FAQ About My Name

FAQ About My Name

I get a lot of questions about my name. Here’s a handy list of answers to soothe your inquisitive mind so you can finally sleep at night.

How is your name pronounced?

“Gotham,” like Gotham City from Batman.

Wow, that’s really cool!

That isn’t a question.

Is it really pronounced like that?

I often hear this question. Indians or people of Indian descent assume I’m “Americanizing” the pronunciation of my name because they’ve heard a different pronunciation. Non-Indians assume I’m not giving them the “authentic” pronunciation because it would be too difficult to pronounce.

There is actually a spectrum of valid pronunciations of my name, based on how strong an inflection you want to put on the ‘au’ sound. On one end is my pronunciation, “Gotham,” which pretty much eliminates the inflection. On the other end is “Gow-tham,” a pronunciation which is common in south India. There is a range of pronunciations in between those two, and they are all correct.

No, but is that really how it’s pronounced?

Yes.

Really?!

Yes.

You?!

Nice Simpsons reference. That was a good episode.

So did you choose that pronunciation because of its relation to Batman?

I didn’t choose anything. My parents are north Indian, and north Indians tend to put less of an inflection on the ‘au’ sound. I’ve been called “Gotham” since I was born. They did not realize that I would forever be associated with The Dark Knight when they named me.

Why isn’t your name spelled with an ‘h’?

Probably because of British imperialism. North Indians pronounce the English “th” with a really strong emphasis (I don’t know how to write it out, but try making the “th” sound and then do it much more forcefully). To avoid having people pronounce my name with the overpowered “th,” some North Indian transliterated my name from the Devanagari गौतम to the Roman script “Gautam.” They were probably transliterating the name in the first place since English became the lingua franca in India following British colonization. My mother’s name also has a ‘t’ that is pronounced ‘th’ for this reason.

Nonetheless, I have seen alternate spellings, such as “Gowtham.” Deepak Chopra’s son even changed the spelling of his name from my spelling to “Gotham” to end the mispronunciation.

Personally, I prefer my name’s spelling. Although it isn’t phonetic, I find the combination of letters aesthetically pleasing. I get a better vibe from “Gautam” than I do from “Gotham.”

Edit: Gautam Arya pointed out that the reason Gautam isn’t spelled with a ‘th’ is because  the Hindi letter त is a voiceless dental stop.

Are you sure it isn’t spelled ‘Guatam’?

Yes. Please stop sending me emails beginning with, “Dear Guatam,” especially when my correctly spelled first name is part of my email address. I’d also appreciate my elementary, middle, and high school reprinting all the certificates awarded to “Guatam Narula.” Please. Those certificates comfort me on those lonely nights at sea.

What are other misspellings/mispronunciations?

Guatham, Guaram, Garfield, Gus (Seriously. Gus.), Garfam, Gotham, Gautham, Guatham, Gaytam, Guavam, Gutam, Gautum, Gowtam, Gotem, Gautman, etc.

What nicknames emerged from your name?

Batman, Got ham?, Guantanamo Bay, Guantum Mechanics, Guatamala, Got’em, Siddhartha Guatananama, Gotham City, Goatman, and every single mispronunciation.

What does your name mean?

I was named after Siddharth Gautam (Siddhartha Gautama in the west), the founder of Buddhism. My parents almost named me Siddharth, but didn’t want me turning into “Sid.” The name means “The Enlightened One” or alternatively, “The Remover of Darkness.” In both cases the “light” symbolizes knowledge and the “darkness” symbolizes ignorance. Basically, I’m the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four, if his super power was educating others.

So does this mean you’re Buddhist?

Nope. My parents aren’t Buddhist either. Guess they just thought the dude was legit or something, man.

Is your name common in India?

Not super duper common, but common enough that I can’t get a decent Twitter username.

So there are other Gautam Narulas?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKie-vgUGdI

What was it like watching the Batman movies?

Weird. When Gordon said, “Gotham needs a hero.” I felt the need to tell him I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I didn’t appreciate Bane saying stuff like “I terrorize Gotham,” “We will destroy Gotham,” “We take Gotham from the corrupt!” etc. Seriously bro, what’d I ever do to you?

What are the best pickup lines related to your name?

“Hey baby, I may not be Batman but I can give you a tour of Gautam city.”

“Ay girl, you wanna see downtown Gautam?”

“Hey beautiful, what are you looking at him for? You’ve already Gautam man you need.”

Do any of those actually work?

I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

9 thoughts to “FAQ About My Name”

  1. Hi Gautam,

    Stumbled across this on a google search of how to pronounce Gautam so I could explain to a friend. Gotta say, I’ve experienced just about everything you have when it comes to our name.

    Just wanted to let you know that the answer to the “Why isn’t there an ‘H’?” question can be addressed by pointing out that the “त” in Hindi is actually a voiceless dental stop. Hence the “th” sound. (See Wikipedia article for more on that.)

    Anyhow, great write up. I’ll have to start referring people to it. =)

    Best Regards,
    -Gautam Arya

    1. Thanks for the information Gautam! I don’t know too much about the linguistics of Hindi, so I’ll update the post to reference your comment. The description I gave in the post was based on what my parents told me.

  2. This Q&A is pure gold.

    Now I often say that the “th” sound in my name is similar to how you would pronounce “thumb”. People get that.

    I’ve also embraced being called “G”, and that’s that name I give when I order a sandwich. No follow up questions and no need for me to repeat anything. :)

    1. “G” is a good idea for orders! I think I’ll start doing that, as the constant name repetitions/follow-up questions you mentioned can get a bit tiresome.

  3. Till elementary school my name was “Gautam” and afterwards it was mistyped as “Gautham” :(

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