My parents chose my first name because have some close family friends named Sarah, and I like to think it's also because Sarah means princess in Hebrew (my dad is Jewish, although he is more culturally tied to Judaism than religiously). Barlow represents a really interesting part of my family history: an ancestor of mine, Thomas Jefferson Barlow, founded a town called Barlow in Kentucky. People might assume that I'm Jewish based on "Ochshorn," but that would be kind of accurate! I'm not really afraid of assumptions people may make about me, because I really like my name and that it represents so many different parts of my identity.
My parents named me Andrea--but they always called me Annie. I only use Andrea for filling out forms. Eventually, people also started calling me Andy, too. Some people think it's weird that I go by a lot of names, but in Filipino culture, it's normal to have many different ones. Having a lot of names still seems normal to me, but I realize now that because I have a lot of them, I don't have one name I strongly identify with. I struggle with this sometimes.
Arvin Haocheng Xu
My mom wanted a unique name for me, so she grabbed a name dictionary and found Arvin, which means "friend of everyone," but whether that’s right can be debated. My family name is Xu, and my grandmother came up with my personal name, Haocheng, which means "clear sky". Ironically, Chinese skies are hard from clear.
My mother loved my name. My father didn't. They debated back and forth. She says he wanted something horrible. He says he can't remember. After I was born, they still hadn't decided. She waited for him to leave the room and wrote down Rebecca for the birth certificate, and Rebecca I was. I like my name and all of the cultural and literary connections. I also like it because it's like a bond between my mother and me (that Dad has forgiven)!
I was almost always "Abigail" until I started Kindergarten. There, people began to call me "Abby," which I was fine with and actually started to prefer when in second grade I read a book about a girl who refused to be called "Abigail" because it sounds like an old lady's name. But the summer before senior year, I switched back. "Abby" felt too cute and too steeped in younger iterations of myself. I don't want to be cute. I don't want to be tethered to my old insecurities. Being "Abigail" makes me feel confident. "Abigail" demands the respect she deserves.
Shen-Costello is the union of my parents last names. With two nieces, my mother was worried her name would not be carried on and thus decided that her children would have her last name as well as my father's. Also the concept of taking the father's name seemed very outdated and sexist. Though it is a rather long and unusual last name, I have learned not only to accept it but cherish it as a piece of my heritage and identity.
Nadezhda (Nadia) Russell
My name means 'hope' in Russian. My dad, who's American, wanted a "weird" name, and my mom, who's Russian, wanted a traditional name, so that worked out well. No American has ever pronounced it correctly, and I used to be really embarrassed and ashamed during roll call - first day of school was the worst. Now, I love my name and take pride in it because I haven't met another Nadezhda in the US. I go by Nadia for day to day, because it's easier, but I love how my name keeps me connected to my heritage.
My parents named me after Princess Diana of England, because they believed that English names are very powerful. However, they changed it from Diana to Diane because she had a very tragic and saddening death. I often get teased by my Korean relatives because "Diane" is a name that isn't often granted to Korean-American kids (I haven't met a Korean whose name is Diane!) and that I "lost" some culture by being named after an English princess.
There have definitely been times when I say "I'm Annie" too fast and the person responds, "Manny?"
I was named "Anne" because my parents liked it. My middle name, Elizabeth, is my mother's first name. For as long as I can remember, I've gone by "Annie." Lots of people think that this is because my first name is "Anne" and my middle initial is "E," but really what happened is that I came home one day from 1st grade and announced to my parents that I'd be going by "Annie".
My mother found my first name--a prompt palindrome--in the Hunter College High School alumni directory. She attended before the school went co-ed, so at one point in time the alumni directory was just a huge list of girls names! My last name came from my great-great grandmother's family, because her child, my great-grandfather, was illegitimate. My family didn't know for a long time where our last names came from because being an illegitimate child was a very shameful thing to be in Victorian England. It's weird to think that I am able to really like my last name--it's modern, it's monosyllabic, it's geologic--, when its origin was a source of such immense shame for my great grandfather.
My name comes from a Hebrew name in the Bible, "Shelah". The Hebrew feminine noun of my name means “prosperous one”. The name Sheila is of Latin origin. Sheila is the patron saint of music and implies “pure and musical.” My family nickname was: "She She".
Io Ilex Flower Perl Strahan
My parents named me Io after one of Jupiter’s moons. It is also the name of a Greek goddess who has an affair with Zeus, but my parents make sure to remind people that it is the moon I’m named after. They also thought that 'io ilex' sounded like a superhero name, and would say to me as a baby 'io ilex saves the world.' I love my name a lot and am confident that I would never prefer another.
This prompt really made me think about my culture and how little I know about it. I have no idea what my last name means, and all I know about my first name is that it means "listener" and that my dad named me. My mother originally wanted to name me "Megan," which sounds like the phrase "American money" in Chinese.
Albert Luther (Luke) Batson
My maternal grandmother's name was Alberta, which is where Albert comes from. Luther is a Batson family name. Going back at least to the mid-19th century the oldest Batson male of each generation has either Luther or Lawrence in his name, alternating generations. I'm Luther, my father Lawrence, my grandfather Luther, and so on. My great-great grandfather, born in 1867, was named Martin Luther Batson and he went by "Luke" as a nickname which is why I've always gone by Luke.
Anna Elena Isabelle Maheu
My mom wanted to name me Elena and my dad wanted to name me Anna, so they compromised with Anna Elena. Isabelle is my paternal grandmother's name. When I was very little I asked my parents to just call me Anna, because I thought Anna Elena was a mouthful! Anna is actually one of the most popular girls names internationally; it exists in so many languages. I've never actually wanted to be named anything else, but I have thought about the level of unoriginality of the name Anna, especially at Hunter. Then again, the Annas are a super great, supportive tight knit community that I feel privileged to be a part of. We have secret meetings, initiation ceremonies, the works.
When my mom was pregnant, she spent a lot of time listening to classical music (per her doctor's request), and she found herself drawn to Beethoven. In particular, she was often listening to Fur Elise. In fact, soon after I was born, she was listening to the song, she decided to name me after it (with a little bit of Albanian pronunciation of course).
The thing I always find funny is that only English-speaking people pronounce my name wrong.
I think the part of my name that I am most proud of is my last name. I love that it's hyphenated because I have a piece of both of my moms attached to me. I think hyphenated names are extremely important because you're honoring both genetic lines, instead of choosing one over the other. My first name is derived from my great-grandmother, Sophia (but pronounced So-f-eye-a instead of So-f-ee-a), but she was a very proper lady and I differ from her a great deal. My parents wanted to name me after my great-aunt Rita who was fun loving and adventurous, but she was still alive when I was born and, as is customary in the Jewish religion, my parents could only name me after someone who was already deceased. I think my parents chose the name Sophie because they liked it's spunk, not because they wanted me to emulate my great-grandmother.
My parents tried to find a name that would work in both English and Chinese, so they settled on Simon and "Shi-Meng" respectively. Shi-Meng doesn't have any specific meaning, either. Shi means poem, and Meng is one of those characters that is only used for names. Simon was chosen because it sounds a little like Shi-Meng.
When I was fourteen or so, my mom got into Feng Shui and decided to get my name changed by a Feng Shui master. The master decided that I was lacking in two of the essential elements - water and metal. So she changed my name to "Ming-Hao." Chinese characters often follow a structure, and the structure of "Ming" and "Hao" contained parts related to water and metal.
Luke Alexander Dilworth
My parents were dead set on the name Luke even before I was born. It was a relatively common name and they picked it because they liked how it sounded. However, my middle name was originally supposed to be Schuyler. However, this presented two major problems. The first was that it sounded too much like "Skywalker" and would only add to the hundreds of Star Wars jokes that I would receive in my lifetime. The second was that my initials would've been L.S.D. and that certainly wasn't something my parents wanted to subject me to. So they decided on Alexander since it was a strong middle name and helped me to connect to my Greek roots.
Yoonseo Jamie Cho
My grandma chose the name Yoonseo because it is a unique Korean name. When I was 6, I came to the U.S and chose to be called Jamie. I didn’t want to stand out and or deal with constant mispronunciation. Although my second name makes it a lot easier for me to live in America, at the same time, it also takes away my individuality and Korean heritage.