Friday, March 13 - What's In a Name?

We had a discussion about names in the office this week. It started because we recently enrolled a student whose name was a bit unusual, but then again, who is to say what is unusual in names these days. We don't have any Apples, or anything like that, and we don't have too many ethnic names. No Tomalia's or Sharonda's or Hips or Dips. So when we get a student with an ethnic name, one that can be used as an adjective in a simple sentence let's say, it might provoke a discussion.

Of course having a name that's a noun or an adjective is not a bad thing. You can name your child pretty much anything you want these days (like the family not too far from here who named their child Hitler), but there are times when the name is going to haunt the child and I can think of two that we've had in our district. Both of them did wind up changing their name and were happier for it.

The first one had a first name of Hardik. Yes, say it out loud and don't snicker. While this may be a very common name in the country of his family's origin, it is not a common name here unless you're using it in a derogatory way. This child entered our school system in Kindergarten and managed to get through the first two years of his life here unscathed by the cruelty of other children. However, as we knew it would, it didn't last. Our ESL teacher had to have a very frank conversation with parents who barely spoke our language to explain to them why their little boy was being scoffed at. They in turn, had to check with the grandfather whose privilege in their culture was to name his grandchildren. The child was given a nickname that was both acceptable to the family and the children in his class.

The second child had the last name of Dick. Again, in another country this name is a very common name and no one would think anything of it. But here, the use of the word dick is something that most 10-year-olds would find funny. Unless, of course, you were the 10-year-old who owned that name. The child eventually started using his mother's maiden name and the teasing stopped.

We like to have our children take pride in their ancestry and if that means having a family first or last name that is not so common we hope that they can handle it. We also like to hope that it is not our own children who are teasing the child whose name is not one that you hear every day.

Today I had a related conversation with one of my fourth grade teachers. She had a parent visit her classroom and in the course of the conversation the parent mentioned that her child's last name was spelled wrong in every place that it appeared - even on her report card. And she also mentioned that this had been the case since she enrolled her daughter in kindergarten. (Their last name is the same as the Yankee's third baseman who's been in the news a lot lately.) Apparently, the person who registered this little girl used a "q" instead of a "g" in her last name and it only took them 5 years to let us know that there was a mistake. Go figure!

1 comment:

Clare said...

Here is one we got a laugh out of - At one of the schools in our district the office staffed questioned the mother about her son's name - Ymmot. She did not want her son to be anything like his father - so she named him the opposite of Tommy. - True story.