lundi, septembre 25, 2006

It's All in a Name

I've never really been in love with my name --- its quite unoriginal in my opinion --- Courtney. I've met tons of Courtneys and Courtneys who have my last name. Black, White Asian, etc. Courtney is a name that transgresses race, gender, and even generations. i've always longed for a name that was more unique and more feminine --- Courtney sounds too androgenous to me. As a teenager, I found this website that, when you put in your name, gave you stats on what people thought when they heard your name. For example, the name Courtney often rated average in attractiveness and slightly above average in intellect. Personality rated slightly above average as well. But names like Jasmine and Ashley rated much higher in terms of attractiveness.

In essence, names tell so much about a person, even without meeting or seeing that person. Earlier this year I read Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and in there, they had a chapter on names which I found somewhat problematic. They spoke about African Americans and the names some of them gave their children and how names can set a child up for a pattern of success. My problem with the chapter was that they citing names such as "roshanda'. Aisha, Taneshia, Latoya, and Roshanda are names rooted in African American culture much like Shaynah and Henye are popular Yiddish names. When a name has ethnic roots,
assumptions can definitely be drawn that may or may not benefit that person. Did anyone see 20/20 Friday? They did a segment on names and talked specifically about how a person's name can reflect his or her life and/or occupation (Did you know that many George's become geologists and Dennis's become dentists?). Also in that segment, Blacks with distinctly African American names were less likely to get call backs when two candidadtes had the exact same resume but one has a name like Molly and the other has a name like Aisha.

My problem with names, however, is when they get ridiculous. A couple of years ago, I took a part time job working in the Bronx with second graders. The names of the Black kids astounded me ... a pair of twins named Deja Vu and Rendez-Vous, a Cristal and a Moet, and another little girl named Henessey Alaze. My friend Jamie works as a librarian at a predominately Black school in North Carolina and her first graders have names like ChrisDarius (one word), Qwandrayfus, Julyjuan, Aquinearfrita, Asshole (pronounced Ah-sho-lee) and the list goes on. On the 20/20 segment, one of the "experts" remarked that in California, 30% of little Black grils have names no one else has. We could also talk about a lot of celebrites who name their babies crazy things:

Shannyn Sossamon named her son Audio Science
Rachel Griffiths named her son Banjo
Jason Lee named his son Pilot Inspektor
robert Rodriquez named his sons Rogue, Rebel, Rocket and Racer
Jermaine Jackson named his daughter Jermajesty
Jamie Oliver named his daughters Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo
Ving Rhames named his daughter Reign Beau
Bob Geldof and paula Yates named their daughter Fifi Trixibell

In essence, I say, names are incredibly important. I reject prejudices that renounce names that are deemed too ethnic or relegate names rooted in African American culture like Taneshia as being too ghetto but at the same time, why do parents give their kids names that are ridiculous or offensive. Can a child live up to their name? Will Rebel be a rebel? will Asshole be a real asshole? To take it further, Will Asshole, if he is so inclined, ever be elected President of the U.S? Will Quandrayfus or Julyjuan? would I really want to marry a banjo or audio Science? Names reflect so much about us to other people and conjure up associations and judgements whether we like it or not. The Freakonomics guys did have a point though and did ask a good question about naming. Can we live up to or escape are own names? Your thoughts...

galumph -- intransitive verb: To move in a clumsy manner or with a heavy tread.

"I recognize in thieves, traitors , and murderers, in the ruthless and the cunning, a deep beauty -- a sunken beauty" --- Jean Genet



Blogger Urbanpink said...

This makes me think of the principles "don't take anything personally," and "live in heaven, believe what you find to be true." Names are like faces, but are less informative. People will judge names with the same filters they use to judge people--if someone is racist they will react similarly to a racially associated name. If someone is elitist, they will have a vile reaction to a goofy name. I can be elitist (I hate elitistism, it is a shadow of mine) and I am obviously still telling the story of a little girl I heard her mother call, "Tyranny." I don't know how it was spelled, only that it sounded just like "Tyranny." I was in rural Missouri and the child was white. I made a lot of assumptions about that family. Names say more about the parents than the child. I may have been right, but judgements against others are wrong. Nevertheless, people judge and judge and judge, and our job as parents is to teach our children to find their own pride, and judge themselves fairly. We can make that easier or harder for our children, definitely, names included. Thankfully, at 18 we can control our names and believe what we want to about ourselves all of our lives.

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