Saturday, April 25, 2009

Names Are Nothing But Words

"Our names,
How tiring it was for our parents
to find our names?
How long they thought of us?
Names are words
What's with words?
Our eyes are our own names"

That what a Lebanese lyric says

What these words called "names" have to with our own lives. There are a lot of personality analysis which are based on names, letters and number of letters but I never really cared. I am against stereotyping and it's just silly to suggest another way of to stereotype people, and according to what? According to their names? Whether John or Salim, Jane or Salima, why do we categorize people according to their names?

Isn't it funny that some other than you decide to pick a name for you to be called for the rest of your life and on the other hand it is used by someone else other than you and still that name define you? I've always thought at certain age people should have the right to decide which name they should be called.

When I was in elementary school, one of my best friends was Osama*. He had health problems and used to be very tiny compared to other boys in our class. He used to be in my team in whatever game we used to play, even when we played "bet beyot" (a game we used to play that imitate real life, where kids pretend they are family, neighbors and friends) he used to be my son or my brother. Osama's family decided to leave Iraq during 1995 and that's when I discovered he was Palestinian. The class missed Osama and I remember when a boy was teasing any of the girls we would remind him how Osama was friendly with us. We used to write collective letters to him but they were never sent, for he left and we were never able to trace him. I liked the name Osama but lately people carrying this name are being discriminated.

It's such a shame when certain names carry the bad images of the figures who once carried them, and it's even worse when other people who have nothing to do with what this name carries are being treated accordingly.

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name

Speaking of names couple of days back, a friend told me about the name Osayd, which is a miniature of Asaid (cub & lion) and was joking if the kid can change his name once he's 18 into Asaid, since he'll be fully grown. It was a nice joke but later after a couple of hours it hit me! I'm supposed to be a grown up but my name is holding me back!

I referred earlier what was my real name and to sum up the story it means a baby gazelle that still can hardly stand, let alone walk. My mother wanted to call me Reem which means a fully grown up fast gazelle. I never wanted to be Reem but the idea of me running fast like a gazelle and free in the wild where beautiful nature exists is very exciting to me now.

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
What if I had another name? What would you call me?

*Osama is a name for lion too.

That's all for now



Blogger khalid jarrar said...

loved the post :D


4/25/2009 4:51 PM  
Blogger moonlight said...

Lovely post and so true. Our parents think so hard to come up with our names or they know it long before we're born. and for the rest of our lives we're known by that one word. As for your real name, it's lovely too :).

4/25/2009 6:56 PM  
Blogger attawie said...

Did you find anything familiar this time ;)

thanks :)

so you figured it out! smart girl :)
Guys like to be called "abu fulan" and they stick to that name no matter how it's a ridiculous one. and girls think of their children names even before they are in their twenties! it's really funny.

4/25/2009 9:24 PM  
Blogger Khalid from said...


Thank you for this interesting post.

The parents are responsible for giving their children ,when they born, some good names.

The problem is people won't agree about a certain answer to the question, what a good name is?

What would you do if your parent called you Tashet, Tofkah, Neknaky, Jarthoumah, Tambal, Harokah, Jooeey.....?

May be the state should be given the right to reject a given name for a new born baby if it fails to comply with a specefic standard.

I think a good name should be somehow simple, easy to pronounce, musical and have a good meaning.

For example:

At ta wie = simple + musical + has a meaning



4/26/2009 4:19 AM  
Blogger David said...

Names are interesting things. I think that sometimes a name can influence how its bearer grows up. A funny or unusual name will cause childhood acquaintances to tease its bearer. Teasing can be very hurtful. A child who is teased a lot can have difficulty trusting others later in life.

Other times, a special name might be given by parents to their child in the hopes that she/he will work hard to live up to that name. Perhaps the child is named for a famous person or a famous ancestor. As the child grows, she/he might be constantly reminded of the name and its special meaning. If the child does very well, she/he will be praised and compared positively with the famous bearer of the name. This praise would help the child to grow with confidence and perhaps make a distinguished mark in the future. However, if the child fails to live up to the special name, the parents might repeatedly make negative comments about what a disappointment the child is compared to the famous namesake. In this case, the child may come to believe they are a failure and give up trying to do well.

When I studied anthropology in college, I learned some things about Native American culture. In some tribes, it was the custom to wait until a child was a young adult before giving them their adult name. Prior to that, they had a child name. The adult name was something that was earned by ones deeds. A very courageous young man would be given a name to reflect his bravery. He might, for example, be named after a bear, or an eagle.

Your story of your young classmate Osama reminds me of someone I once knew. For a time in college, I had a job working with International students as an English language conversation partner. This was a fun job for me, as I got to meet students from different countries and help them practice their English so they could eventually join regular classes with American students. We had a fair number of students from various Middle Eastern countries. I personally met students from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. I got to know several of them very well. The one from Jordan was quite friendly and we talked on different occasions at length about his country and the problems in the region including his thoughts about Israel. I told him that my ancestry is part Jewish, and he immediately asked if I supported Israel. I think that my answer surprised him. I said that Jews and Palestinians are all human beings and that neither had rights that were more important than the other. We talked a lot about the problems dividing the two groups. He had been raised from childhood to have a very negative opinion about Israel. He, like others on both sides of the conflict, had many stereotypes about the other side. After talking a long time, he said that he agreed with my position that people on both sides were human beings equally deserving of respect. The name of my friend from Jordan was Osama.

I remember the words of Juliet that you quote here. I remember how they fell in love, but were forbidden to marry because of the long hatred between the two families. I think that with this story, Shakespeare was trying to teach a lesson that it is not a good thing to blindly follow the conventions that others have set before you. The hatred between the families of Romeo and Juliet may have been so old that no one remembered what started the feud. All that was left was the convention of maintaining the feud, even though there was no longer any good reason to do so. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet finally brought the two families together, and they ended their feud (at least that is what I remember).

4/26/2009 11:11 AM  
Blogger moonlight said...

Yes, thats exactly how it works isn't it. My dad was called Abu M long before he was married and after years my younger brother was born and he became Abu M for for girls of course we think of there names before we're in our twenties =D.

4/27/2009 4:02 AM  
Blogger attawie said...

Khalid Ibrahim,

The "names" are hilarious! They remind me of a Kuraiti document which was shared through email, that I'm not even sure if it's real. It's an official paper that approves a list names of people who wish to change names. I can't believe "Hatif Atiya Atlan" and "khashooga", are among many of them

*thinking I might post that paper*

I remember before the war there was a certain rule that has something t o do with names, not sure though if non-Arabic names or something like that.

oh about attawie being simple+musical+ has a meaning! the first two because it was invented by my when i was three years or maybe less, has a meaning? that's new.

Yes, true. But what about names that carries the meaning of adjectives or animals? for the tribe you were talking about, names were earned and I think that's somehow good. We have something that could be close to it, we call it Kunya (sort of a nickname). For example our prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, way long before his prophecy he was known as The Sincere.

But these days, people are being internationally discriminated for the names they carry. or at least Muslim, Arab people.

share with us :) what do you have in mind? or is that too much to ask? ;)


4/27/2009 6:20 AM  
Blogger David said...

"But what about names that carries the meaning of adjectives or animals?"

I'm not sure what you are asking. Do you mean that children who are named after animals might be influenced by that name to grow up a certain way? Since you were named after a baby gazelle who could not walk, did you feel the need to always prove yourself? Did you feel that you had to excel more because your name implied that you might not do well in life?

4/27/2009 6:50 AM  
Blogger moonlight said...

I shall share but I have one condition, you must share too attawie. afterall you are over 20 :P.

For a girl my favorite name is Maryem for many many reasons, I have loved that name since I was young and Inshallah if I ever have a daughter that will be her name. Other girl names include Ruqayah, Zeinab, and maybe Reem. For a boy I like "y" names: Yunis, Yusuf, and Yahya. Of course it all depends on how many kids I have and if my future husband likes these names ;).

Attawie and Khalid I,
To add to your list of strange names what do you think of these names that I or memebers of my family have run into over the years: Zibalah, Kathban (not to uncommon in turkey but pronounced Kezban) and Fat, as a last name.

Yallah, I shared now it's your turn :).

4/28/2009 12:43 AM  
Blogger moonlight said...

sorry, not fat,I meant Pig.

4/28/2009 1:06 AM  
Blogger attawie said...


Reading "Do you mean that children who are named after animals might be influenced by that name to grow up a certain way?" made me imagine kids trying to walk like animals or such.

For me, I was proud to know that my name has a meaning. I thought it was super cool. because I didn't know all names had meaning. when I'm asked "what's your name?" I had to add the meaning too :)

There are names such as "Duraid", I like this name among many others but its meaning is "teethless"! it's a very popular name.

Yep, Maryem is very beautiful, and I like all the "Y" names you mention and add to them Yaseen :)

You should check these names if you think the names you provided were strange or funny :)

4/28/2009 6:53 PM  
Blogger Khalid from said...


هنالك معنى واضح لاسمكم وانا قرأت اوليات منشأه ولكن المعنى سيمكن اعتباره مشتقاً من الفعل العربي

فهو عطاء

ولست مختصاً في قواعد اللغة العربية لاجد لكم اوليات كلمة عطاوي ولكني اراها مرتبطة بالعطاء

تقبلي الاحترام


4/29/2009 7:55 PM  

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