Phonemic Name Tags

Published Nov 23, 2020

By some mysterious business process (probably some automatic identity sync), my work Slack bio keeps getting erased. It’s annoying because I never notice when it happens, but it’s interesting because it gives me a chance to re-consider how I’m presenting myself to my co-workers.

I started with just my team name, but I started adding my pronouns too, to help normalize the practice. Today, I decided I’d add another piece: a phonemic description of my name.

My name isn’t often mispronounced, so I’m not solving a problem for myself. But I’ve noticed that I need to use people’s names more in a remote-first world because I can’t use body language to indicate who I expect to respond to me. I’ve always made it a point to pronounce names correctly because I’ve seen the frustrations that my immigrant friends and family have when people would repeatedly mispronounce their “unusual” names.

So I think we should also normalize the practice of writing down name pronunciations. It’d be awesome if we could use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), but I don’t expect non-linguists to be able to use that effectively. (I know I can’t!) There are other ways of conveying pronunciation (see Pronunciation respelling for English or take a good look at your favorite dictionary), and I was willing to tolerate some Unicode characters in exchange for more accurate pronunciations.

I ended up using this for “Jeremy”: /dʒɛrɛmi/