Anyone who has an unusual name knows the struggle is real – I grew up with a German surname that starts with a Z, so it was pretty terrible to always be the last one in line during my elementary school years.
That said, people of color with ethnic-sounding names have at least double the struggle because not only do people struggle to pronounce their names, they often don’t even seem to really try.
Comedian Hasan Minhaj (Patriot Act, The Daily Show) put everyone on notice after his recent appearance on Ellen – he’s done just smiling and nodding when literally everyone pronounces his name incorrectly. And who was the offender?
Why, it was Ellen herself.
Minhaj informed Ellen she was pronouncing his name wrong, said it right, and then explained why it’s ridiculous that people can’t seem to get it right.
What’s my name? Timothée Chalamet. pic.twitter.com/M4JvVTEz9O
— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) April 4, 2019
It’s HAS-en MIN-haj, for everyone paying attention. He said, “If you can pronounce Ansel Elgort, you can pronounce Hasan Minhaj.”
He’s referring to The Fault in Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort, who has a name that no talk show host seems to struggle with at all.
Feel your pain Hasaan – regards, Sellmun
— Salman Zafar (@salmanzafar1985) April 5, 2019
“There’s an actor just named Ansel Elgort, and we all just walk around pronouncing it, completely normally.”
When Ellen tried to laugh it off, asking what he does when the barista at Starbucks asks what his name is, he replied, “At Starbucks, I go by Timothee Chalamet.”
They can say Tchaikovsky, they can say Minhaj
— Here and Now (@H0173) April 7, 2019
Point made and taken, Hasan. If everyone can figure out how to properly address white people, no matter how foreign-sounding their name (Saiorse Ronan, anyone?), then there’s no excuse to botch the names of people with ethnic names, either.
He’s not alone, either – it’s a common thing in Hollywood for people to be pressured to change their names to something “ethnically ambiguous” (read: white sounding) to make people more comfortable.
True story: When I was starting out in entertainment I was advised to take on a stage name that was more “ethnically ambiguous” like “Alexandra Reynolds.”
— Alejandra Reynoso (@AleReyn0s0) April 5, 2019
Do better, everyone! If Hasan had to school even Ellen on the subject, then it seems like we’ve got some work we can do.