Some of my favorite lines from Author Miller’s book, The Crucible is spoken by the character, John Proctor. When others try to convince him to continue lieing so he can save himself from being hanged like the others who are accused of witchcraft, he roars at them and angrily tells them why he can not lie anymore. He screams his response “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” He basically is tired of the lies he has told to save himself and feels like a coward for not standing up against injustice like some of the others. Eventually, he redeems himself by refusing to admit to something he did not do just to be saved from the hang man’s noose. Consequently, he once again brings pride and honor to his name. His children will not have to suffer the humiliation and condemnation of having a coward for a father. They can proudly say their father is John Proctor, an honest and truthful man. Retaining the dignity of his name is the greatest legacy he can give to his children. This brings me to my questions, “Don’t we all want people to think of positive things when they hear our name (first middle or last) instead of negative things?
I love those lines because it reminds me the importance of our names representing who we are, where we come from, and yes, even our cultural values and beliefs. An article I read in The New York Times called In Thai Cultural Battle, Name-Calling Is Encouraged has me thinking about this issue. In the article (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/29/world/asia/29nickname.html), Vira Rojpojchanarat of the Thai Culture Ministry discusses how he is worry that “the Thai culture will vanish” because the younger generations of Thais are heavily influenced by foreign media. Based on the astonishing result of a survey conducted among 3,000 students , I can understand why Mr. Vira feels worry about the danger of losing ones cultural identity. According to the survey, “Forty percent of secondary students and 56 percent of primary students had English nicknames”. I don’t know why this number is so high, but I do see this tread of Laotians and Thais giving English names to their children instead of the more traditional names. In a way, this is a tragedy because a lot of times you can not tell what a person’s ethnicity is based on their name. Are we trying to hide who we are by using American names whether it is just our nicknames or first names? Are we trying to become too American? Are we assimilating too much to the point that we do not even realize that we are losing our cultural identity with changing our Asian names to sound more American? Many of us immigrants have not only use English nicknames, but have changed our first names to more American names. Some of us have altered the way our name is spelled ( as I have from Anousone to Anasone) to make it more phonetical so people can pronounce it. Then there are some of us who has totally changed our names beyond recognition. For example, Dom instantaneously turns into Mary. We all have our reasons, but it is still sad when I think about it.
I can sympathize and yes even understand why people want to have American nicknames, first names or middle names because people slaughter the pronounciation of my first( Anousone)and middle (Maa)name all the time. However, are we sending the wrong message when we prefer or use American names instead of our Laos name or Thai? Maybe, I am making too big of a deal about it.
According to the article, “Mr. Vira, says his mission is to preserve what he calls Thai-ness: “not only the Thai language but Thai dress, Thai food — everything that shows Thai identity.” I think this is a noble goal because we all should want to preserve everything that makes us unique and different and that includes using our Asian names. I for one do not want to lose my “Lao-ness”! I think I will do what Mr. Vira is planning which is: make a list of traditional Lao first names and nicknames and post it here. Maybe the younger generations will stumble upon this site and find a name they can give to their future children.