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To Say the Name is to Begin the Story

What's in a name?

Teresa Tyra

on 12 November 2012

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Transcript of To Say the Name is to Begin the Story

To Say the Name
Is to Begin the
Story Indian family names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from religion or epics. In China and other Asian countries, a person’s name generally consists of three parts: a family name, a middle name, and a given name, used in that order. In Mexico, parents give a child a first name, then follow it with the father’s last name, then the mother’s last name. The complete Russian name is formed of a given name, patronymic (a name honoring a father or grandfather), and a family name, in that order. Africa is home to several language families and hundreds of languages. The people can be divided into over a thousand different ethnic groups. Some practice various tribal religions, others Islam or Christianity. This complex background makes summing up African naming traditions in a few paragraphs very difficult. Traditional African given names often reflect the circumstances at the time of birth. Names such as Mwanajuma "Friday,” Esi "Sunday,” and Wekesa "harvest time" refer to the time or day when the child was born. Other names reflect the birth order of the newborn, for example Mosi "first born and Wasswa "first of twins.” Most people in the north of Africa are Muslim and thus tend to use Muslim names. In central and southern Africa, as a result of European colonization, many nations are partially Christian and have French, English or Portuguese as an official language. These regions use European names extensively. Historically some groups of people were
denied their names. Many people from
Eastern Europe had their names shortened
at Ellis Island because their last names were
too long and too difficult for the officials to
pronounce. When Africans were stolen from
their homeland, their names and their history
were stripped as well. “If I had been called Sabrina or Ann, she said”
By Marge Piercy
I'm the only poet with the name.
Can you imagine a prima ballerina named
Marge? Marge Curie, Nobel Prize winner.
Empress Marge. My lady Marge? Rhymes with
large/charge/barge. Workingclass?
Definitely. Any attempt to doll it up
(Mar-gee? Mar-gette? Margelina?
Margarine?) makes it worse. Name
like an oilcan, like a bedroom
slipper, like a box of baking soda,
useful, plain; impossible for foreigners,
from French to Japanese, to pronounce.
My own grandmother called me what
could only be rendered in English
as Mousie. O my parents, what
you did unto me, forever. Even
my tombstone will look like a cartoon. “Untitled”
By Bakari Chavanu
I changed my name to Bakari Chavanu six years ago and my mom still won’t pronounce it. The mail she sends is still addressed to Johnnie McCowan. I was named after my father. When I brought up the subject with her of changing my name, she said my father would turn over in his grave, and “besides,” she said, “how could you be my son if you changed your name?”
I knew she was responding emotionally to what I decided to do. I knew and respected also that she was, of course, the giver of my life and my first identity, but how do I make her understand the larger picture? That the lives of people are more than their families and their birth names, that my identity was taken from me, from her, from my father, from my sister, from countless generations of my people enslaved for the benefit of others? How do I make her understand what it means for a kidnapped people to reclaim their identity? How do I help her understand the need for people of African descent to reclaim themselves? What about your name? Credit (optional): create a piece of visual art incorporating your written piece. This poem IS my daughter Audra: What about YOUR story? http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=479455 Extra
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