Americans pronounce Indian names better than Indians do. Or at least they do it more accurately. Yes, it’s true! I am not kidding!

The most ludicrous habit of many government officials in India is look at the first alphabet of your name, and then at the last, and fill up the rest themselves. Some of them even decide to correct the way it is spelled and then put in on record.
I have ended up being named (on official records) as Kokanad (most common error), Kokanand, Kokenad, Kokonath, Kokanath. Without the blink of one or more eyes.
On one hilarious occasion, my brother Sayontan was called Shaitan.
Prayatn became Prashant. Anushaily became Anshuly (Anshulee).

Correcting the mistake on an official record in India would be a big headache, but if I write about that it should be classified under the label *Sigh* in my blog. So I am not going into that now.

Americans do have a tough time understanding the complicated concoction of syllables in Indian names, but atleast end up reading it thoroughly and even pronouncing it right! And the icing of the cake lies in the fact that each and everyone asks if they pronounced it right. Your face invariably breaks into a smile. A lab mate once approached me with the name “Ramachandran” and asked if “Remakandran” (accented) is the right way to pronounce it, because she didn’t want to embarrass herself.

My friends and I had been witness to this incident…
A good friend of ours, ABCXYZ Singh, has had a crisis since she landed in the US, because she decided to dump her last name. Now here’s the catch – in the US, it’s extremely difficult to survive without a last name because every official record is on the basis of a last name. So they found a workaround and made her first name ABCXYZ as her last name and attributed “Unknown” as her first name. So her name, officially is, Unknown ABCXYZ. While we were getting issued our State ID cards, our first names were being called out. When it was her turn, there was a voice from a sweet old lady –
While we all giggled away, our friend walks up to the counter. The old lady is visibly embarrassed because she is sure that is not the right way to pronounce “Unknown”.
“Oh honey, did I get your name right?”

Just a note: For many who ask me this question, the meaning of Kokonad is “red lotus” in Sanskrit.

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Filed under Musings, My favorites, Noticed


26 Responses to “Whatsisname”
  1. shreybomb says:

    I totally agree with you on this one! In India my name was Seshree(kinda like Pastry) when it shud be Shreyasee(Sraoshi)…All my friends in US have mastered the actual pronunciation so that they dont offend us. But then again, they have also cut my name into Shreya! Aa the perks of bong names also ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Deepika says:

    (I think this is where we need to transfer this conversation to a private channel ๐Ÿ™‚
    Much as I want to, how exactlly do we do thattttt???? :):):)

  3. Dimple says:

    You wont believe it ..my name is an English word..still ppl make such mistakes..they pronounce my name as Dimpaal to Dimpleee to Dipaaliii…and half the times due to these mistakes i dont cum to know sumbody is calling out my name

  4. Kokonad says:

    @Shreyasee – You know, there’s a whole lot we Indians can learn from the Americans. Just take the best of the two worlds… and we have ourselves a nice place to live in! ๐Ÿ˜€ What’s your take on this?

    @Deepika – You could get in touch with me here – sinha[at]engr.psu.edu ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Dimple – ๐Ÿ™‚ You know, I have this habit of checking my email every morning before I get out of bed. This morning, “Dimpaal” got me laughing so hard, it was a great start to the day! Ah but I do pity you due to the Dipaali thing… Ow!

  5. Ankur says:

    thats surprising… i always thought whites cannot pronounce indian words

  6. Deepika says:

    good to know i can now get in touch with you!! thank you!!

  7. A.Vamsi Krishna says:


    I liked your post about Indian names being pronounced correctly by the Americans.

    Well I’m new to your blog. I’ll be coming to Penn State this fall for my MS in Aero.

    I would like to ask how is your name pronounced coz I haven’t come across it ever..

  8. Kokonad says:

    @Ankur – Like I said, incredible but true! Whatever happened to “Pegasus” btw?

    @Vamsi – Don’t worry about it. I have simpler nicknames ๐Ÿ™‚ And good luck for the preparations for your coming to the US!

  9. whodunit says:

    Lol dude..nice one………
    “Kokonad”……the name always makes me imagine a mallu trying to say “coconut”

  10. shreybomb says:

    Most definitely! But then who gets to decide what’s best of the two worlds? Sorry I replied so late by the way! Forgot to check a reply from you “P lol!

  11. Kokonad says:

    @whodunit: Thanks dude! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, I have heard that one before – in fact many pass me off as a mallu because they “decide” that my name is Kokonadh. *Sigh*.

    @shreybomb: That’s an individual thing, of course. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Dimple says:

    ya rt kokonath !!

  13. Kadambari says:

    Lol! This is such a nightmare! I’m sure Koko or cocoa would be a real cute, easy to pronounce nick for those firangs! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kadambariยดs latest blog post – What’s in a Name!

    • Kokonad says:

      Oh yeah, total nightmare! But they do end up pronouncing it better than the Indians because the latter see a couple of alphabets and fill in the blanks themselves! Heh heh…

  14. Roshmi says:

    Well, Kokonad is such a nice name. Enlighten folks about the meaning and the prononciation… tell them that a little exercise will not do any harm… and once in a while even the tongue needs to ‘exercise’ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Else tell them… that Lord Ram had used 108 of them to pray to Goddess Durga… to garner the blessings in order to destroy the Demon King Ravan… therefore the Kokonad was ‘responsible’ for the ‘triumph of good over evil’!!! Sounds ‘Kool’… na???

    Thankfully, not much ‘experimentation’ can be done with my name… usually it is Rashmi, Rosh… and there was this Vietnamese chap in my class who pronounced it as “Rose Me”… and then would mumble it some 40 or 50 times to himself… to ‘memorise’ it!!!

    Roshmiยดs latest blog post – "Swine Fluuuuu" and the grunt(side) stories!!!

  15. Roshmi says:

    I have done a bit with ‘names’ in my previous posts… here they are:

    This is from: “Between the ‘Eye’PL lines…!!!”

    While watching the matches I ‘realized’ the importance of our ‘names’… the very essence of our identity. There are players with names like: Wilkin ‘Mota’ and Salman ‘Butt’ (a Pak cricketer… who played in the IPL season 1 for KKR). Imagine going through the journey of life with names like that?!! Not funny! There is also a certain ‘Takawale’… but he does not ‘own’ the World Bank or any other bank for that matter. And an ‘Umar Gul’ – (Umar = age, Gul = lost… another Pak cricketer, who played in the IPL season 1 for KKR). Such a name (!)… despite the fact, that he was born on 15 October 1984 in Peshawar… !!! I also heard a certain ‘Gam beer’ being referred to by some ‘firang’ commentators… no, they were not speaking of beer or bear (those found in the jungles as well as in the stock markets)… but merely talking about our prolific run-scorer and current ‘wall in the making’… the ‘daring devil’, Gautam Gambhir.

    Roshmiยดs latest blog post – "Swine Fluuuuu" and the grunt(side) stories!!!

  16. Roshmi says:

    Here is a bit from: “Communication (s)kills!!!”

    I vividly remember one incident… this happened a few months ago… I was plonked on the sofa… in front of the television, watching an India-Australia cricket match. The match was nothing spectacular but the commentary surely was. Some chap – probably from our national network – was doing the honours, in our national language… hindi. The Aussie cricketer, Michael Clarke was in the crease and going all out against our hapless bowlers. The commentator came up with a gem of a line, “…Aur Michael Clarke, ‘clerk’ ki tarah nehi ‘malik’ ki tarah batting kar rahe hain”…!!! That translates to… Michael Clarke is batting like a ‘king’/’owner’/’leader’ and not like a ‘clerk’… !!! I nearly choked on my popcorn… !! Now, this Michael Clarke chappie also goes by the sobriquet: “Pup”. No, not ‘inspired’ by “Slumdog Millionaire”… he has been carrying this nickname for several years now. Ummm… perhaps taking the “Man’s best friend” tagline a tad too seriously… what say?!!

    The other day, I was watching one of the Aus-Pak cricket matches currently underway in Dubai. There were several references to ‘Ten Beer’, ‘Ten Bear’ and ‘Ten Veer’. I was bewildered!! Number one: A certain high flying, firangi pani guzzling, business magnate is in South Africa at the moment and not in Dubai. Number two: Bears are currently found @ stock markets, in profusion… though their population has dwindled in the forests… they have never been found on the cricket field! Number three: None of the cricketers were descendents of the great ‘Pandava’ Bhima, did not have anything to do with the ‘Pavan Putra’ Veer Hanuman, nor were any of them a part of the under production Salman Khan aka Sallu Mian starrer “Veer”… the frequently derailed Rawalpindi Express, Shoaib Akhtar notwithstanding! The mystery unraveled a while later and I discovered that it was none of the above three… but Pakistani cricketer, Sohail Tanvir… who was being referred to by some ‘firang’ commentators!! Tongue twisters of an exotic kind… na???

    I switched channels… to the IPL matches… ‘Chennai Super Kings’ vs ‘Kings XI Punjab’. Ahh! This should be entertaining and won’t require brainstorming… or so I thought. Umm… looks like I have been bitten by the ‘rhyming bug’ lately…! After watching for a while, I heard the word ‘High Den’ being spoken of several times. This set me thinking. The “King of the Jungle” is not known to be a cricket enthusiast or even a ‘cheerleader’. Then… ??? After a while, I cracked it… that was recently retired Aussie cricketer Matthew Hayden, who was being spoken of. Ummm… Hayden and the “King of the Jungle” (???)… a toothless one perhaps… one who is feeding on a lot of humble pie these days!!!

    Roshmiยดs latest blog post – "Swine Fluuuuu" and the grunt(side) stories!!!

  17. Kokonad says:

    Firstly, that poor Vietnamese chap… you should introduce names like Venkataraghavan and see his reaction!
    LOL @ ‘clerk ki tarah nahin, malik ki tarah’ ha ha ha! I remember having read somewhere that in Cricket, Venkataraghavan was referred to as ‘Rent-a-wagon’.
    It’s funny! They can say parallel but not Pyarelal.
    I love your comments – they spice up my posts in so many ways! Primarily, I love your play on words!

  18. Roshmi says:


    Well, you know even Indians can’t pronounce ‘Indian’ names… I had this Tamilian neighbour… Venkat. And most of my other neighbours (bengali) quite innocently called him: ‘Bang cut’… ‘bang’ as in frog….

    As for my Vietnamese classmate… his middle name was ‘Trung’… to be pronounced as ‘Chum’… our professors insisted on calling him ‘Trung’…. as in ‘telephone ki ghanti’… poor chap!!!

    • Kokonad says:

      East Asian characters freak me out! I once got my name written in Chinese, and the expressions for the two “Ko”s in my name were both different! I know another person whose name is Xuxu – both the “xu”s are pronounced differently! Heh heh, Bang cut is so typical bong! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. My name is Rajarshi, and am totally sick of everyone getting it wrong!!

    It really freaks me out when people write it down as “Rajashree” and then some smartass comments “Yeh toh ladki ka naam hai! ” To compound things, my surname is Roychowdhury, which often leads to comments like these:
    “Koi ek surname batao – Roy hai kii Choudhury hai?? ” or the classic blooper -“Mummy ka nahi, Papa ka surname batao !! ”

  20. Kokonad says:

    LOL at “Koi ek surname batao”! ๐Ÿ˜€
    I happened to know a Rajarshi once, and yes, he did have trouble with the first name too!

  21. G says:

    I can relate to what Rajarshi feels like.. Having a unisex name like Gunjan, had most of my swimming certificates saying “the award goes to Mr. Gunjan….. for Girls Under 13 BAckstroke… ”

    And hey the versions vary from Kunjan, Kunjal Gunja, Gunjal (I have been asked if this one is my surname)

    Gยดs latest post – When will I party-sharty yaar?

    • Kokonad says:

      Aaah! I pity you Gunjan! I have had friends both both genders with this name – and with Kaushal and Saumya as well. ๐Ÿ™‚ The bright part of all this is that they are excellent stories to tell!
      Mr. Gunjan for girls under 13 Backstroke? Sigh.
      ๐Ÿ™‚ Welcome to my blog!

  22. Indyeah says:

    The last incident is Hilarious ๐Ÿ˜†
    first the name and then the lady asking her if she was pronouncing it right? too much! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Your name is quite unique , have never heard it before ๐Ÿ™‚

    The most ludicrous habit of many government officials in India is look at the first alphabet of your name, and then at the last, and fill up the rest themselves. Some of them even decide to correct the way it is spelled and then put in on record.
    *sigh* yes, do put it under the label of sigh because I know just what you are talking about..

    btw do you know that most kids go through that phase where they dislike their names? They want to be part of the ‘group’ and not stand out..hence the dislike:)
    Later as kids grow up and start searching for individuality they start liking their ‘unique’ names:)

    My name has been butchered but mostly by non-Indians ๐Ÿ™‚ Indians pronounce it just fine:)
    I dont mind the butchering though coz I am tired of correcting them by now:)
    Indyeahยดs latest post – A wish and a prayer:)

  23. Kokonad says:

    I had that phase! I secretly have that phase even now ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s a gift and a curse to have a unique name – on one hand, if you do something good, people remember the bizarre name for years, and on the other hand, if you do something bad, people remember the bizarre name for years ๐Ÿ˜€

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