If you've ever read "Dear Abby," published in the Chicago Sun Times, then you know just iconic her advice column is. Most days, "Abby" doles out answers to questions about etiquette, relationship advice, and family squabbles. It usually makes for entertaining reading — either because the questions are so ridiculous to begin with, or because her advise is so witty and blunt. However, Dear Abby advised parents to whitewash names for their kids, and people are rightfully furious.
As News 18 reported, a concerned husband, "MAKING LIFE EASY," wrote to Dear Abby with a dilemma about his future kids' names. "My wife and I have decided to start a family, and the topic of names arose. My wife, who was born and raised in India, is insisting on Indian names for our children," he wrote. "The problem is they are often difficult to pronounce and spell. I’m not opposed to Indian middle names, but think traditional “Western” names may be more suitable, since we will live in the United States.How can I make my wife understand that having 'unusual' names makes certain aspects of kids’ lives more difficult?"
Hmm. This definitely sounds like something the husband needs to take up with his wife — and not an advice columnist. Nevertheless, Dear Abby — Abigail Van Buren, AKA columnist Jeanne Phillips, who inherited the column from her mother, Pauline Phillips, when she died, according to The New York Times — went for it.
And she came up seriously short.
"Your wife’s concept of giving the children Indian names is lovely," she began, according to LittleIndia.com. "However, practically speaking, I agree with you. Popular names in one country can cause problems for a child living in another one." Dear Abby continued:
Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully.Sometimes the name can be a problematic word in the English language. And one that sounds beautiful in a foreign language can be grating in English.I hope your wife will rethink this. Why saddle a kid with a name he or she will have to explain or correct with friends, teachers and fellow employees from childhood into adulthood?
Let's just say social media had a lot of feelings concerning Dear Abby's advice about not "saddling" a kid with a "difficult to pronounce and spell" name. Some took a practical approach in pointing out just how wrong this line of thinking is. One Twitter user wrote, "Not just whitewash. Dear Abby is promoting cultural genocide. Names are often an integral part of one's identity, lineage & culture. For Sikhs, our names are rooted in & derived from our faith. Also Todd is no more 'normal' than Harpreet. Kathy is no more 'normal' than Juanita."
Another Twitter user declared, "We gave our girls traditional Sikh names because we are so proud of our heritage. I pray that they love themselves so much that they do the same. "
Yet another Twitter user demanded, "Dear Abby, You should take a moment to retract this advise and retire. Not only is it completely wrong it is suggesting to our youth that they must conform to fit in when everyone knows celebrating and embracing our diversity is what makes us wonderful and unique."
Others? Well, they didn't bother holding back their anger at Dear Abby's response. "Dude. If white women can name babies Banjo and Ukulele, I am positive traditional Indian names will be just fine. Dear Abby is an old racist b*tch who should shut up and stop offering advice to anyone." Ouch.
Another Twitter user made a good point about the idea of writing off names that are "too difficult" to pronounce. They wrote, "Seriously, my school had Kenyan, Indian, Native, Czechoslovakian students. Their names were never an issue. By teaching children that things are 'too difficult,' to learn, you're teaching them that other cultures aren't important enough to learn about. It's cruel.@dearabby."
Another person chimed in with, "Dear Abby - your advice column is outdated. This advice makes me want to walk around introducing myself as TANYA SUJONG TARR or maybe just introduce myself with my Korean name because this is garbage advice."
So yeah. Dear Abby seriously failed with this particular bit of advice. Dismissing the wife's culture and heritage entirely all because having a difficult-to-pronounce/spell name might result in others stumbling or the kid getting teased is ridiculous. Hopefully, the wife of "MAKING LIFE EASY" is able to convince her husband that this line of thinking is insulting and incredibly misguided — and just because a syndicated columnist agrees with him, it doesn't make it acceptable.