Weird Names (Like Mine) Are Winners

Barack Obama has changed everything. No, I’m not talking about the economy, foreign relations, or the health care system. President Obama has rewritten the assumptions about names and success. Honestly, who would have believed just a few years ago that a man named Barack Hussain Obama could be elected President of the United States? Politico has an interesting story about the growing popularity of uncommon names among elected officials. The article states:

Having a unique name used to be a political liability. But election records suggest out of the ordinary increasingly appeals to voters. The names of incoming freshmen have grown more unusual over the years, thanks in part to a combination of the nation’s increasing diversity and, in the age of Barack Obama, a rising generation of voters with a greater appetite for unique names. Only three of 65 freshmen elected to the 111th Congress have surnames that are included in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 100 most common last names. And over the past four Congresses, common names in the freshman class have been decreasing, from 25.8 percent in the 108th Congress to just 4.6 percent in the current class. Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23184.html#ixzz0HNEF7MNr&B

Growing up I hated that my name was unusual. And I’m not just talking about my nickname, Skye. My given names is Akash Charles Jethani. Yeah, that’s been butchered a hundred different ways over the years. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate my name. When I left for college the thought crossed my mind to change my name. After all, there wasn’t anything legally binding about “Skye,” and I was going to a university two states away where no one knew me. I could have called myself “Joe Joe the Idiot Circus Boy” if I wanted. I wondered if, like my older brother, I should simplify things and just use my legal Hindi name, Akash. This seems to also be the direction Barack Obama chose. Growing up he was known as Berry, but later embraced his given name when the fears of adolescent acceptance had waned. I also considered using my English middle name, Charles. It belonged to my maternal grandfather, and it was certainly more user-friendly than either Skye or Akash. Would using Charles be a denial of my Indian heritage? Not really, I thought, because there was no denying the origins of my family name, Jethani. There were pros and cons to both ideas. But in the end my decision came down to identity. I am not Anglo (Charles). I am not Indian (Akash). I am both. And I am neither. In the end I concluded that I am just Skye. It’s what I had been called since birth; the English meaning of my Hindi name with a superficial -e on the end just to keep things interesting. The name was a hybrid just like me. The origin of my name is also an interesting story. My older brother has a Hindi name, Sagar (it means ocean).  He was born in India when my father was still a medical student. His mother, my father’s first wife, died when he was still an infant. So when my mother and father met and married few years later in Chicago, my mother legally adopted my older brother. (As a young kid I was completely unaware of this history. Thankfully, “step-mother” and “half-brother” language was never used in our home. And I honestly thought the only reason my bother was darker then me was because he used to drink Hershey’s chocolate syrup straight from the cans. The kid was addicted to the stuff.) Anyway, when I came along my mother had wanted to give me an English name. But out of love for her adopted son, and wanting to ensure that he wouldn’t feel odd being the only kid in the family with an uncommon name, she decided to give me a Hindi name as well. So I became Akash, and the sky was added to the ocean. And she gave me the middle name Charles, in honor of her father. That’s the 411 on my name. Perhaps more than you ever wanted to know. But given the stats reported by Politico, those of you with odd names shouldn’t be worried. Unusual names may be a nightmare for children, but they may pay off for adults. They’re memorable, and unless they provoke giggling (like Senator Mike Crapo or Texas Republican John Manlove), an unusual name might be more of an asset than a liability in the age of Obama. weird name

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