Blog / 2020 / My Name Is...

October 21, 2020

At a campaign event on October 16th in Georgia, Senator David Perdue spoke about his colleague Kamala Harris, saying “Ka-MAL-a, Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I don’t know, whatever,” purposefully dispronouncing her name.

That’s no typo: DISPRONOUNCING is what I meant to say, not mispronouncing. It’s a distinction I learned from reading this excellent article by Anand Giridharadas, a thinker whose work I talked about last winter as part of the public reading list I kept for a while.

“Mispronunciation is a matter of limited tongues. Dispronunciation is a matter of limited hearts.”

- Anand Giridharadas

Perdue’s harmful behavior, Giridharadas’ poignant response, and the many participants in #MyNameIs on Twitter are all a big part of why I turned my animal alphabet book, Baby Sees ABCs, into a word search that includes 676 first names.

I’ve done the market research. I know the demographics of my audience: the majority are white and English is their first language—ditto their kids. With this in mind, I decided to include as many non-Anglo names as possible in the book.

My hope is that the children who grow up with Baby Sees ABCs will be less likely to pull a Perdue, because they’ll have encountered a delicious variety of names before they even finish kindergarten.

making of a yabby painting

Side note: this whole situation scratches my irony itch in a pleasing way as a French-American. “Perdue” is the French word for “lost” and, after sharing a clip of Perdue’s dispronunciation, his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff received millions in donations. Fingers crossed that we actually live in a Dickens novel, and not only is Perdue as lost as his name implies, but also Joe “Bye Don” was born to kick 45 out of the White House.

Australian blue crayfish, cherax destructor, wildlife art
Gwenn Seemel
Y Is for Yabby
2020
acrylic on panel
14 x 14 inches

The first names embedded in this image are Yadira, Yago, Yana, Yanet, Yann, Yao, Yara, Yarrow, Yaxkin, Yazmany, Yedidah, Yéred, Yessenia, Yibanathi, Yinka, Yoana, Yolanda, Youngman, Youssef, Yseult, Yukichi, Yun, Yunuen, Yuteki, Yvette, and Yvon.

The original yabby painting is for sale for $1500 plus shipping—see all currently available artworks. If you want prints or other pretty items with this image, check out my Redbubble shop.


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