What’s in a name?

So I thought about this little tid bit for a blog a few weeks ago as I was bawling my eyes out on the train from Vaduz to Zürich en route home. I’m not exactly sure why this particular topic came  to mind, but as I was reflecting on all of the amazing memories and people who I had met, I began to think about the stories I would tell when I returned home. I envisioned these stories involving breathtaking events and priceless memories, but then I realized they would also involve people and more specifically names that no one (except Jennifer) would ever really know or understand.

After nearly five months in Europe I learned a number of things, but perhaps one of the more interesting ones was the differences in names across the world. In the US a girl named Stevie or a boy named Ashley is quite odd, and names like Magda or Radek or Insuk are most often unheard of. But as I spent more time abroad I became used to butchering just about EVERY name when I first met someone, and everyone came to a pretty much mutual understanding that Jennifer and I would likely never get their names exactly right.

I mean it took us nearly the entire semester to get Elina’s name down, and even then I still managed to put my own Southern drawl on it! It was nearly a month before one of our Latvian friend’s Zane (pronounced Zan-ay) corrected me on the pronunciation of her name. Most often if we met someone new that didn’t live in the dorms it was inevitable that I would forget/mispronounce/or not even understand the name the person was saying!  I came to accept this, but as I was riding in the train I thought how interesting it was that while people may seem so similar and alike at the basic level of humanity there exists some cultural differences that will never (and should never) disappear.

Take for instance our Finnish friend, Roope. I’m sure most of you reading this post just mentally said Rope as in a braided form of string; however, his name is actually pronounced Row-pay and is a completely normal name in Finland. If someone were to be named this in the US, I can only imagine the terrors the child would face let alone how many times the child’s name would be butchered in school announcements! But the thing is while Roope may be normal in Finland the culture in which I grew up in would classify this as one of those crazy names a celebrity gives their child, and I am okay with the difference!

This difference in cultural normalcy of names is what makes the world and the country others live in so unique!  Meeting and living with people from all over made me aware of some of the most unusual names that I will never forget. Some of which include: Insuk from South Korea, Radek from the Czech Republic, Svea from Liechtenstein and a number of others.

Interestingly enough my own name was odd to those that I met. Most had never heard of the name Stevie or if they had considered it a boy’s name (much like Americans do). I have always loved my name if not for the fact that it fits me, but for the fact that it is unique. Very rarely do people forget my name, and any interview/competition/other ordeal my name tends to stick out and stay in the minds of those making the decisions. Thanks Mama and Daddy for the leg up!
I’m not sure if there was in fact an actual point to this post, but if nothing else I hope to have increased your awareness of just how different and unique names are across the world. Like many other things a name’s “weirdness” is culturally dependent, and for us Americans names like Josef and Garvin just might not ever be normal!

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