Academic names

Names are important, even more so when you are an aspiring researcher. Marta writes about her experienceAi??in academia and identifies three possible ways of dealing with ‘name trouble’.

ai??i??So, whatai??i??s your name?

ai??i??Itai??i??s Marta.

ai??i??Oh, Magda! I have a friendai??i??

ai??i??No, that would be another popular Polish name. But mine is Marta.

ai??i??Manga? Well that sounds Japanese!

ai??i??No, actually itai??i??s Marta. M-A-R-T-A

ai??i??Oh! Ma-ta!

ai??i??You know what? Just call me Martha.

ai??i??and thatai??i??s even before we get to my last name: WrA?blewska (oh God, how to pronounce the ai??zwai???? whatai??i??s that weird slash above ai??zoai??? ai??i?? maybe itai??i??s an accent?). Despite these small phonetical complications, I still consider myself lucky name-wise. Think of Jakub BAi??aszczykowski ai??i?? when he scored in Euro 2016 people were tweeting: ai???he will never trend on Twitter as only 7 people know how to spell his nameai???. And the man is a football player, so just imagine what the chances for an academic would be. I would guessai??i?? nil.

In todayai??i??s globalised academia, with English as the lingua franca, the simple act of introducing yourself might be the first big challenge. I thought my European 5-letter name would be entirely unproblematic, but it proved to be a bit trickier than that.

All this ai???onomastic troubleai??i?? got me thinking (hey, after all, I am training to be a discourse analyst). In conclusion, I came up with strategies of coping. The first one would be to ai???translateai??? your name to a local equivalent. This works with most European names, which used to be names of saints. For instance, Marta translates to Martha, Jerzy to George, the uber-popular Polish Wojciech would be Adalbert, and the Russian Ivan is actually John. Easy-peasy, right?

As a second option, you can take on an additional name of your own choice ai??i?? so for instance cZi??ai??i?? (Wang Yong) can decide to call himself Robert or something more extravagant like Ronaldo. Some people opt to use their last names as first names, shorten their name to a more pronounceable form and remove problematic diacritical signs which are not to be found on most keyboards (such as German umlauts).

Finally, the last option is to stick to your own name and enjoy explaining its pronunciation over and over again. This strategy leads to awkward conversations like the one quoted above. Quite often one ends up being called something which is not their name, or any name, for that matter. That notwithstanding, I think itai??i??s still the best choice for ai???politicalai??? reasons. As it was pointed out in a blogAi??on the similar topic, Brits and Americans rarely change their names to local ones when they go overseas. A name is a very personal thing, so itai??i??s nice to keep your own.

Any way you decide to go, if you want to stay in academia, you should make your choice wisely and hang on to it. After all chosing and using a name is yet another positioning practice…

Marta Natalia WrA?blewska

This text was first published on the Warwick PhD life blogAi??and was also reposed by the Times Higher Education blog.

Picture: Library of Deusto University, Bilabo (Basque Country)

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