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, 2014 at 14:55
  • 10
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about general etiquette Jul 28, 2014 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." Jul 28, 2014 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, 2014 at 11:24
  • 3
    But don't call his last name if it is "Voldemort." Jul 29, 2014 at 15:08

2 Answers 2


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, 2014 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, 2014 at 17:32
  • 7
    I disagree. The correct way to say my name is the way I choose. Jul 28, 2014 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. Jul 28, 2014 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. Jul 29, 2014 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, 2014 at 9:27
  • 7
    goes up to Professor Hughes "So I pronounce your name .... 'Hello'.."? Jul 29, 2014 at 10:48
  • 2
    @Spork just a day in the life of a CS undergrad (and even grad, I heard) student. Jul 29, 2014 at 14:37

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