What’s in a Name?


The old adage , be careful what you name your child holds true. It’s the first impression people make of you. When you stray away from the norms people get interested in the meanings and stories behind the names. Very often more ethnic names will develop anglicized versions of their names to simplify their introductions.

If you have an ethnic name it links you to that culture. The name can also be the source of a lot of teasing as a child and as much as people will try to deny, it will be an unspoken reason your resume gets skipped over. I’ve seen the studies where the exact same skills with an ethnic name gets less offers than common names.

I have an older sister who was given a family name while I got the common name. Early on I was annoyed at having a name that I always had to deal with other people having while my sister had the name that was destined to never to be found on items in gift shops. I learned to make an impression with my smile and sense of humor. I learned to enjoy and appreciate my name.  I was once told that I had a name perfect for a CEO. Still not sure what kind of comment that was.

When asked if she thought about changing her Name by Improper.com Uzo Aduba had this to say:

When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

There is so much truth in that reply. The people who will not take the time to pronounce your name correctly ARE NOT  people that you should be focusing your energy on. I recall a co-worker with a simply spelled name. T-A-R-A. It was on her name-tag and rather than mispronounce her name I questioned the pronunciation.  “Tair- Ah” or “Tah-rah”. You should have seen her eyes light up. That one moment of care and effort really helped our introduction. She was taken aback because most people just murder her name and it had become a pet peeve of hers.

Its a hefty responsibility naming a child. The name you choose for your child follows them until they can legally change it themselves. You can go easy and choose a common name.  Or go hard and realize that difficult to pronounce names become the litmus test for who they become friends with. I like when I meet people and there is a story behind their names and especially when its a name that has been passed down. A name can connect you to your culture.

Do you have any interesting stories with your name? leave them in the comments below or tweet me @SongandCrest

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