My Name

Short version: You can call me by my Vietnamese name Anh-Thu, or by my Western/English name Cathy. For any publication I only use my legal name Anh-Thu but whether you choose this one or Cathy to refer to me, I have absolutely no preference. You may choose one of your liking and there’s no strict rule on pronunciation either (I will react).

Long version (half serious and half sarcastic): My real name is Anh-Thư Nguyễn, written with diacritical marks in the Vietnamese language. As is often the case with ethnic names, those marks are not included in any legal publications and throughout my life in Germany, they are usually ignored so it becomes Anh-Thu Nguyen or Anh Thu Nguyen in legal documents. As for the pronunciation (see embedded links above), Nguyễn varies in its pronunciation. For one, Vietnam is rich with different dialects and they too will have slight variations on how to pronounce Nguyễn. Second, Vietnamese diaspora, especially in Anglophone countries have also developed varying preferences on how to pronounce it. My personal position is that there is ultimately no correct way of pronouncing it, merely preferences. For me, anything that makes the g silent is good (“Nuu-wen”, “win”, Nüen”, “Nuen”). I will forgive you if you say EN-GOO-EN but I will cringe inside.

As for my first name, the most common non-Vietnamese pronunciation that I am used to in Germany is like “anne-too”. And I am more than fine with that.

Some Vietnamese diaspora reclaim parts of their identity by writing their names with diacritical marks always, however as I am often ambivalent about my own identity and go by many names, I am fine with either spelling and generally, more used to the one without marks anyway. Undoubtedly, this is also because of my own lack of knowledge over the Vietnamese language.

According to Wikipedia, this is the Chinese character for Ruan, where the name Nguyễn is derived from.

Cathy, then, was given to me as my Western/English name as most children of first generation immigrants have an ethnic name as well as one that fits more with the country they grow up in. Some children grow up with this Western name as their main name, however in my case and many others, Cathy was never put down as my legal name. It’s created an almost ironic situation where all of my Vietnamese family members refer to me as Cathy, while my non-Vietnamese, often German friends, call me Anh-Thu (because the non-Vietnamese pronunciation of Anh-Thu is pretty easy for Germans while the English-sounding name Cathy is not).

To make matters even more complicated, as the name Cathy is an English one, my Vietnamese parents who have lived in Germany for more than forty years do, of course, not say Cathy like you would normally, but it becomes “Kathi,” like the short version of Katharina in German.

But perhaps not all was lost – my dad was utterly convinced the correct spelling of Cathy is Carthy. With an ‘r’. As a child, I had asked him why he thought that was the case, and all he said was that it’s an American name. Not only was this utterly wrong but as an adult, it dawned on me that he might have wanted to name me after notorious Republican politician Joe McCarthy, or his policies known as McCarthyism (but this is my own tinfoil hat theory). Though I always had rejected the Carthy spelling, this naturally gives me one reason more to continue using Cathy. A good thing my dad did not put Carthy on any legal documents … (this segment potentially needs a follow-up with my dad).

Joseph “Joe” McCarthy. Hopefully not my namesake.

In high school, my friends who played League of Legends with me started calling me Kayde (pronounced kay-dee). I kinda liked it, changed most of my gaming names to it because I never really had a fixed name prior to that. So in most online spaces, I call myself Kayde. But if you ever call me like that in real life, I will react to it too and it’s not weird to me at all.

Kayde is not always available. Also it is very close to Kyedae, a very popular streamer (which was an accident). Depending on availability and game I will also call myself burrito cat. It’s also why my logo on this website – and my business card, if I’ve ever handed you one – is a cat wrapped in a blanket (thanks to the awesome illustration of my partner).