What's In a Name?

Our identity is something each and every one of us holds near and dear to our heart. Even if we do not know who we are, we still know the one thing that defined us from our birth: our name. Amal Kassir, a spoken word poet, says, “The greatest distance you can travel in the shortest amount of time is by asking someone their name,” and I could not agree more.

No matter where we are from, whether it be India, Venezuela, Nigeria, Italy, or even America, our names carry such rich culture and heritage. Even in Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo is trying to convince Juliet to marry him, she makes a condition that the only way she will is if he strips himself of his last name to solidify the removal of the hatred between the two families. Romeo hesitated, because the name Montague carried a tremendous amount of weight and honor. In an effort to convince her otherwise he says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell just as sweet.”

To him, his name meant everything; it was who he was. But, he understood that Juliet was more important because he knew who he was.

For me, most people I meet cannot pronounce the way my name is supposed to be said; they “anglicize” my name in a way that makes it easier for them to pronounce. In the beginning, it bothered me a lot. I could not understand how people could not pronounce something so simple the right way. It really frustrated me after a while. Then, I started to give up; I just let people call me any way they could.

After a while, I finally realized that people really just couldn’t pronounce it, but I was not frustrated this time. Because I understood that these mispronunciations did not take away from how connected to my heritage I felt or how proud I was to say my name properly. In fact, it kind of made me happy that, instead of giving me a name that they liked, they tried their best to pronounce my name properly. Even though most of them couldn’t do it properly, it still showed that they cared enough to try – and that, in itself, was reassuring for me. It was enough.
— Sameer Sridhar, House of Ono