Actress of an age finds reason to generate headlines

When the actor Thandiwe Newton announced last week that she’d be reverting to the original spelling of her name, I felt some recognition. The journey her name has taken over three decades will strike a chord with many African and other non-western diasporas who have encountered the difficulty Anglophone countries have with accommodating foreign names.

While shooting Flirting (Newton’s first feature film) in 1991, the director decided to give her character her own name, Thandiwe. But in the film’s credits, Newton the actor was listed by her anglicised “nickname”, Thandie, to avoid confusion – this was done without consulting her. From then on she was known professionally as Thandie Newton.

Perhaps she knew the spelling and pronunciation of Thandiwe would be too troublesome for Hollywood. Perhaps Newton didn’t feel powerful enough to correct it. As a Black woman in an overwhelmingly white industry, it was her job to assimilate its standards.

In an interview for British Vogue, Newton has now declared of Thandiwe: “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”

Oh, right.

35 thoughts on “Actress of an age finds reason to generate headlines”

  1. She should have done a Saoirse Ronan, and have every story about her prefaced with a paragraph about her unusual name.

  2. I alwayth athumed that her mum had a lithp and named her after the thinger who uthed to come on thtage barefoot and thang Puppet on a Thtring.

  3. The strange thing about Ms Newton is that although I had heard of her, I couldn’t tell you what she had appeared in, apart from some Oil of Ulay advert, until I watched the silly Westworld tv series recently.

  4. Apparently this wealthy, private schooled, Cambridge graduate actress believes she is oppressed by having to socialise with primarily white people in a white country.

  5. These demands and threats to call people by their ‘correct’ name and/or pronouns are all very well until it’s someone the left doesn’t like. Then suddenly it’s okay to misname someone (eg ‘Gideon’).

    Sometimes people call me by a shortened version of my name. It’s not something I use myself, and I don’t much care for it. But I don’t consider that they’re actively trying to insult me; they are just trying to relate to me on their terms.

  6. Calling bullshit on that. I used to work with a lass in South Africa called Thandiwe. She said only her mother called her Thandiwe, all her friends call her Thandi.

  7. “Saoirse Ronan”: I cope with Irish names that I don’t know how to pronounce by saying Bridget. I suppose a few men might object but happily few Irish men are prone to violence.

  8. Attention seeker seeks attention.
    Yawn.

    How is this made into a race thing FFS?
    It’s just blatant race grief mongering.

    People in English speaking countries struggle with my (white) wife’s name’s pronunciation, because it’s from a foreign language, with a combination of consanants not found in English. So we use an anglicised variation when talking to people, to make life easier for everyone – they don’t struggle to pronounce it and feel embarrassed and we don’t have to constantly correct them. But then, we’re well adjusted and don’t have any axes to grind.

    Incidentally, when we’re in my wife’s home country, they always mis-pronounce our surname. Because it is an English word and they try their best, but invariably get it wrong. Are we bothered? No. See above comment about being well adjusted and not having any lumberjack tools in need of sharpening…

  9. Among my friends the estuarine English speakers call me Arfa, the Yanks call me Art, the French Artur, the Italians Arturo, the Japanese can’t handle the ‘r’s and mangle it to Atha and the Highland Scots turn the ‘r’s up to 11 and say it in a way I can’t manage to say.

    I don’t get precious about it.

  10. “My mother’s first name, Siphilisiwe, also comes from Ndebele. Her name slowly became truncated too. Growing up, I’d feel a little pang of pity or embarrassment hearing a British person trip over its meandering five syllables.”

    No, the embarrassment was caused by it looking like “syphillis-y wee”, or piss that’s redolent of a sexually transmitted infection.

  11. Dennis, Understated As Always

    Like Thandiwe Newton, I want to embrace my full name in all its glory

    How to tell the world your a frivolous, narcissistic twit in 14 words.

  12. My name is a bog standard English biblical name, but people constantly truncate it or mis-spell it (Don’t you have a bible? 1 Samuel!!!!!) If addressed by what is not my name I ignore them.

  13. You know, my real name isn’t Dennis. It’s Roccoheoftheenormousappendage. I go by Dennis to lessen potential confusion with that guy who’s less well endowed. Also to lessen his embarrassment.

    Do I get a column in the Guardian now?

  14. aaa: Sometimes people call me by a shortened version of my name.

    Is that “aa” or just “a”?

    Joking apart, I have the same issue but unlike you I not only object but politely correct the impertinence.

  15. someone was talking about humanities being taken over…this kind of thing will be meat and drink, forgetting that almost no-one goes by their real name in the performing professsions. If i ever met a film studies student i have a ready made question for them. Always puzzled about a piece of Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarrantino dialog with the Bruce willis boxer character and Esmarelda Villalobbobs talking about their names.. when she asked what does his name [Butch] mean- he answers along the lines of “in America darlin our names don’t mean shit.” yeah sort of except Butch blatantly does mean something in English. and he’s a boxer that’s just killed a man in the ring, and he’s got a shaved head and a wife beater on… anyway went over head and has stayed there for all these years.

  16. 1Sam: “Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph”.

    I don’t see how to abbreviate Zuph, so that leaves four. Elkan sounds too much like a chemical lavatory. Eli?

  17. I didn’t know she was black. Thandie is obviously her Anglicised name. Bit like Peking or Bombay.

  18. HB: I dunno where Tarantino was coming from but a big violent guy like that may not have a clue where his (nick)name comes from, so he responds thus to cover his embarrassment. If it was a guy asking rather than the woman there might have been another death.

    I wonder about Bubba. It doesn’t obviously have a connection to the big guy you really don’t want to share a cell with.

  19. I do wonder if, when the credits were being listed, she took the time to go to the person involved, and told them her exact name.

    I’d naturally guess that the person writing them out said, ‘What the hell do they call her?’, and someone said ‘Oh! That’s Thandie.’

  20. Thandie’s bum once got me randy
    She used to be worth a hand shandy
    Now gravity’s taken its toll
    Her arse has a longer arsehole

  21. TG – yeah, bubbatunde is a fairly common west african name, wonder whether the redknecks picked it up from that part of the world.

    Heard a factoid on aquiz the other day – Mozart’s middle name wasn’t Amadeus but Theophilus, for some reason at some point it became latinised.

  22. Generally if someone got my name wrong I’d correct them within the first 10 seconds, but I suppose waiting 15 years then suddenly taking offence is reasonable…

  23. BraveFart,

    Yer Limerick lacks a last line.

    “And that’s why she walks so bandy?”
    “So she finds a butt-plug handy”

  24. The Meissen Bison

    HB: Mozart’s middle name wasn’t Amadeus but Theophilus, for some reason at some point it became latinised.

    Possibly because he didn’t want to risk be confused with someone supporting the Conservative party?

  25. TMB- didn’t get the reference so looked up on wiki to see if i could spot one- no luck with conservative party ( but jesus, the name thing – it’s more complicated.

    TLDR- i think the music is the reason why people remember the bloke, not his many many name variants, but if you’re going to take a lesson from the great man- don’t get hung up about it, think of your audience.

    From wiki-

    Here are the details of the various names given on the register:

    Mozart’s first two baptismal names, “Joannes Chrysostomus”, represent his saint’s name, following the custom of the Catholic Church. They result from the fact that his birthday, 27 January, was the feast day of St. John Chrysostom. The document also records that Mozart was of legitimate birth and gives the names of his parents and his father Leopold’s occupation as court musician. The first paragraph indicates that the baptism took place at 10:30 in the morning, and that Mozart had been born at 8:00 the night before. The baptismal name “Joannes Chrysostomus” was in conformance to Catholic custom and was not used by Mozart in everyday life. “Chrysostomus” means “golden mouth.”
    “Wolfgangus” is “Wolfgang”, adapted to the Latin used in the parish register. The composer used “Wolfgang” in German-speaking contexts. “Wolfgang”, which means “walks with wolves”, was the name of the composer’s maternal grandfather.
    “Theophilus” comes from Greek and is variously rendered as “lover of God” or “loved by God.” “Gottlieb” is its German form, and the familiar “Amadeus” is its Latin form. In later life, Mozart himself would use the Italian and French equivalents, respectively “Amadeo” and “Amadè”. “Theophilus” was a name of Mozart’s godfather, the merchant Joannes Theophilus Pergmayr, whose presence is recorded in the fourth paragraph.

    and his father wrote to a German friend when his boy was born – using Gottlieb.

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