H is for Hard

Heather is a small shrub that originates from the Scottish highlands or “heathland”. It produces small purple flowers. It is quite hearty and quite lovely. My parents gave me this name, I believe, because of my Scottish heritage and perhaps, because they wanted me to grow into a hearty, lovely person. I like my name. I have always liked my name. But it is a difficult name.

From people whose most familiar language is not English I receive general confusion when introducing myself.

In Tanzania:

Me: Habari. Jina langu ni Heather (Hello, my name is Heather)

Tanzanian: ????

Me (slower): Heather

Tanzanian: Esther?

Me (emphasizing the H): No, Heather

Tanzanian: Ahh, Esther.

In Korea:

Me: Anyeonghaseyo. Nae irumi Heather imnida. (Hello, my name is Heather)

Korean: ????

Me (slower): Heather

Korean: Heda?

Me (emphasizing the th): No, Heather

Korean: Ahh, Heda.

In South Sudan:

Me: Cheebak, en achol Heather.

Sudanese: ????

Me (slower): Heather

Sudanese: Either/Either? (both pronunciations of this word are confused for my name)

Me (emphasizing the H and e): No, Heather

Sudanese: Ahh, Either.

At this point in the introduction I usually decide the person can call me anything he/she would like. It is simply easier that way. However, if the person does know some English I have a trick up my sleeve to help teach them my name.

Last year while travelling in Kenya I was going through the standard introduction fiasco with a Kenyan we were staying with. Most introductions with Kenyans are very similar to the above Tanzanian introduction. But this time it went differently:

Me: Hello, my name is Heather

Kenyan: ????

Me (slower): Heather

Kenyan: Esther?

Me (emphasizing the H): No, Heather

Kenyan: Oh, like feather but with an H?

Me: Yes, yes! Change the F into an H and that is me!

Since that time I have used the Feather to Heather method of teaching people my name with an almost 100% success rate (at least here in East Africa). Thanks Kenyan man!

Now that we have solved the problem of my given name let’s talk about my family name.

Peters. This is a good Germanic name. Perhaps it comes from Peterson. That seems like it would make sense. A son of Peter.

And so, as you know, the name Peter is a very common given/first name in many places.

Here lies the additional confusion with my name – What is my first name? Am I a male or female?

There have been a number of times that, before someone has met me, they think I am a man – Peter Heather or perhaps, Peter Heathers since there seems to be an s in there somewhere.

I haven’t figured out what to do with this situation yet except laugh and explain my name one more time.

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