Making Fun of Someone’s Name?

I was listening to comedy radio, and Birbiglia was talking about how a new student at his school was named Dong Suk. The student tried to call himself Fernando after people started making fun of him. “But with a name like that, ain’t nobody calling you Fernando.”

Did people make fun of your name when you were wee? If this student later went into the workplace, are there any legal protections against mocking an unusual name?

I didn’t need any legal protections, because by the time I was in the workforce, I was surrounded by adults.

It was only in grade school, and really only because of this one kid Alfie (who not only mocked my name, but then named his hat after me… who does that?)

Mildly. My last name rhymes with an easy to mock country. Suppose my name was Jngl Wisteria. The rhyme with Nigeria is simply too much for an older seventh grader to ignore. Then, imagine they become clever enough to match Wisteria with Madonna’s lyric ‘A material… A material…’ lyric. ‘I’m Wisteria … I’m Wisteria …’ It wasn’t anything I couldn’t shake off and it really wasn’t too cruel and I could dish it as well as I took it. Kind of funny in hindsight.

I’m a lot more salty about being made fun of for my cool British Knight shoes.

I suspect a lot of us did it when we we youngsters, including me. But by age 18 I was beyond it. Nowadays, I bristle when I hear someone deliberately mispronounce a name. The height of disrespect.

I went through a very weird spell in middle school where my first and last name were morphed into a diminutive that carried undesirable connotations. When it morphed further still into what turned out to be an outright racist epithet (and not even my race) my classmates, for a wonder, seemed to have realized there was no good end to the whole thing and for the rest of my school years people only ever called me my given name. Very strange, but ultimately no harm done in the end, I guess.

Can you hear the drums Dong Suk?
I remember long ago another starry night like this.
In the firelight Dong Suk…

Fernando wasn’t exactly a great replacement name.

As a child occasionally other kids would make fun of my name. Bad things would mysteriously happen to those kids.

When I was a kid, yes; as others have noted, kids are unoriginal, and make fun of just about anything. My last name is very close in spelling to a type of plant, and so, I frequently got called that.

Making fun of anyone is pretty childish, IMO, and making fun of something over which they have no control (like their name) is even more childish.

My experience had similarities. I didn’t face ongoing mocking, but once when I was in 8th grade a classmate came up with a rather inspired little poem, rhyming my last name with one of my more annoying traits and furthering the doggerel by rhyming with a mild punishment he wanted to inflict in response.

I thought it was very witty, and I erupted in appreciative laughter when the poem was recited to me. I don’t know whether my taunter was disappointed by my reaction, but in any case, that was the end of it.

Buddy Buttswana, that you? You moved away in second grade and I never got to apologize…

In my case, luckily, my name was mocked to the tune of a TV show… which got cancelled, and everyone forgot about the theme song.

My first name is widely considered to be a “girls” name. I still use it as an initial (think J Edgar Hoover).

In my 50’s working for global 50 companies, I’ve still had otherwise respectable managers make fun of my name. I’m not a school kid that would fight anymore, but jesus h christ do you really feel the need to belittle and make fun of my birth name? And whilst I handle it better, I am sorely tempted each time this happens to just smack that pissant upside the head.

Not my name. There were too many other things about me to make fun of.

Sort of. They lengthened it and mangled it into Margarita then sang Margaritaville at me and laughed when I pointed out that wasn’t my name.

I was very often called by my full name, Rivkah Chaya. The “Ch” is a glottal fricative, a sound that does not exist in English, and the closest sound English has is a simple H, so most people, when they are speaking English, just say “Haya.” It sounds like “Hi, ya!”

So, when I first started going to public school, and the other kids found out how my name was spelled, they started calling me “CH aya,” with the “Ch” like the ch in “church.” Everyone thought it would drive me to tears, but it was an honest mistake people made so often, that most of the time, I didn’t even correct people. Getting into an explanation of glottal fricatives was not a fun way to spend time.

Anyway, when being called “CH-aya” didn’t bother me, they started saying “Hi, ya! Chaya!” saying my name without a “ch” or a glottal fricative, just a regular H.

That didn’t bother me either. It bothered one of my teachers, though, who used to shut it down. Really, I didn’t care. There are so many worse things you can say to a Jewish kid besides making fun of her name.

By the end of my first year in public school, kids had given up trying to make fun of my name.

My mother had a cousin who was married to a man who loved to make fun of my sister and I, mostly through our names. Our names were not unusual, but he delighted in warping them into uncomplimentary designations. In my case, I was called by the mispronunciation of a cartoon character’s name–great yuks on Saturday morning TV, but very hurtful to me when Cousin Asshole called me by that name.

My sister and I complained to our mother, but were told that Cousin Asshole was an adult, and that we had to respect him (this was the 1960s, when kids had to automatically respect adults), and that we kids just had to deal with the name-calling. Sticks and stones, and all that.

Cousin Asshole is now quite elderly, in his 90s, and suffering from Alzheimer’s. If you ask him what his favourite colour is, he’ll likely answer, “Thursday.” His kids are quite concerned, but I don’t give a damn. He made fun of my name for so many years, that I cannot find an ounce of pity for him.

My surname was used for a very well-known cartoon family. It isn’t Flintstone, but in the same ballpark. You can’t imagine how much amusement that brings to tiny minds.

It wasn’t funny the first time, it’s not funny the millionth time. It was never funny.

My wife and I, as children, were both called by the similar names of vegetables, and now often call each other be those names. It is human nature to notice coincidental similarities in unrelated things.

I’m sure that there is not a single baseball fan whose face did not register some reaction the first time they saw BASTARDO or ODOR on the back of a uniform.

I got it with both barrels. My first name is the same as a popular sitcom character, and my last name is the same as a well known food brand heavily advertised on TV. It stung when I was little, but got boring the older I got.

Yes. My name rhymes with an offensive word, so they were often paired or substituted. Not fun.

If it happens once or twice, probably not. But if it’s ongoing, it might rise to the level of harassment, for which there is legal recourse:

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.

A guy named Dong probably has southeast Asian heritage, so ongoing mockery of his name could be regarded as unwelcome conduct based on national origin.

They did not mock my name all the time because I had many other mock-worthy attributes, but the little bastards did not forget to mock my name whenever they could. I have thick skin so it did not bother me much but still.