What’s My Name?

Image source: Eman H. Aly
Image source: Eman H. Aly

We welcome Eman H. Aly – Altmuslim’s new columnist. Her column, “Emansplaining,” will appear in the third week of each month.

One time, my brother was giving a speech somewhere and his daughter, Minna, walked up to him and stood next to him. He acknowledged her presence and patted her on the head. I don’t remember if I was there or if the story was relayed to me after the fact. But, she told him afterwards that she wanted him to say, “Welcome to your daughter!”

I’m making up for my brother’s misstep and saying — welcome to my column!!

Ever since I can remember, people could not pronounce my name. Actually if you scramble the letters of my “Eman” around, you get “name.” You’ll also get “mean.” I learned that through autocorrect (thanks, smartphones). And growing up, I would tell people that it rhymed with He-man. But that never seemed to work. It would always go like this:

“E-mahn (or E-min or Ah-mahn)? Did I pronounce that correctly?”

“No, it’s Eman (long e, short a).”

They would mispronounce it one more time incorrectly, and I would just say,”Yes, that’s right.” And it was over. I’d be some mispronunciation of my name for the rest of my life with that person.

When I was grungy teen into alternative music after it was cool, I used to love the song “Rearview Mirror” by Pearl Jam, because Eddie Vedder would say my name. Well, he would kind of say my name. I just listened to it now just to get the rush I used to get, and to verify it was the right song.

The lyric goes like this: “I took a drive today, Time to [E]mancipate.” My walkman had the feature that flicked a switch to flip sides instead of stopping, opening the thing, manually flipping the tape and pressing play again (yay for technology). And I would flip sides, play enough to flip back and hear Eddie say my name over and over and over again.

Why didn’t I think to use that as a way to demonstrate how to correctly pronounce my name? I did but like 20 years later. Only recently did I start telling people that my name is Eman as in emancipate. And, it clicked. People got it. Sometimes I use Emmanuel, which was a nickname growing up. As you’ll see in my column, it took me a long while to learn how to advocate for myself.

Speaking of nicknames, I had a ton. Here are a few:

  • Emza TCG
  • Emanovich
  • Emmanuel
  • Amoona
  • SpiderEman
  • Emani
  • Emani Coppola

Some were playful, and some not so playful. When I was in kindergarten, my mispronounced name was Emin (long e short i). I bet you could guess what that rhymed with. My brother heard it once, and that was my new (not so playful) nickname. I asked my aunt what it meant, and she told me it was the man that worked in the sea.

Imagine my surprise when I learned about semen in sex education.

Eman can also replace man in any word. Like SpiderEman (was my first Gmail account after I saw the movie). I’ll be your wingEman, stand by your Eman and I haven’t yet exhausted the possibilities. And, because I was a boss (not bossy), I assumed the nickname Emmander because I always found a way to be in charge.

Stay with me. I promise I’ll get to the point.

I recently read an article about a woman who was reading a book about mansplaining and then was mansplained into getting mentored (and I think sexually harassed) by some man at the pool. She took notes, and her Facebook post went viral. My editor, Dilshad Ali, had tasked me with naming my column, and I didn’t want to pick something that focused on just one topic. I am multi-faceted and wanted a column that touched upon all aspects of my professional and personal experiences.  

That’s when the bell rang in my head. I’m going to call my column Emansplaining.

Eman H. Aly
Eman H. Aly

It’s perfect for me. I am the queen of unsolicited advice. I’ll say out loud what everyone is thinking but don’t want to say aloud. I will break the silence on abuse or abusive behavior, and I will call your (or my) sh*t out. I can dish, and I can take it. But it’s going to have to be constructive — do not attack me personally because you disagree with me. That’s a troll and I don’t feed the trolls. I block them.

I’m here to make my world a better place, and my hope is when our worlds collide, it’ll make your world a better place too.

Every month I’ll be writing to explain things from my perspective, aka Emansplaining. Feel free to push back or disagree, but respectfully. I tend not to lose arguments, but I’ll concede when I’m wrong. You might have a heck of time convincing me. But, I’ll still be friendly afterwards. I know this sounds crazy, but we can actually disagree and still be civil; maybe even friends.

I look forward to engaging you all on Twitter and Facebook. I’m EmanHAly everywhere. Use the hashtag #emansplain to discuss the column.  

Eman H. Aly works in digital communications and academic research. In her spare time she works in issues surrounding Muslim-Jewish relations in Chicago. Her digital home is at Eman.Land

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