What’s in a name?

A recent review paper, titled The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun, in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that people form more positive impressions of people whose names are easy to pronounce as compared to those with harder-to-pronounce names, and that people with easy-to-pronounce names may even have a career advantage as a result. This effect held even when controlling for name length, unusualness, typicality, foreignness, and orthographic regularity.

Of course, it doesn’t take a study (or 5, in this case) to show that it sucks to have a name that people can’t pronounce. It didn’t take me long to figure out that “Yuewei” elicited all kinds of face-contortion and confused mutterings from substitute teachers and secretaries alike. As a grade school student, I hated my name on two accounts: the first was that it placed me at the end of the alphabet and therefore last in line, and the second was that no one could say my name correctly. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few inventive attempts, the most ridiculous of which came from a gym teacher that called me something that sounded suspiciously like “Yahweh.” That’s why, in high school, I came up with the brilliant idea of adopting a nickname. Yui. It’s short and sweet… simple even. Or so I thought.

The 3rd year of medical school is all about rotating. With a new team every 1-4 weeks (not to mention new patients every day), I was introducing myself to new people almost as often as I was washing my hands (which, for a health care professional, is quite a bit). Maybe it’s because I speak too softly. Or I don’t enunciate enough. Maybe my meek “Hi, I’m Yui!” is too easily drowned out between the beeping IV infusers and the hallway chatter. But people have an odd habit of deciding that I need more consonants in my name (“Yulee,” “Yumi,” etc.)… or maybe that my name is just one syllable too long (“Yu”). All of this results, invariably, in my having to initiate the awkward “Um… actually, my name is Yui” conversation… and usually with someone who will be in charge of grading me.

It was quite the epiphany, actually, when I realized that my name was pronounced the same way as “u-ey” of “flipping a u-ey” fame. Now I’ve resorted to appending “…like when you flip a u-ey” or “…like when you make a U-turn” to every introduction. I wonder if this move has made me more likeable?