Sunday, 13 May 2007

What Is In a Name?

“What is in a name?” said Shakespeare. Yet my name always made me questioned.
Today I’ve got an e-mail from a reader from Ohmy News asking me to look into his blog. He is posting some comment about my articles in Ohmy News. Inside his post he puts a question mark on the difference of my name in the OMNI’s article and my name in my blog.
It is a long story to explain. It could even produce an article…
My real name is Maria Margaretta Vivijanti Nisiho. Maria Margaretta is my Catholic name taken from Margaretta Maria Alacoque. Vivijanti should be read in the old bahasa (ejaan lama) Viviyanti. Then the family name is Nisiho.
My problem with my name came long time ago, since my elementary school. Every time I used the name Nisiho, other children laughed at that name. They even called me Ho Chi Minh (we are learning geography at that time).
As Chinese Indonesian was asked to use Indonesian name instead of Chinese name, my father change his name from Nio Sin Ho into Nisiho. Chinese Indonesians were really creative in making up name. An uncle with a family name Oei change his name into Usagani came from the Makasarese dialect U sagang I. It means U and I … pronounce ui (the same pronounciation of Oei).
My father creativity in choosing his name might be influenced by his Japanese friends in trading. It sounded Japanese. The name is so unusual that every body used to asked question on my family name.
My name is also a bit long, and without any hint that my nickname is Retty (Ret came from Margaretta, and ty came from Vivijanti). People usually misunderstood my name as Maria Goretti, another Catholic saint’s name.
I do not like to use my father family name (I knew it was a misery for him). To skip me from questions, after finishing my study I prefer using the name Retty. As I got married I am using the family name of my husband which sounded more Indonesian name: Hakim. To honour my father I still put N. in the middle of my name.
Commenting on my article on bahasa Indonesia, a reader from accused me as writing my name in a Westernized way. He said it is just like the Western style John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indonesian name should be A.H. Nasution, or Mohammad A.S. He did not know that I just do not want to use the name Nisiho.
Then when open a mailing list, we were asked the name in the identity card, so I put my full name on…and another contributor asked me how different the name from the name in the article.
So that’s the story of my name. A name is still important tough, I had to choose in which name I’d like to live longer than my body.


JJS said...

Greetings from Luxembourg!
Three remarks, if I may.
First, a name is as much a component of one's identity as one's face, one's voice, one's behaviour. So all readers of blogs should accept the name or names a blogger chooses. I therefore respect that you have chosen the name Retty N. Hakim, and there is no obligation for you to give any explanation ( however, I do appreciate that you satisfied the curiosity in my article, see ).
Second, I am aware of the complexity of names in some situations, for instance in Indonesia. I know that in your country, most names of Chinese origin were transcribed into "Western" alphabets from their regional pronunciation, often in a South-Eastern coastal province: thus, Ng designates the widespread family name Wang (in current standard Chinese, guo-yu), and Tan is the transcription of the family name Chen.
Third point: in a world of rapidly expanding networks and opportunities to communicate, it is essential that respect be shown for language, culture and personality. No one should dictate behaviour by saying "you should not use a middle initial", or "your name should have 2, not 5 parts". Respect for diversity is certainly one of the challenges facing us in a global network community.
With best wishes for your continued fine work as a journalist and as a blogger,

m lim said...

interesting story!! name name name... i think Indonesians indeed deal with name cases a lot!

thanks for sharing.