17日 . 4月 . 2014年
When I first starting having Chinese friends (hmmm. . . basically when I first moved to US), there was the realization that Chinese people have English names. At first I didn't think anything about it. Once I had more friends and met more people, I learned this was their second name. In other words, they change their names.
It's not a strange thing. Their reason is, "because it's easier for Americans to pronounce an English name".
After talking with one of my friends (who uses an American name for Facebook), he explained to me how more and more Chinese people are wanting English names because this shows they have higher status; they are more distinguishable in companies, work, etc.
Then I provided the 'Puerto Rican' view on this phenomenon:
We (Puerto Ricans) have a lot of pride on our names. Even in Puerto Rico, no 1 person has the same name. At least not the same combination. Of course there are many common last names and first names, but combination is what sets people apart. For us this is a good thing for many reasons.
- We can brag about how long our names are. The longer = the cooler you look = the better.
- We can explain how we obtained our names, as well as explain all the nicknames we are given.*
- When we do find someone with one name that is the same (whether it is a first name, middle name or last name), we can casually joke about our lineages.
The system is as such:
Everyone has a first name, and almost everyone has a middle name (there are some people who don't have middle names). After this comes two last names. The first last name is your fathers' last name, and the second last name is your mothers' last name. For example;
my mothers' name is: Naida Melendez Grei.
my fathers' name is: Joaquin Campos Freijo.
So when I was born my mother gave me my first and middle name, and then I received " Campos Melendez " as my last name.** Culturally this is the norm.
Notice how, even though we receive the fathers' last name first, I mentioned the male second and my mother was the one to give me my first two names. The reason for this is because we value women much more than men. I truly believe that after my experiences abroad (countries outside of Puerto Rico), that Puerto Rico is one of the few places that is very maternal and not paternal in our way of thinking. The role of men is of course understood by everyone, but it is not idealized or magnified as much as women.
In essence, the woman is the almighty powerful figure that should not be messed with. She does not ask for respect, she demands it. She is a strong person who knows what she wants. While she may know her own strengths, she does not need to use all her strength all the time to get what she wants. She can use her knowledge of manipulation and education, as well as her softness to make others feel good about themselves.
Males have delicate egos, and thus need to be nurtured. This woman knows she is strong, but she doesn't need to be strong. The thinking behind this is as follows; a woman who knows when to hold back is powerful in itself, and therefore treated as a king. In other words, the woman will make the man feel good about himself; make him useful to her. Maybe he is more physically stronger her so she lets him do all the physical work. In return the man feels like he is needed and feels good about himself, and because he feels good he will treat her like she is the freakin' goddess walking on water.
As mentioned earlier, we brag about how long our names are. I used to have a friend whose mother gave her at least 4 different middle names (to what I can recall), and that made me envious. The reason is purely simple: everyone wants a long name. With a longer name, you have more to explain; you have more history and more stories to tell (as well as jokes).
This is also the time when we can find similarities in our names, and try to see if we can trace back our family history in order to find that one person we have in common. Of course, this task is difficult in itself, but it's still fun to try and imagine.
So how does this all relate to changing names? Well, the reality is, is that Puerto Ricans don't change their names. We have a lot of pride in our own names, not only because it gives us a small sense of individuality but we can also feel pride in our own ancestry. Secondly, we view our names as something our parents (usually the mother) give us. So it's important to keep this name in respect to our parents (mother), and should be treated as a present. In other words, a lifelong present.
Seriously, one of those presents that you are grateful for but you literally will take it to your death.
It is also a name in which we grow with and thus create an image and a personality behind this name. Have you ever had that instance where someone calls you by a different name (maybe as a mistake or an insult), and you were thinking, "wait a second, THAT is not ME"? This is because we associate our personalities with the name that is given to us.
Another instance where we don't change our names is in marriage. Women don't change their names. Men don't change their names. You have the choice to ADD ON to your name, although it is unspeakable for only the woman to change her name simply because she is getting married.
Really? What's the reason behind that?
It's just a marriage. You're not running and hiding from the government.
There was once where an American teacher of mine asked me, "what is your mothers' maiden name?". I just stared at her with this blank face. I had no idea what she meant but I tried to understand her. I figured, "maiden" kind of sounds like "middle", so maybe she is asking about her middle name.
"She doesn't have one," I said.
Then SHE was the one with a blank and confused face. Then she explained to me,
"No no. The name your mother had before she got married".
In my head I was thinking, "why would my mother do THAT?", but I just told her she had the same name. And that is when I began to ask myself, "do American women change their name when they marry?". It's just something that is not even thinkable. Think of it this way: if we are not offered an option, we don't think about it. In a way it is like this. We don't think about it since it's not in our culture.
Of course now I am more aware that the world is not just Puerto Rico but it's a WHOLE lot bigger with people who do TOTALLY different things from what I do (whether I agree with it or not). There is a lot to learn right? So, to this day I always ask questions regarding culture. I always ask my friends (I wont say "my foreign friends" since I am also considered a "foreigner") if people (not being specific to women or men) change their names when they get married. How people are named. What is the order of names (Is it the last name that goes first, or what other possibilities are out there.)
The list continues.
So the idea of changing my name because it is easier for someone else to say it is just silly. From my perspective, if they can't pronounce my name this is their issue that they will have to overcome. I will teach them how to say my name in the beginning, but as I have learned, EVERYBODY miss-pronounces my name (especially everything that is not my first name).*** I have learned not to expect anyone to pronounce my name correctly, unless they are a spanish speaker. Otherwise I will let everyone say it their own way.
If they become my best friend or someone who is closer than an acquaintance that I just say "hi" to, then I will make more effort to teach them how to say it because it is important to me. In order for us to become close friends, we need to know certain things right? Other than that, people can miss-pronounce my name all the time and it's not going to bother me. We all have different native languages, different dialects, different accents even. So it is natural to say the same word in many different ways.
It is not about saying a name the 'right' or 'wrong' way, it's about accepting people's differences. I'm always captivated by the Australian accent. Sometimes I think the English (UK) accent is cool, and other times it just bores me. There are some English accents from norther European countries or even the North part of UK that I just don't understand, so I have to ask "what?" a lot of times. The French accent on English sounds very sexy (I'm not sure why). And an Italian accent (on English) is like talking to someone who is always worrying or persuading you to do something. Jajaja. Then there is the Chinese accent on English, where short words (like "bar") are made even shorter.
With this in mind I believe it's OK to make "mistakes" or "errors". Actually they are necessary for us to make improvements. So a change in our name is not necessary, it is only making it a convenience for others and thus these "others" are not given the change to expand their knowledge nor even learn, make mistakes or improve. By not changing our personal names, we are encouraging international exchange and understanding which is important in our current world.
* We use nicknames for everyone that we know, and for every type of relationship. For example a family to family relationship, a family to friend relationship, an elder to younger relationship, a coworker to coworker relationship, etc. These nicknames signify the closeness of our relationship to that person. (This does not necessarily mean that it is a romantic relationship, only that you are closer to that person.)
** It is mandatory that the biological father of the child has to be present and has to claim their biological lineage to their child once that child is born. If the father choses not to recognize his child, the child will not have a birth certificate. By law, it is mandated by everyone to have a birth certificate. In other words, either he (the father says yes) or no one is leaving the hospital. Seriously, I'm not joking. This is why we don't have the culture of fatherless children, and thus do not have the word "bastard", since everyone does have a mother and father.
*** My mom gave me an English first name because it is a name that is not common in Puerto Rico. I was pretty happy with it. It didn't bother me at all Although once we moved to US, I soon realized that this is an EXTREMELY common first name. Many times I had classes with 3 of 4 other girls who had the same name, and it becomes annoying.
**** Here is an article from an undergraduate student regarding Chinese name changes: http://japansociology.com/2013/12/30/globalization-of-names/