Letters of Life

My Past Names

I cannot for the life of me quite figure out what my readers want to read. Yet.

So, tonight I will answer this question: “If you could choose any name for yourself, what would it be?”

My answer has a context. When I was quite young, I did not like my name. I thought it was plain and seemed distinctly masculine in the Chinese context. In Chinese, the two words meant “friendly and sensitive.

But at seventeen, I couldn’t care less about those qualities. I envied girls who had names like Michelle and Iris. It took me a long time to see any beauty in my name, which wasn’t even as melodic as Yvonne or Gabrielle. So I looked around for ideas, and found my inspiration in television.

It wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t help it if Jane Seymour, one of my favourite actresses, happened to play characters with names like Esmeralda (a Hunchback of Notre Dame TV series) or Brett Ashley (a TV movie called The Sun Also Rises, from the F Scott Fitzgerald classic).

Even the person I was seeing at the time called me Esmeralda. Don’t worry, it lasted a week. Then, during a vacation job, I called myself Ashley, and my colleagues at the souvenir shop called me Ash, which was great. Ashley was also the name I used to procure interviews while a student reporter at college in the United States. 

I’ve grown up since, of course. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as the cliche goes. Names are just syllables people say to catch your attention, mostly. Sometimes, the most attractive people have the plainest names. 

Like Jane.

Did you ever do something like this? What’s your take on it?

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2 Responses »

  1. When I was eight, I toyed with adopting an English name for all of two weeks. Later on, I was embarrassed, because the moniker I had chosen felt inauthentic, like someone I didn’t know. Thenceforth, and especially since embracing my roots again, I have loved my name for how nice and unique and poetic and ‘me’ it is. IMHO, Chinese names are so much more meaningful. If I had kids, they’d all have Chinese names.

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