Monday, March 05, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

NAAM-uh-SAA-kay 

If I had a dollar for everytime I had to explain how to pronounce my name, I could finance my education. Possible PhD included. And to this day, I'm not sure if I actually like my name*, or its less troublesome variants like Jo or Hanna (Jo sounds like a guy's name, Hanna is the plain, uninteresting pilgrim). I love Joie and I love it when the people I love use it, but I downright hate people who I've just met calling me Joie. It's a privilege, please stand in line while I process your application to use it. Thank you. Besides, only people who know me know that Joie is pronounced joe-EE, despite the fact that it is orthographically similar to the French word for "joy". In case anyone was wondering, Tammy was the one who came up with that spelling. Before that, I never spelt it out.

I could write a very long post about how name is tied to identity and how in my struggles to get my name said right (GODDAMIT THERE'S A FUCKING H IN IT. HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THAT THERE'S AN H?! AND IF YOU DO SEE IT, OH YOU LITERATE YOU, WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU ASSUME THAT IT'S SILENT?! HAVE YOU EVER ENCOUNTERED A SILENT CONSONANT IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEONE ELSE'S NAME?! HAVE YOU?! WHY WOULD YOU THINK IT'S SILENT IN MINE?! IT'S JUST LAZINESS. EFFING-EH LAZINESS. OH WAIT, you didn't call me Joanna, you're one of those people who have to demonstrate your AMAZING world knowledge. yo-CHCHCHCHA-na! *Did I say that right? oh look at me! I can produce a uvular fricative! I'm soooo smart. Gimme a cookie and tell me that you're flattered that I'm the first person ever to get your name right.* Look goddamit. I don't give a flying fuck that you can spot the German variant of "Joanna". And for future reference, no, you are not the first person to ID it correctly, neither are you producing a convincing uvular fricative. Next time you meet someone, it might be a good idea to ask them how their name is pronounced novel idea, I know.) I've developed a certain assertiveness that can cast me in certain light when meeting new people and how that in turn shapes my social interactions blah blah blah. Simply put, my name and its attendant baggage is a pain in the ass.

Jhumpa Lahiri (Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies) has written a beautiful book on the quest for identity while growing up with an awkward name**, titled The Namesake. It's one of my favourite novels (I've read it five times, and I sorely regret not being able to find it before I had to leave for Melbourne. I might have to buy another copy) and I highly recommend it. Imagine my delight when I discovered that not only has it been turned into a movie, the main character, Gogol Ganguli (yes, he was named after Nikolai Gogol), is played by Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle fame!

Lucky for us, Kal Penn is keeping a blog about his experiences while working on and promoting the film. Being the comedian that he is, he has also posted a couple of videos on the blog that relate to the movie. This one is my favourite and it illustrates what I've been trying to say about my name all my life.

*In a recent conversation with a friend, it came up that if I decide eventually to take Jim's name, my name would be Johanna Hobbs. My Irish friend couldn't stop laughing because, according to her, that sounds like the name of an English peasant. Unfortunately, I agree. More specifically, I think it sounds like the name of ye olde washerwoman. "Got yer clean linens guv'nor!"
**Of course that's not the ONLY thing the book is about, but it is the main theme.

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posted by Joie! at 11:43 PM

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