Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Power of Naming

   I had the pleasure recently of translating a film title, Myuzeigais-Kalinders into Perpetual Calendar for my friend, Janis Ozolins-Ozols's documentary about Latgale, a region in Latvia.  Names are so important.  I went over the possibilities in my mind.  Which name captured the meaning and rolled off the tongue best?
    Nuruddin Farah, the Somalian writer, gave a talk in Buffalo last week and said unlike people in Islamic cultures, Europeans (those of European descent)don't know what our names mean.  Do you?
    My name, Teresa, has never quite fit.  It comes from the Greek and means "to harvest".  Teresa conjures up images of saints, maiden aunts, and Mother Teresa in her tiny form huddled over the sick and dying.  The name never quite fit because at home I was Tereze, my Latvian name, which my father rhymed with potatos and mice. Tereze, peles, kartupeļes.Over time I was also T, Miss T, T-bird, Tree, and Tere. 
    What's your name and what's its evolution?  Now that I'm back in the US, I've returned to my name duality- Teresa and Terez.  Thanks to the US Hispanic culture, Teresa according to the Urban Dictionary is now "A bodacious beauty with full lips, luscious locks and dark mysterious eyes.
Most Teresas are sensitive, caring listeners, but they also have their mischievous, fun-loving sides."  Hey, thanks! 
    And a bit of advice from Nuruddin about naming your characters.  Start their names with different letters.  He says people read so quickly that names blur into one another.  I have a novel with an Ilga and an Olga, whose names I will certainly change.  And I have a Donots ( a common name in Latvian).  We can all imagine the problems with that one.
     Tread carefully!  Learn your names. 

Info about the film-


1 comment:

  1. Interesting the voice in Latvian, peles, kartupejes. Some names remind me colors. Teresa is like deep dark red most common English red for me.