Tuesday, 4 January 2005

What’s in a name?

“That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet”

- From Romeo & Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Yeah, sure. He had an acceptable name, so it was okay for him. For the life of me, I cannot even begin to imagine what will happen if DBP decides to rename roses to bunga taik ayam. Really, would you give bunga taik ayam (fka roses) to your sweetheart on Valentines Day? Sweet though the smell is, the name repels any notion of romanticism normally associated with the flower.

In Islam, we are encouraged to give our offspring beautiful, meaningful names. A name is like a prayer, so whenever you call out for Abdullah, you are praying that the person will be an obedient servant of the Almighty.

From my observation, just like clothes, names tend to follow a trend. What was fashionable ten years ago may be outdated today. Most our parents have simple, beautiful Islamic names such as Aminah, Maryam, Ali or Hamid. Then, they became a little bit creative with their kids and we have names like Sofia, Julia, Razman and Zailan. Nowadays, thanks to numerous books on names and the internet, we have a plethora of names enough to satisfy the creative, the religious, the simple-minded and so forth.

Yet, another source is from the entertainment industry. One girl in my kampung is Noorkumalasari, undoubtedly as a result of the parents watching too many Malay dramas. I don’t know how she feels about it, though I suspect she half wishes that she was born a few years later, during Sofea Jane era. My nephew was named Mazlummy (apparently after an Iraqi footballer). Only much later did the parents find out that in Malay, the name means ‘Yang di zalimi’. He has since been renamed Hazmi.

My name manages to raise more than a few eyebrows too. In fact, I’ll be surprised if it does not elicit any response from those who hear it the first time. Some would say it sounds Japanese, while others say it sounds Indian. A mixture of Japanese and Indian? Interesting.

Though I’ve been asked many times about the meaning and origin of my name, I’ve been tight-lipped about it. Reason being, I myself do not know much about it.

I used to question my parents, why oh why did they get very creative with my name? I know, I’m their tenth child and at the time of my birth, they didn’t think it was likely they would have another child, but is it necessary to get complicated? It also didn’t help that the registration department combined my first name and second name into one, thereby rendering the pronunciation even more difficult. At times, I must have seemed ungrateful to my parents with my questioning, but I was hurt by the remarks and teasing that I received at school. The boys can be cruel, calling me silly names that sound similar to my given name. I dreaded introducing myself to new teachers, because without fail, I would be asked to repeat my name a few times and it felt like the whole class was staring at me. At that moment, I would rather be anywhere else than in school. It was tough, and I blamed my parents.

According to my late Father (he gave me my name), the name is actually after the wife of the prophet Muhammad s.a.w.’s grandson. To this day, I still have doubt about it because even the ustazs find my name strange. Surely, if my Father’s claim is true, they should know?

The other day, I entered my first name in the internet and I got 10,000 hits. However, most of the pages refer to a character in a fiction book on wizardry. Hmm, nice to know that I share my name with a fictional character, and he (yes, he) happens to be a wizard too. I also found out that in Tamazight language (spoken by the Amazigh people found across North Africa from Morocco to Egypt), my first name means ‘country’. Am I getting closer to the truth? Doubt it. I also found that my name is the family name of a few Americans. As for the rest of the web pages, they are incomprehensible to me as they are in Eastern European languages (Polish and Czechoslovakian) and Japanese.

My second name is a more familiar word. In Arabic, it means ‘sons’ or ‘children’, in Kasmiri it means ‘be able to’ and in Indian (I don’t know which dialect) it means ‘to be made of’. Hmm… more confusion.

I have come to accept my name and I do not give much thought to it anymore. Though I still get the occasional questions about my name, it doesn’t bother me much anymore. I might have the strangest name in the universe, but it’s a gift from my parents which I have come to accept and embrace. It would still be nice if I could find out the meaning though.

Occasionally, I still ask my Mother and she would give me the same answer that my father did. She also told me that she actually wanted to name me Rosmoni (morning rose) and instantly that made me feel much better about my name. No offence to anyone named Rosmoni, but I’m more comfortable with my given name anytime… perhaps out of familiarity. There’s a saying that familiarity may breed contempt, but in my case, it has bred acceptance.


Bustaman said...

If the rose were to be renamed something else, wouldnt it smell just as sweet and look just as beautiful?

Yasmin's Mummy said...

Yes it would, but 'sound'is just as important as 'smell' and 'sight', don't you think so?