Saturday, January 17, 2009

In The Name Of....

I was raised in a family where we all had numerous names, three at minimum and five or six at most. I have five. The first is, of course, Camille. My mother is from Ghana and my brother and I as well as most of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all have European first names. Not sure why, I guess it has a little do with colonialism and a little to do with "blending in", but I'm not totally sure. My mother almost never calls me Camille, though. She calls me by my second name, which is a name from her Ghanaian "tribe" (someone help me with a better word for this!). The third name is a name from my father's side of the family, it was his grandmother's name and is Spanish or Native American or both or neither, depending on who you ask. A lot of women on my father's side of the family hold it as a middle name. My fourth name is another name from my mother's culture which is given to girls born on Wednesdays, and my fifth and final name is Acey which is my last name, family name, but comes from some slaveholder some time ago...most likely from Ireland.

As a schoolgirl, I read the story of Tikki Tikki Tembo, a Chinese fable championing simple names for the sake of safety, but I still always felt that longer names were better. I was raised to view names as infinitely important and a sign of who a person was and how much they were loved.Cover of Cover of Tikki Tikki Tembo I feel a good name can tell so many interesting stories. So you can imagine my shock and horror upon finding out that not only do most/many Slovenian people only have two names (you can imagine how baffled they are when I look for the middle name slot on forms!), but many of them got their names from the calendar, the naming calendar. The Captain's parents didn't spend months agonizing over his or his brother's names it seems; as soon as they popped out their parents just looked up at the calendar and gave him the one name that was written there. In fact, many people I know were just given the name written on their square of the calendar.

I still can't believe it. Ever since I was a little girl I've dreamed of wonderful names I'd give my children when I had them, big and fanciful, short and sweet. I couldn't imagine being so generic as to give it no thought at all. In some cultures, your name is meant to give you hints at what you will do in life. In my mother's culture, sometimes names will tell you what the child signified, for example, I have one relative who was born after her mother had many miscarriages and her name translates as "God Heard My Prayers". I just don't understand what these calendar names (which are related to the Catholic calendar of saints) convey except for an utter lack of imagination. But I am open to being wrong. So someone --anyone -- please justify this to me!

Oh and btw, if you were born today and your parents gazed up and plucked your name from the January 17th square, your name would be Anton...or maybe Antonija for a girl?

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22 comments:

Ales said...

Hehe we just talked about the names on calendars today :)
I've actually never heard of people looking at calendars and picking names from there, I thought buying books with children names was more common, heh.
Anyway, I'm not even sure we have names that mean something here in Slovenia. I can't even remember one. Hopefully someone else can clarify this better than me.
Oh, and I think I saw you at Spar today :)

Camille Acey said...

Hi Aleš!
I know SO MANY people who have names from this calendar. I only know a few
Yes I was at Spar. You should say hello! :)

Ales said...

Well my name is also on the calendar, but 6 months from where I was born :))

Next time, when I won't be so dirty and funny looking, I will say hello=P

Camille Acey said...

Ti si bil umazan? JAZ sem bila umazana. Sem glih prišla s fitnesa!

Ales said...

Jaz sem imel pa hlace, umazane od barve :P

Anonymous said...

Some Slovene names do mean something, but the meaning is mostly hidden deep, deep down under. You just have to know where to look ;)
Here are some names with ovious meanings: Lučka, Marjetica, Kristjan...
and Vesna (Slavic godess of sprig)...

alcessa said...

Camille, I know quite a few people who were named that way, but not from my generation. If it consoles you a bit, there are variations to many names contained in the Catholic calendar, so not everyone born on November 11th gets called Martina/Martina, it can also be Marta or something. I think when I was born (beginning of 70ies), there was already such a thing as fashionable and fancy names.
Anyway, I was supposed to be called Katja, but the legend says a friend of my parents prevailed upon them and I got a (then) fashionable name resembling a famous German brand but for one letter that I lack (the guy worked in Germany). Now, we could say that this is not a way to name a child and I would certainly never do it that way, but you know what? I checked the meaning of my name (the Greek word it comes from) and it turned out it really describes me, I mean, the idea of me, what I am all about. Go figure. :-)

As to double or triple names... I was quite surprised when I found out my hubby and his family all have double first names. I find this a good idea since they can choose which one to use. A friend of mine, a Slovenian living in Germany, went to the registrar's office in Slovenia and had a second name added to her un-pronouncable Slovenian name, it was really no problem. I'd do the same if I felt I needed a second name.

Camille Acey said...

@alcessa - interesting story. i was curious about your name as i hadn't encountered it anywhere, but then again i know things are done differently on your side of the country. :)

@anonymous - i know some names certainly do have meaning. i actually even like some of the names that seem rather generic, for example my neighbor is called Žiga (for the non-slovene speakers among us, žig means "stamp", not postage stamp but the other kind) and i sort of like the functionality of it.

alcessa said...

Yeah, they are. Done differently, I mean. In Prekmurje (Eastern Slovenia) people used to get their names from Catholic calendars and then a nickname that was the Hungarian version of their real name. And then the Hungarian version was/is used for the rest of their lives. I'd have sued my parents if I was called Eržika. Or Genovefa. Irinka, Mariška, Džouža, Pištika ... How do they sound to you?

The more I think about these traditions the more I understand your sentiment. I do hope The Captain is satisfied with his name?

Tina. said...

I was named after Tina Turner. :)

PS--You said "glih"! That brought a smile to my face.

Au Naptural said...

I only have 3 names and they are all Arabic. My first can be considered holy and significant in both Islam and Christianity. My middle name means Joy and was given to me by my Mom. I was the Oops baby and the little girl she thought she'd never be able to have - my bros are 10 & 13 years older than me.

I remember the story of Tiki Tiki Tembo and loved his extremely long name. Tiki tiki tembo no sa rembo chari bari ruchi pip beri pembo (or something like that)

Juanita said...

Hello Camille Acey! I enjoyed the post! I have always been fascinated by people's names and what they mean. Sometimes I encounter people with certain names and wonder, "Why did your parents name you that?" (For example, here was this guy in my second-year Spanish class named, "Angel" and he sure did not act like one, lol.)

What you just wrote about also sounds like the same thing that they do in Latin American countries. The first name is the given name, and the second name is something called a "Saint's name" which is given to the child according to which day he or she was born. Then there's what I call the "double last name", the father's last name name first and the mother's last name second.

Oh yeah, my blog is up and running now and is available for all to see! Try going to it now!

Anonymous said...

every name has a meaning, you just have to look for it. :-) mine (barbara)is greek, means foreign and is on the calendar. i was named after a maternal relative, my father's side, a family of metallurgists, gladly agreed -- what with st. barbara being a patron saint of miners and all that. no middle name, it was felt that the name was carefully chosen and fitted me perfectly. still true after all these years :-)

why do so many people have name straight from the calendar? i think one of the reasons is that for many years the catholic church had the "privilege" of naming the children. hence, all the names are saints' names -- you may have noticed that hardly any old testament names are used: in the good old days (say, until the first world war) they were often given by the church to the children of single mothers. cute, huh? talk about branding a child for life! also, a lot of older people -- especially women -- have two names, simply because their first name was not on the calendar and the priest refused to baptize them. there is a part of my family that are keen on slavic names, and the women all have mary as their middle name, because their very beautiful slavic names (that translate as hope, dawn, dusk, dear, beauty, spring etc.)were not accepted for baptism.

we don't have the tradition of the english who sometimes give place name, or mother's maiden name as middle names (and, as you say, rarely give middle names at all), but some people do name children after various plants (another slavic tradition): jagoda, višnja, dunja, ajda come to mind for girls, bor, lan, javor, brin for boys.

If you're bored with calendar names, check the slavic ones; i also recommend a book by janez keber (i think?) -- it lists the most usual names, explains their origin and their meaning and possible alternatives. so, for example, žiga does not come from "seal", but is a slovene version of sigismund; and aleš is short for alexander. sometimes, the name origins are difficult to determine, because they came into slovene from so many different languages.

as for the number of names, I think you can only legally have two first and two last names.

limiting? perhaps. does it protect children from getting idiotic names like pilot inspektor and bronx mowgli? hopefully.

sorry for the long post, hope it clarified some of your issues.

barbara

Camille Acey said...

thanks barbara!

however, one point of clarification. aleš is a form of alexander right? the people i have met who are called aleš are not also called aleksander (as far as i know) and the people who i've met who are called aleksandar have not been aleš for short...but they might be weird....

Anonymous said...

however, one point of clarification. aleš is a form of alexander right? the people i have met who are called aleš are not also called aleksander (as far as i know) and the people who i've met who are called aleksandar have not been aleš for short...but they might be weird....

I think what Barbara was explaining is that Aleš and Alexander are equal forms of the same name. Like you can have Jim and James and Seamus in English, all three standing for the same name, but you usually don't usually have the same person called Jim James or James Seamus. There are other equivalents for Alexander in Slovenian apart from Aleš, for example Aleks and Sašo come to mind. Other names have this as well: Marija, Mica, Marusa, Marja - these are all versions of Mary. Or Marjeta, Meta, Metka, Greta - all Margarets.

Camille Acey said...

@anon - 2:10 - thanks, that's what i thought.

Anonymous said...

@camille & anon 2:10 -- that's what i wanted to say, but also that when variations become names in their own right, the original meaning might get lost. (I was referring to the first reply from aleš about not being sure if names in slovenia mean anything.) sorry i was not clearer.

I re-read my post and i think i really shouldn't have used the phrase "idiotic names". i am, after all, the one who once decided to have twin daughters and name them entebbe and asmara. yes, i've since changed my mind :-P

cheers.
barbara

Camille Acey said...

@barbara - i like entebbe and asmara!

bronx mowgli and pilot inspektor ar dumb names, and you know what is even dumber? Rob Morrow naming his kid Tu Morrow.

i should never have found this list - http://www.cracked.com/article_15765_p2.html

jana said...

Here is a link to the Slovenian Statistics Office's database of Slovenian names.
http://www.stat.si/imena.asp
You can see what is most popular by most any given year, gender, etc.

I know many people who were given a name and then have a "name day", that is, the day of the Saint for which they were named after (usually the date first appearing after their birthday, in the case that a saint has more than one day). So you see, they got their names in reverse of what you described: first, they were named (for whatever reason their parents decided), then they got a "name day" related to that name. Some people even get presents on that day or celebrate it like a small (or spiritual, if you like) birthday. I say some. Certainly not all.

As for middle names, I have one and it has caused me some bureaucratic hassles here because it has to be used on all official documents, I almost got into trouble with the tax office because when I opened my s.p., I didn't use my middle name and the tax office got completely confused because my tax number had been issued to my full name. They didn't like that discrepancy very much.

So what have I gone and done? I've named my child with two first names (not really Slovenian, though one is "spelled" as if it could be though everyone has troubles with it) and only one last name (Slovenian) because I was sure she'd have too many problems if she had my last name as well (even Americans have trouble with it) -- at least here in Slovenia. If she decides to live somewhere else when she's older, maybe she'd like to have my last name, too. We'll see.

By the way...why the suspense? Won't you tell us what are all of your names?

Anonymous said...

In case you didnt run into this article, unfortunately only in Slovene, but im sure you are so far ....

http://www.rtvslo.si/zabava/modload.php?&c_mod=rnews&op=sections&func=read&c_menu=1&c_id=39101

Camille Acey said...

@anon - feb 5 - zanimivo!
in america (and other places in the world) names come in and out of fashion and it is just a fact of life. i guess the church just has too much money in their pockets and must waste it on this nonsense!

Woman of a Certain Age said...

You may find this Mind Hacks blog entry interesting, about the power that names have over our adult lives: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2009/02/hello_my_name_is_tr.html

I'm vaguely fancifully named (Autumn Paz) and have always taken pride in that, and have indeed grown into being a peaceful, vaguely autumnal personality. But I've known conventionally named people (Robert, Sarah) who say that because there aren't proscribed attributes to their names, it's sort of a blank slate--the inverse of those conventionally named people in the '60s who went from, say, Samuel to Moonbeam.

I'm like you in that I like names that reflect a certain attitude and value set. But then you read evidence that names reflecting ethnicity can be a detriment to employment (http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html), and the choices become less about fanciful vs. plain and more about pride vs. assimilation.