Some of you may remember that I once wrote a post about naming posts. To this day, finding interesting yet meaningful post names is a huge challenge for me. I’m tempted to just name them randomly, like Henry or something…
What I didn’t mention then is that names in general have long been a source of personal interest. I love hearing stories behind names or nicknames. I’ve long named my favorite objects such as my winter scarf (Beauregard), my TV (Mistress Titania Forester the 8th) and an assortment of trinkets and nick knacks I’ve taken a particular liking to. Buddy came with his own name, in my head I call him Livingston but he’s always refused to answer to that.
There’s a singular type of magic the comes from giving something, or someone a name. A unique identifier all of their own. The bond formed between the namer and the namee is deeply personal and completely irreplaceable. Of course, in the most basic sense, we are all named by our parents, the people to whom we quite literally owe our existence. However even beyond that, anyone that gives you a name usually holds a special place in your life.
Friends give us nicknames to show how close our relationships are. How we have this understanding where the other person is our one and only “buttface”.. Lovers share terms of endearment to similarly mark their relationship status. And bullies use them to intimidate and single out prey. Whether for good or bad, when someone gives you a moniker, they’ve spent some time thinking about you. You occupy a certain space in their brain that no one else does.
As such, we often see stories that highlight the significance of naming people, places or objects. In a way it gives them an identity on which we leave a mark. In fantasy stories it can be associated to magic. It’s often a way to show a deep connection between characters or mark a significant change in a relationship. Whatever the case may be, it’s always important.
Of course, this isn’t unique to anime in any way. It’s basically the central plot element of the Neverending Story and has been a huge component in fairytales since time immemorial. Ok that makes no sense, how would I even know about it if they are immemorial? I just like that expression. Let me have this one, ok?
However, in anime the significance is even more impactful because of the particularities of Japanese culture. Since social norm dictates that people be referred to by their last names, you often get scenes where a huge deal is made out of people calling each other by their surnames. It’s a step that has all kinds of implications. These scenes can seem odd or exaggerated at first to us uncouth Westerners. There’s few people more casual and irreverential than me, (I would probably do very badly in Japan). Yet, I find this utterly charming.
Are you guys fed up of me oversharing with you? I get it, I really do that too much. I’m going to do it again. SPOILERS – SKIP IF YOU DON’T WANNA READ ABOUT ME AGAIN. My last name isn’t the one I was born with. We left my birth country when I was really small, not entirely legally at the time, and my parents legally changed out family name in order to blur our tracks a bit. They were a little scared but always made me feel safe. And because I come from generations of single children families since time immemorial, and my original family name has a very quirky back story, that name effectively died that day. I now have a very generic, very English sounding last name which I quite like and has nothing to do with my roots.
For the longest time I disliked my first name. It always clearly singled me out as an outsider. Everyone mispronounces it and it’s very easy to make quite unpleasant sounding. For years I would sort of avoid it. I wouldn’t correct people when they got it wrong or called me Irene, Erin, Catrina… But then, when I started losing the little family I did have, I suddenly realized that this name was a gift from them. They loved it and they loved me, that’s why they gave me something special and unique. Since I don’t have my last name anymore, it’s sort of all I have left of those very early days.
I started liking it a lot more. I tell people how to pronounce it (even though most still struggle, they try and that makes me happy), I correct them when they use the wrong one. I still like nick names cause that’s special between me and my friends, but I don’t insist on them using the nick name all the time. I use my name for avatars whenever I can. It’s a precious present form people I adore and it’s my treasure. PRETTY MUCH END OF IRINA SPOILER, YOU CAN READ AGAIN!
It’s in that context, that I’ve come to see the notion of having someone call you by your first name as an intimate act. Your name is special and sharing it with someone should be as well. At least a little bit.
None of this would have occurred to me if I didn’t constantly watch adorable anime teens melt in embarrassment at hearing their own first names from friends. I sort of wish we had the same standard here. It would add a little layer of the exceptional to our everyday lives. Just a touch of significance to make the world more meaningful.
What do you guys think? Is it silly? Do you also have some type of magical name notion? Is there a nick name I could call you, just between us?