Hamzeh wrote an interesting post about living in a linguistically challenged society (i.e. America) where one’s name is rendered unpronounceable. It inspired me to recollect some of my own musings on the same subject.
Like Hamzeh my name, Naseem, has only two syllables yet every time someone reads my name it’s always in the form of a question? Na-zeem? And that’s another thing, why do they insist itÃ¢??s a “Z” when there’s no “Z” in my name?! I’m thinking of adding a hyphen between “Nas” and “eem”.
I guess a lot of people, Arabs too, change their names once they get to this side of the world, but I could never do that. What’s a person without his name? You kind of have to force the environment around you to change. Imagine Oprah had listened to everyone’s advice and changed her name? I was actually told on several occasions that I should consider changing my name to, you know, better “adapt”. As if my being born here and speaking native English wasn’t an effort on my part to “adapt”. And I tell these people I could never do that and they say “well the Asians do it all the time, what’s so tough about changing your name?Ã¢?Â In my head I am channelling John Proctor from The Crucible, screaming: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!”
As for my last name, “Tarawnah”, forget about it. That is a linguistic mine field for anyone in the western hemisphere and I don’t exactly blame them; it’s one of those names that requires an Arabian tongue to operate it. I got a call from one guy who stuttered and struggled over it for about 30 seconds (to my amusement) before he resolved to renaming me “Thomson” (not to my amusement). During the first year or so it felt almost insulting: going from an environment where everyone knows the name to an environment where no one can pronounce it; itÃ¢??s a culture shock. But now I just have fun with it. I let people struggle and struggle and when they make an attempt to say it as a question I just say “Excuse you me? What did you call me?” and they struggle (out of fear theyÃ¢??ve just insulted me in a foreign language) for another 5 minutes and I wait patiently, smiling, entertainedÃ¢?Â¦
…and that’s Wednesday.