Wednesday, 25 August 2010

a rose by any other name...

so i'm listening to radio nz in the afternoon as i'm in the car, and i hear jim mora read out some emails of people's experiences of their parents giving them wierd names (sorry, not online). the only example that i can really remember is of a family with a surname of "bear" who decided to call one of their children "teddy" and another "polar". apparently a true story.

anyway, one of the emailers writes in to say that many people have been traumatised by the nasty teasing they had to endure as a result of an odd name. and heaps of opprobrium was of course directed to the terrible parents who would inflict such a name on their helpless offspring.

the problem i have with this is that there was absolutely no ire shown towards people who would be cruel or thoughtless enough to be teasing people with wierd or funny names. i hate that we accept that children will be cruel, accept that other adults will be cruel and advocate conformity & diminished individuality as a response to this. surely our effort and energy should be going towards creating a society where people can exist without having to suffer for something as trivial as a strange name. in fact they shouldn't have to suffer because of any physical or psychological trait that is deviant from what is currently decided to be the "norm" - too fat, too thin, too "effeminate" for a boy, too "masculine" for a girl, wrong colour, wrong race, wrong religion etc etc etc.

i mean really, are we aiming for a society where everyone must fit into a narrow band of what is considered acceptable, and anyone who happens to fall outside that - whether by their own choice or not - can be expected to face harassment for it? how is it that we never even consider the possibility that parents should be able to give their child whatever stupid name they want, and no-one would even bother to make a comment about it? i think i'd much prefer to live in a world like that, rather than one where everyone had predictable and boring names.


homepaddock said...

I agree that we shouldn't accept cruelty towards those who don't conform.

However, I have an unusual name (Elspeth).

I don't remember being teased about it. But I got sick of the confusion and mispronunciation which followed introductions and was delighted when friends at high school shortened it to Ele.

I didn't want our children to have to constantly repeat, spell and explain their names as I did so chose simple, easy to pronounce names for them.

A Nonny Moose said...

With a difficult last name, I too suffered from the mispronunciation problem, but I was damned if I was going to let their indifference to my uniqueness go by. To this day I make a point of spelling my name everytime I give it.

I see it with immigrants and the way their workmates/friends try to "anglicize" their names so that THEY feel comfortable. It's another subtle form of racism - "I can't pronounce your name, so you don't deserve it".

Confusion, mispronunciation and indifference to an unusual name is just another way society cowes an individual into line, and within narrow parameters of what's "normal".

Sophie W said...

I think there's a lot more variation in names these days. I think names that were perceived to be unusual back in my day provoked teasing in a way that wouldn't happen today. It's now more normal to be different. Also, I asked my stepkids about this a couple of years ago, it was totally uncool to tease someone about their name in their world. But maybe they're just awesome. Anyway, when I was at school we had a boy whose name rhymed with fart (not Bart). He was a refugee. Before he came to school our principal gave the whole school a preemptive massive telling-off so we would be too scared to be mean. This worked as far as I remember. I definitely remember the extremely stern and justified warning. Actually, I asked mum about this recently, I think she said his name was actually pronounced fart but they changed it slightly, as that was in itself a bit mean.

ScubaNurse said...

On a similar line of "stupid people who cant handle different". Why do kids who come here on exchange have to change thier names so kiwis will learn them?
This infuriates me. Ye Eun Might look hard but photetically it is Yay yun...hardly complex.
And I have noticed that generally the kids learn fine, it is the teachers and parents that dont take the time to learn the new names.
bah. too tired to be eloquent. Cranky will have to do.