The Cultural Significance Behind My Two Names


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Within the movie, The Namesake, it explores the theme of names frequently that chronicles the Ganguli family’s eldest American-born son. The story begins as Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, an Indian newlywed couple, immigrate to New York City from Calcutta, India. When the Ganguli couple had their first son, they didn’t realize they were supposed to pick a name for their son to be properly discharged from the hospital with their newly born baby. Due to the cultural difference, the couple had first wanted to wait for their relatives in India to pick out their son’s name. They eventually decided that their son’s nickname was Gogul as a namesake after the author Nikolai Gogul of The Overcoat. Soon after, the Ganguli couple decided on Gogul’s birth name as Nikhil which became a confusing matter for a four-year old Gogul. Through a series of mistakes, their son’s nickname became his birth name. These complications soon followed the Ganguli’s eldest son throughout his life as he slowly learns to appreciate his culture and name.

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From this movie, it is obviously seen that the importance of names and naming practices around the world varies for each culture. Some countries are rigid in their traditions and would choose not to deviate from the common knowledge of their people. As for others, the common knowledge might be the very opposite in separate world countries. In some cases, the name that you are given at birth defines your identity and your personality as you grow into a young man or woman that fit their grown name. However, there are also numerous situations of parents wanting their children’s name to sound unique or have a special significance despite it being ridiculous and embarrassing for their children. Compared to these situations, my parent’s selection of my first name is considered as a common name in the United States. There are many other people with the same first name, but my two names have a unique story just like how I started to appreciate my name like Gogul Ganguli.

As a general rule, smaller countries like Vietnam have more pride and tradition around their naming conventions.

My parents are strong believers of being meticulous in picking out their children’s full name as a promise for the continuation of Vietnamese culture in later future generation under our family name. Therefore, an American-born child with Vietnamese roots will tend to have two names differentiating the separate cultures of the United States and Vietnam. Because of this reason, I have two names that can be used to address myself to my relatives or friends. For example, if we were to follow the Vietnamese standard of having the surname come first, the name will adhere in order by first name then middle name. My Vietnamese name will be read as Nguyễn Nhã Thi. As for my English or “American” name, I prefer the usage of this name when being spoken to and for any written work made in the United States. It’s an official name that has been marked on my birth certificate that I consistently use in my everyday life.

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