By the way, I stutter

A few days ago I had an all-day off site workshop with three other people. Two Americans, and one Saudi.

I mostly listened while they talked through a project we’re working on. I added a few comments here and there, stuttered, pushed through, and I said what I wanted to say. I didn’t think too much of the stuttering since things were pretty informal, and the guys were all very casual and open about things.

At the end of the day, one of the American guys, who had been calling me ‘ray-han’ asked me if it was ‘ray-han or ‘re-han.’

I should probably explain something now that I’ve not talked about yet.

I’ll discuss this in detail more, but my name is an Arabic word. It means something like “sweet smelling flower” or “nice fragrance.” The way that I grew up saying it in America is “ree-han.” With a long e. But the Arabic pronunciation is different. It’s a “ray” instead.

Amazingly, I can introduce myself most of the time with the Arabic pronunciation. And since I’m here, people are used to the pronunciation. However, it’s not a sound that a Western tongue is used to.

Hence, my colleague asked me about it.

I told him that here in Saudi, I pronounce it differently. And because I stutter, it’s hard for me to say it the way I grew up saying it. He said, “wait, because you stutter, you can’t say your own name?” I said yeah, most people who stutter can’t. But for whatever reason I can say it a different way.

But of course there were some other distractions going on at this point – the other getting packed up, a phone call coming in, etc., so I didn’t have time to explain it all at book-length. You all know how this is – you find a warm welcome to explain things, and suddenly the door closes, and you think, well, that’s done yet, I won’t get another chance without being awkward about it. And I suppose they know enough, and it’s not making a big difference to what I need to work on … so … I’ll be happy with the small victory.

I’m pretty sure that advertising your stutter is supposed to be a “pre-“ activity and not a “post-“ one. But I’ll take it.

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