Say My Name, Say My Name (Correctly)

This summer will be eight years since I first arrived in the Deep South, and since I’m all about ranting this week, I think it’s about time I made something clear.

My name is Tanya. Pronounced Taahn-ya. Not Tan-ya. Not Tone-ya. Not Ta…um… Tanya.

Tanya, foreign name, Tanya Sylvan
A queen that lives in a forest? Sounds right.

My parents wanted me to excel at reading, writing, and spelling, so my real name is actually Tatiana Laryssa Twerdowsky. Yes. When I first explain to people that my real name is Tatiana, I always get the same response. “Oh, that’s so pretty! Why don’t you go by that instead?” Listen, I tried that once. Recently. It now makes me cringe when I hear my name around town.

 Tanya, foreign name, Tanya Sylvan

But sure, you can call me Tatiana if Tanya is too confusing for you. As long as we get a few things straight. Yes, that’s my real name. No, my parents have never used it. Yes, it’s Russian/Ukrainian. No, I will not tell you if I am a dancer, gymnast, or figure skater. And no, I will most certainly not tell you if I am flexible. In fact, I may go all Tanya Harding on you just for asking.

But for argument’s sake, let’s just focus on Tanya. I know I live in a geographical area where saying Tan-ya is the norm and double names are a dime a dozen, so I allow people some leeway. Three strikes, to be exact. I meet you, tell you my name, correct your pronunciation. We meet again, you get it wrong, NBD. But if our paths cross one more time and you’re still butchering it, you’re on my shit list.

Tanya, foreign name, Tanya Sylvan
Facebook ads, you know me so well

I get that I don’t have the easiest name in the world. Hell, look at how bad I am with names and faces—I have no room to speak. But I thought I’d go ahead anyway and put this out there. And if you’ve known me for a while and are still saying it wrong (you know who you are), for shame.

Think I’m just a tad bit sensitive? “Is it her time of the month?” you’re wondering in your head. No! This is a real thing! I came across this Buzzfeed article the other day that perfectly nailed what foreign name-life is like. And the author’s name? Tanya. Boom.

Tanya, foreign name, Tanya Sylvan
Duck face and wagging finger – this girl is for realz

Do you have an unusual name? Do people butcher it? Do you correct people, let it go, or stare daggers at them until they get it right?


  • Courtney @ Don't Blink. Just Run.

    Hahaha! It’s not even like your name is that difficult. I’ve only ever heard 2 ways to pronounce it in my life. You’d be surprised though. My last name is Crooks. Not complicated, right? I speak clearly when I say it, yet people think Brook, Brooks, Crook, Smith. OK, maybe not that last one, but pretty much anything than what it is.

  • Marion

    OMG. Girl you just hit on my biggest pet peeve ever. My name obviously isn’t “foreign,” it’s just old. I was named after my Grandad, who was born and raised in Alabama. So it’s always been confusing why people NEVER get my name. My whole life people have called me Miriam, or **shudders** Mary-Anne (sometimes Starbucks peeps will make it Marianne…but it’s still a double-name and I hate it). I usually don’t even give people a chance to eff my name up, I say “Hi my name is Marion, as in Maid Marian from Robinhood…” To which I usually get dirty looks of “go to hell your pretentious bitch I heard your name.” But, then these dirty look people will still call me Mary-Anne on second reference. Sometimes it takes all the strength in my body not to yell and punch them in the face. Whenever I have to give my name over the phone I just automatically spell it out. And don’t get me started on my last name(s). My brother got it easy, his name is James Robert. Nobody fucks that shit up.

    Disclaimer: Nobody knows why, but Austin’s grandad calls me Meredith. The man has known me for well over five years now, but still doesn’t know my name. It drives Austin’s grannie crazy! But I don’t correct Poppa at all. It’s kind of cute actually, and I’m pretty sure people all over Helena would be shocked to know Austin’s married to Marion instead of Meredith.

  • Bo

    Oh, the irony. Your mom and I went out of our way to give you and Natalie names that people in America can pronounce. Tanya is the only name in the Ukrainian language that when spoke out loud sounds EXACTLY the same way in English and Ukrainian. But nooo, you had to move down south, huh? Just be glad that you weren’t stuck with a name like mine. I met my first college roomie and said, “Hi, my name is Bohdan Twerdowsky.” His reply? “Where does your first name end and your last name begin?”

  • Al DiMicco

    Obviously AL is no problem, except for the few” Owl’s”. But my kick is when I get a call from a telemarketer and they ask for”Mr Dominick” or “Mr Demonico”. Nope, nobody here by that name. “Is this (giving the correct phone #)”. Yes it is, but nobody here by that name. Once, a TM asked me”Can you spell your last name?”. I said “Of course I can. Is this some sort of test?”. I think she hung up on me! But honestly, Tatiana has always been one of my favorite all time names ☺

  • Jenna

    Oh, good. I’ve been pronouncing your name in my head properly. Whew.

    My given name is Jennifer. I do not go by it and I won’t respond to it unless you are my family of origin and even then I might give you hell about it.

    So, I so get this post. Totaaaaaaaaaally.

  • Bre & Ree

    Thanks for the rant! My name is Breanne (pronounced Brie-Ann) and it’s butchered all the time. I never had any issues growing up, why do kids know how to pronounce names correctly, but as soon as we all turn 18 it all goes to hell? Anyway, because I was tired of being called Brianna all the time, I now just introduce myself as “Bre”, pronounced, yes, like the cheese. Bre is really growing on me in my older age, and soon I’m sure it’ll be weird to hear anyone call me Breanne. And btw, I would say your name as Taahn-ya, but oddly enough I just met a woman with the same spelling and she goes by Tan-ya. I had to hear her say her name a few times before I understood it wasn’t actually Taahn-ya!

  • Amanda

    I’ve never heard anyone pronounce your name Tan-ya, but if I ever do, I’ll correct them because that’s just ridiculous.

    I get the questions “How is your name Amanda?” and “But really, what is your real name?” As if it’s impossible that Amanda could be my legal name. Also, because I look so foreign, I’ve had people ask me how to spell my name. I think they looked at me and assumed whatever name I was going to tell them was going to be impossibly foreign and difficult to spell. So, they tuned me off, waited for my response so they could provide their knee-jerk question on how to spell Amanda. For the love!

  • Hope

    my name is Hope BUT for years people have called me “paige”, “holly”, or “faith”. Those are not so weird, but other times I have even gotten POPE or MOPE. Who really thinks that is my name? Sometimes people even call out HOPE and people hear “HO” – yeah thats no fun either. I think Tanya is a very lovely name! xoxo

  • Audrey @ In Shape Cupcake

    My name isn’t unusual or anything but it looks identical to Aubrey. So, yeah I get called that a ton. It’s really awkward when a potential employer or something calls you that.
    I also get my name pronounced as Auw-dra and not Audrey…there’s an ‘EY’ at the end for a reason people!

    • Tanya

      I think people see a bunch of letters pushed together and draw their own conclusions. Your name is too easy to misspell or mispronounce. Tatiana is more difficult, but it sure as hell isn’t Titanic! You have no excuse to call me Titanic…

  • Aja

    It erks me too. My name gets butchered often. I don’t understand why. It’s Aja, A J A. It doesn’t have may options on how to pronounce it. Either A-juh, Asia, or A-jah (which i’ll accept any of those). But people go over board. It’s ridiculous.

  • Tanya Garza-Binder

    Thank you, Tanya!! I never could understand how people could desecrate our name. . I love my name. Tanya is exotic and makes me seem mysterious. Which I’m not . I like that it makes me seem that way though. Nice to meet another Tanya. Take care. ? Tanya Garza-Binder

  • Tanya

    This was a great read, THANK YOU! I’m from South Africa, and grew up in Johannesburg, as a teenager my parents decided to move to a coastal city, and the kids just couldn’t pronounce my name right at all. Till this day 10 years later when I would talk to old High School friends, they call me Taan-ia…. and then I’m like, its (how I grew up) Tan-YA… not IA! hahaha but great fun, and I love my full name of Tatiana, just don’t use it as I grew up as Tanya.

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