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Professor on Leave After Trying to Anglicize Vietnamese Name

A college professor has apologized after asking one of his students to change the pronunciation of her name. Laney College math professor Matthew Hubbard tweeted an apology after one his students was interviewed by her local ABC news affiliate. The student, Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen, told the news station that her teacher asked her to “anglicize” the pronunciation of her name, because of its similarity to a vulgar term in English. The name “Phuc” is pronounced “fook,” and is said to mean “happiness.” Nevertheless, Hubbard referred to her only as “P-Nguyen.”

After Nguyen emailed her professor in protest, ABC7 News posted part of Hubbard’s email reply, which reads:

Your name in English sounds like an insult in English. ... If I lived in Vietnam and my name in your language sounded like (that), I would change it to avoid embarrassment, both on my part and on the part of the people who had to say it. I understand you are offended, but your name is an offensive sound in my language. I repeat my request.

The controversy reverberated online, and the college responded by placing the professor on leave. Still, the issue stings for Vietnamese people like Thuc (pronounced “thook”) Dang, who studied at San Jose University, and went by the first name of “Ted” to avoid such incidents. Dang said, “It’s one of the things I regretted the most because I didn’t love my Vietnamese name enough to wear it proudly.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Honor; Image of God – The way we honor the names of others indicates our ability to recognize God's image in others. If we're not willing to extend the basic courtesy of pronouncing someone's name correctly, we're not truly loving our neighbors as ourselves. 2) Self-image; Names – Names are important, especially to God. He communicates his nature to us through his names and through the names he gives to others (Abraham, Sarah, Peter).


Dion Lim, “Laney College teacher Matthew Hubbard issues apology after asking Oakland student to 'anglicize' her name,” ABC 7 News (6-20-20); Sen Nguyen, “Anglicising Asian names: another form of racism? Just ask Phuc Bui,” This Week in Asia (6-24-20)

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