So what is in a name? why do we care so much about names?
It starts with this question:
So what is your name?
Do you have a shortened form?
It’s a difficult name, can I call you something else?
Or you get called the same name as the other brown person in the office because you are the only two brown people in the office and (of course all brown people look alike!!)
These are some of the trials and tribulations you go through as a person of colour and you seemingly have a difficult name.
You laugh in embarrassment. You learn to laugh it off. You joke that its your sri lankan heritage that means that you have a long name that is difficult (after all have you heard the sports commentators try to pronounce the name of our cricketers?)
you learn to compromise. Call me Aj you say… after all what’s in a name?
And that’s how you hide that insecurity that you have grown up with, that feeling that you are different, that you need to fit in, so you give up your name. But the fact is that your name defines who you are. For many within the Muslim tradition, there is a painstaking process of trying to identify a name with a good meaning that defines you and your future character and well being.
So take the name Amjad
Amjad is an indirect Quranic name for boys that means “most magnificent”, “most glorious”, “most honored”. It is derived from the M-J-D root
The name Amjad is of Persian and Arabic origin.
The meaning of Amjad is “most excellent, glorious”.
Amjad is generally used as a boy’s name.
It consists of 5 letters and 2 syllables and is pronounced Am-jad. (In South Asia, the pronouncement is Ahm-jhad but that is because we have a way to pronounce our A’s
Whilst all of that is important, what is important for me is that Amjad is a derivative of the name Magid / Maged which is one of the names of God, and was the name of my grandfather. So this is the name that defines me.
To deny this opportunity to learn that name, to pronounce it properly is in a way denying me the right to exist; to give me agency and voice; simply it does not respect me.
I would excuse it if I knew that the consistency of the failure to pronounce my name was there all around, but the Nordic / Russian / Eastern European colleagues seem to get away with this when their names seem to be easily pronounced. So then you ask yourself why is it my name is difficult to pronounce? You start thinking to yourself that perhaps it has something to do with your colour. Because after all it can’t be the difficulty of pronounciation.
So you look around and you notice a pattern:
· Jayantha is shortened to Jay
· Alauddin becomes Al
· Mohamed becomes Mo
· Wee tang becomes Fred
You notice that there is a colonial aspect of embarrassment of your name and the difficulty of pronunciation. You notice that you give in to trying to change your identity because you are different.
In this day and age as #BLM pauses us to rethink our past and how we deal with our present we need to reconsider a decolonization of our mind to understand our true and real history, of where we came from. Getting an idea of that helps us to understand who we are. That starts with respecting the name of that person.
The name of that person means giving that person identity and respecting who they are and what they stand for. It means understanding how to pronounce and remembering to pronounce that name properly.
Because What’s in a name? it is simply you!!