Tag Archives: names

Confession Sunday: 5.13.2012

13 May

I’m horrible with names.

It occurred to me the other day when my neighbor called after her three-year-old son to come home so she could give him a bath. He was playing with my four-year-old host niece in the living room. I was in my room reading, and I perked up. She repeated the name several times. Each time I kept thinking now I’ll finally know his name!  But I couldn’t make sense of what she was saying. Is that an “ei” sound or an “ae” sound. Does it end with a d, s, or an f? And then they went home.

I see this kid every day, and I don’t know his name.

I know his father’s because it’s both the word for dawn in Indonesian and Aladdin’s archenemy Jafar’s name jumbled– Fajar.  I know his brother’s because it’s the same as his father’s, and I can mispronounce his mother’s. But I can’t figure out what his little two-syllable name is.

No one was around, so I sat there. Embarrassed at myself.  Sadly this isn’t unusual.

I used to have what I thought was a clever way to handle this situation:

Illustration by Christie Young and published on Good.is.

I can make excuses like, welll…. they’re foreign names to me.

Or they’re names are so long! There’s too many syllables for my clumsy tongue to say that the same way every time I hand you back a graded assignment.

I can make excuses like well… Indonesian names don’t follow a familiar pattern in naming convention. No first name, middle name and family name. Perhaps they have one name or maybe they have like five. And then they go by some variation of it or grab a few syllables from each one and recombine it.

I can make excuses like even the name they tell me they go by, they don’t consistently go by. Sometimes Ibu Mei Lusyana Darawan is Ibu Mei or sometimes she’s Ibu Lusy. And no, she doesn’t have multiple personalities (that I know of.) Or sometimes my host sister, Ervin Vani Pemilia, is Mbak Vani which she told me to call her. Or sometimes, she is what most people call her, Mbak Lia.

*note: Ibu, Bapak, Mas and Mbak are all courtesy titles that are used much more commonly than in the U.S. Ibu= older woman, Bapak=older man, Mas=young man, Mbak=young woman. Adik is also commonly used to refer to friends and family younger than you that you consider like a younger brother or younger sister. In general these courtesy titles can be a great substitute for names also.

I can make excuses like they don’t use these real names on their Facebook accounts, which I originally hailed as my salvation to this name dilemna.  Rather, they use some sort of mash-up of their real name and a perceived alter ego or screen name such as: Haidar Rozzan ‘Rezpectorz’ or Princess Dyach Ayyueor or Vnous Putrifarahayuarianti’s Purplepurplelove  or Guntur Aremania CrazyLion or maybe even Uchauphaulfaceweberzodiakpisces Iiankiingindndridlu. All of those are students or friends on my Indonesian Facebook account.

I can make lots of excuses. But the truth is I’m just bad at learning and remembering names.