Friday, March 12, 2010

My so called names

Having just read a fluff piece in Telegraph UK about having a drab forgettable name which people tend to substitute with another drab name when in conversation; I suddenly recalled a couple of times when I was named on the go.
These were two most worth remembering among the countless other times that I have been called other names (most often by my sister's name).

First incident was when I was talking to a friend who I was supposed to meet at church for the midnight mass (first time), that we were going to as a group, more than a year ago.
When I expressed concern at being the first to arrive, not knowing if I would be let in, being hindu and also not a parishioner of that church, he said "If someone asks, introduce yourself as Lilly"
I was transfixed by this and questioned, albeit inanely "Why Lilly?" to which he replied "Well, you seem like a Lilly."
A short time after that, while still basking in the glow of understanding that I had been compared to a serene flower, I found out that Lilly is usually the short form of Lilith who happens to be Adam's first wife who left him because she refused to let even God dictate that he was better than her in anyway and (or perhaps therefore called) a demoness to boot.
Additionally, she is known to be a succubus and a very prolific mother. Now I really liked that I seem like a Lilly. Pretty sure P (my feckless friend and Lilly Namer) had no inkling of all this but I like to think I naturally inspire people to acknowledge my independence and female power.

The second anecdote is from last fall when I was exploring the cramped, confusing stair cases in the USS Intrepid very close to lock up time when a guy from a separate group asked me to not go away alone to places that seem deserted.
In his defence it was days to Halloween and he seemed high as a kite - potent combination for paranoia.
"Because if we were the last to see you", he explained, "and they would say", then assuming what I think was his idea of a cop voice he continued with, " what did you see..."
He reverted abruptly to his normal voice with the inquiry of, "what is your name?".
Then just as suddenly, without a pause, he replied to his own question with an utterance"..Isabella ".
I had not said anything at all and to this day I wonder how and why he pulled 'Isabella' from what appeared to be thin air.
Going back the story, the guy proceeded unimpeded by anyone present,"So cops would ask -what did you last see Isabella do and we would say she was climbing down some creepy stairs to a dark room, all alone...we told her but noooo...Isabella just smiled".
That unceremonious end of the sentence was our clue that some slasher movie bimbo blonde's fate befalls this Isabella girl who dared to walk down to an exhibit of the first officers room on a New York landmark at 6 PM in the evening of a busy weekend.
I laughed merrily with all of them and the group moved away with their parting wishes of "Bye, Isabella!", "Isabella, Take Care now" and "don't go anywhere I wouldn't go, Iz" [which I guess means I can go anywhere else except where I was currently headed]

It is really interesting to me that an average melatonin challenged american group would find me to be a 'Isabella'. Surely that seems so very classic italian or spanish?
Very often people speak to me in spanish, mistaking me for a fellow Mexican, near the Mexican embassy, which is on my walking route to work. But that the extent of my international look.
Did those people think I was mexican, one called 'Isabella'? The likelihood they would've called me 'Maria' is more. Sad but true. All of us stereotype.
Where they so sloshed off their minds that I looked like a white Isabella to them? Possibly but only if they had spent quite a lot of time and effort getting to a physically ambulatory yet mentally LSD-ized state.
Did I remind that guy of someone he knew named Isabella? Far more likely. And it even seemed like the whole group knew this Isabella and were okay with her. even friendly.

I wonder what you (that is basically anyone) would call me if you didn't already know my name.
This would give a huge insight into what the namer thinks of the namee. If you thought someone was a Jane or Jim you probably think they are boring or conventional while someone you think is distinguished and interesting looking you would pick Portia or Adrian.
I should probably trademark this idea for a psychological profile or test. Anyway, I hereby state that I (not Lilly, not Isabella) came up with this idea right here and you read it in my blog first so if anyone uses this idea better find me and buy the idea from me or face my wrath.
A sample set of strangers are flashed on screen, the photo of the subject and asked to associate a name with that. they will additionally be asked on what factors did they think the subject qualified to that name like - cultural context, personal association, stereotype, stoned (therefore no f*king idea why)
As a control to those findings, a group of equal number of acquaintances (not too close) should be repeating the same activity with the subject's photo.
There should also be multiple subjects in each session so that any extreme variances in the findings can be compared to the readings of the non-main subjects.

The interpretation of the results will be a separate project in itself to ensure that each picked name is taken in consideration with all factors concerning the name picker and the country/ethnic background.
For example, I wouldn't pick Priya or Divya to be very exotic but everyone in this country (not of east asian descent) would look at a mysterious beauty (without any Anglo Saxon features) and associate her with that option.
Who knows? It may even have applications in understanding race relations in mixed demographics that our world is increasingly becoming.

inventor of WhatNameCanPeopleSpeculateYouHave(a mere placeholder for future cool name) psych profile,


Vijay Vaidyanathan said...

Weird associations. But we have seen this so often. :)

Having known you for so long, I cannot say any name with certainty. But if I had seen you as a stranger, I may have guessed Aparna or Arthi. Don't know why, but this just popped into my head. But I guess, People stereotype as you say or associate the person with someone similar that they have seen before.

some times, while meeting a person for the first time, you just feel that the person should have a specific name only. That somehow seems to be right name. I've had this feeling with many 'Balaji's that I've met.

Teal™ said...

Whattey comedy post ... people have never given me another name so far in life. And no , Teal doesn't count. Prolly they got reminded of Isabella Adjani when they saw you? :P
And w.r.t the hispanic folks, indians being confused for latinos is very common.