I've been meaning for some time to blog about the difficulties that present itself when your name is totally foreign and, at that, difficult for many Americans to pronounce. It's like a running joke--any time someone pauses or gets a quizzical look on their face, it's my name they are trying to pronounce.
And now you're like, "Chi-Chi isn't hard to pronounce."
Well, Chi-Chi is only my nickname. My given, formal name is really a mouthful. Even the hubby can't get it out without stumbling and we've been together almost 7 years.
And I love my name, I do. It's elegant and full of meaning. It sounds beautiful. But practically speaking, it is a handicap. Since most people can't pronounce it easily, I'm often forced to give my nickname which often gets chuckles or makes people think of a stripper or a little cute kid. Or I have people call me Ms. (My last name), which is sometimes formal and stuffy.
If I were to change my name, it would still be something Igbo but something a bit more pronounceable such as Chioma or Amaka. But I don't know . . . re-naming myself doesn't feel genuine. I know a few African-Americans who have changed their names to throw off the name the slavemaster forced them to take and re-connect with their African roots. I get it. But changing a perfectly good name for convenience? I don't know.
And Igbo people do not name their children lightly! For Igbo people, an name is really a prediction and a prayer. My mother almost died giving birth to my baby brother who was born prematurely. The names they gave him reflected the fact that God did a miraculous thing in that both of them are alive till this day. And my name, which means God abides with me, is a testament to the fact that when I was born, my parents had only been in this country for only a few months. They knew no one and could rely on no one except for God. My middle name? "The one God has given me". My parents lost their first child, a son. In Igbo culture, names are extremely important. Very significant.
I suppose that even with a name like "Chi-Chi" most folks still do take me seriously. But I also realize that I do work hard to make sure I am taken seriously right off the bat. I don't giggle along when folks laugh and I'm quick to say it's a nickname which generally prompts the giggler to ask my real name. Then all the giggling usually stops.
Well, my name is really, really long as it is since I chose to hyphenate instead of drop my maiden name. I mean, how long can a name really be? But it would pain me to drop any of my names. And it would be a huge dishonor to my parents.
So what's in a name? Plenty.