Intrepid Girl Reporter

that which we call Host Sister…
November 30, 2007, 1:55 pm
Filed under: host sister, Uncategorized

1L (boys) – fun vs. funny

  • I mean they just keep getting better and better
    • except for that kid with the X-Acto knife
  • got to board races and everything
  • also taught Tall Jeong difference between fun and funny (who knew?)

2F (girls) – movie reviews intro

  • reasonably smart but really, really annoying
  • I think girl in back is maybe class scapegoat? watch
  • good participation/less hostility from 80s Ricki Lake (is girl who sits next to her class captain?)
  • WotD: “cinema”

When I was in high school, one of my favorite books to not buy at Barnes&Noble was this name book, which I found to be terribly fascinating and hip with its snide commentary on naming connotations. Admittedly, it’s a little forced and dated now, but I still find myself wishing I had a copy now that I’ve been charged with helping HS rename herself.

IGR: You have an email, right? So when you make friends in America, you can give them your email address and keep in touch when you leave.

HS: I want an American name.

IGR: Oh.

I’m never entirely sure if HS is losing a little bit of nuance in her translations or if she’s just really blunt.

As an ESL teacher, as an American, and as a person, I’ve found the politics of naming to be more than a little dangerous. The problem with renaming people according to one’s own culture is that one risks charges (and cases) of cultural imperialism, especially when the person in question comes from (ahem) the most dominant country in the world. The unspoken corollary is that Your Korean Name is Not Okay, But This American One Is. It’s kind of a problem, especially because America – while its politics are not hugely popular – remains this sort of glamorized dreamland. Even among my savviest kids, there’s no sense of any “Well, I’d really rather go to Sydney or London because it’s a little more diverse and less explored, you know, a little more fashionable” sentiment. I’ve taken an informal straw poll of a lot of them, and when I ask them if they want to go to America they look at me like I’ve asked them if they like breathing.

And, as always, personal – and hardly rational – experiences shape my own views on the subject. I posted about this on the blog I’m not allowed to connect to here, the one that makes my name and identity really obvious, but my own history makes it difficult for me to look objectively at the subject. Since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with names, their sounds and connotations; they’re the only thing I really collect, and I have a running list of my favorites (all of which have earned their place for widely varying reasons). My family doesn’t even really have a name; my father’s original family name (another convoluted story, for another post) was lost when his first stepfather adopted him and his siblings, and as a result the name I carry has no real resonance. I sort of picked it up by accident, it seems. But to lose it – and its Caucasian identity – in favor of something more closely tied to my own ethnic heritage would be, in a way, to distance myself from my Caucasian mother, to tell her that her culture is not good enough for me.  Is it any wonder that I have the urge to name my child something ludicrous, just because I can?

So HS is convinced that her name is too hard for Americans (it’s not really, although it’s not easy). Ergo, I find myself browsing these baby name sites, all of which are laden with popups and unimpressive design. Even the promisingly named has nothing real to offer me – no insight on the added layers that come with all names, no suggestions on whether Jane is plain or chic. I just want to make sure that she doesn’t, like a girl I knew at Orientation, rename herself Eddie. And to fight that temptation – the temptation to tell her that yes, all the girls in America are named Hortense. I’d just show her the Top 20 Names List from the US Census, but I can’t let her name herself Makayla or Nevaeh. America. I’m ashamed.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’ve always been fascinated with names too. I used to have 3 or 4 baby name books that I would spend hours looking through. It’s a fascinating topic.

Comment by Julie

Agreed; names are fascinating, especially their etymology.

I had a similar sitch. My coteacher was thinking about a new name. Soooo…I pulled up the most popular US names from around her year of birth and looked up the meanings so she can make a more informed decision. Her name won’t seem weird for her age, and she’ll at least know what she is calling herself after.

Comment by Laura J

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