Friday, July 1, 2011

What's In A Name?

I blame the parents. My ones.

A little while ago I got into a conversation with my Mum and Academic Bro about names, specifically my one. It started like this:

"Would you have preferred it if we had given you a more English sounding name?" said the maternal unit (Sri Lankan).

"Well yes, I think so." I replied, knowing that I'd actually given the wrong answer and that I was about to be punished for it.

She looked hurt and wounded, like a sad brown swan. Sri Lankan mothers do this now and again. I believe they go off and get trained in it for about six months before entering motherhood.

It is of course quite hard to write this post without actually typing my name, but I think it's a fair guess that you probably know what it is. At the grand old age of slightly over twenty eight I've decided that I don't like my name. Sort of. Actually the truth is that I don't like it in England, but in Sri Lanka I do.

You see the thing is, over here, whenever I introduce myself or have a need to say my name, to Britishers that is, I also have to spell it. Usually I also have to say it again, so alien is it to the average Brit. It's just not a name that is already stored in the mental library of names that most Brits possess.

That's the problem with many Asian names, people here are often not familiar with them and therefore don't recall them until they've got to know you as a person and associate the physical you with your name. In Sri Lanka it's an entirely different matter, I say my name and the relative commonness of it means that I don't have to spell it and don't have to face that quizzical look from the face of the recipient as they try to figure out what it sounds like.

When I call someone in the UK and have to give my name to a secretary or receptionist invariably there's the mammoth task of saying my name, getting them to actually understand how it should sound and then spelling it too, which can take up to four hours in some instances.

Then, once that's all done and dusted, they usually forget how to say it or spell it anyhow. On the positive side my first name is so unusual here that I never have to give out both my names to people who already know me. Which is nice.

Spelling my name in Sri Lanka is so much easier and cleaner because it's in peoples' linguistic library already. Though it took me a good few years to learn that the letter Z has to be pronounced correctly or you lot haven't got the faintest idea of what I've said.

When I come to a Z, probably my least favourite letter in the alphabet anyhow and one which crops up twice in my name, I know that it must be pronounced as "ee - zed". Thankfully the Es in my name, though plentiful, don't come before any of the Zs, or all hell might break loose.

Dealing with Americans necessitates the pronounciation as "zee" because they're of course too lazy to use zed. That's the septics for you, try saying "zed" to them and most really don't have an inkling that you're even saying a letter.

All those years ago when their mother and I were choosing names for the girls, we wanted ones that would reflect their heritage yet also comfortable to the British tongue. I think we did well there, choosing A and K. You may know what those letters stand for, you also may not, which might make things a bit confusing for you. Sorry about that.

So I suppose the perfect name for me, were I my parents all those years ago, would have been one of those Sri Lankan names that could be shortened into something easy on the Brit palate. Perhaps something like Indrajit or Sachintha, but not actually those as they'd be quite dodgy in real life and they'd never work for a blogger.

Tarika's quite a decent name too, exotic sounding and easily abbreviated to Tari, a bit too girly to have been given to me though. I've also heard that girls called Tarika have huge big feet about the size of frisbees.

Or perhaps if I'd been given the name of a character on Eastenders then it would be easy for the Brits too, but it would have to have been one of the dodgy Asians, not so good.

Enjoy your weekend out there.



Anonymous said...

They do say that the name you are given often plays a part in who you are going to be.

A bit like a brand. Cadburys, or Corsa, or as one apartment building here is called Spathodea. Its like a melody rolling off the tongue.

Patta Pal said...

there are further options, that is to change your name to one you would like to be known as if the given names are anathema to you. In Sri Lanka the beauty is that most people's given names bear no relation to their actual names, as I know many people prefer the names they are called rather than their real names.

It is a nightmare when the police come looking for someone using their real name as none of the people in the hood know them by that name, so easy to say they don't know anyone by that name.

G12 said...

Yay!!!!!!!!! I like your name though... Makes for creative nicknames :D

Sach said...

What are you talking about? I hear bloggers named Sachintha are extremely popular and cool.


Guiding Spirit said...

I generally have no issues with my name (whether in SL, UK or elsewhere) but sometimes I get called by the "Western" version which is more familiar to the "Brit palate". Annoying especially when done by people who have known me for a while and should know what exactly my name is !!

Resigned to the fact that I will definitely be called by the 'Western' version many times over the next two weeks when I am in the UK. Sigh.

the Legendary David Blacker said...

I have the same prob over here in SL where my surname is concerned, to the point where I now just give my first name and let 'em call me Mr David.

I think in your situ, the ideal would have to have had an Asian middle name and a western first name or vice versa (no not Dhammika). Then you could use either

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon - Hmmm.. I wonder about that sometimes.

Patta Pal - I don't think changing my name is something I want to do really. Thinking of a new variation on it is another matter though

G12 - That, my gyppo friend, is very true.

Sach - Really???

The Legend - shall we swap?