exactly that

Names, words, wev…

So we finally got moved in to our new place in Seoul.

We finally found the converters that allow me to use my laptop (Yay!).

More regular blogging and my first official pics of Korea coming up.

For now, I want to point you to a conversation going on at Alas, a Blog.

Jeff Fecke (Sorry, RQ) has written a pretty on point piece about having the respect to call someone by the name the choose to use themselves, the one they identify w/.  No matter how much we personally despise that person or their politics.  He tackles how abhorrent it is to call Bobby Jindal by his legal given name “Piyush” even though he chooses not to use that name.  To Fecke, it stems from a need for some people to other people, to paint them as somehow un-American or different b/c of their funny sounding name (note, I use “funny sounding” in a snarky manner to all those people who think it’s cute to purposely slaughter non-Western names).  It doesn’t matter what we think of him, b/c there is plenty to criticize:


There are many, many reasons to dislike Bobby Jindal politically, from his retrograde positions on women’s rights to his Norquistian, drown-it-in-the-bathtub view of economics. But these have nothing to do with his ethnicity, or where his parents were born.

Bobby Jindal has chosen to call himself Bobby. Polite and decent people call a person by the name they ask you to call them by. So feel free to call Bobby Jindal a sexist, a Christianist, and a disaster for the economy — but call him Bobby Jindal. Because that’s his name.


To me, it is exactly the same as using words and labels for people.  We should find out what a person prefers, and use it.  

If you want me to call you Madame Senatrix, Princess Marjorie of the Multiverse, or Late for Dinner, all you need do is ask.  Your reasons for choosing to go by a name are your own.  All I need to know is that you have a preferred manner of address.  That is what polite, decent people do when meeting other people.

B/c words mean things.

I don’t pretend to know why people change their names.  I don’t know why our relator asked us to call her Sophie and never told us her Korean name.  I don’t know why the girl I worked w/ in college had a name that was “more Western” that she asked her friends to call her by, and only let her parents call her by her Indian name.  I don’t know why some people in my family insist on calling me the feminized version of my traditionally masculine name, but I know that it makes me feel infantilized every time they do so.  I don’t know why a person who transitions from one sex to another wants to go by a name that represents their new life, but that isn’t my business.  If I have respect for someone as a human being I will use the name they ask me to use, or I will address them as Ms. instead of Mrs.  Or I will call them Judy instead of Zhu Lao Shi, or Star instead of Shane.  I don’t need to know their reason, I just need to know what to call a person.

B/c words mean things.

And some of the conversation going on over there is good, about people having their names changed for them when immigrating, b/c I know people that have had that happen to them too.  But really, refusing to use a name that someone prefers is just as stripping of their humanity as having their name forcibly changed.  It feels like a slap in the face.

It’s not about freedom of speech, it is about freedom of choice.  Humans deserve to have that choice respected, from what to do w/ their bodies to how they identify themselves.

B/c words mean things.


Comments on: "Names, words, wev…" (5)

  1. This is such a bang on post. You are quite right the only time the use Jindals Indian name is when they intend to demean him or point out that he’s not like everyone else (read:white) in a perfect world ethnic names would not be considered problematic but the bottom line is if he wants to be called Bobby, Max Or big fat cabbage head that is how we should refer to him.

    • Pretty much the only thing I was saying all along. Fecke made some great points in his post, and the thread derailed into “I am gonna call him whatever I want b/c I object to him changing his name b/c it is obviously social pressure and forced assimilation”.

      Which is something that needs to be addressed, for sure, but not in that post. That post is about someone’s right as a human to be called by whatever name they choose, no matter how it makes other people feel about it.

      Social pressure to change a foreign sounding name, real or perceived, is a problem that deserves a fair look. Why do some people change their names to a name more common to certain countries? I can’t answer that b/c I have never been part of that experience outside of my own travel in Asia (and never as an immigrant or as a descendent of an immigrant). While the situations surrounding why should be addressed, the issue at hand was simply that someone is asking to be called a name they prefer, for their own personal reasons, and it really isn’t anyone else’s business why.

  2. So does that mean you don’t like when I add teh a to teh end of your name? Or is that ok because it’s an affectionate term?

    Names and nicknames really hit home with me, though, as much of my mental abuse growing up was from derogatory nicknames. I am very careful with my kids that their nicknames are in no way mean or derogatory, the worst one is probably booger-butt and that’s only when they’re stinky lol … My kids also have names that have several available nicknames. That way, when they get older, they can choose their identity, whether it be their formal name or any of the available shortenings.

  3. No, K8, I have enjoyed that nickname for years. ;) But it is also obvious to my friends that I don’t mind. What I do mind is the feminized and shortened version of my name that my family insists on using w/ me. That’s not my name. No part of me identifies w/ that name.

    Jindal, as much of a Rethug fuckneck as he is, does identify on some level w/ Bobby. That is his name. He sees it as his identity, at least publicly (we don’t know if his family calls him otherwise and if he prefers it or not). I might not like his politics, but I certainly respect that he has the right to be called Bobby. I kind of also had the same feelings about people calling Sarah Palin “Caribou Barbie”, b/c I find it degrading and a way of reducing her to an oversexualized plastic doll. Hate her politics, respect that she has a name that I should use.

    And that makes you right about nicknames. You have to make sure that you are not offending or upsetting the person who had been nicknamed, or stripping them of identity or humanity in some way. I have called The Kid “Bug” since she was born, and also “xiao guai shou” which kind of means “strange little monster”. I also think it works differently w/ kids, b/c most loving parents aren’t going to give their kids nicknames that dehumanize them or hurt them. “Booger-butt” probably won’t stick w/ your kid much past diapers…LOL.

    Might be part of why when I picked out Kid’s name I tried for one that couldn’t be shortened or nicked.

  4. […] have a firm belief that Words Mean Things. I am pretty sure I say it all the […]

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