Your name. Your identity.

Annlone or Annlone [said Danishly]. Your name is an important part of recognising yourself. I’ve had some fascinating conversations around names – how you and others say your name – with people I’ve met recently. Thank you to all of these people who showed curiosity and wanted to be able to say it, the Danish way. And hearing your stories made me want to do this blog because I can hear it’s resonating.

If you’re based in another country, living away from where you grew up, you probably resonate with this. You were given a name, you heard your parents or the other big people call you that. And if you liked the name you had and those using it, it became a positive part of your identity. An important part of recognising yourself – differentiated from others.

Living surrounded by lots of different languages, even international names like Peter, Michael, Sarah and so on will be pronounced differently in German, French, Danish, English. Some take the consequence and change their name when settling into a new culture – Joan becoming Yoan, Pierre becoming Pete. Good on you. I went through 3 versions – because just Ann is not me, that’s someone else (or me ordering a pizza or coffee, where it doesn’t matter – it just needs to be easy). A lot of Asian friends have an English name as well as their birth name – I get why.

So, what’s my name journey? Annlone came from Ann Lone – double names were very common as I grew up nearly 5 decades ago. My dad wanted Lone and my mum Ann and in true diplomatic style, they created a new name from the combination. And even if it wasn’t a normal name, all Danish people knew that “Ann Lone” was my first name, the two go together, a combo.

That’s not the case when you go abroad. In England, I was Ann (or Ann Luna as named by my au pair mum), in France Ann or Ann Lone (with a heavy French accent). The real issue came when living in Australia. There are no name conventions here, very few traditional “British” names, every name is an exploration of culture and individuality. I journeyed from Ann Lone over Ann-Lone (no improvement) to Annlone – and adopted an Australian loooone.

But I’ve had enough. I’m ready to reclaim my original pronunciation.

Thank you again to all of these new people I have recently met, who showed curiosity and wanted to be able to say it, the Danish way. Thanks to the boss years ago, you know who you are, who repeatedly at European head office meetings worked on pronouncing my name with input from the Danish colleagues. All of you, I treasure your efforts, and I GET that some sounds from other languages simply don’t exist in yours – they are not available in your throat, tongue or mouth either. We could go language nerdy here with my Belgium friend who lived for so long in Thailand that his English got a Thai accent, his throat and palette setting had simply changed.

Anyway, back to the point about YOUR NAME. I’ve got an idea: what if it’s more the MELODY of your name you try replicating? The melody you heard when being called, knowing it was YOU. This can resonate with so many of you, even if you do not live abroad. It may be a slight variation of how you and others pronounce your name, and you accept it – but you also know, it’s not right. It’s not your exact fingerprint.

So, I’ll be Annlone (sung Danishly). If played on the piano, it’s like F-G-F with emphasis on the second beat. Here is a nerdy sidetrack for those of you interested in music: The Danish Public Rail (DSB) had their brand tune created to sound like D-Eb-Bb (in Danish these notes are pronounced like the three letters making up their brand). Decades later I still hear these three tones and immediately transport myself visually to magazine reading and snacking on a train trip to see friends or go places. The same with the sound of your name – when it’s pronounced “like home”. It’s a quick shortcut to feeling recognised.

It’s OK if you can’t get your head or tongue around it. But that’s not going to hold me back anymore from claiming the sound of my name. The familiar sound. My audible fingerprint. I can’t wait to hear your name stories – and the choices you have made! Either to make life easier for you and those you are in contact with every day or to reclaim and fight for your version of you. Tak, Thank you, Danke, Merci, Salamat….

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