How To Pronounce My F*cking Name

Shani Silver
5 min readMay 1, 2021

Five letters and 38 years of this sh*t.

This bathing suit photo was carefully selected so that people would actually read this essay and retain its information. If you feel the need to criticize my appearance please feel free, you’re only contributing to the algorithmic success of my work.

I can’t anymore. This is the day I break. Here you go world, here’s 38 years of shame, rage, and exhaustion dragon-breathing onto a digital page because of my unfathomably unpronounceable name. I woke up and chose phonetics and heaven help you all. Today I stop feeling bad about myself and start acknowledging that maybe all of you are the idiots instead and it feels good, it feels good to hit bottom. Do you know how to say it? Give it a try, maybe in your head. I bet you’re wrong. I’d bet quite a lot of my money you’re wrong.

I’m fresh out of smiles and reassuring arm pats. I can no longer shrug my way through “that’s okay, everyone mispronounces it!” to absolve someone else of their mistakes. I can’t put myself and my dignity lower on the life ladder than those who can’t listen, read, or repeat. I’ve born this burden since I learned how to say my name as a toddler and if she can do it, by god so can you.

At Starbucks, I’m Rebecca. That’s how tired I am of the cute little game of telephone that happens between me ordering and someone plunking a cup down on a counter with Shannon or Sheena written on the side—and the name they call out will be Christ knows what else. My mother gets very upset when I Rebecca in her presence. In her head, my name is easy, even effortless. If she could have crowdsourced even a little bit of data, she would have had some idea of how hard it was going to be to move through life with a name no one can say even when it’s said directly to their face first. I absolutely insist that my friends conduct the Starbucks Test before naming their children anything other than Steven or Molly. You need to know what you’re signing someone up for a lifetime of before you fill out a birth certificate. Oh, you love your baby? Prove it, bitch—order a latte. This isn’t some cute little “k” taking the place of the “c” in Marc. This is almost four decades of no one knowing who the fuck I am.

High school, college, and law school graduation. All three gave a diploma to Shawnee Keisler and that isn’t even remotely my name. Oh right, I forgot to tell you, I was so tired of people mispronouncing both my first AND last names that I adopted a new surname in rebellion. Silver is my grandmother’s maiden name and I’m quite confident in our society’s…

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