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I am an undergraduate working with an advisor, but I do not know how to pronounce his/her last name. I have talked with several different people who work in the department, and have heard the name pronounced several different ways.

Is there a polite way of asking an advisor how to pronounce his/her last name?

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19  
Just ask, same as with anyone else. I don't think this is specific to academia, hence my down-vote. –  Cape Code Jul 28 at 14:55
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about general etiquette –  Nate Eldredge Jul 28 at 15:33
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You're almost there! A cut and paste from your question with edited pronouns seems fine to me: "I do not know how to pronounce your last name. I have talked with several different people who work in our department, and have heard your name pronounced several different ways." –  Michael J Swart Jul 28 at 19:16
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It's fun to watch students try to pronounce your foreign name, all the time with a poker face. –  RoboKaren Jul 29 at 11:24
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But don't call his last name if it is "Voldemort." –  Penguin_Knight Jul 29 at 15:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 38 down vote accepted

By the way, I have heard your last name pronounced a few different ways and I want to make sure I get it right. Can you teach me the correct way to pronounce it?

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8  
... and by the way, what would you like me to call you. –  StrongBad Jul 28 at 16:43
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I'm fairly routinely asked questions of this kind. Although I understand why they ask, I disagree with the premise. If I were asked this, I would ask back "What do you mean by "correct way"?" A better way to ask would be "How do you pronounce your name?" or "What would you like me to call you?" (as StrongBad said). –  Sverre Jul 28 at 17:32
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I disagree. The correct way to say my name is the way I choose. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 28 at 19:37
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@LightnessRacesinOrbit Nice principle, but not always possible. Sometimes the problem is that it is extremely hard to pronounce the name correctly. For example, I live in Germany but I am Dutch and my last name contains a sound that just does not exist in German. I am not offended when people ask, and I will explain them how to do so, but at same time I will tell them not to worry about it and that I will listen to anything that is close enough. –  Maarten Buis Jul 28 at 20:00
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@OllieFord: Haha :P I always give the Starbucks cashiers random names. One week I'm Peter, the next I'm Javier.. it's very amusing. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 29 at 10:45

I agree with the direct approach in the other answer, but if you'd like an indirect approach (that can be done before a first meeting), try calling the professor's office phone number when you know he or she is not there and listening to how the name is pronounced on voice mail.

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12  
anything to avoid actual communication. –  Spork Jul 29 at 9:27
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goes up to Professor Hughes "So I pronounce your name .... 'Hello'.."? –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 29 at 10:48
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@Spork just a day in the life of a CS undergrad (and even grad, I heard) student. –  Ryan Jul 29 at 14:37

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