27 June 2011

What's In a Name?

Names. They are one of the fundamental ways that we relate to the world, especially as a sort of interface between the exterior world of other people and the internal one of identity. 

The name of the principal of my school is...Wilhemina. This would not be that unusual, except that he is a 60-year-old, slightly balding, moustached man. Everyone calls him "Willy" anyway, but it is still bizzare to have a male boss with the name of a knitting old grandmama.

My host stepfather (Uncle? Cousin? Guy who comes over sometimes?) is named Floridor, which I believe means something like "One who Flowers." Even Chileans giggle when he is introduced, but the name suits him since he is something of a mildly-overweight flower child. Also in his 60s. Also slightly balding. I sometimes think he must secretly be making crowns of flowers and dancing around like Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream to live up to his name. 

And then come my students. Many of them carry names from the original peoples of the area like Unai (Oo-naye), Danai (DAN-aye), and Yahaira (Ja-HAY-Rah). Others have traditional Hispanophone names like José, Jorge, Ignacio, Miguel, Diego, Paola, Pablo, Ramiro, etc. Then there is a montón of María-Insert Second Name Heres and José-Another Name Heres.

Because of the particular history of this region and the influence from Croatians, Italians, and others who immigrated, many students also carry names with Slavic (Katya, Mirko, Victor) or Italian (Luciano, Giovanni, Leonardo, Antonio) origins. Now, names from English are becoming popular...but here the spelling is often changed to make them easier for Spanish-speakers to pronounce. I get a kick out of it everytime I see Yonatan (Jonathan), Oskar (Oscar), and Maicol (Michael). There is also one name of a second grader that (despite asking multiple times to multiple people) seems to be pronounced "Blaaa."

Finally, there appear to be an inordiante amount of girls named Kirshna. As in at least three in every grade level. Hare Krishnas must have made a pass through here. 

After all the craziness with the spelling and origins of names in this part of Chile, one might believe that they would be used to pronouncing different names and remembering them. My name, however, appears to cause a ton of problems. 

I get Conni. I get Corrine. Then I write it down. I get Colin. Then Col-un. Then I explain that it is an Irish name. This does not help, since nobody knows how to pronounce Irish names (and few of my students can even point to Europe on a map...muchless the tiny Irish Isle...). I get CO-leen. Close enough. Yeah, that works. To be fair, people rarely grt my name right the first ten times at home. 

But then, when students are writing their names on papers and projects, they often write in the indecipherable script often seen in graffiti art. This is cool, but they also change letters and add things until it is seriously illegible (Ferdanda=Ferrrdñanyta, Sara=Ssarr¥ta). They wrote my name on a card the other day as Mys Quolyn. And I wondered before why my phonics lessons weren't sticking. 

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