As the weather begins to change and red-orange leaves coat the sidewalks and driveways of Duke’s lovely campus, there is no shortage of transformations visible in the student body: haircuts, new sweaters, a renewed sense of disgust and hatred towards Perkins Library and the bus schedule. 

But there are lots of things that also stay the same like, to the dismay of some, their hard-to-pronounce names. 

Pratt junior Cem Kilic, who is originally from Istanbul, said, “When I order coffee or food or anything I usually just tell them my name is Jim, because otherwise they really don’t know what I’m saying.” 

In Turkish, the “c” in Cem’s name is pronounced like a “g,” so it should actually be pronounced Jem. But he explained that “People read it either Kem or Sem. And then when I correct them, they say Jim. So I stick with Jim. ” 

Cem is not the only member of the Turkish community struggling with such difficulties at Duke; Trinity sophomore Ceren Ebrem (pronounced Jeren) has issues with the exact same letter.

“I was born in the U.S. to Turkish parents, so you’d think they could have been more visionary and named me something adaptable,” she said. “But no. Meeting new people at parties or Devine’s is a nightmare.”

Ceren shared her introduction strategy, explaining that she usually breaks it down to people by saying that it’s “like Karen but with a J,” after which they usually respond “Karen with a…what?”—right after which, she gives up. 

Other Turkish Dukies have lost hope on a larger scale. Pratt junior Berke Ozdemir (pronounced Barrh-keh) said, “A while ago I read some article about how people tend to not fall in love with someone whose name they can’t pronounce. So I’ve given up finding someone at Duke.” 

After pausing to wipe a metaphorical tear from his eye, he softly remarked, “In ABP, they write 'Burt' on my sandwich...every time.” 

Hannah Godefa (pronounced Ha-nuh), a Trinity junior with Ethiopian origins, said that she has to correct people “every time [I introduce myself] unless the person is African. My name is also so common here [with an American pronunciation] that I feel like I don’t have the right to get mad.” 

Instead, Hannah said that she usually gives up when people fail at making the effort to understand how her name should be properly said, though she reserves a look of “half pity and love” for those who attempt to get it right and still fail miserably. 

Trinity junior Yemi Kolawole, whose full first name is Oyeyemi, has had traumatic experiences with her name since middle school. “In 8th grade my religion teacher called me Yummy the whole time I was at that school, even though my classmates called me by the right name. Yummy. What the f**k is Yummy?” 

Throughout all of high school she stuck to going by Yemi, but she recalled, “Every first day of class was rough because my full name would be on the roster and teachers would insist that they knew how to say Oyeyemi correctly instead of just calling me Yemi. And then they’d give me the ‘Oh what a beautiful name!’ bulls**t.” For her high school graduation, Yemi had to send in a phonetic pronunciation to the people who were going to read the names aloud.

And when she arrived at Duke, she changed her preferred name on DukeHub, so as not to have any more class roster dilemmas. 

Rosters and name-calling is also a problem for Pratt junior Haeryn Kim (pronounced Hay-rin), an international student from South Korea. “My math professor this semester asked me what my name was more than he asked any other student,” she said. 

“People have spelled it Herin, and a lot of times they say Hair-in. I get it. It’s fine,” she added before walking away angrily and kicking a pile of fall leaves. 

Anupriya Sivakumar (pronounced Ah-new-priya), another junior in Trinity, said that although her name wasn’t too difficult for people to pronounce correctly, it has been commonly misunderstood and abused throughout different stages of her life.

“In 6th grade, they used to call me Anup-dog. In 7th grade, it was literally just A New Prius, and in 8th grade, they discovered Onamonapia,” she remembered with tinge of annoyance in her monotone voice. 

And though these awfully stupid nicknames used to haunt her in her sleep, Anupriya has found a way to use them to her advantage: “During SLG rush at Duke I always used the A new prius thing to help them remember my name. Because otherwise they just don’t… remember...” 

She looked off into the distance longingly before adding, “I don’t even like Snoop Dog.” 

Zita Aretz, an exchange student from Germany who is only here for one semester, explained that her name should properly be pronounced Tsi-ta, but she knows that “Americans will always say Zita, so I don’t really try to correct anyone. I’ll be home soon anyways.”

Despite her optimistic attitude, Zita struggles very much with food orders, like the aforementioned students. She said, “On coffee cups they either write Cita or Sita. And the letter “z” is said differently in German, "zet" instead of "zee," so I never know how to explain it and I’m very confused all the time.” 

We’re confused all the time, too, Zita. All of us.

Daniela Flamini is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.