In case you missed it, July is NaBloPoMo (national blog posting month), created by BlogHer. I have obviously missed the boat on blogging everyday in July at this point, but one of the prompts did catch my attention:
Do you like your name? (from July 9)
This is a pretty loaded question for me.
I have two names that appear on all official documents. My first name is a Korean one (hence the “J” that comes before Rosel) which is actually a fairly common girls’ name. But when my parents decided to immigrate to Canada, they thought, like many immigrant parents do, that I should also have an English name so I could assimilate better. I also had a Catholic name at that point – in Korea, when you get baptized as a Catholic you are given a name of a saint – which was “Roselle.” (This is what I was told, except Google is not giving me any results for “Saint Roselle,” so I am starting to doubt the reality of this saint I was named after – but that’s for another time.) So they decided to go with that. Except they spelled it “Rosel” on my immigration forms.
First off, any foreigner’s attempt to pronounce my Korean name rarely goes well, unless they really, really try. Even then, it just doesn’t sound very pretty. No problem, this is where my supposedly “Western” name comes in, right?
Except when I introduce myself, this happens:
Stranger: Hi, my name is [so-and-so]. What’s your name?
Me: Nice to meet you, I’m Rosel.
Stranger: Josie/Rosa/Rosalind? What a nice name!
Other close calls: “Rosle.” Or “Rozzle.” Or something that closely resembles “Russell.” One professor who shall not be named called me all three variations all semester, despite my attempts, my peers’ attempts (“like what ROSE-ELLE said…”) and my private correction during his office hour. Dear teachers: please learn your students’ names, or just ask if you don’t remember. It’s way better than pretending, or even worse, not caring. It makes your students feel like they do not matter at all.
Funny how that Westernized name which was supposed to make my life easier still makes it so hard for people to remember my name.
Then there’s the more political aspect, as names are not just neutral nouns. There’s evidence (both anecdotally and academically) that people with “foreign” names are often passed over for interviews in the resume-screening stages. I wonder how “Rosel” might fare in the process – but I suspect that my very Korean last name also gives away my ethnicity without me having to show up for an interview. Some immigrants who gave themselves Westernized names are reverting back to their original names to reclaim their heritage. I’ve given this a lot of thought as well – since I am feeling more like I’m reclaiming the “Korean” part of my “Korean Canadian” identity these days – but the years of growing up with my strange “Western” name made me feel attached to being Rosel. Maybe it’s also my selfish desire to stand out in some way, because my Korean name is so darn common. Maybe it’s my still-lingering internalized racism that makes me hesitate towards an entirely Korean name. In a way, I think it fits my identity quite well – not quite “western,” not really Korean, but something in between, perpetually mispronounced and mis-identified (like my ethnicity or my origin).
So there you have it. Now I want to know: do you like your name?
[image via weheartit.com]