Same with itself and different from another
While Juliet argues that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” we wholeheartedly disagree.
“Personal identity is not a given entity but a process; it is constantly under construction through interaction with others and with ourselves. New aspects are added, old ones questioned, others stabilized.”
Simply put, what we call ourselves and others call us shape the formation of our identity. So, we asked a few people – “Growing up, how did you feel about your name?”
Read on and see how the following girls have explored, and continue to explore, their self identity through the lens of their childhood.
Growing up, I expected people to say it incorrectly, and sometimes I would even introduce myself with, “Mahika — you can call me something easier for you to say if you want.” I was able to recognize that there was both an “Indian” way and an “American” way to say my name. To this day, almost all of my friends know the latter because that’s the one I’ve grown to default to. For as long as I can remember, I was primed to think that my name is “unique” or “not normal” because someone else said so. My name does not roll off the tongue with ease and I remember wanting an “simple” name for the longest time. But like my name, I am not easy to swallow, and I am difficult to forget.
Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by “Johns” and “Megans.” My name sounds similar to “fish” so I would be made fun of. Those Megans and Johns would call me “fish-wa” or “dish-wa” and it really deterred me. Whenever I had a substitute teacher, and they were about to call roll, I would get so anxious because I knew they would butcher my name and all the kids would laugh. For the past few years, I’ve realized that my name holds my true identity. My name means “universe” in Sanskrit. I am a part of nothing and I am a part of everything.
It was difficult for teachers and students to pronounce my name. When I was younger, I was shy. The pride from the uniqueness of my name didn’t trigger until later years. As I’ve grown into the individual I am today, my name means more than just how someone acknowledges me. It is a part of how I will be remembered. My name’s worth is beyond just a literal meaning and pronunciation. It’s what I put into it as a human being that makes it timeless. To make it one that people won’t forget.
I always felt like people would judge me for not having an “American” name. I thought people would view me as an odd person, as some kind of “other” that wasn’t normal. More recently as I’ve grown up, I’ve also grown to love my name more and more because it defines my personality. If I wasn’t Rumsha, who would I be?
I struggled to default to Rabab when introducing myself to others. Maybe because I need to provide a verbal training session for every time I pronounce it. As I grew up, I grew into my name. I realized its essence uniqueness framed me better. I was convinced my name would capture a foreign image. But, the rarity of my name now stimulates conversation of where my culture, it’s meaning, and more. I’m able to expose its roots to others. Sure, I still go by my nickname in sometimes but now, I don’t shy down from a firm hand shake followed by the name that grounds me so intimately to my heritage.
I never understood why people identified with their names so much. Were they not just labels placed upon us as a form of recognition? Would the pronunciation of our names matter when we’re all six feet under? Growing up in a diverse town taught me not to judge an individual by their name. I learned that a name does not define the actions of a person. For a while, I thought that my indifference meant there was something wrong with me. Why did I not care about my name the way my peers did?
No one pronounced it correctly. It came out like glass shards when others would say it, but I knew that it was soft and warm like summer nights in India. I always wanted to change my name to something more “normal” like “Valerie” or “Elizabeth.” I hated when people twisted my name and would say “who dat?” I find it endearing now, but initially, it felt incredibly belittling.
It was a conversation piece for every South Asian who wanted to teach me how to properly pronounce my own name. I’ll admit, it’s great when a person can speak English in a thick American accent and effortlessly shift their tongue into second language position for foreign words; but not everyone can do this. Rolling the R in my name has an artificial taste to it. But that’s okay. I’m content with Kieren.
Everyone’s heard my name. I grew up hearing different pronunciations and opinions of it. Some thought it was timeless and classic, while others too common. I used to complain to my mom about why she didn’t give me a unique name, but she told me I was named after Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. In her eyes, it was an honor. There couldn’t be a better name and female personality. Growing up, I looked up to and emulated this force that I’m named after. When I moved to America, I heard my name being butchered in ways unimaginable. I refuse to allow that and always politely correct people on pronunciation. It’s Fatima, fah-t’-mah, and it’s my identity.