Thursday, September 9, 2010

What’s in a name ....

I used to think my name was French. If you look up all the baby books they tell you this and list reams of names of actresses who have the title and of all the different variations - the list of other names the ones I’m particularly not too fond of.

I’m not a Sue, Su, Suey, Suzy, Susie, Susan or Susannah or even a Sues, Suze or Suzan.

Many people just don’t understand that there is something very wrong when they assume that you can just give someone one of these names and think that it is OK.

You know - you have just met someone and you’re introduced and in the very next sentence they change your name to what they think is some affectionate come friendly version that they and you will think is cool.

Well excuse me.

You may as well call me Thelma. That’s what it feels like.

Don’t they get it?

It has never sat right this French business. Don’t get me wrong I love France, French food, French men, French art, and French movies. I speak a smattering of French that will assure me of not starving to death, not missing a train, and having cash in my wallet because I can find an ATM at the Gare du Nord.

One of the advantages of living in a different culture to the west is that you are immersed in a dimension of living that is so far outside your realm of understanding that with each conversation and each corner you turn you learn something new.

This is how I learnt about my name. Talking with an Omani acquaintance before I left Oman they told me “you know your name is Arabic”.

‘Suzani’ is an old name. It means ‘of the needle’ and refers to beautiful tribal embroideries from Central Asia. I’ve seen some and they are magnificent, vibrant and tell wonderful stories of women who have created beauty in often harsh, hostile desert environments.

It’s also the name of a 12th Century Persian poet and in Aramaic the name means ‘tribal beautiful’.

So Suzanne from France and associated with film stars, or Suzani from the Arabic world associated with beauty and works of art made with amazing skills and the essence of love.

I knew there was a reason why I loved embroidery.

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