Time to check your Global Mindset: A rose is a rose is a rosé?

by Vincent L. Cyboran, Ed.D.

Back in the day, a receptionist handed me an old-timey, pink ‘missed-call note’ addressed to a “Vic Clybourn.” Pretty funny. Pretty harmless. Clearly, a message from someone who did not know me well, and possibly, had questionable work habits. As someone whose last name is almost always mispronounced and often misspelled, I am particularly sensitive to the importance of one’s name to oneself.

Suppose you attended a presentation on instructional design and saw a reference to a “Gagne” on a slide. The presenter pronounces the name of the late, learning theorist correctly; the second syllable sounds like “yay” in English. You quickly note that the actual spelling is “Gagné.” Innocent mistake? Perhaps. But what if you saw the same error on a syllabus? Or a session description? In an online class I taught a few years ago, I read countless e-mails from students referring to their classmate “Fraser” as “Frasier.” I don’t know how he felt, but I felt bad for him, and gently reminded students of the proper spelling of his name.


Nowadays, we hear much about becoming global citizens. More importantly, a foundational competency of the ATD Competency Model is “Global Mindset.” Among the descriptors for this competency are the following:

  • Accommodate cultural differences
  • Expand own awareness

Competencies are not binary; they exist on a scale. For example, we might rank ourselves as being ‘Poor’ or ‘Acceptable’ on a given competency. But if we are working towards achieving a competency, our everyday behaviors count as evidence. How does the failure to add the proper accent above the ‘e’ in Gagné’s name speak to achieving the competency Global Mindset? Or even to being a professional?

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet speaks the line: “…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In her poem Sacred Emily, Gertrude Stein wrote: “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” often abbreviated as simply “a rose is a rose is a rose.”  I will end by noting that: “A Gagné is a Gagné is NOT a Gagne.”

In my online courses, I often use a product called “flipgrid.” Students introduce themselves via video. They state their first and last names and also tell us how they would like to be addressed. In that way, we all hear each other’s names, and we learn of any nicknames.

What recommendations do you have to help us become better at addressing the names of people and places that are unfamiliar to us?



  • I for one cringed as I think back on the number of times I left the accent mark out of names. Thanks for keeping us to a higher standard. For the record, in Google, I’m not sure how to make the accent mark.

  • Hello Bob, How you do accent marks depends on the device and operating system you are using. For example, under Windows–and if you have a numeric keypad– you can produce the é by holding down the Alt key and then typing the numbers ‘130’ on the numeric keypad. Within Word, you do an ‘Insert special characters’ and then choose the character set you need. But, if you are using an iPad or iPhone, you just hold your finger/thumb of the letter you want, and then choose from the display. It all depends!

  • As a ‘Kirsten’, pronounced ‘Keersten’, I am no stranger to misspellings and mispronunciations throughout school and in my career particularly as I work more and more internationally. What is interesting, is the flip side of this perspective. I try to make myself more culturally aware by not focusing on the mispronunciation as I don’t want to make my acquaintance uncomfortable or make them feel that their English isn’t as good as it should be. In some cultures, the ‘ee’ sound isn’t natural, so I try to be understanding when my name comes out more like ‘Kursten’. I try to focus on the context of the conversation because it isn’t that my acquaintance is trying to be rude or ignorant, it is outside of their comfort zone. I want to put people at ease and not be afraid that they will mispronounce my name. Because really, is name anymore than just a name?

  • Living in a country other than one of my origin, I know too well about names being misspelled and pronounced not the way they are intended. I am actually very particular about spelling – when one produces written output they should check it for common mistakes. But pronunciation is a different story. I have myself fallen into the trap of pronouncing someone’s name the way it sounds to my trained linguist eye/ear, i.e. in traditional French/German/Armenian etc. pronunciation if it is of French/German/Armenian etc. origin. Boy was I wrong too many times! Those names sounded nothing like what they would have in the language they were spelled in, as pronunciation has been americanized quite considerably. So now I always ask “How do you pronounce your name?” before I make an attempt in butchering it. I know how it feels to be on the other end of it. My first name is pretty simple, but even it was not spared some modifications. One classmate insistently called me “Volga” for a whole semester. While I have nothing against the mighty Russian river called Volga, it is not my name 🙂 On this note, my husband and I had a fun experience selecting a name for our son. We really wanted it to be bulletproof when it comes to all sorts of mistakes in a set of languages our son is exposed to, so we basically named him by going through a process of elimination!

  • Vince,

    The reason I ALWAYS tell someone my name and make sure I say it’s Marci with an I because for years I dealt with the mispronunciation of my government name Marcella. So I do understand, and a Marcie is Marcia is not a Marci.

    I loved this.


  • I certainly think we are all guilty of this one! Rather mispronunciation or omitting an accent mark I am always apologetic. One thing I am certain not to do is shorten a person’s name without their permission or initial mention. I find the act of changing a person’s name more disrespectful than repeated pronunciation.

  • In the courses I have taken so far in this program, many of the students with names that may be harder to pronounce have always added a nickname to their introductory forum posting. I’ve always wondered, are they doing it to ease the anxiousness of the other students that may have trouble pronouncing their name or are they doing it more for themselves, to avoid uneasiness and conflict. For me, it was always to avoid conflict. I have had the same issue with my name as well! Alyssa is very popular now, but in the early 1990’s, I found myself constantly correcting others. My favorite lines was always, “pronounced like the girl from Who’s the Boss (Alyssa Milano). That made it click for people!

    I think for that reason, I have always been interested in learning how to properly pronounce someone’s name. I’ve found it harder in an online format, so I’m very interested in the flipgrid and using video to help break down that barrier. I hope that instructors in future classes will utilize similar formats!

  • I think it is always better to ask. If you try and mess up, be gracious and remember the correction for next time. As a person who frequently has her name mispronounced, Shanae, I appreciate both of these efforts. It is important to remember the correct pronunciation, however. Being continually corrected will make it look as though you really don’t care.

  • This is an interesting topic and I definitely think it holds a lot of weight in professional, societal, and educational spaces. One’s name (preferred or legal) and the correct pronunciation of it is something I value. Aside from the basic principle of respect, taking the time to learn the name of peers can correlate with one’s worthiness. Why should I learn the correct way to say their name? Does it matter in this context if I get it right? Do they care? These are question we should avoid asking ourselves because we then place a low sense of worth on another. This can then translate into the way one is treated or recognized in other areas of life. It boils down to being mindful of those we engage with, and working to offer the highest amount of respect possible. This simply begins with accurate acknowledgement of who they identify as, which ultimately begins with correct statement of our name.

  • This is a very interesting topic. As a parent, I decided to get fancy with my daughter’s name. Her name is Nycole. 99% of the population spell this name with an I instead of a Y. Growing up my daughter was so irritated that all souvenirs had the I instead of the Y at that point I started to feel bad that I made this decision. People continue to pronounce her name incorrectly to the point where she just started to tell people to call her Nikki (this spelling can get crazy too). To sum things up if we ask people what do they prefer to be called, or confirm the pronunciation when they are in doubt. I think that we all can get along fine. Interesting blog thanks

  • There is so much about this post that I enjoy, specifically your reference to Gagné, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Gertrude Stein! You connected each reference wonderfully, including a comedic tone! Also, the most important element of your post, in my opinion is when you remind us of ATD’s Global Mindset descriptors to: Accommodate Cultural Differences; and Expand our own awareness. A former multi-racial partner of mine (Ethiopian and African American) commonly introduced herself as A.J. In getting to know her, I discovered that she actually really loved her full name (Asantewaa) and being addressed by her full name, but that she chose to go by A.J. to make it easier for others (similar to the stories of others commenting on this post). Though this was a generous act on her part towards others, it did not sit well with me. From that point forward, I learned her name and addressed her as, Asantewaa. I introduced her as Asantewaa, and helped others to learn her full name, because in my opinion, embracing diversity and connecting with her in a meaningful way included learning and addressing her by her beautiful full name of, Asantewaa. With that said, I find the topic of cultural differences and self-awareness extremely important and relevant in the world today. I like the idea of directly asking people how to pronounce their name (and how to spell their name). If they share a nickname and would personally prefer to be addressed by their nickname I would gladly accommodate their request. Using the video post is also a good idea! This seems to also be very personable!

  • Interesting post! Global culture awareness is important to create an inclusive environment. As well as what is mentioned in the article of professionalism. It is imperative to be mindful of pronouncing names correctly or asking someone how to pronounce it if unsure. I like the idea of the video introductions for online classes. How we practice our mindfulness in the school setting will translate to our actions in work and life in general.

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