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Welcome to FIT, Fall 2010. Please, tell a namestory.

Written By: daveski on September 8, 2010 2 Comments

It was great to meet everyone who came out to the Found in Translation get-to-know-you meeting last Friday at Caffe Strada, and everyone in Rick Kern’s course, Applied Language Studies. I’m looking forward to a great semester of blogging with you all about our experiences learning, using, and thinking about languages and cultures.

Last semester lots of people in the FIT community (and if you’re reading this post, that means you 🙂 ) got off to a great start on the blog by commenting on a post that asked the question, “What’s the story of your name-in-translation?” Be sure to take a look–if the And here in this post, I thought we might get to know each other a little bit this semester, by revisiting the topic, but telling a new story.

What kind of stories can you tell about your name? Well, for starters, you can think about…

the names we have been given, the names we (try to) give ourselves, the names we resist, the names that thrill us when they’re coming from someone else’s mouth, or maybe they don’t sound quite right, the names we don’t even recognize in another tongue. Here on FIT we’ve had several posts about names-in-translation: Usree’s “What’s in a name?” comments on the story of the Republican legislator Betty Brown, who during House Elections Committee testimony almost a year ago, said that Asian-American voters should use names which are “easier for Americans to deal with”; aaminahm, in her “What’s in a name part 2?“, told the story of her own name(s), navigating various religious, cultural, and national histories. And a long time ago, daveski started (but hasn’t finished, tsk tsk!) the story of re-discovering his own name on a jar of Raspberry jam.

So…what’s the story of your name, or your name-in-translation? Have you discovered a new identity in a different name, in a different language? Struggled to reclaim your own name from how it’s been used by others? Relished in the attention that your name brought you in another culture? Marveled at how those sounds uttered or written can signify you, a living, breathing person?

Please leave your story, short or long, as a comment to this post; of course, if you’re feeling up to it, you’d be most welcome to post it as your own post too. Hopefully we’ll get to know each other better, and maybe learn a thing or two about what it might mean to live in translation.

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2 Responses to “Welcome to FIT, Fall 2010. Please, tell a namestory.”

  1. Dave on: 12 September 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Argh, I started on this comment when sitting together with Shelby a few days ago at the FIT meeting, closed my computer, and when I opened it up later…where had that window gone? The comment from “daveski” on daveski’s post was gone.

    Which I suppose is just fine, because now I can comment on “daveski” as “Dave”, the name that I use when I’m using my voice, most of the time. And the comment I had started writing on Friday was actually about “daveski”, my *other* name on FIT. I had started wondering about this because Shelby mentioned something about how at that very moment, when we were going to write comments to this post about names, that she was having to choose her own online handle as she registered on FIT.

    How many usernames do I have? What was my first online name? How did I choose it, and the ones after it? Where did “daveski” come from, and how does it resonate with people who hear it?

    Well, I don’t remember the answers to all of these questions, don’t know if I can answer them all but I do know that, as far as the last one goes, pretty much NOBODY hears it. I was shocked when I heard somebody read it as “duh-VEH-skee” and not “DAVE-skee” like I heard it in my head, but I guess that makes sense since our usernames are hardly ever spoken. And if they are, it’s usually the spelling that gets the focus and not the name as a whole.

    Experiences like this, and of being accountable for my usernames in more formal, more professional contexts as I move along in my studies, make me reconsider having chosen “daveski”. Which was, it turns out, the nickname used by one of my soccer buddies and best friends in middle and high school. Somehow it just stuck in my head. But I’m not sure, as I apply for jobs and get ready to make a new username in whatever context comes next, whether “daveski” will make the cut.

    Is that sad? I dunno. The username seems to be caught up in a weird place as far as naming and identity goes–partly mine to choose, partly mandated by social institutions and relationships, partly constrained by the machines it lives in. Maybe going back to “dmalinowski” will let “daveski” finally return to the soccer field?

  2. seo on: 17 September 2010 at 3:39 pm

    My given name is Shelby. I remember when I was little feeling as if this name was a little strange, but never strange enough that I decided to go by my middle name (my middle name is Elizabeth — my parents gave it to me in the even that I did find my first name too out of the ordinary. After all, I wasn’t an Emily or Amanda or something else reasonably common). I was the only Shelby in the school, at least for a while. Then of course, a few years behind me, a large cohort of Shelbys began to appear. I blame Julia Roberts and Steel Magnolias (although I’ve never seen it). Now that I’m older I find myself missing the original strangeness of my name. I also find myself constantly wishing my name were somehow easier to put into translation.

    I study (so far) Japanese and Chinese. In Japanese my name can be transliterated into “sherubii” シェルビー using katakana, the phonetic alphabet typically used for words not of Japanese origin. I have tried time and again to find a way to put my name into kanji (Chinese characters), but the “She” is not a sound native to Japanese, and thus, there are no characters that have that sound. My last name is also terribly awkward and long in Japanese. But katakana is the way that for the past eight years I’ve been rendering my name into Japanese, and so to adopt an actual Japanese name (Chie seems somewhat close to “She” to me) seems, somehow, not me.

    My Chinese name is ōu xiāo bì 欧肖碧, given to me within the first few days of beginning first year Chinese. I was almost given a different name because the instructor, who I think was just looking at a list of names, didn’t know if my name was male or female (I’ve never seen Shelby used as a male name outside of the southern United States), so I was almost “小” for xiao, meaning small. I don’t remember if the “bi” was different. The current 肖 means “to resemble” and 碧 means either “[green] jade” or “blue-green” (if Dave hasn’t I think I may end up writing something about the uncertainty of blue and green in Japanese and Chinese characters). The components of it mean “ruler” “white” and “stone” but the way I try to break down characters to try to remember them is another post entirely. Anyway, I find it to be rather pretty and enjoy writing it.

    The name that I’ve chosen to use here, though, is “seo” — a name I’ve contemplated using for writing before, and I quite like the brevity of it after years of going by soxenford or seoxenford. I also discovered a few years ago that besides being a common acronym for “search engine optimization” (which I find a little amusing), it is a romanization of a fairly common Korean surname. That somehow seems fitting since my next language goal is to begin learning Korean (I took two weeks during my senior year of undergrad before I had to drop because of lack of time, something I still regret). I’ve no idea if anyone will try to call me by it — however, I am look forward to the different interpretations and ways of saying it if they do.

    Anyway, that’s some of my name story. Hi, everyone, and I hope to write more (and more interesting things) soon!

    -Shelby

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