Names are interesting. In an odd sense, they carry undue amounts of gravity but are also taken for granted on a granular level.
Perhaps my interest with them comes from having a fairly irregular un-Western name myself. Tin.
Names are a means of identifying and labeling something or someone — and with that label, whatever projection of context inherent to your situation or society at large.
The importance of names is obvious. How you say, read, and write them gives you one of the first impressions of whoever and whatever it is.
It gives you a first glance into the microscope, allowing your imagination and preconceptions to momentarily run wild.
It’s what connects you to thinking someone has a cool name, a lame name, douchey, elegant, or Midwestern name. It’s what likewise draws you to a TV show, movie, phone app, restaurant, neighborhood, business.
Names are also a means of sifting through and identifying things you know or assume: “Oh, Brian — I know a Brian. I like him.” “Christineth, ugh — she seems high-maintenance. I don’t know why.” “Sounds sci-fi, I’ll pass.” “Ooh, I love Italian.” “Hmmm. Francisco… I don’t know if he’s qualified.”
It’s funny that we seemingly understand that names carry with them such magnitude, although we hardly mention it explicitly — even at times, downplaying a name’s power.
“Oh — Ricardo. He’s my neighbor. He has a cat.” “A bodega? That’s just a corner store.” “You mean Dave? He’s just another associate.”
Perhaps that’s in efforts to alleviate the brain-wracking burden it takes to find perfect names. Or maybe alleviate ourselves of falling prey to a practice of such trivial banality. Or avoiding the fact that as creatures of bias, how we feel about certain names ultimately says more about us or society at large.
I’ve often felt like an outsider with a particularly odd name. It isn’t necessarily striking, nor sonorous; I would venture to say it just rings of aberration. But it is one I bear nonetheless.
With the name Tin, I grew up pining to assimilate. To be a Steve or a John or a Parker would be heavenly. To be inconspicuous and recognized solely through the merit or demerit of my actions.
Alas, in White America — I had an “interesting”, “unique”, and now, “cool” name. There are still moments of tension where I believe I would be more successful culturally, socially, and industrially if I was a Smith.
But I’ve recently come to understand that I need to beat back those thoughts. As the tides of time change, so do opinions on a wider breadth of people and the names they carry.
It’s never easy being first, or second, or maybe even third — but as the years pass, perhaps having a different name will hold the sweet bliss of anonymity that a John wields.
As time drifts by, it’s an aspect of my life I’ve come to accept and on some days — appreciate. At least I won’t be confused with someone else.
Maybe, Tim… Hmmm.