The dilemma at roll call
Students share their personal experiences at roll call due to their uncommon names
As the list of names dwindles down to the last letters of the alphabet, junior Hayeon Yun sits in anticipation, waiting to hear the latest pronunciation of her name. She hears the all- too familiar pause with a brief stutter, and turns around to give an amused look to her friend, ‘this again.’ The soft whisper of the “H” escapes the lips of the teacher followed by a mutated version of her name. She corrects him, “It’s Hayeon.”
Yun is used to this scenario at roll call. Her name is constantly being pronounced incorrectly but she has developed tips to help people properly pronounce her name. She helps others by saying “it’s Hayeon, like ‘hi’ and then ‘yawn.’”
Yun is one of many, who wait in dread for their names to be called during roll, already anticipating correcting the substitute
According to Yun, ‘Hayoung’ in Korean has a special meaning: ‘to have a successful life in the future.’ It took her parents months to figure out. The name has always made her feel out of place. Most importantly her name is a symbol of Korea, the country she left as a child.
“[My name is] just a part of my Korean culture,” Yun said. “I haven’t lived there [Korea] since I was five, but I still speak it at home and I want to keep that heritage as long as possible.”
Yun was born in Korea, and mentions that her name was something different there too. Later, at the age of five she moved to Irvine, Calif. and then moved to Shanghai when she was eight, due to her dad’s job. Five years later she moved to Singapore and now has made a home for herself in Cupertino .
“My name is a part of my identity, it’s who I am,” Yun said. “I am Korean and I don’t want to lose that even though I’m becoming Americanized.”
Children of immigrants are taught to assimilate to the social norm and adpet to western culture, in order to fit in. Yet by having a cultural or complex name, trying to blend in with the crowd can be difficult at times. Becoming proud of one’s name and heritage can be conflicting when trying to fit in
Yun almost changed her name to Hannah when she was five years old in hopes of assimilating in the United States. But at the end, she decided against it because she did not want to lose her Korean roots. She found a connection between the meaning of her name and her culture, and decided against changing her name as she wants to hold a piece of her culture
Freshman Naimisha Adira also agrees that a name holds a very special meaning to a person and is something that shouldn’t be altered.
“I think [changing my name] would be more disrespectful to my parents and my grandparents because they are the ones who thought of the name,” Adira said.
However, many find nicknames for themselves to blend in and make it easier for others to pronounce their names. Athreya, is called Hrushi by his peers and relatives, Adira is often called Nisha or Nimi by close friends and family and Yun is called Hyun (the first letter of her name and her last name) by her friends.
When people mispronounce her name, Yun always makes sure to correct them. She does this in a light-hearted manner, understanding the difficulty of pronouncing her name.
On the other hand, Adira no longer corrects people for their mispronunciations. She has never felt embarrassed or ashamed of her name and doesn’t feel the need to change or alter it.
“I don’t want to change my name because its a part of me,” Adira said. “It’s a part of me because it’s something which you have had since you were born. A name sticks with you throughout the rest of your life and it’s the one thing you can never change.”
The name ‘Naimisha’ originates from the Naimisha forest, which was mentioned in the Mahabharata, an ancient Hindu epic.
Due to the length of his name, sophomore Hrushikesha Athreya simply goes by Hrushi order to make his life easier. The nickname was created by his own parents who realized that this name was too long to be used daily.
Athreya’s name in Hinduism means God. He explains the importance of a name to an individual and how he would never change his own, despite the difficulties he experiences outside the house.
Although Yun, Adira and Athreya all face difficulties at roll call, they all remain steadfast in belief that a name is a part of who you are — your identity, your culture, your heritage.
“The name is everything [...] because it sticks with [you] for life and what [you] are called by forever,” Athreya said. “Obviously it’s [your name] always going to be a good thing because your parents put a lot of thought into it.”
A pattern of names
Siblings explain the impact of similar names
When sophomore Sangita Kunapuli was born, her parents Suma and Satya, wanted to give her a name starting with the letter S, to pair with her sister Shalini’s name and the rest of the family. Although the letter has no significance to the Kunapuli family, the parents wanted both children to start with the same letter, narrowing down the list of names to choose from. The family also uses this advantage when it comes to signing greeting cards.
“Sometimes when we are signing a card to a family member from all of us, we’ll write a big S followed by all our names next to it,” Kunapuli said.
For the Kunapulis, the letter trend began with the parents, but for freshman twins Krish and Kanishka Kumar, the pattern started with their older brother.
“My brother’s name is Kushagra, so my parents just decided why don’t we name of them with the letter K, and since our initials are KK, [our parents] thought it had a ring to it,” Krish said.
Freshman Kira and Kayla Israni The Israni twins were supposed to be named Julia and Jenna, but the parents thought there would be too many j’s in the family as their older brother’s name is Jake. Like the Kumar twins, Isranis’ parents chose K names for the sake of the twins having similar names.
“I feel like Kira and Kayla feels more connected than any other names,” Israni said.
Freshman Vibha Iyengar and her sister Varsha’s names mean sun and rain, which represent contrasting weather conditions chosen symbolically by their parents. Like the Kunapulis, Iyengar’s parents, whose names also begin with the letter V, wanted to continue the trend throughout the family. This idea came from extended family, who suggested to name the older daughter starting with a V.
“My parent asked [my cousin’s] parents a name for me and then they went based off of [what they said],” Iyengar said.
MV alumna Jannie Chang and her sister Alice share the commonality of having French based names and not just names beginning with the same letter.
“They named her Alice because they wanted to start off the alphabet but then the B names were really ugly, so they’re like screw that, and then my aunt was like let’s name her Jannie,” Chang said.
Although some siblings don’t feel the names strengthening their relationship, freshman Brooke Young feels that she and her sister are mentioned as the unit: Brooke and Bianca, which makes them closer.
“I feel more connected to my sister, Bianca because of our names” Young said.
A second name
Students discuss the story behind their nickname
Although many people go by their legal names or by shortened versions of their legal names, some students go by entirely different names. Sometimes these names make them feel more unique and other times, these nicknames are simply easier to pronounce than their legal names. But regardless of the reason they adopted these nicknames, it’s become a part of their personality and identity.
Students discuss the names they use when ordering from Starbucks
The duality of a name
The implications of having two names
As she sits in class on the first day of school, the teacher begins to go down the roster. Her name starts to get closer, and she feels herself tensing up. She tells herself that she doesn’t need to feel embarrassed about it - her name being mutated beyond measure -, but it doesn’t stop how she feels.
“I almost get this stress reaction when I know my name is about to come up,” senior Annabel Li said. “It’s almost like this explicit indication that I’m different from everyone else.”
Li’s title on the roster appears as her legal name, ‘Liding,’ which is Chinese for ambitious or success. According to Li, her parents decided to give her that name as she was born in the year of the golden dragon, (special in Chinese culture), and they wanted to set her up for success.
On the other hand, the name “Annabel” comes from a different origin — the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe, which Li’s mother enjoyed reading.
“Since my last name is ‘Li,’ it wasn’t going to be spelled the same, but pronunciation-wise it’s still poetic,” Li said. “[My mother] decided to assign me with the name Annabel with the same spelling as the poem because Annabel can be spelled in seventeen different ways.”
Similarly, senior Gill Wang, whose legal name is ‘Yuhan,’ has experienced her fair share of discomfort when it comes to roll call. The two combined characters, Yù and hán.=, symbolize happiness and culture or literacy.
Her preferred name has also raised questions because of its unique nature. When she was young and lived in Taiwan, her parents asked her afterschool teacher what a good English name would be, and out of the list he suggested, “Gill” stood out the most.
“I was like ‘did you know it means it’s part of a fish’,” Wang said, “and they’re like ‘yeah’ so I don’t know why they chose it.”
Though at first she felt embarrassed when having to correct teachers in front of everyone, she has grown to accept and appreciate her name.
“Especially during middle school, I wasn’t completely comfortable with my name, but in high school, I started to like my name for what it is,” Wang said. “I look at it as it’s special because no one else has the name Gill. I wear it with pride.”
Senior Megumi Pennebaker has long accustomed herself to the never ending confusion of using both of her names - Megumi, which means a blessing in Japanese, and Jamie, which is an acronym for her great grandmother and grandmother’s first names. he wears both of them on her sleeve, proud of them.
Although she primarily goes by “Megumi,” Pennebaker doesn’t mind that substitutes usually call her Jamie. Pennebaker reacts more to Megumi, however, as it’s a more original name, making her feel proud.
“[If] a sub comes in and they have the roster then they’ll call me Jamie [and] I won’t bother to correct them because [it] doesn’t really matter,” Pennebaker said.“I used to be a little embarrassed because I didn’t like drawing attention to [myself.]”
After seventeen years, Pennebaker, Li and Wang find themselves used to being called two different names. As individuals with muticaltual backgrounds, their names indicate their diverse identity. Pennebaker, who is of japanese and caucasian descent. Li and Wang who are both of Chinese descent.
“When I was younger, I was more conscious about how I would appear socially but at this point in time I just realize that people don’t care,” Li said. “People aren’t as scary as my 10-year-old self might make them out to be.”
The roots of names
Students at Monta Vista share the stories behind their names
There’s a word that follows us from the day we are born to the day we die. It can be long or short, it can be unique or common. We choose or are given a word that is fundamental to identifying ourselves. Names have become that of a political statement, a way to showcase our identity. Gender identity, racial identity, religious identity.
Three students at MVHS share their connection to their name. The backgrounds of their names show a unique portrayal of their parents’ mindset, values and motivations that come into play when choosing a name.
How does it feel to have a common name?
Individuals discuss the pros and cons of having the same names
A person’s name serves as a major part of their identity. Yet, once a name become so popular that having it is no longer unique, the amount that the name weighs on a person’s identity changes. For some people, having a common name doesn’t matter, while for others it is more meaningful. Watch the video to see MVHS students discuss what it means to have a commonly given name at MVHS.