What’s in a name? – Parents should take the blame!


[Disclaimer – Kindly read the below post with an OPEN mind. No part of the post means to disrespect or degrade any religious, regional, family, age or experience and gender sentiments. If you feel intimidated, leave the page at that very moment, than continuing to read further]

When you have been hurled with questions like – Why doesn’t your name have a meaning? Can you spell out your name? You have a great name there, but what part of it do I call you as? Why did your parents name you XYZ? Why is your name so strange? – you either have an answer or don’t. And when you don’t, you are so frustrated, and feel like kicking the hell out of the one asking such a question, because how would one know the reason of why his/her name is like that?! All questions lead to one Shakespeare’s cliché – ‘What’s in a name?’ The answer to which is – ‘Parents should take the blame!’.

A name is an identity of an individual that makes one uniquely recognizable with the tag within a crowd. Names, essentially, should be simple but ought to contain meaning, as every other word on the planet, and as well have to be pronounceable and easily spellable.

Most of the traditions fall under the category of naming a new-born via religious contexts or mythology, family hereditary – like in names of elders who preceded the family tree and are no more alive, etc. For the tech savvy, baby names come from Internet sites. Loads of these sites provide the name and the meaning within which the names may be grouped alphabetically and sometimes sorted too, based on religion and region wise preferences. The strangest of the rituals are those of the Chinese – A holy vessel, of the form of a plate, is used to name the new-born. The vessel is dropped on the ground and based on the sound it makes, the child takes those words as his name. It is like the child’s stars affect the plate’s noise! (Citation needed – my assumption!)

Saying so – Why do we have to complicate the process of naming a new-born? When there are a plethora of resources available at hand, we could easily produce simple, yet meaningful names. Names – that are easily written and which gracefully spell! Shorter names are easy to memorize and are easily pronounced too, by people around you and people of various dialects. Sometimes, names are so confusing and sound like tongue twisters that we think of innovations around them. Imagine a device specially designed to track a record base of people’s identity with name-photo pairs. Such a device would be integrated with Google Goggle and then when a person arrives in front of you, you take a picture and it scans the record-base and pops the name of the person! Simple to hear, but terribly time-consuming and mostly embarrassing! Isn’t it?

Think of the practical situations! In today’s world, everybody has to fill out a form – be it for opening a bank account, passport or having to get a driver’s license or fill a college admission form. All of these forms have equal importance. When we have to fill out our name in one of these forms and there isn’t sufficient space to fill out your name, you would have felt to curse the person who has named you! Terrible is the situation when a person’s first name is itself 25-30 characters or the name is of the form of BirthTownName_FirstName_AliasName_MiddleName_LastName_ReligiousDerivedName. Or consider the time when your friend/apprentice/colleague asked you – Which part of the name should I call you as? This is too common in the corporate world! Computer Divisions in corporate houses are tipsy-turvy when they have to come up with an email id and an equally matching display name for an individual that has an enormous number of characters in the name. People working in Asia Pacific (APAC) regions have another difficulty. When they are traveling to a foreign country, for job reasons, they keep an English alternative name which colleagues in the other country can easily pronounce and remember. Why? – Think. At my work place, I overheard a person asking another on why his American Express card had a code, than the actual name, on it. The first person said, “My name has 26 characters. But their database supports only 25. So they abbreviated my name! :(”. These are just a drop of those oceanic sized difficult situations that we face, due to the name our parents have bestowed on us. Teasing or keeping funny names, based on one’s strange original name, sometimes leads to depressions too!

The problem with most parents, esp. in the Indian subcontinent, lies in their orthodox religious beliefs and their demographic influences. People consider it holy to include the family deity’s name, within their child’s name, adding another level of complexity. Regional influences such as – Tamils feeling that Subramanian is the only name out there; adding Singh to a boy’s name and Kaur to the girl’s name for Punjabis and then be confused on what is the LastName of that individual; Shrinivas, Shreeneevas, Shreenivas (or make up a combination of these letters) famous in the Andhra – make the name sound great and give a sense of pride (make your chest feel upright), declaring to the world that you are from the famous XYZ region. But, consider the consequences of having complicated names – where your name could be misspelt or part of your name is omitted somewhere. It is difficult to maintain uniformity everywhere! Many-a-times people have to keep making errands to court offices to bring in notary signed documents to prove that the name in their degree marks card and their school marks card point to the same person. Does anyone know what does ‘VVS’ stand in ‘VVS Laxman’? Or ‘APJ’ in ‘APJ Abdul Kalam’? They make great quiz questions, but they may be difficult to maintain!

What could be the solution to this?

1. Consult:
Parents – Educated or otherwise, when in doubt, should always consult third parties about their decision in keeping a name for their child. But at the end, keep the final decision to yourself. No God is going to descent down and strike you if you don’t allow the paternal aunt to name her niece or nephew. It is the parents that need to do the naming. Else, when your child grows up – You would not like to be the central point of their anguish. Later, you would have to take the blame if your child is feeling sensitive!

2. Meaningful, yet simple:
Let the tags be meaningful, yet simple. Example: ‘Ram’ is simple, yet elegant! Another example – One of my friend, named ‘Vishnu’, told me that his grandfather named him so with the vision, that when somebody called him, they would at least for that sake, would speak of something holy. ‘Vishnu’ has a simple tone, yet is holy and insightful.

3. Don’t worry of uniqueness:
Many parents think of always having unique names. Our office forum is always filled with posts of ‘Unique Names required for my new-born’! I ask why? Are you going to be bestowed with the Nobel Prize on your name standing out to be the preferred Primary Key in the Names’ Database? That also goes for the saying that, don’t linger in common names always. But names can clash sometimes. That is OKAY and alright.

4. Try using the Vernacular sounds for spelling out names:
‘Sh’ sound in many names is misspelled as ‘S’ in English. That is unacceptable. With a ‘S’ in your name, you cannot expect someone to call you with a ‘Sh’ sound. Especially, names like ‘Srinivas’, ‘Sri’, ‘Visnu’, ‘Krisna’, and ‘Josua’ need a ‘Sh’ in their names. ‘S’ should be followed by ‘h’. Sometimes ‘t’ is followed by an additional ‘h’ – ‘Prashanth’, ‘Basanth’, ‘Shwetha’, ‘Savitha’. ‘h’ could be easily omitted here, if vernacular sounds are considered.

5. Do not use Region Derivatives
When my Bengali friend told me that ‘Aishwarya’ is pronounced as ‘Aish-shor-jo’, I was WTF! Also, you may be influenced to use deity and region additions to one’s name, but think twice in case the number of words and length of each word is going to affect your child.

6. Try the FirstName_LastName Syntax
FirstName_LastName is the best nomenclature of naming. To keep it simple, this strategy can always be used.

Names make up the world. Names make connections. From form-filling, to Internet ids and passwords, from bank and education documents to press and media – Names are used everywhere. We cannot name a person as Person_1, Person_2. This is stupid and impractical too. But, names must be usable to sound great! Else, you know whom to blame.

Signing off,
Blabber-mouth Ally

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8 comments

  1. “The strangest of the rituals are those of the Chinese – A holy vessel, of the form of a plate, is used to name the new-born. The vessel is dropped on the ground and based on the sound it makes, the child takes those words as his name.”

    Good one. I’ve also wondered about that 🙂

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