And we are back with pronouncing my name wrong edition 2. It has been three years since I wrote the post “Pronounce this African Girl’s Name Right.” Yeah, three years. There has been a lot of changes since I wrote that post. In 2016 and 2017, I went by Diaka (Dee-ah-kuh). It was a struggle getting people to pronounce it right. It got to the point where I started to hate the name Diaka.
Can I be honest with you? Diaka is not my real name. The pronunciation of Diaka was given to me by my third grade teacher, Mrs. M. I was back in the United States after being in Senegal for three years. I didn’t speak English and it was difficult to understand what anyone was saying. I remember Mrs. M was doing attendance, she was at my name and directly looked at me. Before I continue, my name is spelled as Diaka on my documents but it is really Diakha (I know confusing right? Keep reading). So when Mrs. M called my name, she pronounced it as Dee-ah-kuh. As I said before, I did not speak English but because she was looking at me directly, I nodded my head. From that day on, Diaka was born.
My real name is Diakha (Ja-ha). My parents and relatives call me Diakha. It’s like I have two different lives. When I step out of the house, I am immediately Diaka. Yet, when I am at home, I am Diakha. How did I do it? I got used to it. What I didn’t get used to though was constantly telling people how to pronounce Diaka. It was starting to become exhausting. And, yes, I know it’s not people’s fault that they do not know how to pronounce it. It’s a name that is not common. I repeat, it is a name that is not common. A person would ask for my name and I would say Diaka automatically. They would then ask: “Wait, what was that?” and I would have to repeat it again.
OR I would be at the hospital. When a nurse comes out, I brace myself. I look at the nurse with intensity, just waiting to hear it. “Die-a-ka.”
There it was. I would cringe and then correct them. The process of correcting has been, I repeat, exhausting. So now, I have decided to go by Dee. Yes, just Dee. Whenever someone asks, “What’s your name?” guess what I say? Dee. I have accepted Dee to be the name. Now it feels weird when people call me Diaka. It feels foreign. I’m like who is that? I do not want to choose to identify as Diaka. Someone chose that identity for me, that pronunciation for me. But I’m not going to banish the name Diaka. It reminds me of when I came back to the United States at the age of 8, and my struggle in learning English. That reminder is kind of what pushes me to do better especially in my education.
Do I want to go by Diakha (Ja-ha), my real name? Yes, of course. Why do I not tell people my name is Diakha? In all honesty, I do not know. I think I have gotten so used to being called Diaka that if people who are not relatives call me by Diakha, I would be uncomfortable. So Dee works for me. It’s simple. I do appreciate those who learn how to pronounce Diaka. And, those who say it is a beautiful name. Eventually though, I might get to a point in my life where I just go by Diakha. But as of now, Dee is fine (unless you’re family).
Diakha. Diaka. Dee. One person. Three different names.