So an interesting thing happened not too long ago. When you’re an easily amused and paranoid hijabi with far too much free time and a much too loud platform, interesting things are not hard to come by. I can’t even begin to tell you how many interactions I’ve had on campus that will likely come out in my future books and therapy sessions, so you know that if I can remember them distinctly, they’re particularly special. This incident was indeed very special, but because I don’t think the subject would be comfortable sharing it, I’m going to change a few key details in order to protect his identity.
There I was, minding my own business, spouting off 10 stanzas for my Poetry 322 class in the courtyard of USM’s, um, armory, when a young man happened upon me.
Now, as a hijabi in the Bible Belt, I’m used to getting stares. I’m used to widened eyes and shocked faces. However, when someone gives me that shocked face, squints a little and then pedals by on his, um, horse, three times, I begin to grow a little concerned.
Still, I managed to keep my composure.
I continued typing as I ran his picture through my mental database.
I recalled seeing him before in the aforementioned armory, under similar circumstances. I’d decided at the time that he’d mistaken me for someone else, or that he’d never seen a hijabi before or that he was concerned my hijab might be too tight and could be cutting off the circulation to my brain – but here he was again. Staring.
And then, he spoke.
“Hiba? Are you Hiba?”
I looked up, pleasantly surprised and immediately deciding that if I didn’t like him, I would at least tolerate him. Because he’d said my name correctly. That’s literally it – that’s what made this incident so special. For the love of all that’s culturally and linguistically correct, learn to say a person’s name correctly before you use it.
I honestly think my parents did really well on the whole foreign-but-still-pronounceable front. I admit that my life could have been much, much harder, and I’m very thankful that it isn’t. But because most people still get it wrong, I’m going to help you. I’m going to do it in a way that makes sense to you.
For Music and Theater majors: It’s like Reba McEntire, but with an “H” and without the wisdom and country music and resplendence in cowboy boots.
For Science students: Ebola. Hebola. Take out the “ol.” (Or leave it in. I could use the street cred.)
For English and other language majors: Shakespeare preferred the pronoun “he.” I prefer the first syllable “he.”
For Business majors: If you listen to the horrible screeching noises of the Stock Market Exchange long enough, you can pretend you’re hearing all sorts of things. Let one of those things be the correct pronunciation of my name, please.