Sunday, May 6, 2007

WHAT'S IN A NAME

In my Dad's days, names of people used to be typical. Kalyani, Karthyayini, Ammukkutty, Parukkutty and so on would be usual among girls/women. The male names would sound more masculine: Karunakaran, Krishnan, Radhakrishnan, Balakrishnan, Ravindran and so on. People never used to givre so much relevance to the variety, but insisted on grandpa's or illustrious uncle's name for males; so would the females inherit their grandma's or aunt's name. These names used to be functional and meaningful, yet not very individualistic. Naturally, if you call out for a Radha especially in a crowded occasion like a marriage, several Radhas would answer the call, in this particular case, even males ( Radhakrishnan's short form is 'Radha').

Names among citizens of other nationalities are also interesting. Some are very short like those of the Chinese, while Srilankans have very long names , so do the Telugus. Those of the Russians would end in -ov while those of the Americans are Hammer, Butcher, Strangler etc. The Potuguese fancy D'Costa, D'Souza, Da Cunha and so on, while their neighbours prefer names such as Dias, dicruz and so on. Some of the African names rhyme with their countries - Mugabbe of Zimbabawe! The popular joke in a Readers Digest issue on Chinese names was: when a child was to be named they would drop the cutlery and the sound made would be the name assumed, like Ting, Sung etc. Yet, on the occasion of a prize distribution ceremony, an ethnocentric American once asked me: "How do you pronounce these tongue twister names right?" I wanted to say the secret is to clean the toungue well every morning, but I didn't!

In my youth, the trend among Hindus was to name single-syllabled names. Binesh, Jinesh, Rinesh, Hinesh etc. would be rhyming quartuplet's name, while Remya, Soumya, Namya, Chamya would naturally be their female counterparts. So many such names sprung up as a result of this fashion. Even the typical Christian names started taking Hindu surnames such as: Rajan Daniel, Sunil Varghese, Ramesh Cherian and many more. Pals used to call weach other by abbreviated names - Praks for Prakash, Rems for Remya, Rams for Rema, goi for Govindan Nair and so on. This went to to such an extent that, dad would be call Ach and mom would be addressed Amms. My sister was once embarressed to be addressed 'Anus' that too in a letter!!

I read in one of the news features, that the female names among females made them disinterested in science and math. So, they argue that, Sally would not be interested in math, while Alex (female) would be.

I do have a rather long name. To help out Arabs and European associates having to exert themselves to speak my name, I once told some Arab friends my name was Menon. On another occasion, when I sort of bumped into one of those innovative guys, he called me Mr. Lemon. He must have understood he was mistaken from my facial expression, because he readily corrected " Mr. Melon" smiling smugly! I would rather have been addressed Lemon I thought, at least it was a great actor's name! On another occasion having given my card to a Philipino, he called on at the office and demanded the secretary to summon Mr. Mirinda. The bemused but humorous secretary blurted out that there was no Mr. Mirinda nor a Mr. Pepsi there!

My daughter has a typical female name - Remya, which she chose to change to Ramya. Don't ask me why. Now the trend is to choose ones own name, I think!

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