What’s in a name?

A new semester means a new set of names that we’re going to have to familiarise ourselves with.

Names. A combination of letters and sounds that we have grown to associate ourselves with. If you think about it, we’ve been Pavlov’d into reacting and answering whenever we hear these distinct set of sounds. Shout out ‘Hannah’ or ‘Muhammad’ into a crowd and see just how many heads will turn simultaneously, looking for the caller.

Fun fact: Each dolphin has a signature whistle that can be likened to a name. 

But names are more than just something we use to identify ourselves and those around us. They can carry very significant weight to some people. In certain cultures, names are believed to have the capability of shaping the person you will eventually be – thus, birthing this idea of living up to your name. So, picking out the right name for your children is very important. 

I remember when I attended a gathering on my dad’s side of the family at my grandparents’ house. That was the first time I had met some of their neighbours and our distant relatives. When my sister and I were going around introducing ourselves, a lot of the guests would exclaim, “Oh, you’re (insert random man’s name)’s daughters!” and we’d look at each other, puzzled. 

Turns out that name wasn’t so random after all. It was my dad’s second name or nickname that was given during his childhood because apparently, he used to get sick a lot and my grandparents thought it was because of his name didn't suit him. So they called him by a different one in hopes that his health would improve. Funnily enough it worked!

Any future doctors, psychologists, or etymologists can explain the correlation between my dad’s health and his name?

Though it’s an interesting way to perceive the power that names can possess, I don’t think having a name that doesn’t suit you would affect your health. However, I do think that names are important because of the meaning and attachments they carry. 

Some people are named after a dear member of their family, some names hold potent meanings in their distinct languages, while some might be strongly attached to one’s culture or religion. That’s why I try my best to pronounce people’s names as accurately as I can because they could mean more than a combination of letters and sounds to them.

Like myself, my name is a variant of the name Aasira which finds its origin from the Quran. Already, you can see how it attaches to my religion. It means “captivator” – one who captivates one’s attention or a powerful warrior who overcomes and imprisons enemies. Whew, how am I going to live up to that?? Aside from being a struggling law student, I don’t think I’m truly there yet at realising the meaning of my name, but I love it and it means a lot to me.

So as you’re making friends this semester, try your best to get their names right because you never know how important it could mean to them and don’t be afraid to correct others if they get your name wrong too. 

Tagged in What messes with your head, names