Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Post from HAHL iss BREAD away

Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, took Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to task this week in his blog for pronouncing her name as if it had Spanish origins:

So, are we supposed to use the Spanish pronunciation, so-toe-my-OR, or the natural English pronunciation, SO-tuh-my-er, like Niedermeyer? of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options -- the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

It is so hard not typing [sic] into that quotation multiple times, following such references as natural English, countrymen, and we adapt to him. Instead, I'll just type Mark Krikorian [sick] [sic]. Blissfully, I had never heard of this guy before. I'd be happy if he crawled back under his stone. And by the way, people who critique the way immigrants pronounce their names are famous for ignoring what church they attend and what they eat for lunch [sic].

Most of you know that my full name is John Hollis Bredeweg. Many of you know that I was, and still am, called Holly by my parents, family members and some friends. Here's the story: I was the fourth son born to my parents, following my three older brothers, Bill, Dick and Tom. (People often said, "Not Tom, Dick, and Harry" Of course, Harry was my dad's name.)

My parents hoped to have a daughter after the three boys, and planned to name her Holly. They so liked the sound of it that they named me John Hollis and called me Holly anyway. As an aside, I recently learned that I have several ancestors with the initials JHB who were called by their middle name. My parents may have known that, too, though I don't remember them having ever told me.

Early in life I became accustomed to the constant taunts, Holly is a girl's name!, but was still unprepared for Mrs. Campbell, my sixth grade math and homeroom teacher. Though I told her my name was Holly, she refused to call me anything other than John. There were many times when I distinctly heard her calling on John, without response. As her tone grew louder and more insistent, I would think that John was going to be in real trouble for not paying attention. Then would come the moment of utter humiliation when I realized that I was John, and that she was addressing me.

Mrs. Campbell (pronounced camel, by the way, not camp' bell) refused to adapt to me. Not knowing Mark Krikorian at the time, and thus unaware that conformity to my teacher's whim was appropriate, I pretty much resented her and had a miserable year. Given my experience, I am deeply moved by the stories told by the children of First Nations peoples who were removed to "schools" where they could be reeducated as English speaking Christians. My God, what humiliation, pain, and anger they must have felt. And what a richness our nation lost in failure to appreciate the depth of the cultures they embodied.

Look, I'm from Indiana, so I know xenophobia. I also know that it's probably a lost cause to argue the merits of multiculturalism with those who equate an excursion to the Taco Bell drive-up window with having an exotic palate. So let's try it differently: How does it feel to have some mispronounce your name...again and again...intentionally? Doesn't feel good? Want to make something of it, spic, kike, nigger, jap, frog, fag, jew, honky, ho', kraut, squaw, slope....? (Sorry, I was practicing my natural English pronunciations.)

Oh, and welcome to Mark Krikorian's America.

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