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Mace & Crown | October 18, 2017

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What's In a Name?

What’s In a Name?
T.J. Thompson
Staff Writer

Celebrating International Education Week at ODU, the Office of Intercultural Relations hosted an event Wednesday titled “What’s in a Name?” A panel of seven students representing seven different countries discussed origins of names from their native lands.

ODU hosts more than 1,000 international students. Those students represent 100 different countries contributing to the diversity the school lauds.

This event began with a quiz. Attendees were handed 23 different international names representing current students on campus. The goal was to identify the country of origin for the name. The countries represented were China, India, Iran, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Thailand.

Some of the names’ origins were easier to decipher than others. Nicaragua and Mexico are Spanish-speaking, and their names looked similar. Another tough distinction was between the countries of Iran and Pakistan since they border each other.

The audience was given an opportunity to redeem their initial quiz results with a post-test following the presentations from panelists. Based upon responses from the audience, the discussion helped in identifying names from different cultures.

The panel consisted of six females and one male. One of the dominant conversations was from the Muslim countries represented.

Iran and Pakistan were represented by two females. Tayyaba Batool from Pakistan presented an overview of the etymology of Urdu which is her native tongue.

Batool stated her language is derived from Sanskrit, Farsi and Arabic. She further explained that female names end in the letter “a” and can sometimes be derived from masculine names. Men are typically named after prophets and strong leaders.

Farinaz Sabz Ali Pour represented Iran whose native tongue is Farsi. Iran shares a border with Pakistan and is also a Muslim country so the names share many commonalities. She also stated surnames are indicative of the city or region from which a family originates.

Another country that was represented was India. Indian names are derived from the Hindu language and rely upon astrology and the many gods celebrated in the Hindu culture. Children are typically named based upon their zodiac signs.

China was represented by Yu Duan. She taught those in attendance it is polite to address a Chinese person using the surname first.

Chinese names may also have a mystical significance based upon the circumstances surrounding a child’s birth. The surname is passed down by the patriarch of the family. There is a major distinction between the English translation and original name because much of the meaning is based in the Chinese characters.

Another Eastern country native on the panel was from Thailand. The interesting fact mentioned about Thai names is they may represent the day of the week a birth occurred. An example of Monday was shared with the audience and stated children born on this day would have no vowels in the Thai spelling of the name.

Two Spanish-speaking natives were on the panel as well with Nicaragua and Mexico. The Mexican representative was the only male on the panel.

Latino cultures tend to utilize biblical names for their children. They also use both the matriarchal and patriarchal surnames. Guadalupe Arguello from Nicaragua stated her name represents the Virgin of Guadalupe which is an enshrinement of the mother of Jesus Christ known in English speaking cultures as the Virgin Mary.

The event was enlightening, providing knowledge on how to respect international students and their heritage at ODU. The Office of Intercultural Relations proved why it is an asset to ODU students at this event.