Contemplating "Nomenclature"

In addition to the epic fail of The Onion, Quvenzhané Wallis has had to deal with the drama of people not wanting to say her name (Abagond goes into this). But with me being me, I tend to see another aspect to Quvenzhané's name which I don't think people are discussing.

For those who are not knowing (as I was), her name is pronounced "kwuh-VEN-zhuh-nay". And what endears me to this name is its meaning.

And yes...it has meaning.

"Quvenzhané" comes from a combination of her parents' first names (Qulyndreia and Venjie), and "zhané" is reportedly a Swahili word meaning "fairy".  I say reportedly because I'm not finding back up.

Now, before I continue, I want to discuss Björk. Because.

Legendary singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir is the daughter of Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir and Guðmundur Gunnarsson. Her name thus means, "Björk, Guðmundur's daughter." Björk has a son with Thór Eldon. Her's son name is Sindri Eldon Thórsson, or "Sindri Eldon, Thór's son." See, in Iceland, naming is done with patronymics and matronymics; in short, using the first name of an ancestor to generate the surname of a descendant.  And while Iceland is the only Western European country to do this, it's obviously not the only culture to do this, or something like this.

While some people might perceive the combining of names to create new names tacky and trendy, it's a actually very old practice which, in some cases, can give names a deeper meaning.  In this case, a name without meaning can suddenly transcend and develop a meaning.

So although Black American names often come under fire for being bizarre, tacky, "ghetto", or what have you, some may surprise you at times.  Sometimes, they're old Latin names like Lucretia (possibly "wealth"), or old French names like Leticia ("joy").  Often, they're Arabic names like Jamillah ("beautiful") and Khadijah ("born early").

And sometimes...they're Quvenzhané, "the fairy daughter of Qulyndria and Venjie."

Comments

  1. The judgement of Quvenzhané for her name is pure racism and contemptible and part of a pattern. She has a name that has meaning - great meaning to her and her parents.

    Contrast that to a more "normal" name - what? Peter? "Stone" in Latin and named after a holy bloke - but do the people giving out these "normal" names care what they mean? Do they have any kind of meaning to them? I'd rather have something that has deep seated personal meaning than convention for convention's sake

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    1. Do not knock people with conventional names either. The majority of my family have biblical names.

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  2. Indeed! My mother's name is a combo of her parents names. It's not hard to pronounce, but it's VERY Kountry. She got clowned on to no end by white employers and coworkers. They are just looking for a reason to eff with us and judge us.

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  3. I had heard how to pronounce it and the meaning behind it when she was first nominated. I guess no one else (media) bothered to check.

    I learned about Bjork and the name thing years ago.

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  4. And yet they never had trouble, nor have they ever tired of saying "JonBenet". Things that make you go hmmm...

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  5. So I guess looking back, we should have always known Oprah was "in there" b/c I do not remember a lot of fuss being made about her name, which was a typo.

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    1. I don't know about being "in there". Her name isn't hard to pronounce even without the typo.

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    2. Well, you clearly have not encountered lazy white people who treat any "foreign" name as being unpronounceable even when it is that simple. I actually have. So don't get it twisted. It's not about how hard it actually is so much as who the person in question is.

      I have a "regular" name that can be pronounced one of two ways and I'll tell people which one and they promptly say it the other way (my name is pronounced the same in several different languages, and there are two ways it is pronounced in English). I can't help but think that if I was a white person, people would not decide that they aren't going to pronounce my name the proper way, or bother themselves with remembering which one I use. B/c to me, the other pronunciation ISN'T my name.

      Oprah is exactly the kind of name that you'd expect white people to act baffled by. And yet they have no problem when white people have "weird" names.

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  6. I admit, I wasn't sure how to prounouce/spell Quevazhane's name, but once the pronunciation came out,I loved what I heard and I'm not just saying that.Really... I love that beautiful name.If I had a daughter, I would name her that. From what I heard, her mom has a resembling name which is just as beautiful. Though I doubt that I will have any kids, I've always wanted to give my children beautiful provocative names. Not the same o same o.

    There is nothing wrong with her name. Just because she's not named Joan ,Colleen or Elizabeth doesn't mean there is anything wrong with her name.Whether we like some names or not, what we..especially POCs should be about what comes from our heart and not what society says. I guess this is one reason why I sometimes get bored with society. We have to think alike, look alike, breathe alike and in this case be named alike. White(racist) society have never wanted to appreciate other people,.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I cherish diversity . To me ,its boring to accept one way in life.. names included. I like her name because it different, dear to the heart and beautiful .Must imagine what's the world would be like if we all had to be alike.Ugh!

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  7. It's so incredibly disrespectful and entitled to disregard someone's identity and THEN refer to them as the c-word when they fucking call you out on your whiteness bullshit. And she's a child! Instead of being absolutely in awe of this beautiful little girl's self-assurance, you show your racist ass to the world. I've gotten ridiculously irritating reactions to my name, as well. It is a Sanskrit name which got me many compliments when I was growing up in parts of Asia and Africa. But as soon as I moved to the U.S. I had to shorten it, because I really could not handle the grimaces, butchering or erasure.

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    1. Your story reminds me of a scene from the short-lived TV show "Outsourced" based on the movie. The White guy was talking to one of his employees who was Indian (he relocated to India to keep his job). Her name was Madhuri and she corrected his pronouciation of her name several times. I could not stand hearing him pronounce her name since he took the beauty out of it. He just made her name sound bland. Although he did not make fun of her, his butchering of her name & miniscule attempt to pronounce it correctly spoke volumes.

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    2. Speak of the devil, here is the clip.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9k1fGypyEo

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    3. I have watched bits of "Outsourced," and I know there was some interesting critique surrounding the show, but I could never make it passed the wanting-to-fucking-pull-my-hair-out parts to get to the apparently substantive ones. I absolutely agree with your view on the white guy's refusal to pronounce the Indian woman's name (in her OWN country). And "Madhuri" isn't even a difficult name to pronounce! Funny thing is, I usually don't get such grief among communities of color in the U.S.

      There was a South Asian-British show called Goodness Gracious Me where they turned the tables on this sort of thing:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mudc1IAOPrE

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  8. It's embarrassing if you profess a good command of the English language and you can't pronounce this girl's name, minus issues with dis/ability. It's not hard. Just break it down. Read her fucking name and say it. Bunch of white people messing with this girl cause they don't have half the shine she does. Imma just tune out and watch this girl develop into a wonderful actress.

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    1. Yet, some people manage to pronounce slightly difficult names like Schwartzeneggar, Zellweger, and many others without resorting to calling them something easier to pronouce. At my university, there is an Indian professor who goes by the name of Paddy since it is easier for others to say instead of his actual name, Padmakumar. You can add this to the list of White privilege - not having to compromise yourself to suit others.

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    2. I was an engineering major in college. We had one professor who would patently refuse to attempt the names of Indian students. He'd pronounce the first letter and literally just say gibberish. It was really gross. I'm like, either sound it out or ask(I mean, one thing about names that use a different alphabet is that they are spelled phonetically in English. So they should be the easiest ones to say).

      When I met Indians, they always assume that since I'm American, they need to give me the shortened, sanitized version of their name. I always say, no, tell me the whole thing, and they are shocked that I can always say it exactly right (and that is true if I see someone's name in print and have to say call them). I work in tech and when I hear people butchering names I always correct them. It's just rude to call people whatever you feel like saying.

      They are so used to people refusing to hear them when they say their names that they just start out answering to something that isn't their name. I'm annoyed that they feel they need to settle for being disrespected that way.

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    3. See, and Padmakumar is a perfect example of what I was saying. I look at it and I know exactly how to say it. People see it's not Latin or English or something they find cute(you know, like French or Italian) and they stop reading after the letter P. That is exactly what they do...

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  9. Leo Princess3/1/13, 10:44 AM

    I saw a post on Tumblr saying that if she was a cute little French girl, her name would be the most beautiful thing ever. You know it's true.

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  10. I was so pissed when I heard about what they did to Quvanzhane with an accent over the e ( my computer won't let me spell this lovely little girl's name right). I seriously didnt want to even look at white people for a few days. They just aggravate me with their presence sometimes.

    It just confirms and reconfirms what we experience and know about white people on a daily basis. I try hard not to be disguised by white people and their "acceptable" behavior but when you openly attack a Child, what the hell do you think people's reaction will be. And they say that we are the savages.

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  11. How is "Quvenzhané" difficult to pronounce? Four syllables, and a VERY helpful accent aigu!

    Maybe it's because I speak Russian, but SHEESH, "mezhdunarodny" and "vstrechat'" are a HELL of a lot harder and I manage to say them every stinkin' day. People who pull that card with "Quvenzhané" are just making excuses.

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  12. I just love how most white people are having a problem with a name that is pronounced exactly as it's spelled. It makes it all the more obvious they're just trying to find an excuse to tear her down.

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  13. Leo Princess3/2/13, 2:50 PM

    Palate cleanser: some fan art done in Quvenzhané's honour.

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    1. Leo Princess3/3/13, 6:28 PM

      Completely forgot about this one.

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  14. Racism all over this one. Quvenzhané is unapologetically one of the most beautiful names I've ever seen and heard. This girl is from the future.

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