Hi, I’m Wayan
And that’s pronounced “why-YAN” not “WAY-ne”
“How do you pronounce that?” or “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” is usually the first thing people say when they meet me. No, I am not speaking in tongues or drunk off my ass, I am saying my name – Wayan.
To the untrained American ear, one used to the Southern “Wayne”, my name, the Balinese “Wayan” sounds just different enough that the listener wonders if they misheard me. If my name was “Wayne” and I’m mispronouncing it, or as a quickly-ex friend once told another “His name is ‘Wayne’, but he puts on airs.”
On the Indonesian island of Bali, where there are a few more Wayan’s, Wayan is pronounced “why-YAN”, with the stress on the second syllable. Since stressing the second syllable is impossible for Americans, I’ve always told people my name sounds like “WAY-in” just to make it easy for them.
Now Elizabeth Gilbert just might make my life a little easier. She’s written the New York Times Bestseller, EAT, PRAY, LOVE One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia and right there, on page 218 of the hardcover edition, she says “Wayan (pronounced “Why-Ann”)” as she relates the origins of the four most common Balinese names.
Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert. Now maybe the next time I say my name, I can get other, more interesting responses. Maybe something like “Does Yalta have beaches?”, or “Can you smell censorship in China?” or my favorite, “Do you need Mojo at Nairobi’s ‘Mad House’?”