Monday, August 16, 2010

The Sacrifice of a Name

What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  
I like my name.  I think it suits me.  It's simple and not easily turned into some strange nickname.  And back home it is easily pronounced.  I mean, people usually say my name correctly the first time.  It's spelled the normal way, the RIGHT way, not like some others with a crazy spelling like Aryn or Eryn.

And then I came to Egypt.

Egypt is apparently where all correct name pronunciation dreams come to die.  I know, that seems a bit harsh doesn't it?

But I know I am not alone.

Just last week we were at church and the pastor introduced himself as "Jim."  And then he launched into a tirade (well, I exaggerate a bit) about how his name wasn't "Jeem" it was "Jim."  Apparently Pastor "Jeem" has a hard name to pronounce.

I laughed.

It was like he was inside my head.

I don't give out my name much these days.  One of the earliest lessons I learned when I first arrived in Egypt was that it wasn't appropriate for me to tell people (namely men) my name.  So then when I struck up any sort of polite conversation with a taxi driver and they asked me my name, I knew that we had just crossed into non-polite conversation territory so I would clamp my mouth shut immediately.

But I mean, seriously, if they know that it's impolite to ask a woman's name then why do they ask it?!!  It's like they're daring me to break the cultural rules here!  And then I can see them in my head later down at the coffee shop talking about all the loose Western women that they shuttle from place to place when, in fact, THEY are the ones who bring up the subject in the first place.  We don't KNOW that we shouldn't be giving you our names (unless some kind Egyptian language teacher or friend takes pity on us and tells us these kinds of things)!

But I digress...

Delivery in Egypt is a wonderful thing (I really SHOULD blog about it sometime so that you can appreciate it as much as I do).  But the one thing I always dread about getting delivery with a new company is when I try to tell them my name over the phone.  It takes me like 10 tries for them to get them to hear my name correctly.  No, my name is NOT Ellen or Eman or Evan or ... (fill in the blank with some Arabic name that is nowhere near the name Erin) ...

It's "Eh-REEN."

Yes, you guessed it.  Here I am in Egypt mispronouncing my own name.

Let me tell you.  I worked as an office manager for an Egyptian company here for almost 3 years, and most of that time I was on the telephone talking to different clients and companies.  And I am ashamed to say that I resorted to the "Eh-REEN" version of my name on a regular basis.

And cringed every single time.

In Paris I was aghast to find that they could pronounce my name correctly (hallelujah!) but they were determined to spell it "Irene" rather than "Erin."  So even though they could say it right, all I could hear in my head was "EYE-Reen," which is not how they pronounced it at all.

So now when I do delivery I usually take the easy route.

I give them my husband's name.

Yes, this is more culturally appropriate anyways.  And yes, this is because his name is written in Arabic downstairs on the intercom button so it's easier for them to find me to deliver that pipin' hot pizza (or McDonald's cheeseburger or my favorite Egyptian banana split - aka Roz bi Leban with ice cream & fruit on top - or diapers) to my door.

But what they don't know....

What I'll never tell...

Is that I just can't bear for them to mispronounce my name AGAIN!  Or me either for that matter!

Yes, it's just a name.

But it's MY name!

Disclaimer:  I just want to say to all my lovely Egyptian friends and family that I LOVE that you call me "Eh-REEN" or Erini.  I am not complaining about how YOU say my name, and you are certainly welcome to call me anything you like.  This is more of an expression of how I feel when I try to get complete strangers to understand what my name is.  Oh...and if you're one of the very few (you know who you are) who call me Eranie, well I guess that's okay too. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. That's very funny. :)
    Even for Egyptians giving their children western names, you get to hear all kinds of pronunciation by school and university teachers :D


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