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?

  • 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 '14 at 14:55
  • 10
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about general etiquette – Nate Eldredge Jul 28 '14 at 15:33
  • 4
    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 '14 at 19:16
  • 3
    It's fun to watch students try to pronounce your foreign name, all the time with a poker face. – RoboKaren Jul 29 '14 at 11:24
  • 3
    But don't call his last name if it is "Voldemort." – Penguin_Knight Jul 29 '14 at 15:08

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?

  • 8
    ... and by the way, what would you like me to call you. – StrongBad Jul 28 '14 at 16:43
  • 3
    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 '14 at 17:32
  • 7
    I disagree. The correct way to say my name is the way I choose. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 28 '14 at 19:37
  • 4
    @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 '14 at 20:00
  • 2
    @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 '14 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.

  • 12
    anything to avoid actual communication. – Spork Jul 29 '14 at 9:27
  • 7
    goes up to Professor Hughes "So I pronounce your name .... 'Hello'.."? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 29 '14 at 10:48
  • 2
    @Spork just a day in the life of a CS undergrad (and even grad, I heard) student. – Ryan Jul 29 '14 at 14:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.