheStruggleIsReal on the first day of school.

“The teacher asked me what my name is, so I told her. As soon as I did that she said ‘What?’ and I said it again. And she said, ‘Say it again.’ (So) I said it, ‘Ayobami.’ She said, ‘Ayofami?’ ‘No.’ ‘Ayobami?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well what do you want to be called?’ ”

Ayobami Crawford, a senior ASL/English interpreting major, recalled what the first day of school was like for her the first few years. This confusing rigmarole was put to an end once she decided to be called Amy in the third grade.  

“Pretty much everyone I meet in school or at work calls me Amy,” she said. 

Ile-Ife Okantah, a sophomore magazine journalism major, said she’d rather correct her teachers every time they call her name than allow them to call her by a different name.

“People don’t want to try,’” Okantah said. “’Can I call you Fay? Can I call you Fi-Fi?’ No, call me by my name.”

Aphdin Cadile, a freshman criminal justice major at the Kent Salem campus, said she won’t go by a nickname either. 

“Teachers mispronounce my name a lot. I correct them,” she said.

2. It sucks to explain one’s name to baristas and sales clerks.

“I actually give fake names a lot. I just don’t have time to go through the whole name story,” Okantah said. 

Cadile also takes the easy route by not mentioning her first name at Starbucks. 

“I normally just give my middle name, which is Samantha,” she said.

It’s a no-brainer for Crawford when she gets to the counter, because she goes by Amy a lot of the time anyway. 

“I always say Amy. I may say my full name is Ayobami, but I only say it if I want to have a long conversation about it,” Crawford said.

3. Unique names are not funny.

“When people try to make up nicknames and call me Aflac or Afghanistan, I hate it,” Cadile said. 

Okantah also admitted she’s been teased about her name and Crawford could recall embarrassing incidents regarding hers.

“It’s embarrassing when you’re in class and your name is called over the loudspeaker and the person messes up your name,” Crawford said. “Everyone looks right at you.”

4. Cultural is cool.

Cadile’s maternal family is Scottish, and she was named after the River Afton.  

Okantah is proud to have a Nigerian name, deriving from the Yoruba culture.

“Especially for black people, it’s so important to have a name that means something toward your own culture,” she said. 

She noted that many African-American last names were carried down from enslavement. Crawford, whose name traces back to the Yoruba culture as well, feels less of a connection to the cultural aspect of her name. Growing up with a white mother and black father left her with more of an inclination for the American experience as it pertains to mixed people. Still, she said she is intrigued that her name comes from Nigeria.

“It encouraged me to learn more about Africa and set aside stereotypes that I was taught to know,” Crawford said.

5. One must worry about the impression their name will make on a potential employer.

“Names…can dictate how a person will treat you,” Crawford said. She said she can connect more with people when she introduces herself as Amy.

“Luckily, my resume always requires something to show my skill. You can see I am professional (on video),” Crawford said.

Okantah said she works hard to be successful because she knows her hard work will shine through any stereotyping based on her name. Still she understands that her name can be an agent for people to judge her.

“That’s an insecurity I have — that people won’t take me seriously because of my name,” Okantah said.

6. Having a special name makes a person feel unique…

Cadile said her name does make her feel special. 

“When I was little I always liked being the only one with my name,” Cadile said. 

Okantah also said that she loves having a name that is different.

“I think it is such a special thing, and I like to stand out,” Okantah said. 

7. …Because the name was hand-picked especially for them.

Okantah’s name means life and love. It is the name of an ancient Nigerian city that is still important today. It was given to her by her father who is very into African culture.

Crawford’s name was given to her by her mother found in an African book of names. Her mother, who is deaf, was able to pronounce it and thought it looked pretty. Her name means to be joyful regardless of negative encounters. 

“That speaks volumes about my personality,” Crawford said, who also said she always has a positive demeanor.

Cadile’s great-great grandmother used to sing a song called “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton” to Cadile’s mother. Growing up, Cadile’s mother thought the song was about a girl, until she learned it was about a river. 

Henry David Thoreau once said, “A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs.” As Okantah pointed out, people don’t always make the effort to properly address someone when she has an uncommon name. That’s the part that sucks: the explaining, the correcting and the defending of the name. But Okantah also knows that a name is a special thing.

Contact Cheyenne at [email protected].