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What’s in a name!


By Sarwar Sukhera


"What's in a name___________'' is often quoted by those who have names that need to be abbreviated to flow off the tongue. Shakespeare, considered the greatest dramatist of English literature, was nothing more than a rapper writing stage plays. As for as I am concerned, his plays are no better than many an Indian movie I have seen. Add a few love songs, a couple of more fights, a chorus or two and 'Romeo and Juliet' could be any of the hundreds of thousands of Indian films produced ever since the introduction of talkie in the Subcontinent.

Names create an image, perception and identity of an animal, thing or a person. A mere mention of a name brings to mind not only a picture but also one's personal impression of the object. Take Jennifer for an example. The very name conjures up an image of a pretty, blue-eyed teenager with blond hair tied in a ponytail, straw hat slung back, flowery cotton dress, white socks with black shoes and out on a picnic on the shore of a lake.

Call her Jenna and you see a glass of margarita in her hand, or add a Spanish last name and there is a sultry brunette looking as sexy and vivacious as any Gina or Sophia. Mary and Pauline are typical girls-next-door. Susan, Brenda and Patricia are as nondescript as Roger, David and Patrick.

Expecting Bertha to look petite and pretty is like wishing a Dick Halliburton Cheney to be considerate towards the poor, old and the sick. Matilda and Thelma sound like overweight middle-aged women who could never have been young and cute. Gertrude is a name often given to pet ducks, or women who waddle around in the aisles of food stores. How did they ever find husbands and reared a brood is a question that beats me.

Readers, you are people of the world. Pray, have you ever met a curvaceous pretty young thing named Dorothy? Dorothy is destined to be a toothy, long nosed, sharp chinned, a bag of bones with ears like a letter sticking out of a mailbox.

Mat, Josh or Brad represent strapping young, handsome hunks in their mid twenties playing a sport or sitting relaxed on a bar stool with girls swooning all over

A frail and sick man of ninety years waiting to die in a nursing home can only have a name like Jacob or Bertrand. Calling him by any other name is a misrepresentation.

Billy is often a tattooed redneck, drunk and stumbling out of his trailer park home without a shirt and jeans slipped down almost to his knees. The name says it all if you want to know about the origin of a man living in USA. That is the method applied by computers to pick passengers traveling by air for special search and scrutiny.

Arabs are easy to recognize. All you need to do is misspell two biblical names and stick a "bin" in the middle. In case of terrorists, you add Abu before an Arabic sounding name. If the last name has more than twenty letters then he is an Indian of dark complexion with gleaming white teeth and a ready smile spread across the face from ear to ear. Just imagine the agony of a young child having to learn to spell his own last name like Ramaswamynathandeshpandey. You know instantly that he is going to slave away his life in an office cubicle of an Info-tech company.

Singh is Indian version of the Irish. Tempt a Singh to talk wisely and you will have bellyful of laughs.

Pakistanis are easily recognized by their jobs. They have monopoly over jobs on gas stations and driving taxis.

Abduls are illegal aliens unless they found an ugly and fat white woman to marry all the four brothers in turns.

Most Spanish men invariably have names like Eduardo, Alfonso or Alberto. Why have they left out John, Henry and David? That smacks of racism of some kind. All they had to do was add letter ‘O’ at the end to convert them to regular Spanish names. Hesoos, somehow never quite inspires the reverence Jesus does. I address everyone simply as Amigo to avoid having to remember names of individuals.

Chinese should be helped by an agency of the UNO to remove confusion between the sounds of letters R and L. The logic behind the Chinese phonetics is a national secret of theirs jealously guarded like the identity of factories making fake products with famous designer labels. Dong Ping, Jing Zhang and Ding Dang are the names that can only be of oriental origin. It would be easier for all the other ethnicities if the Asians were simply called Lee.

Everyone knows that the Asians with regular European names are always Filipinas.

French never immigrate to USA and if a name sounds like one then either it's a mulatto out of Louisiana or an effort of a black mother to give her offspring a unique name.

Afro-Americans' struggle of the 60s era is evident from the peculiar names they carry. Shaquile, Fatima and Alia are just three examples.

The Caribbean give away their origin through the sing-song accent despite having regular Christian names. One can easily confuse the name of a freshly arrived African with basketball star Dikembe Mutumbo.

Jews typically have a precious commodity in their name (Gold, Silver, Diamond, Ruby), which doesn't help to remove their Shylock stereotyping.

Most Russians I met have wives named Olga. Perhaps during Communism they had to start rationing out names as well. As for Natalyas and Irinas, they are mail order brides hoodwinked by plumbers and janitors from the Mid-West into believing them that every American works for Microsoft.

The Germans and Japanese had to give up names like Schremp, Kohl, Matsui, and Takayoshi during the 2nd World War for reasons historians can explain better.

The Italians are much easier to tell from their Bronx accent. Their names invariably end with letters ‘I’ or ‘C’ (which is meant to sound like CH)—Gucci is one example. I always pronounced it like ‘Gucki’ till my daughter, who is into fashions, corrected me.

Greeks, you cannot tell for sure until you taste a sandwich at the deli. Some of them have been clever enough to change names like Papadapolous to Papas, or an even easier contortion to sound like an Anglo-Saxon name.

All Americans are not equal. People of all origins are hyphenated Americans, except of course, the English. If a newly arrived Brit sounds like a London cabby then his next generation is going to do no better than the descendents of any other immigrant family.

If however, he speaks through tightly clenched teeth, as if shivering with cold or just back from the dentist, then you can safely bet that his great grand children are going to head large corporations. Many of them may even become presidents of the country provided they are Protestants by sect of the faith.

Copyright Sarwar Sukhera

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