I'm a woman named Fred. I dread having to introduce myself to new people.

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I'm a woman named Fred. I dread having to introduce myself to new people.
Fred Sahai was born in Canada. When she moved to the US, she hated how her French name was pronounced in English.Courtesy of the author
  • My birth name is Frédérique, but I go by Fred.
  • Growing up in Canada, I knew a lot of girls with the same name.
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When I first asked about the origins of my birth name, Frédérique, I assumed my mother would be to blame for it.

I was raised in Montreal, a bilingual city. My dad was born in India but raised in Canada and primarily spoke English growing up. My mother was born and raised in a very French town a few hours from Montreal. As with many people outside big cities in Quebec, her English was shaky, and it wasn't until she and my dad moved to Charleston, South Carolina, for medical training that it really improved.

I was born in Charleston, and my name raised a lot of questions in my parents' American circle.

I was the girl named Fred

"She's a girl, but her name is Fred?" Only a French mother could be to blame for such an impractical name. But as it turned out, it was all my father's doing. He thought it'd be cool to have a daughter named Fred. Together they settled for Frédérique, and I'd be nicknamed Fred.

Frédérique is a pretty common name for girls in French-speaking countries. It's the feminine equivalent of Frederick. Growing up in Quebec, I knew a ton of Frédériques, and Fred was often used as a nickname.

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Apart from the odd Uber driver asking me if my dad or brother had ordered the ride for me, it wasn't a big deal to be a girl named Fred growing up. That changed when I moved to New York City for university at 19. Hating the way English-speaking people pronounced "Frédérique" — or at least how they tried to pronounce it — I decided to simply go by Fred.

But being a girl named Fred in America was more challenging than I anticipated.

I dreaded introducing myself to people

From the first day of school, introducing myself to people became something I dreaded.

"Hi, I'm Fred."

They'd reply, "Fran?" or "Friend?"

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"No, Fred, like F-R-E-D."

Their realization prompted different reactions. Some called it cute. Most said they'd never met a girl Fred before. They'd say, "What's your real name?" or "What is that short for?" That would frustrate me.

I didn't understand why introducing myself a certain way had to warrant an explanation or an excuse simply because it was a name some people weren't used to associating with a girl. And despite my repeating that it is, in fact, my name, people still insist on getting to the bottom of it.

Introducing myself in a loud setting is even harder. Sometimes if I'm at a bar and don't particularly care for the acquaintance of a friend I'm being introduced to, I'll just say my name is Chloe to avoid the back-and-forth. The same goes for coffee shops when the barista and I are in a rush, or for when I call a busy restaurant to make a reservation.

Dating apps have also been an interesting place to be a girl named Fred. More people have wondered what it's short for, but some men have been downright rude. "You must be pretty mad at your parents over the whole Fred thing" was one guy's opening line on Hinge. Needless to say it didn't work out.

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My name is a conversation starter, but those conversations bore me. I sometimes wish people going on about my name would realize that while it might be their first time meeting someone with that name, it's certainly not my first time dealing with someone's bewilderment over it.

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