What's in a name?

"She doesn't even respond to her name."   My 2nd grade teacher said to my parents. It was my first day in school in New Delhi - India. My family moved when my dad was assigned to work there. It was the first time I was put in a place where no one looked like me or spoke like me.

There is a certain way my name is pronounced. There is a sound that few non-Ethiopians can pronounce. So that first day of school, when the teacher butchered my name, I responded with a non-response.

I have always had a stubborn streak. Even as a kid, in a different continent, barely able to speak English - I had an attitude. As a kid, it was wanting to fit in and have people acknowledge and pronounce my name right. At every instance, people always paused or struggled to say my name. It all started in India, in that 2nd grade class. And that has followed me throughout my life.

As an adult, I am very interested in psychology and identity in particular. I remember hearing Barak Obama talk about himself as the kid with the weird name. He probably had to endure similar butchery. Particularity in his career. I want to understand what happens to people that move away from the home of their ancestors. As I watch my sister's kid, I am eager to see when they realize that they are different. Would they experience the urge to be invisible like I did? At what stage does the need to be original set in?  

I saw an interview of Jennifer Lopez many years ago - with Oprah I believe. She was being interviewed with a few other Latin artists who were famous at that time. She mentioned her own evolution of trying to be someone else as a kid. But as she got older, the need to recognize and embrace her Latino identity grew. I relate to that statement as I moved from India to Ethiopia and now in the US. 

What's in a name a lot of people say. I was one of those people years ago. I have a unique type of name. Even in Ethiopia - it isn't a common name. I am not sure how that has impacted me. After I came to the US, I just joined a whole group of people with the same issue. Immigrants. 
I noticed that every single Ethiopian couple that I know in the US has had long debates about how to name their child. Should they pick an authentic Ethiopian name or an easy to pronounce American/English name? I have frequently changed my mind about which way I would go. There is research showing the increased odds of discrimination and general hardship with people that have an immigrant sounding name. The research encourages assimilation for things like jobs. But I am trying to understand the psychological impact of knowing and keeping your cultural identity. It is a unique balance that a lot of my friends have had to reach... just to name their kids. 
I watched that video and for a second thought, all those characters represented your name. 🤣I was listening to a podcast with Tony Robbins and Sanjay Gupta, and Sanjay told the story of his mother, who was the first female engineer at Ford Motor Company. Apparently, her first name was hard for people to pronounce, and they asked her to shorten it or go by a nickname. She chose the name Rani, which refers to an Indian queen. She figured if they weren't going to call her by her real name, at least they would refer to her as a queen.
2021-05-30 14:38:16
Lol I'm similarly stubborn as you but in a different way. I actually wanted people to see me  not as
but as someone who is just another person. I was super idealistic about people just being people and that things like race don't matter.

I still beleieve that on an existential scale but I know that in practical day to day life with strangers it's not feasible. To them I won't just be another person, I'll be an outsider, and I've gone through stages of liking to disliking this. Right now I'm neutral about it. Last year or so I was ecstatic about it -> as in i loved being the outsider. 

My grandparents named me a Korean name -- which is what I'm registered as in South Korea -- and my parents gave me a biblical one that I grew up being called. It wasn't until I was visiting at the age of 13 that a nurse referred to me by my Korean name confusing me. 

"What that's my name?"

"Yes. That is what it says here."

"Wow. I never knew that."

I would use this Korean name as a joke around some of my high school friends who once they learned of its existence kept asking me what it was. I remember I thought about telling them the first time... but then I held my tongue at just the right moment.

Because I knew if I wouldn't tell them it would just be this funny thing that we would always talk about.

2021-05-30 17:06:36
Oh but to answer your title question which I like.

What's in a name?

Depends on the person and the context.

To a socially anxious college sophomore with zero friends, some stranger in their dorm hall remembering their name is everything.

To someone who's learning about not tying their life experience to self/societal constructed images it means nothing at best and a prison at worst. 

I think names mean more at lower levels of intimacy though. Like when you keep hearing about a friend of your friends... then the name is important. When you first meet that other friend than the name is important. You might go days thinking about their name and connecting it to things that remind you of them.

But as time goes on there's more to a connection with another human than the name. The name almost becomes meaningless. 

My best friend I only call by name when speaking about them with other people. But with them, one on one, we don't need names.
2021-05-30 17:09:07
I didn't know that about Sanjay Gupta 
 ... Most immigrants - first or second generation have similar stories.
2021-05-31 02:21:42
I hear you 
 ... I am more like your mom when it comes to this topic. I predict my children would be more like you... similar generation have similar stance about this topic. I also think like Jennifer Lopez, we all also morph on this topic as we age and have children of our own. 

I agree about the significance of names on a less intimate nature. I believe it is a subtle difference in things like jobs and opportunities. Unless a person becomes his own boss where his identity doesn't have to be revealed, a person's name will make a difference on the level of return his hard work can get him. Complex topic. 
2021-05-31 04:01:37