MISUNDERSTOOD: names & accents: Michael Sun-Huang ‘19

Michael Sun-Huang

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When I was in elementary school, all of my friends called me Mike or Mikey. There were a few Michaels in the class, so I went by Mike. We were just a bunch of kids growing up in the suburbs, and we didn’t care about how our last names all sounded different.

When I came to Horace Mann, everyone questioned me about my peculiar hyphenated last name. My grandparents wanted my father’s first-born son to have the last name Huang and for the second-born son to have the last name Sun. When they realized that I would be the only son, they decided to combine the two names and give me both last names. That story is far too long for a sixth grader to be interested in, so instead, one of my friends took my last name, Sun-Huang, and created Suny out of it. Ever since then, everyone has called me Suny.

Up until tenth grade, I thought it was a cool conversation starter and something interesting about me. After that, though, I began to realize how immature the name sounded and how I didn’t feel a connection to it at all. When I introduced myself to others, I went by Michael. Suny was a far cry from how my name is pronounced, and I felt like I wasn’t doing my grandfather justice by leaving Huang out of the picture.

When I hear people call me Suny now, it makes me feel like a kid who doesn’t understand how silly the name sounds.

I remember the first time I told one of my football coaches that I preferred to be called Michael. He said that it would take him time to get used to, and I understood. During practice, I noticed that every time he called my name, he said “Su..Michael.” He had to catch himself every single time he said it, and I really appreciated the effort he put into making me feel more comfortable and accepting my name. When people make an effort to say my name correctly, I notice it, and I really appreciate the effort. It makes me feel heard.

To me, Suny is a stupid name that I don’t identify with or feel any connection to. It’s just a sound that’s wrongly associated with me, and I’d like to get rid of it.