21 October 2011

New Names

If you have ever changed your name, or some other aspect of your identity, do you feel better about yourself now?  As "Via" I do not really have a surname or family name at all, though I do sometimes use "Peace" as a sort of surname when sending emails.

My "Via" surname can change unofficially whenever I wish, as can my blogger name of "Via" itself.  It is much easier to change my name than change my weight, or even my hair colour!

Whenever I tell someone my "real" name, in any of its former or current forms, it can cause all sorts of difficulties, especially when I am travelling in other countries.  Pronunciation can be difficult at times, as I know myself from trying to say the names of the many different people I have met around the world over the years.

I find it can also be very difficult to say or spell the names of some of the people whose names are known to us through history books.  Have I spelled Nietzsche correctly here?  How did he pronounce his surname?  Was it Neesha?  And do you say Prowst or Proost for Proust, or doesn't it really matter any more, especially if you do not read long novels?  Should Shakespeare be Schak-es-pi-ar-ay? 

There have been occasions when I have been waiting for my name to be called by a medical person and then I have missed the announcement completely when my name has been said in a way quite unfamiliar to me.  It happens quite frequently in overly busy, or overly noisy, health care settings.

Have you ever had a delayed flight and then had to rush to catch a connecting one while hearing your name and "final boarding" being announced in an unfamiliar way for the whole airport to hear?

Names can also cause embarrassment for people who mispronounce them, or who write our names down in a way we do not expect at all.  Even voice-recognition technology rarely recognises my voice - and my name - correctly!

It seems to me that people often read articles about names, and name changes, because they expect to find those articles funny in some way.  Does your response to new names - and especially names you find funny or strange - have more to do with your perceptions of language - and other people - rather than expectations of identity and your own sense of who you are?

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