I’ve been meaning to follow-up on why I named my blog “VillyPoo“, so here’s my story:
As a Laotian kid, having a first and last name, totaling up to 21 characters can be quite intimidating (Nee: Vilaylack Phoummithone) – yes give it a try! I remember in kindergarten, crying in front of the librarian when she asked me to spell my name. What happened after that? Not quite sure, but let’s just say, I mastered the spelling of my name and so did the rest of my 5th grade class – topping off “Defrancisco” as another hard name to spell!
I also vividly recall on the last day of school for my 6th grade graduation ceremony, sitting with the rest of my classmates and the agenda in my hand, waiting to be called on stage. My heart started pounding and my anxiety started to escalate, not because I was scared, but I knew they were going to butcher my name. And yet it happened. Mr. Carter (my favorite PE teacher) called my name…’V-lay-luck Fu-me-tone.’ Ugh…I cringe every time someone calls me that. But, I got up, swallowed my pride, and walked up to the podium to receive my certificate. I also, whispered to Mr. Carter…by the way, it’s “V-ly-luck Poo-me-thon”. He smiled, spoke on the microphone and apologized and restated my name to the entire audience. Not to bash on Mr. Carter, but he and the rest of my classmates knew me as “Villy.”
So why does this matter? Your name is your identity. It’s not just about pronouncing it wrong, it’s also about acknowledging that you care about the person, enough to remember and learn their name. An example would be my husband, Scott, a third generation Italian American. Apparently, he looks like a “Steve”. So, if you think it’s just an ‘Asian’ or international thing, no it’s not. Go ahead and google ‘starbucks + names + wrong‘. It’s been a fun game for people to post on their social pages to see what and how the barista will spell your name. My Starbucks name is either “Billy, Billie, Lilly or Villie.” I tend to give extra tips for any barista that correctly spell my nickname.
At this point in my life, I think it’s hilarious and quite ignorant for people to assume that they can pronounce my name correctly, yet alone my nickname. But it’s also amazing to see those, who ask first, and truly care to learn to pronounce your name – to me, that’ll earn you some brownie points. And if I like you enough, I’ll put you in my inner circle (Jack talk Thai, and yes Villy does too!).
Circling back to Chrissy, who is half Thai and Norwegian descent, can probably tell you a similar story. She got tired of people pronouncing her Norwegian last name incorrectly that she finally corrected everyone on the Live Kelly and Ryan show – it’s “Tie-gen.”
“It’s been 25 years and I am tired of correcting people…. you can call me anything and I will respond to you.” ~Chrissy Teigen
I feel you Chrissy – I too, am tired of correcting people. I also tell people, they can call me whatever, just as long as they call me – to my barista: I just want my venti caramel macchiato.
Another fun and inappropriate way to clearly show your ignorance is to call out a celebrity and then not actually know their name. Here’s my experience below.
When we first moved into our neighborhood, my family and I were invited to the country club for a welcome dinner. Sitting a few tables away from us were a three couples enjoying their dinner and hysterically laughing as their kids went roaming in and out of the restaurant into a room full of kids. I can see this one woman, eyeing me the entire night. Finally, after we’ve had our dinner, she and her friend approached me and introduced themselves. The first thing that she said to me was, “you’re so pretty, you look like John Legend’s wife.” And then she started talking about what a wonderful life it is to be part of the country club.
I thanked her, but then I completely zoned out because I wasn’t sure if I should have been offended base on her compliment:
- Is it because I’m Asian and you think we all look alike? Hell – Chrissy’s hot, so I don’t really mind that.
- but I think I was more upset that the woman referenced Chrissy but didn’t know her name. Literally my mind was blown for a sec – for haven sake, Chrissy is a supermodel, a talk show co-host and a freaking entrepreneur.
Yet, this apparently nice lady has broken Chrissy down to ‘someone’s wife.’ I don’t consider myself as a feminist, but jeez, if you are going to reference someone, especially another brilliant woman these days, try remembering her name.
We decided not to join the Country Club, instead choose to spend our hard earned money on a lake house instead.
So, to wrap up my rant, if you are wondering why in the hell am I using “VillyPoo” as my blog name? It’s an homage to my former self, just a grown-up version. I am proud of my name and I am proud of my identity.
AKA. Vilaylack Phoummithone
Pronounced: “V-ly-luck Poo-me-thon”