Saturday, January 9, 2010

What's in a name

Your name is something you are born with ; unless you take the trouble of changing it later on in life. The vast majority of us grow to like our name and keep it. But consider the unfortunate few, who have been named rather quixotically by their parents. Why on earth parents do that is not clear, but do it, they sometimes.

Imagine if you are named Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin. Thankfully there’s a law in many countries preventing parents from giving their children obviously crazy names. That, of course didn’t prevent a certain Indian politician from naming his son Stalin. Considering that knowledge of recent Russian history is not the strong point of the place he lives in, we’ll let that pass.

But what about Justin Case or Barb Dwyer. Or Stan Still or Barry Cade. Or amongst the ladies Anna Sasin or Rose Bush . Or Jo King or Carrie Oakey. Sometimes your name gets you into trouble because of your job. Susan Frame is a perfectly acceptable name. She then married a Robert Mee and became Susan Mee. Still OK. But she's a lawyer and can you really be a lawyer and be called Sue Mee ?? And consider her husband Robert Mee. No problem again there, except that as a banker you don’t want to be called Rob Mee.

I haven’t invented any of the above names. They are all real names of real people. I wonder what their parents were thinking ??

Closer home, some parents in India go to enormous lengths to find unusual names for their children. Why ?? I know of a girl called Enakshi. All her life she has been correcting others that she isn’t Meenakshi. Some go for tongue twisters. Why name somebody Pradyush or Akshayaguna or Nakshatraraja, Tribhuvaneswari ? Sure they are lovely names, but others have to pronounce them , don’t they. Parents , please do a favour to your children. Find them a simple name that everybody can easily spell and pronounce. Like Aparna or Savitha or Preeti or Sandhya or Durga!!

In China, they have a different problem. Their names are pretty short and easy to pronounce. You can’t make a mistake with Li or Wang. Except if they have the different sounding pinyin characters in their names – Qiu is pronounced as Chiu and Zhang is closer to Jang. Where they get in to trouble is when they award themselves English names (they are actually nicknames; not official names, but they use these very commonly). Chinese is a wonderfully descriptive language and they often make the mistake of literally translating their names into English. So a Li whose given name means as soft and gentle as rain, becomes Rain Li !! Somebody must tell Engine Zhou, Ice Peng and Fish Leong that its not a great idea to name yourself like that.

But, in my book, the perfect name a mother has ever found for her son is from India. Some 50 years ago a son was born to doting parents in Sadupur village in Rajasthan. They named him Lakshmi Nivas (it means “where the goddess of wealth resides” in Hindi). He is who we now know as LN Mittal, the Chairman of Arcelor Mittal and one of the wealthiest persons in the world. Some prescience naming him that !!