Arguing with Myself: What’s in a Name?

People often complain that I complain too much when people misspell my name. My name is Kirby Keith [kɚbI kiθ], and it has been misspelled in almost every way that I could think off—Kerby, Kerby Kieth, Kierby, Keth, Curvy, Kervy, Carby, Corby, and, perhaps the worst, Garby. Yes, I complain too much because all those names other than “Kirby Keith” are just not me.

People argue that a simple misspelling is not something I should rant about; it does not make me different from who I am. Someone has even quoted Juliet’s line from Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2, Lines 1-2). Another friend, who is a Dutch, pointed out that in his homeland, he is Yacob; in the Philippines and elsewhere, he is Jacob. Another friend alluded the naming of Jesus—he is Yeshua in some languages, Yesu in others, and Hesus in some. Someone else argued about the flowers and animals—they have different names in every location, yet they stay the same—essentially the same animal or plant, only with different names. But I say, no. I am not Jesus, and neither was I born with a non-English name. Therefore, this does not apply to me.

The giving of names was first established by God himself when he commanded Adam to name all the creatures in subjection to him. Soon, Adam’s descendants were given names, but the naming back then was different thing. People are named according to an attribute that makes them distinguishable from others, according to their purpose and lot in life, their status, or something that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. In this fashion, Abram was renamed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, Isaac’s name means “the laughing one” as he was laughing when he was born. I could go on, but I guess I made my point. At some point of human history, people were named after their family’s occupation; thus, we have the names Baker, Fisher, Booker, Archer, and many else.

Nowadays, parents are free to name their children (at least in where I live, I am not sure how it goes in other countries). Some children were lucky enough to have been given good names, while others were not lucky enough—either their parents were traditional, superstitious, or simply trying to preserve an ancestor’s name. In my case, it was my late brother who gave me my name—a brother I did not even meet because he died from aplastic anemia when I was just around nine to thirteen months young. I can’t remember—I can’t even remember how he looks like unless I look at a photo of him. And this, my homies, is the very reason why I am so sentimental with my name. It is the only remembrance I have with a brother I never met, a brother I never had. I do not care what my name means (though I searched for it, and it turns out my name has Gaelic origin and means “wind of the church village,” in some translation though, it means “woods near a church village”). The most important thing for me with regards to my name is that people spell and pronounce it the way should be. Besides, I have the feeling that I am not the only one with this sentiment of having their name spelled and pronounced as it is.

And now, to counter those arguments given above by some of the people I know. First of, I was not born with a rather difficult spelling or sounding name for me to need a different name from people. I am not Korean to take another name so that people will find it easy to call me. Second, I was not born with a non-English name to take on its English form (Yacob-Jacob and Yesu-Jesus thing). Third, it may be true that animals and plants are known by different names all throughout the world, but don’t they have taxonomical/scientific name? All those names used by people in different places are nothing but nicknames. So I say, you can give me any nickname, but when I give you my real name, please retain its authenticity—Kirby Keith [kɚbI kiθ].

One thought on “Arguing with Myself: What’s in a Name?

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