Transcript: What's in a Name? | Jul 08, 2016

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her thirties, with shoulder-length curly brown hair. She's wearing blue-framed glasses, a pale blue blazer, and a blue blouse.

A caption on screen reads "Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine"
Then, it changes again to "What's in a name?"

Nam says A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD
SMELL AS SWEET, RIGHT?
WELL IT TURNS OUT PROBABLY NOT.
NAMES REALLY DO MATTER ACCORDING
TO OUR NEXT GUEST.
THEY HAVE THE POWER TO SHAPE US,
TO OURSELVES AND TO THE WORLD.
DUANA TAHA--SHE'S S TV
SCREENWRITER AND THE AUTHOR
OF
THE NAME THERAPIST.
AND SHE JOINS US NOW TO EXPLAIN
WHAT REALLY IS IN A NAME.

A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a picture of a coffee cup to take.
Duana is in her forties, with long wavy chestnut hair. She's wearing a black blazer over a blue blouse.

Nam continues WELCOME.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Nam says I AM SO PSYCHED ABOUT THIS
BECAUSE I WAS JUST TALKING TO
YOU IN THE DRESSING ROOM AND I
SAID, "NOWHERE ELSE EXCEPT
CANADA WOULD YOU HAVE A
NAMUGENYI KIWANUKA INTERVIEWING
A DUANA TAHA.

Duana says ISN'T IT AMAZING?

Nam says YEAH.

The caption changes to "Name therapy."

Duana says THAT'S WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT
CANADA, REALLY IS THAT--YEAH,
EVERYTHING IS KIND OF COMING
TOGETHER IN, YEAH, IN TORONTO.

Nam says THERAPIST,
SO WHAT DOES A NAME
THERAPIST DO?

Duana says WELL, I SHOULD SAY THERE'S NO
DEGREE FOR NAME THERAPY AS YET.

Nam says YEAH.

The caption changes to "Duana Taha. Author 'The name therapist.'"

Duana says BUT WHAT I'VE LEARNED WAS THAT
WHEN I SPOKE TO PEOPLE ABOUT
NAMES, ABOUT BABY NAMES
INITIALLY, ABOUT WHAT THEY
WERE GONNA CHOOSE
FOR THEIR CHILDREN.
INEVITABLY THEY HAD FEELINGS
ABOUT THEIR OWN NAMES--ADULTS,
YOUNG ADULTS, PEOPLE WHO HAD
CHANGED THEIR NAMES--AND THEY
HAD NEVER REALLY GOTTEN TO TALK
ABOUT THEM.
YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY HAS A NAME
BUT WE DON'T REALLY DISCUSS HOW
YOU MIGHT FEEL OR HOW IT AFFECTS YOU.
AND SO
THE NAME THERAPIST
GREW
OUT OF ALL THE STORIES THAT
PEOPLE TOLD ME AND ALL THE WAYS
THAT THEIR NAMES AFFECTED THEIR
LIVES MAYBE WITHOUT THEM
REALIZING.

Nam says AND WHO DO YOU THINK IT AFFECTS
MORE, THE PERSON, THE CHILD OR
THE PARENT WHO DOES THE NAMING?

Duana says OH, THAT'S INTERESTING.
DEFINITELY THE CHILD.
ONE OF THE THINGS I ALWAYS SAY
IS, WE TALK ABOUT BABY NAMES BUT
IN FACT THEY'RE NOT BABY NAMES
AT ALL.
THEY'RE NAMES FOR SOMEBODY'S
ENTIRE LIFE--THEY'RE PEOPLE
NAMES.
AND, YOU KNOW, A NAME THAT SEEMS
CUTE ON A LITTLE KID CAN BE ODD
WHEN YOU'RE AN ADULT WHO NEEDS
TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
OR, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE OFTEN SAY
LIKE, "OH, THAT'S A LOT OF NAME
FOR A LITTLE KID, BUT THEY'LL
ENJOY IT LATER."
SO DEFINITELY I THINK THE IMPACT
IS ON THE WEARER.

Nam says AND YOU'VE HAD THIS OBSESSION
WITH NAMES SINCE YOU WERE A
KID--A SMALL CHILD.
DO YOU THINK THAT'S HELPED YOU
AS A SCREENWRITER?

Duana says OH, ABSOLUTELY I DO.
YEAH, EVERY WRITER, YOU KNOW, I
THINK COMES TO THINGS
DIFFERENTLY IN TERMS OF
CHARACTERIZATION OR THE WAY THAT
THEY IMAGINE THINGS, BUT FOR ME
NAMES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A REALLY
INTEGRAL PART OF IT, ABSOLUTELY,
IF I KNOW SOMEBODY'S NAME I KNOW
SO MUCH ABOUT THEM.

Nam says AND HOW DO YOU USE THAT
WHEN YOU'RE WRITING LIKE A
SCREENPLAY FOR TV.

Duana says I FEEL LIKE THERE'S A...

Nam says THE CHARACTERS.

The caption changes to "Memorable characters."

Duana says A SHORTHAND FOR CHARACTERS,
EVEN IF WE DON'T ALWAYS ALL KNOW
WHAT THE SAME FEELINGS ARE ABOUT
A NAME, YOU HAVE A FEELING.
IF YOU NAME A CHARACTER
BALTHAZAR FOR EXAMPLE, YOU SORT
OF GO, "OK, WELL, HE'S SAYING
BALTHAZAR ALL THE TIME, IT'S NOT
SHORTENED, HE HAS A SENSE OF
SELF AND OF IMPORTANCE."
AND THE PEOPLE WHO NAMED HIM
HAVE A SENSE OF NOT WANTING TO
FIT IN.
IT'S SOMEBODY TOTALLY DIFFERENT
THAN IF YOU CHOOSE A KEVIN OR A
NICOLE, YOU KNOW, IT'S A
DIFFERENT OUTLOOK ON THE WORLD
AS A RESULT.

Nam says AND POP CULTURE PLAYS A BIG PART
IN THIS.
WHAT ROLE DOES POP CULTURE PLAY
IN PEOPLE GIVING KIDS THEIR
NAMES?

Duana says OH, WELL THAT'S REALLY
INTERESTING.
IT USED TO BE--YOU KNOW,
REMEMBER PEOPLE USED TO TALK
ABOUT, "OH HOLLYWOOD NAMES,
THEY'RE SO CRAZY, THEY'RE SO
WACKY."
BUT WHAT IN FACT WAS
HAPPENING--SOMETIMES THEY WERE
OFFBEAT, SOMETIMES THEY WERE
MORE ETHNICALLY DIVERSE THAN
PEOPLE WERE USED TO HEARING IN
THEIR OWN NEIGHBOURHOODS--AND
WITH THE RISE OF THE INTERNET
THAT SORT OF HAS EQUALLED OUT.
THERE'S A LOT LESS, OH, WEIRD
AND WACKY SHOW BUSINESS AND POP
CULTURE.
AND NORMAL NAMES--WHATEVER A
NORMAL NAME IS.
THERE'S A LOT MORE BALANCE
BETWEEN NAMES BEING GIVEN KIND
OF ACROSS THE BOARD TO EVERYBODY
AND FOR THAT CROSS POLLINATION
OF POP CULTURE INFLUENCES THINGS
BUT IT INFLUENCES BOTH WAYS.
AND POP CULTURE IS AS LIKELY TO
BE INFLUENCED BY SOMEBODY IN
MINNESOTA AS VICE VERSA.

Nam says AND IT'S INTERESTING TO
ME, NOW YOU HEAR COUNTRIES
BANNING CERTAIN NAMES.
I DON'T KNOW IF THAT HAPPENED
BEFORE.

Duana says I DON'T KNOW IF WE HEARD ABOUT
IT BEFORE...

Nam says YEAH.

Duana says OR IF PEOPLE WERE SO WILLING
TO CHALLENGE IT BEFORE.
YEAH, THERE ARE A LOT OF
COUNTRIES WHERE YOU CAN ONLY
CHOOSE A NAME FROM A FAIRLY
LENGTHY PRE-APPROVED LIST.
AND IT'S KIND OF SHOCKING
BECAUSE THE NAMES THAT ARE
COMING UP AGAINST BEING A
PROBLEM, THE ONES THAT YOU'RE
LIKE, ARE REALLY THE FURTHEST
REACHES OF OUT THERE.
WE'VE HEARD ONES LIKE LUCIFER,
AND WE'VE HEARD ONES ABOUT, YOU
KNOW...

Nam says LIKE HYPHEN OR SOMETHING.

Duana says YEAH, TALULA DOES THE HULA IN
HAWAII IS ONE THAT CAME UP THAT
WAS A REAL...

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Duana says AND THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE
TRYING TO NAME THEIR KIDS
BARCODES AND THINGS LIKE THAT.

Nam says YEAH.

Duana says SO IT BECOMES REALLY ABOUT THE
INDIVIDUALITY OF THE PARENTS.
IT REALLY BECOMES ABOUT THEM
TRYING TO SAY, "LOOK HOW UNIQUE
WE ARE, AND LOOK HOW UNUSUAL WE
ARE FOR CHOOSING THIS NAME."
BUT YEAH, THAT THERE ARE NOW
SORT OF GOVERNMENTAL BOARDS WHO
THINK, "WELL NO THAT'S
UNACCEPTABLE AND YOU HAVE TO
SORT OF CHOOSE SOMETHING THAT'S
WITHIN THE REACHES OF NORMALCY."

Nam says 'CAUSE, YOU KNOW, THOSE KIDS
HAVE TO LIVE WITH THOSE NAMES
FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE.
AND IN
THE NAME THERAPIST,
YOU
HAVE A BEEF WITH YOUR PARENTS.

[NAM AND DUANA CHUCKLE]

Duana says YOU KNOW...

Nam says BECAUSE THEY NAMED YOU DUANA AND
YOU WANTED SOMETHING MORE, I
GUESS, NORMAL, WHATEVER--LIKE
YOU SAID--NORMAL IS.
WHERE DOES YOUR NAME COME FROM?

The caption changes to "Hello, my name is..."

Duana says SO THE NAME DUANA IS A--I'M
TOLD--A VERY OLD GAELIC NAME
THAT'S NOT IN REALLY COMMON USAGE.
AND THEY CHOSE IT BECAUSE I WAS
GOING TO HAVE AN EGYPTIAN
SURNAME--TAHA.
AND SO THEY WANTED TO SORT OF
BALANCE THE TWO CULTURES, WHICH
AS WE SAID, A VERY NICE CANADIAN
IDEA.
BUT IT WAS UNHEARD OF IN, SORT
OF, THE 1980S WHEN I WAS GROWING
UP, IT WAS SORT OF SO UNUSUAL AS
TO BE OUTRIGHT WEIRD, OUTRIGHT
ODD.
AND THAT REALLY FELT TO ME AT
THE TIME LIKE, "OH, THIS IS AN
UNUSUAL CROSS THAT I'M CARRYING
ABOUT LIKE A--" IT WAS DIFFICULT
AT THE TIME, MORE THAT I THINK
THEY EVER THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.
I WANTED TO READ YOU A PASSAGE
FROM YOUR BOOK.
AND SO YOU WRITE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Benefits and drawbacks." The quote reads "They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but if someone knows your name before meeting you, you have already made an impression. Even though I've been entirely honest about the strife my name caused me, I can't imagine the number of opportunities I might have missed out on if my name were Dana.
Often I got calls, professionally or personally, because people read 'Duana' and were generally curious enough to find out what kind of person went with that kind of name."
Quoted from Duana Taha, "The name therapist" (2016).

Nam says WHAT DO PEOPLE EXPECT FROM
YOU WHEN THEY HEAR YOUR NAME?

Duana says THEY DON'T KNOW AND I THINK THAT
IS--THAT'S A REAL KEY.
PEOPLE REALLY MAKE JUDGEMENTS
ABOUT WHAT YOUR ETHNICITY MIGHT
BE OR WHAT--EXCUSE ME--OR WHAT
YOUR OUTLOOK MIGHT BE OR THE
KIND OF PERSON YOU ARE IF THEY
HAVE AN ASSOCIATION WITH YOUR NAME.
THE BENEFIT OF A NAME LIKE DUANA
IS THAT IT'S SO UNUSUAL THAT
THERE'S NO PRE-EXISTING IMAGE
THAT GOES WITH IT.
AND SO WHAT WAS A BURDEN WHEN I
WAS YOUNGER IS NOW KIND OF A
PRIVILEGE I REALIZE TO BE ABLE
TO HAVE IT AND SHAPE WHAT THAT
IMPRESSION IS.

Nam says AND IT ALSO COMES WITH KIND
OF A BURDEN BECAUSE NOW YOUR
GOOGLE-ABILITY, IF YOU DO
ANYTHING, EVERYBODY KNOWS IT.

Duana says IT'S ALWAYS ME.

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Nam says TO WHAT EXTENT IS A PERSON'S
NAME INTERTWINED WITH THEIR
PERSONALITY, LIKE THEIR PERSONALITY?

Duana says I REALLY THINK IT IS.
YOU KNOW THERE'S OBVIOUSLY LOTS
OF PEOPLE LOVE TO DEBATE THIS
AND SAY, "OH WELL, THEY CAN'T
ALL BE."
BUT I THINK THAT IF YOU HAVE A
NAME THAT IS FAIRLY COMMON YOU
SORT OF GO, "WELL, AM I LIKE ALL
THE OTHER MELANIES?"
"ARE ALL THE OTHER MELANIES--DO
THEY SHARE TRAITS?"
"AND IF THEY DO, AM I ONE OF
THEM OR AM I NOT?"
"AM I GOING TO SORT OF MAKE A
LEFT TURN AGAINST THOSE TRAITS?"
I WAS SO FASCINATED BY THAT THAT
I INVESTIGATED ALL THE
JENNIFERS...
THAT I COULD FIND TO SEE
WHETHER OR NOT THEY ACTUALLY
SHARED ANYTHING.
BUT I THINK EVEN THAT FEELING...

Nam says WHY JENNIFER, SORRY.

Duana says OH, SORRY--JENNIFER BEING THE
MOST POPULAR NAME IN NORTH
AMERICA, AND LOTS OF PARTS OF
SORT OF BRITISH--THE BRITISH
ISLES IN THE '70S AND '80S.
WAS THE number 1 NAME ACROSS THE
BOARD, DWARFED EVERY OTHER
POPULAR NAME.
AND WHEN I WAS YOUNG I THOUGHT,
"OH, THEY ARE--THEY'RE PART OF A
CLUB."
"THEY'RE PART OF SUCH AN
AMAZING, EXCLUSIVE GROUP OF
JENNIFERS WHO JUST KNOW THAT
THEY FIT IN."
SO AS AN ADULT, IN THE BOOK, I
DECIDED TO POLL ALL THE
JENNIFERS I COULD FIND--REACH
OUT TO--TO SEE WHETHER THEY HAD
SIMILAR FEELINGS ON THE NAME OR
WHETHER THE POPULARITY HAD ANY
SORT OF NEGATIVE EFFECTS.

Nam says AND WHAT DID YOU FIND?
ARE THEY SIMILAR, ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

Duana says THEY HAVE A LOT OF SIMILAR
OUTLOOKS, THEY DO.
AND MANY OF THE JENNIFERS WERE
NOT AS AWARE OF THE POPULARITY
OF IT UNTIL THEY WERE OLDER,
WHICH I FOUND REALLY
INTERESTING, BECAUSE EVEN WHEN
IT'S HAPPENING TO YOU, YOU DON'T
KNOW THAT.
BUT DEFINITELY I WAS INTERESTED
IN THE WAYS THAT THE BURDEN OF
PROOF--AS YOU SAY--IN TERMS OF
BEING THE ONLY ONE VERSUS THE
ARGUABLE BURDEN OF BEING ONE OF
THE CROWD.
AND WHETHER YOU ARE LIKE A
JENNIFER OR NOT AFFECTS YOU.
SO I THINK THERE'S DEFINITELY A
WAY THAT YOUR NAME INFLUENCES
THE PERSONALITY.
I WANT TO PLAY YOU A CLIP.
THIS IS A CANADIAN HERITAGE MINUTE
CALLED "ORPHANS."
WHERE A GROUP OF IRISH CHILDREN
ARE BEING INTRODUCED TO THEIR
NEW FOSTER FAMILIES IN 1850S QUEBEC.

A clip plays on screen.

(music plays)
In a dimly lit room several children walk down a wooden staircase while a group of adults watch.

A man says MOLLY JOHNSON.

A female NARRATOR SAYS IN THE 1850S, MANY
QUEBEC FAMILIES ADOPTED IRISH ORPHANS.
THEIR PARENTS DEAD OF SHIPS
FEVER ON THE ATLANTIC CROSSING.

The man, a Catholic priest, speaks in French.

Subtitles reads Molly, here is your new father and your new mother.
You will now have a proud new name, Bélanger.
You're a Canadian now, Molly.

Molly, around 13, says NO!
WE HAVE TO KEEP OUR IRISH NAME.

In French, she says
My mother told me just before she died. In memory of our homeland.

The new mother says
Monseigneur, we'd accept that.

A bishop rises from a chair and says
Your name, my child?

Molly says
JOHNSON, SIR, MOLLY JOHNSON.

The bishop looks at a boy and says
And yours?

The boy says
PATRICK, PATRICK O'NEIL.

The bishop looks at a girl and says
And you?

The girl says
KATHLEEN ROYAN.

The bishop says
Alright!

They all smile.

A caption reads "A part of our heritage."

THE NARRATOR SAYS A CENTURY AND A HALF
LATER MANY OF THOSE NAMES STILL
RESOUND IN QUEBEC.

The clip ends.

Nam says I DON'T KNOW WHY I ALWAYS GET
TEARY WHEN I WATCH THOSE THINGS.

[NAM LAUGHS]

Duana says I WAS ABSOLUTELY GETTING ALL
EMOTIONAL THERE.

A YEAH.

Duana says YEAH.

Nam says SO DO NAMES ACTUALLY MEANS
SOMETHING?

The caption changes to "The importance of heritage."

Duana says WELL, I THINK THAT THEY DO, YOU KNOW.
FIRST OF ALL, PEOPLE ASSIGN THEM
ALL KINDS OF MEANING.
PEOPLE TALK A LOT ABOUT USING
FAMILY NAMES AS A WAY TO
REMEMBER PEOPLE WHO HAVE GONE
BEFORE.
THEY SORT OF TRANSFER THE NAME
ONTO A CHILD AND IN THAT WAY, OF
COURSE, THEY'RE NOT JUST
REMEMBERING THE PERSON BECAUSE
OF THE NAME, THEY'RE ALSO
THINKING THAT THEY WANT TO
TRANSFER SOME OF THE PERSONALITY
OF THAT PERSON.
SOME OF THE FEELINGS THAT THAT
PERSON HAD ONTO THE YOUNGER
CHILD.
SO I REALLY THINK THAT THEY MEAN
SOMETHING ACCORDING TO WHAT WE
GIVE THEM.
OF COURSE.
AND IN THE CASE OF SURNAMES AND
SO FORTH, THAT'S WHY WE HAVE
THEM, TO SORT OF SAY, "WELL, I
BELONG TO THIS FAMILY, I'M A
PART OF THIS GROUP."
WHATEVER THAT FAMILY OR GROUP OR
FAMILY STRUCTURE MIGHT MEAN IN
THE BIGGER SENSE.
IT'S A SENSE OF IDENTIFICATION
AND OF BELONGING.

Nam says I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT THAT WAY.
BECAUSE WE ALL HAVE LIKE A FIRST
AND A MIDDLE AND A LAST NAME.
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE THAT
COMES FROM?

Duana says WHERE I THINK THERE'S REAL
BIBLICAL SORT OF INFLUENCES.
I ALWAYS THINK ABOUT WHEN I
LEARNED IN OAC HISTORY THAT...

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Nam says OH, WE'RE THE SAME AGE THEN.

[NAM AND DUANA LAUGH]

Duana says CAUSE YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN YOU
SAY OAC PEOPLE ARE ALL LIKE,
"OH, I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE...
PINPOINT IT.
I ALWAYS THINK ABOUT THE NAME OF
JESUS CHRIST IN HIS ACTUAL FORM
WAS JOSHUA BAR JOSEPH BEN DAVID,
WHICH MEANS JOSHUA SON OF JOSEPH
HOUSE OF DAVID.
SO FOR EXAMPLE THAT'S A WAY THAT
THOSE SORT OF STRUCTURES COME
INTO BEING, YOU KNOW, MEANING
WELL, HE'S THE SON OF JOSEPH,
THE MIDDLE NAME THERE, AND THEN
THE HOUSE OF DAVID, THAT KIND OF
THING.
I REALLY CHOSE TO FOCUS ON GIVEN
NAMES IN THE BOOK BECAUSE
SURNAMES ARE, AS WE KNOW,
INHERITED AND CAN BE CHANGED, OR
IN THE CASE OF THE HERITAGE
MINUTE, CAN BE KIND OF CO-OPTED
AND MANIPULATED, AND WE'VE HERD
LOTS OF THOSE STORIES.
BUT THE CHOICE OF A FIRST NAME
IS NEW WITH EVERY NEW CHILD,
WITH EVERY NEW GENERATION, AND
THE FACT THAT SOMEBODY ELSE IS
CHOOSING THE LABEL THAT YOU
PRESENT TO THE WORLD WAS REALLY
FASCINATING TO ME.

Nam says IT'S LIKE A NEW BEGINNING EVERY
TIME WHEN YOU HAVE A CHILD.

Duana says YEAH, WHICH IT IS, ABSOLUTELY YEAH.

Nam says WHEN I WAS GROWING UP I ALWAYS
GOT, YOU KNOW, "YOUR NAME IS SO EXOTIC."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT
THAT--EXOTIC?

Duana says YEAH, WELL I MEAN, EXOTIC
IS--FIRST OF ALL IT'S ONE OF
THOSE WORDS THAT WE KNOW THERE'S
SO MUCH BEHIND IT, RIGHT?
EXOTIC, IT MEANS NOT FROM HERE,
IT MEANS NOT TYPICAL, IT MEANS
NOT USUAL.
I KNOW THAT IT'S USED AS A
COMPLIMENT OFTEN.
"OH, I'VE NEVER HEARD THAT BEFORE."
BUT OF COURSE IT ALSO MEANS YOU ARE...

Nam says OTHER.

Duana says OTHER, YOU ARE UNUSUAL, YOU
ARE NOT LIKE US.
AND SO I FIND IT TO BE--IT'S
TRICKY WITH THINGS LIKE THAT, OF
COURSE I'VE HEARD THE SAME
THING.
AND, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN SEE THE
BEAUTY IN, "OH YEAH SURE I LIKE
MY NAME IT DOES SOUND UNUSUAL OR
LYRICAL OR, YOU KNOW, IN A WAY
THAT MAYBE SOME NORTH AMERICAN
NAMES THAT WE'RE MORE USED TO
HEARING DON'T NECESSARILY."
BUT WHAT IT OFTEN MEANS, YEAH,
IS--WELL IT DOESN'T SOUND USUAL.

The caption changes to "'Exotic' names."

Duana continues I GET A LOT OF PEOPLE SAYING TO
ME, "OH, I WOULDN'T WANT FOR MY
CHILD TO HAVE A NAME THAT WOULD
BE MADE FUN OF IN THE SCHOOL
YARD."
AND ASIDE FROM NAMES THAT RHYME
WITH CERTAIN THINGS, I ALWAYS
THINK--I THINK THAT'S A RELIC OF
THE PAST, I HOPE, BECAUSE...

Nam says SO YOU DON'T THINK THAT IF
A CHILD WAS NAMED RAPINDA THEY
WOULD BE TREATED DIFFERENTLY
THAN ANOTHER KID WHO MIGHT BE
NAMED JOHN?

Duana says I MEAN, I HOPE NOT.
IN 2016, KIDS DON'T KNOW THE
DIFFERENCE.
KIDS DON'T KNOW THAT RAPINDA IS
ANY DIFFERENT FROM REBECCA.
WHAT MAKES ONE NORMAL AND THE
OTHER ONE NOT NORMAL?
USUALLY IT'S ADULTS TELLING
THEM.
AND THAT'S WHAT I FOUND, THAT
USUALLY IT WAS THE ADULTS WHO
SORT OF SAID, "DUANA, WHAT DOES
THAT MEAN?"
CERTAINLY WHEN YOU'RE YOUNG, I
DON'T KNOW IF YOU HAD KIND OF
THE SAME EXPERIENCE.
SAME.

Nam says AND I'VE HAD PEOPLE LIKE YOUNG
KIDS COME UP TO ME AND SAY,
"HI NAMUGENYI."
AND I'M LIKE, "WOW, YOU SAID
THAT PERFECTLY."
BUT I HAVE, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE WHO
ARE OLDER--AND I DO THE SAME
THING.
IT'S LIKE YOUR BRAIN, YOU'RE
TOLD NOT TO BE ABLE TO PRONOUNCE
CERTAIN THINGS.
"OH, THAT'S DIFFERENT."
AND I'M LIKE, "MY NAME IS
DIFFERENT."
BUT SMALL KIDS CAN COME UP TO ME
AND THEY SAY IT PERFECTLY, NO
PROBLEM.

Duana says BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT THINKING OF
LIKE, "OH, THAT'S UNUSUAL."
MAYBE EVEN BEFORE THEY, YOU
KNOW, LEARN TO READ, IT'S SORT
OF STRUCTURES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
BUT YEAH, I REALLY THINK THE
IDEA THAT--AGAIN, YOU KNOW, I
DON'T THINK THAT YOU WANT TO BE
NAMING YOUR CHILD LUCIFER, LIKE
I THINK THAT THAT IS STILL...

Nam says OR DAMIAN, A NAME THAT YOU LIKE.

[NAM LAUGHS]

Duana says I WANT TO COME BACK TO DAMIAN.

[NAM LAUGHS]

Duana says I BELIEVE IT CAN HAPPEN.
BUT YEAH, I DON'T THINK THAT
AN--A SUPPOSED ETHNIC NAME OR
EXOTIC NAME IS ANY SORT OF
ALBATROSS, I HOPE NOT.
I REALLY HOPE NOT.

Nam says YOU ALSO WRITE ABOUT NAMES LIKE
SHANIQUA, MOESHA.
PEOPLE HAVE TERMED THOSE NAMES
AS AFRICAN-AMERICAN NAMES.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT WHERE
THOSE NAMES CAME FROM?

Duana says SO WHAT I LEARNED, WHICH I
THOUGHT WAS REALLY INTERESTING,
WAS THAT THE STRUCTURE OF
CERTAIN AFRICAN DIALECTS MEANS
THAT SMALL SYLLABLES HAVE
MEANING.
SO FOR EXAMPLE, I REMEMBER THE
NAME NESAH IN TERMS OF ITS TWO
SYLLABLES NE AND SHA MIGHT MEAN,
FOR EXAMPLE, NEW DAY, AND I WANT
TO, YOU KNOW...

Nam says THAT'S PRETTY.

Duana says CORRECT THAT, THAT KIND OF THING.
AND THEN SO WHAT HAPPENED AS
SOME OF THOSE NAMES CAME TO
NORTH AMERICA IS THAT PEOPLE WHO
KNEW THOSE LANGUAGES AND KNEW
THOSE SYLLABLES WOULD ADD MORE
SYLLABLES TO MEAN NEW WORDS.
SO, FOR EXAMPLE--AND AGAIN I
WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I'M
SAYING THE RIGHT THING--BUT FOR
EXAMPLE IF YOU SAID TANESHA
MIGHT BE BEAUTIFUL NEW DAY.
AND SO SOME OF THOSE NAMES THAT
SEEM TO BE TO THE--TO SOMEBODY
WHO'S NOT FAMILIAR TO THEM TO BE
LIKE, "OH THEY'RE SYLLABLES,
THERE'S SO MANY SYLLABLES STRUNG
TOGETHER."
IN THEORY THEY HAVE A STRUCTURE
THAT CREATES MEANING WHICH IS
WHY THEY'RE GIVEN.
HAVING SAID THAT THERE ARE LOTS
OF NAMES ACCORDING TO ONE OF MY
SOURCES THAT ARE CREATED
WITHOUT--YOU CAN'T NECESSARILY
MATCH TOGETHER THE SYLLABLES IN
THAT WAY, THE LANGUAGE DOESN'T
WORK THAT WAY.
BUT THEY ARE MUCH MALIGNED
BECAUSE PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND THEM.

Nam says says AND SOME PEOPLE I
THINK--I'VE HEARD THIS
CONVERSATION WITH SOME OF MY
OTHER FRIENDS...

Duana says MM HMM.

Nam says WHO SAID THAT IT'S CULTURAL
APPROPRIATION, THEY'RE TAKING AN
AFRICAN NAME AND THEN THEY'RE
MAKING IT INTO SOMETHING ELSE.
DO YOU THINK THAT DEBATE CAN GO
INTO THE NAMING REALM?
THE DEBATE OF CULTURAL
APPROPRIATION?

Duana says YEAH, WELL THAT'S REALLY, REALLY
INTERESTING.
BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, ON THE ONE
HAND I CAN SEE THAT ARGUMENT,
THAT IT'S CULTURAL
APPROPRIATION.
ON THE OTHER HAND, AS WE ALL
BECOME SORT OF MUCH MORE GLOBAL
CITIZENS AND MORE MOSAIC-Y, WHO
DECIDES WHO'S ENTITLED TO WHAT NAME?
YOU KNOW, I REALLY THINK ABOUT
THAT A LOT, THAT THERE ARE A LOT
OF PEOPLE WHO SAY, "WELL--."
PEOPLE COME TO ME ALL THE TIME
AND SAY, "I HAVE DUTCH HERITAGE
AND MY PARTNER'S IS SRI LANKAN
AND WE LIVE IN WINNIPEG, WHAT DO
WE CHOOSE?"
A NAME THAT WILL WORK IN ALL THE
PLACES AND BE ABLE TO BE SPOKEN
BY THE GRANDPARENTS WHO DON'T
NECESSARILY HAVE A FACILITY WITH
ENGLISH.
SO IT'S ONE OF THOSE ONGOING
DEBATES OF, YEAH, CAN YOU CHOOSE
A NAME THAT DOESN'T BELONG TO
YOUR CULTURE BECAUSE YOU THINK
IT'S BEAUTIFUL?
HAVING SAID THAT DOES IT HAVE TO
BE A NAME THAT SPEAKS TO YOUR
CULTURE?
I MEAN, I THINK THAT THOSE WALLS
ARE BREAKING DOWN.
I THINK THAT LOTS OF PEOPLE
CHOOSE SUPPOSEDLY, YOU KNOW,
TRADITIONAL NAMES THAT WERE
BRITISH OR FRENCH WHO DON'T HAVE
ANY BRITISH OR FRENCH IN THEM.

Nam says I WAS GOING TO BRING THAT
UP BECAUSE I KNOW A LOT OF
BLACK JOHNS, A LOT
OF BLACK JAMES'S.
AND I GUESS YOU COULD ARGUE IT
WOULD YOU THINK OF A WHITE
COUPLE THAT NAMED THEIR CHILD MOHAMMED?

Duana says I MEAN, IT'S REALLY INTERESTING, RIGHT?
I GUESS YOU WONDER WHERE IT
COMES FROM.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I
THINK WITH NAMING IS I'VE ALWAYS
SAID, OUR PREVIOUS DISCUSSION
ABOUT SORT OF THE NAMES THAT
MEAN SOMETHING ASIDE, THAT IT
DOESN'T REALLY MATTER WHAT THE
BOOK SAYS THE NAME MEANS, IT
MATTERS WHETHER IT MEANS
SOMETHING TO YOU.
SO, IF THAT COUPLE HAS AN
ASSOCIATION WITH MOHAMMED.
IF THEY HAVE A REAL REASON WHY
THEY LOVE THE NAME AND CHOOSE
IT, ABSOLUTELY, I DON'T KNOW WHY
WE SHOULD RESTRICT IT.
IF, AS IT SOMETIMES TENDS TO
FEEL, THERE'S SOME CULTURAL
TOURISM INVOLVED THEN THAT CAN
GET A LITTLE BIT TRICKIER.

Nam says WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIKE
NAMES LIKE KATRINA OR ISIS.
YOUR NAME WAS, YOU KNOW,
BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY AND THEN IT
BECOMES INFAMOUS.
WHAT DO YOU TELL PEOPLE HOW TO
DEAL WITH THAT?

The caption changes to "Infamous names."

Duana says IT'S SO INTERESTING BECAUSE THIS
IS A MODERN PROBLEM.
THIS DIDN'T USE TO BE THE THING
BUT I'VE HEARD FROM A LOT OF
KATRINA'S WHO SUDDENLY SAY, "I
GOT A LOT OF KIND OF UNWANTED ATTENTION."
AND IN THE CASE OF ISIS, I DON'T
KNOW WHY BUT THERE MUST HAVE
BEEN A BABY BOOM OF ISIS'S ABOUT
A DOZEN OR SO YEARS AGO BECAUSE
I OFTEN GET LETTERS FROM MOTHERS
WHO'S NOW ISIS'S ARE LITTLE
GIRLS AND ARE GETTING ALL THESE,
SORT OF, COMMENTS ABOUT, "OH
WELL, THAT'S AN UNFORTUNATE NAME."
SO IT'S REALLY TRICKY.
IF YOU'RE AN ADULT, GET OUT IN
FRONT OF IT.
IF IT'S THE ONE GUY IN YOUR
OFFICE WHO CAN'T STOP MAKING THE
COMMENTS, YOU HAVE TO KIND OF
SAY, "YUP, I HEARD THAT JOKE ON
THE SUBWAY, AND I HEARD THAT ONE
TOO, AND YUP, HEARD THAT ONE
LAST NIGHT--YOU'VE GOT TO COME
UP WITH SOMETHING NEW CAUSE I'M
NOT THERE."
IF IT'S A CHILD I THINK IT'S
REALLY ON ADULTS TO ADULTS,
AGAIN, TO KIND OF SAY, "YOU
KNOW, IT'S REALLY HARD AND WOULD
YOU MIND KIND OF TAKING IT EASY
BECAUSE SHE'S BEING BOMBARDED
WITH ALL THIS INFORMATION."

Nam says DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD CHANGE
THEIR NAME?

Duana says I DON'T.

Nam says YEAH.

Duana says I HOPE I WILL NOT LIVE TO REGRET
THAT STATEMENT.
BUT I THINK IF YOU CHANGE YOUR
NAME BASED ON WHAT SOMEBODY ELSE
THINKS OF IT OR WHAT IT'S
ASSOCIATED WITH, YOU'RE KIND OF
GIVING AWAY A PART OF YOUR
IDENTITY, YOU KNOW, WHICH IS
REALLY TRICKY.
AND I SPOKE TO LOTS OF PEOPLE
WHO CHANGED THEIR NAMES BY
CHOICE, AND EVEN THE PEOPLE WHO
WANTED TO GET RID OF THE NAMES
THEY'D BEEN GIVEN AT BIRTH, FOR
VARIOUS REASONS, HAVE KIND OF
MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT GOING AWAY
FROM IT.
SO I THINK YOU'D REALLY FEEL
LOST IF YOU GAVE UP YOUR NAME.

Nam says PROBABLY LIKE A DEATH, YOU
KNOW, CAUSE YOU'RE...

Duana says I THINK SO, YEAH, I THINK IN
LOTS OF WAYS.
IN FACT, THAT'S AN INTERESTING
TERM BECAUSE WHEN YOU SPEAK TO
TRANS INDIVIDUALS WHO CHANGE
THEIR NAMES THEY OFTEN REFER TO
THE NAMES THEY WERE GIVEN AT
BIRTH AS DEAD NAMES.

Nam says REALLY?

Duana says THAT'S THE EXPRESSION YEAH.

Nam says WE HAVE AN IMAGE OF BRUCE, NOW
CAITLYN JENNER.

A picture of the famous Vanity Fair magazine cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner pops up.

Nam says HOW DO TRANS PEOPLE COME UP
WITH HOW THEY CHANGE THEIR NAME?

The caption changes to "Trans names."

Duana says IT REALLY VARIES, AND YOU
KNOW, I DON'T WANT TO SPEAK FOR
THE ENTIRE TRANS COMMUNITY, OF COURSE.
BUT PEOPLE THAT I SPOKE TO OFTEN
WANTED TO FIND SOMETHING THAT
MAYBE HAD A LINK, MAYBE AN
INITIAL OR SOMETHING, TO THE
NAME THAT THEY HAD WORN IN THEIR
PREVIOUS LIVES.
SOME PEOPLE THAT I SPOKE TO
CHOOSE A NAME THAT THEIR PARENTS
MIGHT HAVE CHOSEN FOR THEM IF
THEY'D BEEN BORN, YOU KNOW, THE
GENDER THAT THEY FELT THEY
SHOULD HAVE BEEN BORN.
AND IN THE CASE OF CAITLYN
JENNER, IT'S SUCH A--I'M REALLY
AM AMUSED BY THE NAME, BECAUSE
OF COURSE CAITLYN IS A...

Nam says A NEW NAME.

Duana says IT'S A MUCH NEWER NAME, YOU KNOW
IT'S AN OLD IRISH NAME IN A WAY.
BUT IT'S A MUCH, MUCH NEWER NAME
THAN BRUCE.
AND IT'S OF A DIFFERENT
GENERATION.
AND SO WHAT IT KIND OF SAYS TO
ME, AND I DON'T KNOW IF THIS WAS
CAITLYN JENNER'S INTENTION, IS,
"WELL, I'M KIND OF--NOT ONLY AM
I REBORN BUT I AM MUCH YOUNGER,
I'M ABLE TO GO BACK AND KIND OF
LIVE MY LIFE AGAIN AS A YOUNGER
PERSON."
SO I KIND OF THINK IT'S A REALLY
INSPIRED CHOICE--IT WASN'T WHAT
I WAS EXPECTING AT ALL.

Nam says IT'S A GREAT NAME.

Duana says YEAH.

Nam says YOU HAVE A CHAPTER IN THE BOOK
ABOUT STRIPPER NAMES.

Duana says YEAH.

Nam says CANDY, CRYSTAL, BRANDY.
HOW DO YOU THINK CERTAIN NAMES
BECOME ASSOCIATED WITH A
PARTICULAR PROFESSION?

The caption changes to "Name stereotypes."

Duana says WELL, YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK
IT'S FAIR, FIRST OF ALL.
THERE ARE STUDIES THAT WERE
DONE IN
FREAKANOMICS
AND OTHER
SORT OF NAME RESEARCH BOOKS THAT
TALK ABOUT THE WAYS THAT NAMES
SORT OF WORK THEIR WAY THROUGH
THE SOCIAL CLASSES.
THAT THERE ARE NAMES THAT ARE
CHOSEN INITIALLY BY, SORT OF,
VERY WELL-READ, HIGH-CLASS
PARENTS THAT THEN BECOME HUGELY
POPULAR BECAUSE THEY FEEL NEW,
BECAUSE THEY FEEL INTERESTING,
AND WORK THEIR WAY, SORT OF,
THROUGH THE STRATA, WHICH IS
INTERESTING.
IN THE CASE OF THE NAMES LIKE
CRYSTAL OR AMBER, THOSE NAMES
THAT WE OFTEN THINK OF
STEREOTYPICALLY--BUNNY.
THEY'RE OFTEN OBJECTS.
THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE
NOT--THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A
SAMANTHA.
BUT THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A
CHAMPAGNE OR A DIAMOND, THOSE
KINDS OF THINGS.
AND THE IDEA THAT THOSE NAMES
ARE APPLIED TO WOMEN WHO ARE
INVOLVED IN A PROFESSION THAT
SOMETIMES SAYS, YOU KNOW...

Nam says THEY'RE POSSESSION.

Duana says SEE WOMEN AS OBJECTS, YEAH EXACTLY.

Nam says IS REALLY--THAT WAS A REAL
REVELATION FOR ME.
WHEN I WAS READING THAT I WAS
LIKE, "WOW, I NEVER THOUGHT TO
IF THAT WAY."
DO YOU THINK THAT THAT HAPPENED
ORGANICALLY OR WAS KIND OF LIKE,
HOW IS IT THAT MOST OF THESE
NAMES THAT WE ASSOCIATE WITH
STRIPPERS ARE OBJECTS?

Duana says I MEAN, I THINK THEY'RE ALSO
OFTEN NAMES THAT ARE ASSOCIATED
WITH LUXURY.
AND I THINK THAT'S SORT OF WHERE
IT BEGINS.
AGAIN, IF YOU CHOOSE, YOU KNOW,
A VERY UPPER-CRUST NAME LIKE
SLOAN IS ONE THAT WAS VERY SORT
OF SLOAN-Y.

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Duana says YOU'RE NOT SAYING OVERTLY, "OH,
WELL--YOU KNOW--THIS NAME IS
ENTITLED TO ALL OF THESE
THINGS."
CHOOSING A NAME LIKE CANDY IS
ALMOST SAYING, "WELL THIS PERSON
IS AS SWEET AS."
IS AS--YOU KNOW, CRYSTAL IS AS
SORT OF LUXURIOUS AS.
SO I THINK IT'S ONE OF THOSE
QUESTIONS OF, IF YOU HAVE TO SAY
IT THEN MAYBE YOU ARE NOT IT.
AND NOT TO--THEN YOU'RE DRAWING
LINES BETWEEN SOCIO-ECONOMIC
STATUS AND CAREERS AND SORT OF
STRIPPING OR OTHER SORT OF ADULT
ENTERTAINMENT KIND OF
ENVIRONMENTS.
AND THAT'S A LITTLE TENUOUS AND
I DON'T THINK IT IS TRUE ACROSS
THE BOARD BUT I THINK THAT'S
WHERE THE ASSOCIATION COMES
FROM.
THE IDEA THAT YOU'RE TRYING TO,
LIKE, ACQUIRE A LITTLE BIT OF
LUXURY THROUGH A NAME IS ONE OF
THOSE THINGS THAT DOESN'T
NECESSARILY HAPPEN TO, SAY, THE
ROYAL FAMILY.

Nam says AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WHEN
SOMEONE'S TRYING TO COME UP WITH
A NAME--LIKE PARENTS ARE TRYING
TO COME UP WITH A NAME.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT
THEY SHOULD CONSIDER?
I KNOW YOU GET PAID TO DO THIS, BUT...

[NAM LAUGHS]

Duana says I KNOW, BUT I'M DELIGHTED TO
TALK ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME.

Nam says YEAH.

The caption changes to "Baby name advice."

Duana says I THINK A LOT OF PARENTS FIRST
OF ALL REALLY GET FOCUSED ON A
BABY, YOU KNOW.
AND OF COURSE AS YOU SHOULD, BUT
ALSO THINK ABOUT THE ADULT WHO'S
GOING TO WEAR THE NAME, YOU
KNOW.
A LOT OF PARENTS GET UPSET ABOUT
NICKNAMES.
"OH, I DON'T WANT THEM TO BE
CALLED NICKNAMES--I DON'T LIKE
NAM," FOR EXAMPLE.
WHATEVER IT IS.
BUT YOU HAVE TO BE OK WITH ALL
THE VARIOUS NAMES THAT COULD BE
DERIVED FROM YOUR CHILD'S NAME
BECAUSE EVEN IF YOU DON'T CHOOSE
THEM, YOU KNOW, THEIR FRIENDS OR
THEIR SPORTS TEAM, OR WHATEVER
IT IS, ARE GOING TO FIND A WAY
TO TALK ABOUT THOSE.
SO DEFINITELY THOSE ARE BIG
THINGS THERE.
AND THEN PARENTS ARE MORE
OBSESSED WITH ORIGINALITY THAN
THEY EVER HAVE BEEN.
AND SO I THINK THAT OFTEN THEY
DON'T REALIZE THEY'RE CHOOSING A
NAME THAT'S MORE POPULAR THAN
THEY THINK.
SO I'M ALWAYS THINKING, LIKE GO
TO STARBUCKS AND WHEN THE KID IS
MAKING A MESS IN THE CORNER,
WHAT IS THE MOTHER SAYING?
"JADEN STOP IT."

[NAM LAUGHS]

Duana says THERE MIGHT BE A LOT OF JADENS
THEN IF THAT'S THE CASE.
LISTEN FOR THE NAMES THAT YOU'RE
HEARING TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU'RE
NOT ACCIDENTALLY REPLICATING
SOMETHING THAT'S TOO POPULAR.

Nam says I LOVED THAT UTAH CHAPTER
BY THE WAY.

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Duana says I WAS SO SURPRISED BY THE UTAH
CHAPTER, THE WOMEN WHO KIND OF
SPOOFED UTAH NAMES, AS THEY'RE CALLED.

Nam says YEAH.

Duana says WHICH ARE SO UNUSUAL AND UNHEARD
OF OUTSIDE UTAH.
I WAS SHOCKED AND AMAZED BY IT.
YEAH, THAT THERE ARE ALL THESE
NAMES--WHO KNEW THAT PEOPLE WERE
CALLING THEIR CHILDREN REV AND RACER.
AND THERE'S A RHYME OR REASON TO
WHY THEY DO IT.

Duana says IN THEORY, YEAH THERE IS.

Nam says YEAH.

Duana says YEAH, AND IT TALKS ABOUT THE
STRUCTURE OF THE HUGE FAMILIES
AND ALL THE SORT OF NAMING
TRADITIONS THAT THEY HAVE WHEN
THEY OFTEN HAVE MANY CHILDREN,
BUT FASCINATING, YEAH.

Nam says I COULD TALK TO YOU FOR ANOTHER
HALF AN HOUR.
AND I WISH I MET YOU THREE YEARS
AGO BEFORE I NAMED MY
DAUGHTER--WE'LL TALK ABOUT THAT
AFTERWARDS.

[NAM AND DUANA LAUGH]

Watch: What's in a Name?