I remember I am named Enzo – after the race car driver who never gave up!
–Enzo Races In The Rain, written by Garth Stein and illustrates by R.W. Alley
I remember I am named Enzo – after the race car driver who never gave up!
–Enzo Races In The Rain, written by Garth Stein and illustrates by R.W. Alley
The third door down the hall bore the legend LAWRENCE SENA, SHERIFF. VALENCIA COUNTY. WALK IN. The capitalized LAW, Chee had heard, represented Sena’s effort to replace “Gordo” with a less insulting nickname. It hadn’t worked.
–People of Darkness (Navajo Mysteries Book 4) by Tony Hillerman
The following is created from, and inspired by, answers I have posted to questions on Quora.com.
Whether it’s racism or Antisemitism or classism (or sexism or gay bashing or whatever else) Midwesterners need to break the silence and get past the ‘it doesn’t happen here’ mythology. To this end, I am posting some of my own, personal, experiences with these issues. I am not going to post the worst experiences I have had because I’m not ready to go there, but these are a few examples from my own life:
The Name Adora Myers
The reactions people have to my name are frequently tinged with racial and antisemitic undertones. It’s not unusual for perfect strangers to respond to my name with a pregnant pause, an uncomfortably open examination of my physical being (including peering at my face and scanning my entire body like I was a bug or an animal on display at the state fair), and a growled question that is clearly fishing for proof of ethnicity. The most common questions include:
When people see my name written, the reaction is similar, but they’ve already made their own decision about my ethnicity because of the way my last name is spelled. In the Midwest, this surname is most frequently spelled Meyers and Miers. The spelling Myers is both unusual and presumed to be exclusive to Jewish communities (this is not true).
In my case, the name is a modification of Mayotte, bestowed upon my family by United States government employees because my father’s family arrived to the United States (from Canada) illiterate and speaking only French – it’s a classic American story. Unfortunately, it’s a history I did not know until very recently, so I was unable to respond to conjecture with fact.
My first experience with direct antisemitism occurred in the first grade, when a teacher decided to help me along in life by ‘fixing’ my name.
My name is pronounced Adora (uh DOOR uh) Myers (MY ehrs)
The teacher pulled me aside and explained that I needed to spell it like this:
Andora (AN door uh) Meyers (MY ehrs)
This effectively erased the perceived non-white ethnicity and ‘Jewishness’ from my name.
A short time later, my mother was going through my school work, per her usual habit, when she stopped, pointed to the ‘Name’ field and said “Who is this? These aren’t your papers.”
“Yes they are,” I replied.
“This isn’t how you spell your name.”
“I know, but that’s what the teacher said I had to do.”
My mother had to walk down to the school and explain, in person, that her daughter knew how to spell her own name. The teachers stopped making me change my name on school work, but they never (over 12 years of k-12 school) stopped expressing their…opinions…of my ‘weird name.’
Interestingly enough, my school mates (the children) had no problem with it – until high school when adult/teacher/parental opinions had fully seeped into their perceptions.
I was raised a mish-mash of Christianity but the neighbors were convinced they knew what were ‘really were.’ We had no social connection to a Jewish community, so these perceptions were based on physical appearance and naming conventions. s illustrated in the example above, I had an unusual name by Midwestern standards. However, it was the early 1970s and ‘unusual names’ were something of a fad. My mother liked unusual names and my father didn’t really care, so we all had names that were real, pronounceable, reasonably easy to spell AND just outside the acceptable norm for Midwestern children.
Out of all of my siblings, my physical appearance is the closest to the stereotype of a Jewish person – as defined by people who hate Jewish people.
Children in the neighborhood would call me things like ‘Yid’ and ‘Kike’ and ‘Judas Priest’ (the rock band was big back then) to let me know they knew my family was lying about who and what we were – and they were angry and offended by both the perceived lying and what we ‘really were’.
These anti-Semitic slurs were short lived because people in the Midwest don’t say things like that to your face. Obviously, they were being said behind our backs with consistent regularity because the children knew all about it. However, the ‘we know what you really are’ comments continued with regularity throughout the Midwest and in other regions of the United States (I have done some traveling) for the rest of my life.
My best childhood friend was raised in a family that was ultra extreme far-right Christian. They made a point of aggressively recruiting me for religious events out of ‘concern for my soul.’ This resulted in several…interesting…encounters with the Christian community, but one stands out from the rest:
I agreed to attend a teen retreat. It was an all-day-Saturday thing with meals served, games, movies and prayer sessions (the usual). I attended these things mostly to support my best friend, but I generally tried to suspend judgement and hold on to a small hope that I would make some connections with truly good people. The kind of people religious-types (of ALL religions) are always claiming exist only within the halls of the faithful.
By this point I had started to notice a trend in the prayer sessions and revivals I was dragged into. There was always a point in the service when new people were expected to go up to the front and ‘accept Jesus’ in front of the community. During the first event I attended, I followed protocol (because I was an outsider) and went up to the front and did the whole thing. The next time I was expected to do the same thing, again; and I noticed I was the only person being pushed into doing this multiple times.
The same thing happened during the service at this retreat. This was the third time in a row and (being who I am) I refused to leave my seat. There was no reason for me to be placed on display over and over again, and I did not like this trend, so I decided to test the situation by quietly and pointedly remaining in my seat. I was just like 90% of the teens in attendance who did not ‘feel called’ to go to the front of the church and acted accordingly.
After the service I found myself surrounded by a group of adults and teenagers, all of them were male and my best friend was among them. My friend was angry and started almost-shouting at me about my ‘poor behavior’ during the service. What did I do? Refused to go up in front of the church and ask God for forgiveness.
I remember looking around the group and realizing that these adults had pulled together the teenagers and pressured my friend into fixing ‘the problem.’ I had to be dealt with and it was their responsibility to make sure ‘people like me’ were properly addressed. How did I know this? The teenagers kept looking at the adults for confirmation and/or direction.
My best friend was completely worked up into an emotional tantrum, throwing his finger in my face saying (and I quote): “You! You of all people should be BEGGING God for forgiveness!”
As he walked away, clearly furious with me and the situation he was placed in (I knew him well enough to figure that part out), he growled under his breath “we all know what you really are.”
That was when I stopped associating with any form of Christian-right community. I did not like what it did to my best friend and I refused to be used as proof of the Christian superiority in any from, most particularly through the performance of weekly public-humiliation-of-the Jew ceremonies.
I attended two high schools. I could tell stories from both. This story is from the school I graduated from.
It was the home stretch. I was months…weeks!….away from graduation. I had been planning my escape from Wisconsin farm country for months, including putting great effort into researching colleges. This was during a time before the internet, so researching colleges required an encyclopedia-sized book listing colleges and/or assistance from a school counselor. I pestered my counselor repeatedly, despite his adamant refusal to provide assistance because (and I quote): “the best you can hope for is technical school and marriage.”
My grades were good enough to get into college (despite the odds – but that’s another story) and my ACT scores were actually quite high. I’d managed to secure the contact information for exactly one college and had my acceptance letter tucked away among what little I owned back at the family farm.
In short, life had been tough for a long time but I was finally seeing a small glimmer of light in the form of college.
Then HE entered the picture. My home room teacher was one of many adults who did not approve of my existence (in general) or my presence in their community (specifically).
7 weeks before graduation, he started openly and blatantly handing me detention slips for the actions of other students. On several occasions he actually stood up and announced that I was getting another hour of detention because THAT KID, on the other side of the room, was making noise.
I am an introvert who loves to read and used study hall to finish homework and help my friends study and/or understand assignments. My life as a poverty survivor was difficult and working part-time jobs and the family farm took away a lot time. I needed study hall to complete catch-up work. I was NOT a problem student. If anything, I was entirely to quiet.
Rgardless, I was given detention for things I did not do, EVERY SINGLE DAY for several weeks. This quickly added up and the school had a serve-detention-or-do-not-graduate policy. In other words, anyone who had unserved detention was denied a diploma.
One particular morning, this homeroom teacher handed me yet another pink slip for the actions of others with a sneer, a little reminder of the graduation policy and the words: “We don’t need any more of you people in the colleges.”
Luck came my way in the form of the vice principal. When I was called into his office, I sat in the bad-student-chair looking around at all of the football trophies and though we are not going to get along.
He went over my file, explained the policy to me, tated that I was very close to having so much detention that it would not be possible for me to graduate, even if I spent the rest of the school year serving it out. He was doing the tough-man-talks-to-wayward-teen routine and I’d reached the point of being beyond done with this situation, this town and all of the crap these people insisted on dumping on me and my life. This resulted in my getting uncharacteristically tough in return.
I explained exactly what happened, who committed the acts recorded on those slips and how I had absolutely no intention of serving detention for things I did not do. I fully expected to be expelled and was already beginning to rack my brains for GED resources – maybe I could take the test and continue on with college as planned.
Unexpectedly, the vice principal responded with stunned shock and proceeded to negotiate with me. I had to serve two weeks of detention, because he couldn’t get away with clearing it all out. Thoughts of completing a GED eliminated what fight I had left. I agreed to the deal.
The teacher was replaced in my homeroom for the rest of the semester. To the best of my knowledge, he was never fired or disciplined outside of that one change during that semester.
So, I got lucky and was allowed to graduate.
Adora is a very girly name. It’s the kind of thing that inspires pretend tea parties held by perfectly manicured miniature ‘ladies’ in lacy dresses with matching dolls. It’s a pretty name for a pretty picture of a girl who does not exist.
Well, OK, maybe she does exist, somewhere – just not here.
I have never been a girly girl. While I freely admit to fully enjoying my time wearing twirly skirts (if you don’t know what that is, please post the question below and I’ll fill you in!), those skirts were usually worn over the top of a pair of shorts and accompanied by some worn out sneakers. Remember that girl covered in band aids, climbing a tree and fixing the chains on her friends bikes while wearing her best Sunday dress? Yeah, that was me.
From this you should (correctly) gather that the disconnect between what was expected from a female named Adora and the reality of who I am has been a very consistent source of friction in my life. This has affected me in a myriad of ways – one of which being a tendency to research the history behind my name.
Oddly enough, many people assume this is a form of narcissism. Not so! Here’s why: perfect strangers make a point of quizzing me on the history behind my first name, and the reasons why it was bestowed upon me.
Never-seen-you-before-in-my-life strangers will assume the right to usurp lengthy minutes of my time for the sole purpose of asking direct (rude) questions about my racial and cultural history, frequently following those up with further annoyingly obvious implied-questions along a similar vein, all because I have an ‘unusual name.’ (Side note: the racial aspect to these inquiries will be explored later.)
I assure you, the research is a matter of survival not narcissism.
That said, let’s take a look at the research. What does the name Adora mean…really?
The baby books like to focus on the romantic and pretty aspects of the name. They revolve around some form of the words Adored or Adoration, with definitions including terms like Beloved, a Gift, and Glory. It appears in Latin, Greek, French and Spanish (among many other languages).
Most people don’t know it, but Adora is a Biblical name. It is the name of a town found in 1 Maccabees 13:20. The reason most people don’t recognize it is because of the many names given to this town, including: Adurim, Adoraim, Dura, Dora and Adora.
The literal translation of Adoraim is ‘pair of knolls,’ but the Biblical story about this town makes a far more interesting contrast to the preferred interpretation provided in the baby name books.
The story as I understand it: Adora is the place where a piece of impressive, yet brutal, war-trickery occurred. A Jewish tribe confronted another (non-Jewish) tribe and convinced the enemy (why they are enemies, I do not know), to both surrender and prove their new-found loyalty by willingly circumcising themselves.
Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall during that negotiation?
Soon after, while the men are recovering from minor penile surgery and (therefore) unable to fight, the Jewish tribe attacks and…well…yeah…
It is often listed as the only recorded instance of forced conversion to Judaism. For some reason this short-version always leaves out the mass killing of all men prior to the forced conversion of women and children.
True interpretation of the name Adora
When she was good
She was very very good
But when she was bad…
I did not complete a full and proper fact-checking on the Biblical story of Adora. I relied primarily on my memory of in-depth research completed several years ago. If you have facts to correct or details to add, please use the comment box below.
“I got the feeling he’d looked and dressed like this since he was eight, mustache included. Maybe if his parents had called him Rocco he would’ve turned out differently. But they’d made him a Eugene, and that’s destiny.”
–The White Magic Five & Dime by Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Falco
“Clara. I have always loved her name. There is a crisp elegance about it, and yet a softness, too. And that is exactly what she was like…To us, however, she was always “Grogey,” the name with which my older sister Nancy christened her as a toddler.”
“Little did I know, looking back now more than a half century later, what our cherished time together at the cabin would mean to me. Through her quiet manner and simple acts of love, Clara instilled in me the wonder of wild birdsong, the thrill of independence, the gift of trust, the joy of simplicity, the imagination that is born of solitude, and the calm that comes with routine.“
–Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts
Many years ago I visited Disney World and Epcot Center. During that visit I bought a paper fan with a landscape painting from a woman who was selling both the fans and her services as a translator. for a nominal fee, she would write the buyer’s name on the upper right corner of the fan, in Japanese characters.
The little table where she worked was located on a relatively quiet (for Disney World) sidewalk populated by street artists drawing caricatures and portraits of tourists willing to pay the fees for their services.
Walking up to the table I indicated that I wanted a fan with my name. She smiled and we went through the usual formalities of clarifying the service and making payment. I recall liking her sincerity – for reasons I cannot explain she came across as a person who was inherently authentic and trustworthy. Ready to begin the work, she my name.
“Adora” I replied. Just to be clear, my name is pronounced Uh-Door-Uh, with the emphasis on the second syllable. In other words, ‘Dora’ with an A.
The look this poor woman gave me was something I had become all to familiar with over the years. There are many variations, ranging from simple I-don’t-understand panic to outright anger (yes, anger over the audacity of admitting to my legal name…but that is a story for another blog posting). This woman fell under the former category and, for a brief moment, I thought she was going to ask me to repeat my name but (for whatever reason) decided against it. She nodded, bent over the table to complete her task and handed me the completed fan.
At the time I wondered whether or not she had actually written my name and how I would even know if she hadn’t. Regardless, it was a pretty fan and my ‘name’ looked elegant, painted in the corner, so I went with the flow, proudly displayed my fan, and told people it was my name…no doubt about it.
Recently, I have been using Fiverr to complete some work for my WildRaccoonPress.com website. (Many aspects of my Wild Raccoon plans are still in the formation stage, so the work is somewhat exploratory as I test out ideas.) I noticed Fiverr has an entire category for translation, which reminded me of that old fan.
Amazingly enough, the fan has survived many decades of time and thousands of miles of travel. So, I took it outside, snapped a picture and posted a gig to Fiverr, requesting a translation of the text. I did not provide an explanation of the fan’s original or my decades old request to write my name. Several Fiverr-accounts posted their bids and I selected a company that specialized in Japanese, Chinese and Korean because I honestly could no longer remember what language it was.
For $5, I requested a translation that included the following: 1) the language, 2) a roman letters translation of the foreign language text (read: the text in the non-English language but using the English-language alphabet) and 3) a translation of the text into English. Here is what I was provided:
雅&多 are both existing in Chinese and Japanese, but 娜 only can be find in Chinese.
雅 多娜 is absolutely a girl’s name. But actually, this kind of name is often the transliteration from Japanese name. So this 娜na could be a translation from Katakana.
Thus, this name also have a possibility from Japan. In this way, it is 雅多ナ（雅-みやびmiyabi,多-たta,ナna）.
From this I gather that Adora (Uh-Door-Uh) was translated into Yaduona, and I’m guessing the pronunciation would be Ya-Doh-Nah, which isn’t to far off.
In the end, my $5 Fiverr translation has made me re-appreciate that old fan, which is more than worth the money.
“If you was a boy, you’d be Marlboro,” my father said in his Appalachian twang when I asked him why he named me Brandy. While this insight didn’t appear to answer my question immediately, I began to see the twisted logic behind my father’s penchant for narcotic substances serving as inspiration for naming offspring—and it made me glad that I turned out to be a girl.
I was beginning to think that my father wasn’t so crazy after all for wanting to name me after cigarettes and booze. How was that any different from wanting to name my kids for tattoos I wanted to get? How could I pass judgment on something that was imbued with meaning for him so much that he wanted to name me accordingly?
–Chick Ink: 40 Stories of Tattoos–And the Women Who Wear Them
(Note: I have scheduled this commentary for Wednesday because the research described was primarily focused on Linguistics with some commentary about the subtle cruelty of pun-based name. Otherwise, it is primarily science, conservation and outdoors focused.)
When I was a teenager, working in the boundary waters or northern Minnesota (many years ago), I had the privilege of working alongside a wilderness guide. He was a man who knew true respect for the wild, the water, and the unique area in which he worked. He was a hunter and, as such, had some interesting arguments with a fellow student – a sometimes vegetarian and extremely youthful animal rights activist. One of the arguments he made has stuck with me over many years (paraphrased from memory): “…you eat that animal that was raised on a farm. It spent its whole life locked in a cage or trapped behind a fence. this deer [venison stew he’d brought to share] lived in the wild. It got the chance to be a deer. Now you tell me which is worse, the animal that dies on the farm, or the animal that lived in the wild?”
At the time I thought he’d made sense in a very important way. It wasn’t about whether or not humans lived up to their predatory nature by eating the flesh of other animals. It was only partially an issue of quantity – do we eat entirely too much meat? What was at the core of the issue of animal rights was the quality of life as dictated by the animal’s ability to live within its own birthright, as an animal. Being hunted is part of the deer’s life experience, just as hunting is part of the life experience of a wolf, cougar or bear. By trapping animals in cages and pens, we remove their ability to live and die, according to their own nature.
This long-ago argument kept resurfacing in my memory as I read this article. The author provides some heartbreaking descriptions of cruelty toward animals at the hands of researchers. It was hard to pull out quotes because my heart kept going out to the animals described in the story. I wanted to heal their pain and set them free to experience the life, pleasure, hardship, and pain that an animal deserves to experience – the life they were meant to live as the creature they were made to be.
However, the core of that cruelty seemed to be based on the human perceptions, and individual arrogance, about the nature of both animals and humans. The following quotes (hopefully) illustrate that lack of respect for the animals subjected to research and lack of understanding of both human and animal nature.
“Speculation on the origin of human language was long discouraged among linguists; inquiry into the subject was formally banned by the Société de Linguistique de Paris in 1866, and the taboo thereby established persisted for nearly a century.”
““What makes us human?” The way we phrase the question—which presupposes that the answer must be a definite thing we possess—tends to make language the most satisfactory answer.”
“There is something glib and thoughtless about bestowing on another conscious being a pun for a name. Glibness and thoughtlessness, as one sees in the documentary, are just a couple of Terrace’s winning traits, and Nim Chimpsky’s name was only the first indignity in a life full of indignity and suffering, which is the main subject of Marsh’s film.”
“We enjoy mocking that sliver of biological difference between us and chimpanzees. Yet anyone who has ever looked with curiosity and respect into the face of a chimpanzee has seen a presence there. If we abandon the notion that language is necessarily the bedfellow of consciousness, we get a better understanding of ourselves, while our relationship to the other beings we share this planet with becomes more enlightened, more humble, and more humane.”
“The Last Distinction,” by Benjamin Hale – An entry in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013, Edited
New Zealand has been creating a list of baby names submitted for approval and declined by The Department of Internal Affairs. Unlike the official banned name lists maintained by other countries, New Zealand simply keeps a tally of names the department has declined in the past – and will decline again in the future. As of May 2013, the list contained 71 names – including single letters and punctuation marks.
Before getting more stringent on acceptable baby names, parents in New Zealand selected the following for their children:
For this round of the ‘Name Game’ (details can be found on my first Name Game posting), I have selected the name Lucifer from the New Zealand banned (rejected) names list. What follows is a list of 50 alternatives to the name Lucifer. These options range from the mundane to the unusual, but they all have some similarity in meaning – minus the association with Biblical fallen angels.
Banned Name: Lucifer
Part 1: Shining or Bright
Part 2: Star, planet or Venus
Part 3: Angel, trickster (clever or wise)
(C) Adora Myers 2014