Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's In A Name?

Call me a cliche, but Romeo & Juliet is my absolute favorite of Shakespeare's plays. And one of my favorite lines from said play is when Juliet is lamenting about how Romeo is from the Montague family and says, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." It begs the question, what's in a name?

I ask this as I look over at my adorable Chinese husband. His name is Xiaolong, which in Chinese, means "morning dragon." I never asked to call him by any other name, though of course I have some nicknames for him including the typical "Honey" that every English speaker uses as a term of endearment. And then there's "Jagiya," which is Korean for "Honey." And finally, there's "Pabo," (though some people pronounce it as "babo" because the character at the beginning the word which looks like  - 바보 - can take on a "b" or "p" sound) which means "stupid" in Korean (and before you think I'm mean, I should point out here that this is said with the utmost of love, as he is technically "Large Pabo;" I am "Medium Pabo" and the baby is "Small Pabo" and together, we are the Pabo Family). My brother and many of our Seoul friends call him "Shoes" partly due to the fact that our last name "Qu" is pronounced like "chiu" and tends to sound a bit like "shoe" and even more largely due to the fact that my husband once went off to work with a smile on his face and 2 completely different shoes on his feet. He had gotten all the way to the subway station before realizing this and had to come running home to change. Ha!

About a month ago, we were having dinner at our friend Genesis' home when another friend of ours, Andrea, who has spent a great deal of time teaching English in China, asked my husband why he didn't have an English name. He did, very briefly, use an English name while we were living in Seoul. He had taken a job at a hotel-style residence. Unfortunately, the Korean government is really picky about giving working visas to Chinese people and wouldn't grant him the working visa for that job so he only worked there for a few days. But not before they gave him the English name of Kevin. Yes, Kevin. Look at him.

Xiaolong poses with dried cuttlefish, one of his favorite (but not mine!) snacks, in our old house in Korea.

Does he look like a Kevin? I don't think so. Also, just saying the name "Kevin" makes me cringe because I swear it was the English name every naughty boy adopted in the Korean school I taught at. I'm not kidding either. I had 5 Kevins and ALL of them were unruly, holy terrors that I had to punish daily. I shudder to think what hell my teaching experience would have been if all of them had been put into the same classroom at once. Dear God!

Anyway, Andrea began suggesting names for my husband to use. And suddenly, there was "Lane." He decided that was the one for him. So I've been trying to incorporate usage of this in our daily lives. After all, some day when we move to the states, it will be far easier for all of us if he just goes by "Lane" since most people in the states will have a hard time pronouncing Xiaolong ("sheow-long" in case you've been sitting there for 10 minutes attempting to say it aloud to yourself). It's not that I don't like the name "Lane." It's much better than Kevin, no offense to any Kevins out there (except my English-named Kevins who didn't do their homework, wrote on the desks, kicked the chair of the kid in front of them constantly, talked out of turn and slept during my class). True that a rose is a rose and still smells like one no matter what we call it. So why should it matter what I call him? It's just that it's his identity and being that I love him for who he is, maybe he'll still be as sweet but nothing sounds as sweet as saying his name. Except "Large Pabo," of course.

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