What's in a name?

Curitiba Travel Blog

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            My parents were not prepared for my entrance into the world. My father did not have a name picked out for me and was even late for my arrival. Eventually he got to the hospital and picked out a name. This was after much searching and debating. Growing up, I did not favor my name. No one else had it and I did not think it was very pretty. I wanted a popular name like Jennifer, Lauren, Katie or Erin.

            One day I asked my dad why he named me Hannah. He responded, “Well it’s Biblical, easy to pronounce and you can’t really make any bad nicknames from it.” I thought about this and pondered what he had said. It was true, no one really had a hard time pronouncing my name. It wasn’t too common but it wasn’t so rare that no one had heard of it. The only bad nicknames that anyone had ever said to me were “Hannah banana,” which really wasn’t that bad. 

            “Besides, if you really don’t like your name, you can always go by something random or change it when you’re 18,” my dad said.

            And changing names/nicknames are precisely part of the Brazilian culture. I have met many Brazilians who have nicknames that they go by instead of their given names. In a sense, their nicknames almost take on a life of their own. Many times, the nicknames are given during or after a significant event/part of someone’s life. Prime examples of this can be seen in the Brazilian World Cup team. Ronaldo, Kaká, Robinho, Ronaldinho, Fred are all pseudonyms of the players. These are the names that are on their jerseys, not their birth names. Nobody, not even family members call the players by their given names anymore. It’s almost as if the players found their new identities when they were given these nicknames. For many, the nicknames represent a new beginning and a promise of a bright future. A good percentage of the soccer players come from humble and poor beginnings. Hence, the birth of a nickname is sometimes also the start of a great career. Nicknames do not only apply to famous sport players, other important figures also have nicknames. For example, the current Brazilian President Luis Ignacio da Silva is better known as Lula.

            This is not just seen in Brazil. People all over the world have significant nicknames. There’s Eva Perón or Evita, Abraham Lincoln or Honest Abe, Borjigin Temüjin or Genghis Khan. In fact, nicknames have inundated society. People have even given nicknames to couples such as Brangelina or TomKat. Although these names can have a positive effect on people’s lives, it is important to remember that people should not lose their self identity behind a name. The nickname may represent power, prestige, love, happiness, etc. but in the end it really is just a name. More importantly than the name is the person that embodies the name. We can all come up with nicknames or go by something else, but in the end it’s the life you live that’s behind the name that counts.

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photo by: joesu