A Thought on Names
Names are titles we are given at birth by parents who often take a great deal of time obsessing over what to name their child. As we get older we can sometimes start to question how we feel about our names, if these given identities reflect who we are or what roles our names play in social spaces. Growing up I remember the agonizing feeling on the first day of school, or anytime we had a substitute, that feeling of watching the teacher pause on the second name on the attendance list (which was always mine), sweat a bit and push out a sad rendition of my name. I’d shout “Here!” quickly in hopes that I wouldn’t be asked to correct them.
My name has always stuck out.
“Konyin. K-o-n-y-i-n. Pronounced “coin”. Short for Konyinsola. K-o-n-y-i-n-s-o-l-a. I just go by Konyin, though. It’s Nigerian. I’m Nigerian. Roughly translated in English my full name means Wealthy With Passion.” I am 27 years old and cannot count how many times I’ve repeated this sentence since I learned how to talk. I’ve coached people through understanding, pronouncing and validating my name. Sometimes I am patient, but sometimes I am tired.
Barista: “Hey, welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you?”
Me: “Can I have a chai latte with almond milk. Small.”
Barista: “One small almond chai coming up. Can I have a name for the order?”
Barista: “We’ll call your name when your drink is ready, Ashley!”
For me, that’s a causal exchange at any space that requests a name not being used for governmental purposes, but that day I was with a friend who looked at me with such surprise that I just had to laugh about it. His name is Ben. B-E-N. I explained to him that Ashley is my adopted nickname. Ashley is my easy to pronounce, no hassle, no question, come as you are name. When I use the name Ashley no one bats an eye, no one asks me my origin story, no one demands any extra time from me.
Ashley is my B-E-N.
I take a lot of pride in my family, my culture and especially my name but years of being asked “Where did your parents get a name like that from?” or “You must not be from here?” would have anyone looking for ways to avoid those conversations. So, I choose to use an adopted nickname. Maybe it’s to make getting a cup of coffee easier or maybe it’s from years of watching people be judgmental about my name. Regardless, I've decided to share this so hopefully when we meet in person, we can have a truly warm and thoughtful exchange of selves.