Friday, July 11, 2008

Weekend: Names

As I've been sitting here doing a few things, Tyra is on in the background. Today she is discussing names and automatic reactions people might have to hearing certain names. Ethnic names, names that may indicate a certain socio-economic status and names that "fit" a certain type of person.

Most of us already know all of that. What interests me is how many people choose their own names. I know several people who have chosen their own names because the ones they were given didn't feel right to them. Gloria to Jamila, Sakhone to William, Linda to Astra - It goes on and on.

My name was chosen by someone else who is not related to me. Chani is a diminutive for Chanakarn which means "darling of all the people." Clearly the name doesn't fit but the purpose of the name is to draw that to me. It is supposed to bring a more outgoing spirit to me so that perhaps one day I will be "darling of all the people."

The origin, obviously, is Thai and came about because I am an extreme Thaiphile who identifies with that country and culture. I feel very connected to it. It rings true inside of me.

I wasn't content to have it as a nickname. I chose to legally change it. The name I was given at birth truly doesn't fit me and I feel no connection to it. When I was divorced, I didn't choose to go back to my birth name. I still use my ex-husband's last name.

Knowing all of this, I don't pay much attention to names in terms of guessing something about someone because of their name, although I understand many still do.

It's often seemed logical to me to have a naming ceremony for children and allow them to choose their own names at a certain age. While names are mostly window-dressing, it's still nice to have one we choose and feel good about.

I'm curious to know: If you chose a name for yourself, what would it be?



ewe are here said...

I changed my middle name when I took my dad's (stepfather technically) last name. I'd always hated my given middle name; it was nice to pick a middle name I liked.

Catherine said...

I would honestly choose the name my parents chose for me. They did so thoughtfully, considering many facets, wanting to portray something of the values they hoped to pass on to me. I guess it worked. I wouldn't say I LOVE my name, but I would say it's me. And I do think the meaning is significant to me and who I am.

We have likewise tried to give careful thought to the meaning and sounds of our children's name. So far, they (he) has lived up to the meaning of his name to a "T."

Catherine said...

Another thought: a wise and awake person once encouraged me to consider what name God would choose/has chosen for me; then, refuse to let anyone else name me. In other words, in stillness and quiet determine who I am created to be, and step fully into that person, not leaning in to anyone else's conceptions or expectations.

This was radically healing for me, and the name that came to mind comes back to me often, keeping me on track. Whatever concept one has of the divine/ultimate being, I find this helpful.

Tabba said...

i never thought of this is an option...can you believe that?

i mean, i knew i'd change my last name when i got married. but the thought of changing my name is liberating (even if I never act on it).

that being said, i have no earthly clue. i'll have to think about it.
as i've never even considered it before this moment.

flutter said...

I think I would stay the same, my mother chose my name. She who loves me more than any other in this world.

I would take my grandfather's last name, though

Rebecca said...

The angels gave me my middle and last name: Northstar Gabriel. I like it a lot.

Olivia said...

I changed my name, Chani. At the time (in my early 30's) I was a fundamentalist Christian and knew that in the Bible God changed people's names when he had a new plan for them. Like Saul to Paul.

I used to flinch when I would hear my name called loudly and have flashbacks to my mother screaming at me and beating me. So I decided that I wanted my life to be about something new. And my current husband and I had a legal plan that allowed one name change per family per year for free.

So I changed my first name to "Olivia", meaning "Peace" because it is my highest value. I changed my middle name to "Mercedes" because it was melodious and my last name at that time was "L'Heureux". Thus I became Olivia Mercedes L'Heureux (pronounced la-roo).

I changed my last name when I remarried but kept the first and middle. It made me feel good to choose them. I felt nothing but pain with my old name.

I noticed that you didn't specify your old name. I notice that I don't want to mention mine either; the negative association are still there some seventeen years after changing to Olivia.

I am grateful that there are so many things we can change about ourselves, including our name.

xxoo, O.

Anonymous said...

I love my name. I used to hate it (it means "industrious" which is true but makes me sound like a farm animal), but now I love the Jewish tradition of naming for those dead. I love to feel some connectedness.

I did, however ,change my last name upon marriage. Why in the hell would I want to keep my father's name?

Anonymous said...

I love my name. I used to hate it (it means "industrious" which is true but makes me sound like a farm animal), but now I love the Jewish tradition of naming for those dead. I love to feel some connectedness.

I did, however ,change my last name upon marriage. Why in the hell would I want to keep my father's name?

molly said...

My name was one of the most common names for girls at the time and plsace in which I was born. It bothered me only in that teachers would always have to tack my surname on if calling me, whereas if I'd had a more unique name the first name would suffice. Which always sounded much friendlier!
My grandmother was more creative. She called me Molly[a pet name/diminutive for my given name] Bawn [fair-haired.] I've had my names for sixty years.I'm comfortable with them now.

Sukhaloka said...

My name - Sukhaloka. Means "The light of happiness". Honestly, what more could I want?
Given the choice, I would get rid of my surnames. Maybe I'd think of replacing them with something else later on, but not yet. I just want to be known as Sukhaloka - it's my identity, and what I can always call upon when I need it.

Jen said...

I have a complicated relationship with my name. I have no idea what I'd change it to now, but I really, really wanted Claire as a child.

I prefer Jen, but most people call me Jennifer. I *hate* being called "Mrs. X" as a teacher, but where I teach now, there is no choice in that.

SUEB0B said...

Well, I grew up being Sue Davis. Such a boring name that people ALWAYS forget it over and over. In college, my friend Stacy started calling me Suebob and it stuck. Now I use it everywhere except work and what I like about it is that people seem to get such pleasure out of saying a funny name. They shout "Suebob!" when I come into a room, like "Norm!" on Cheers. It is weird enough that people remember it, too, which is a nice change for me.

Carla said...

I really like the name Chani. It has a very peaceful feel to it. I think names can definitely evoke different emotions and feelings. In terms of changing my name, as a child I used to sometimes think of what names I would choose. But overall I'm quite happy with my name.

Sarah said...

funny, what olivia wrote.

because i wanted to be 'olivia.' or 'meredith.'

my name is ok, but i'm not particularly attached to it.

Angela said...

Well, I personally think you're a darling to anyone worth knowing. ;) (Snobby, perhaps? Yes. I'm not over that yet.) I don't think there's much to be gained by being a darling of *all* the people. Some people simply aren't safe to be around.

I love this post, Chani. I remember having a similar meditation several years ago and the name in my head came back Isolde. I didn't figure I could make something like that up! I think it means "fair one," which I am, very fair skinned. I'm glad you chose to be called what resonates with you. I think that takes strength and courage and I admire both those things about you.

Maria said...

When I was a child I hated my name because it gave away my etnicity. I grew up in a primarily Irish neighborhood where everyone was Bridget or Jennifer or Brenda. Thus being a Maria Stella of Italian descent I didn't seem to fit it in and Maria so charmingly rhymes with diarhea. Kids can be cruel, I've always wanted to change my name. I would never do it though and I am quite comfortable with my nicknames of M or Marie.

I dream of what I would name my children if they were girls Olivia *(just love the name and always have)* Sofia and or Francesca or even Anastastia. All there middle names Rose for my Mother and Grandmother. As for boy names they don't resonate as much with me not that I don't want a son but I guess I just always wanted a different name of my own. Yet if I did have a son I like Nicholas, Luke or Lucas with Frank being there middle names after my brother. So off the subject I know and I am sorry but I guess now I know why girls names have always danced around in my head.

Thanks Chani!


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I did a post about my quest for a new name a few months ago, but still haven't taken the step.

I absolutely believe that people should name themselves once they have attained enough maturity that they do not all choose Barbie or Britney or Paris. A name is deeply personal and tells other people and the gods who we are.

Angeline said...

Believe it or not, 'Angeline' is the 10th name I gave myself. I remember my very first was Salina. Yucks!

All these names are not my official name, meaning they are not in my passport....its just for easy 'calling' especially when I stay in a country that's multi-racial and multi-national....

I have stuck with 'Angeline' for more than 12 years now and don't think I'll change....

Anonymous said...

I wanted to be Aerial yes and that is how I spelled it. This was long before there was a princess in a Disney movie.

I wanted to fly. I wanted to be a pilot. I never wanted my feet on the ground.

My mother even told me I could change it if I wanted on my 18th birthday. Instead I got my ears pierced.

Woman in a Window said...

I think I'm lucky. I would stay exactly who I am. When I got married it wasn't even a question. It wasn't a feminist thing either. It was simple. I am simply Erin Wilson.

Defiantmuse said...

I feel that my name suits was a family name and when I was a child I was close to the great-aunt I was named after....I didn't like my name growing up b/c it was a bit I've become older I really love it.

Sorrow said...

It's strange, names have such a mix of meanings around my home... I have had more names in my life...Started counting once, think I got to 12 and said "why?"
But I like the names that others, whom I love, ascribe to me.
When the mail comes and it's one of my many names, It always brings a inside smile.
I get a lot of poking for the name Sorrow, but it suits me I think.

we_be_toys said...

I've never changed my name, not even when I got married. My philosophy on it is: I've spent my whole life trying to figure out who I am. My name is an integral part of who I am. Why would I want to change who I am, just because that's what other people do?
My youngest son recently told me he wanted to change his last name to my last name. I told him he would make his maternal grandfather very happy, but it would break his father's heart. I come from a family who use names over and over, to remember and honor those who have gone before us. My name is such a part of me I couldn't conceive of changing it. I DO understand why someone would want to change their name though, especially if it has really negative associations for them and they are trying to move on. I think it makes perfect sense.

Sienna said...

I think if I was to rename myself, I would just call myself "Free".

niobe said...

I'm perfectly happy with my given name for most purposes. Online, though, I'm always finding new names for myself: Jinx, Nerissa, Quintain, Niobe.