So I'm back in school and the class I'm taking this semester is Speech. *boohissspit* I have a problem with standing up in front of groups and speaking. I don't know why, I'm just not comfortable with it. If I could speak from my desk or something, or just have it be people that I know, I'd be fine. But once I'm up in front of the group and everyone is looking at me I feel *judged* or like they're all just waiting for me to shut up.
Unfortunately, my class last Tuesday was cancelled due to the professor being in an accident. She's fine, don't worry. So I haven't had to actually give any speeches yet. The first speech is due tonight and it's supposed to be about the meanings of our names.
All well and good, I have no problem with looking up the meaning of the words that make up my name and talking about them. Well, the talking thing, but that's less about the name and more about all the people watching me! My 'problem', such as it is, is with part of the instructions for the assignment. Here, let me share:
"This is a 2-3 minute speech designed to acquaint you with your classmates. Select one aspect about yourself to share with your audience. You will give a speech on the meaning of your name. You should research both your first and last name, but you may include your middle name. You should cite at least one source for the meaning of your name. Build the speech around a theme. For example, you could focus upon a personal goal, activity, or quality you possess. Give the listeners sufficient information to help them remember who you are and what you are about."
So essentially my professor wants us to tie our names into some aspect of ourselves. Our personality, goals, etc. Something. My issue is this: My name has nothing to do with who I am as a person. My name is an accident of birth, of other peoples' choices. I had nothing to do with it. It doesn't reflect *me*, it's just the individual label that people use to differentiate the consciousness/body that I am from all the other consciousness/bodies that they know.
I find it...annoying? Maybe even insulting, that some people have this expectation that your name makes up a part of your internal identity. As if the meaning of your name, something that could be thousands of years old, touches the core of your soul and changes it somehow. It doesn't. My mother chose my name, and she chose it because 'it was pretty'. My middle name(s) are nearly a family tradition. They would have been traditional, except that they sounded strange with my first name. And my last name is just the name of the asshat who married my mother and adopted me. It doesn't *mean* anything to me and it certainly doesn't reflect my personality or my goals. It doesn't even reflect my heritage or my genetics. It's little more, at this point, than a scar that I bear, something I care so little about I can't be bothered to change it.
If we were a culture that allowed children to choose their own names as they entered adulthood, I think it would be different. At least in my mind. Then we could say, well what does your name mean about you? Why did you choose it? What part of yourself did you want to celebrate or emphasize?
But we're not. We're left with the names that our parents give us, for the most part. (Some people do change their names as adults and in those cases I do feel that the question is a valid one. What was it about that name that resonated with their self-identity?)
So lets run down my name, just as an example of how little the meanings of the words actually *mean* to me as a person.
Amber: from the Arabic 'anbar. Brought back by Crusaders, the word was originally used to refer to both ambergris (whale vomit) and the semi-precious stones. Do you know what amber is? It's petrified tree sap. I mean it's pretty, yes, and I think the pieces that have insects preserved in them are incredible but what on earth does that have to do with me? Am I about to be responsible for the cloning of dinosaurs? I think not. Or maybe I hope so. It might be kind of cool.
Dawn: Old English. A way to refer to the rising of the sun in the morning. Fairly self explanatory. Chosen by my mother because I was born near dawn and the 'family' name of 'Ann' sounded weird after 'Amber'.
Marie: French/German version of Mary, which is a version of Mariam, which is a version of Myriam which is Hebrew. Family name. There are plenty of Marie/Mary/Miriam/M---'s in history that are famous or infamous. I think most people, if you say the name Marie/Mary, think of the virgin Mary, but that may just be my own cultural prejudice sneaking in. Nonetheless, I am not particularly virginal or saintly.
Last Name *redacted for paranoia*: You'll just have to trust me when I say that it means nothing more than 'someone born not a serf'. Which, back in the day, was a pretty swanky place to be. Not rich or royal, but not a slave. Still...*shrugs*. What does that mean to me? To my actual identity? Nothing that I can tell. Being born 'not a slave' is less of a special circumstance in most of the world than it used to be.
My grandparents' last name at least gives homage to our ancestry, Kuchta, being a German/Czech/Polish name. Of course it just translates to someone who worked in the kitchen. I don't cook.
Or my last name at birth, McPeak. "Northern Irish: Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Péice, a patronymic from the personal name Péic, which Woulfe links to Old English Pic (see Pike 5), although MacLysaght derives it from Old English peac ‘thickset man’." So...someone who lives near a peak (a hill with a pointy top) or a thickset man. *glances at waist* Okay, I'll give you that one. But again, it has nothing to do with who I *am* as a human being.
If I was going to name myself, which I'm not because I like my name even if I don't think it has any deeper meaning for me, I would name myself Josephine or Josephina, for my grandfather. Because that would have meaning for me. It would be something that I could tie into my goals, my hopes for myself as a person.
I've mentioned it, once or twice to people I know and their reaction is always, 'But you don't look like/you're not a Josephine.' No, I'm not. Because you think of me as an 'Amber', but that's only on the outside. If I changed my name, you'd get used to thinking of me as a Josephine.