Itabari Njeri: Whats in a Name - Essay Example

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An essay "Itabari Njeri: What’s in a Name?" claims that your name links you with your past, your ancestors and is a part of your spirituality”. The author defined culture based on the perceptions, views, and collective information of reactions towards her distinct and unique name…
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Itabari Njeri: What’s in a Name?
The essay entitled What’s in a Name written by Itabari Njeri clearly proffered various experiences encountered by the author associated with her interaction with diverse people specifically interested in the etymology of one’s name. According to The Name Site (2010), “your name is your identity and a window on your culture and self. Your name links you with your past, your ancestors and is a part of your spirituality” (par. 1). Using this as a framework, the author defined culture based on the perceptions, views, and collective information of reactions towards her distinct and unique name.
Njeri defined culture as a symbolic collaboration of symbols, literature, arts, identity through nomenclature, generally developed through color and name. When Njeri averred that what does it really mean to be called African-American, she had a conundrum of issues starting with terms such as “Black”, “Afro-American” used interchangeably and identified by color.
Culture is also seen by Njeri as symbolic communication relayed through various media such as television shows, cables, movies, of which various peoples from all walks of live and from different generations have reacted and responded positively. References to Liz Taylor, who portrayed Cleopatra, Eddie Murphy as an African prince, as medium of communication which disseminated traditions perceived and expressed differently through the eyes of other cultures. The messages relayed generated stereotypes of Blacks as “low-down, ignorant, drug-dealing, and murderous” people depicted in American movies. The information disseminated in films is retained in the minds of contemporary people and future decisions in terms of marriage, in particular, have been based on them.
The author’s experiences as she have travelled in different places around the world confirmed her contention that culture is partially determined by the name given to a person. The name spells one’s identity and opens typified beliefs that had been developed through time in the minds of the people she meets. The historical background of origins of giving names to children is ingrained in cultural values of people. In China, for example, “the history of the family name dates back to the matriarchal clan society, which is 5000 to 6000 years ago” (China Corner, par. 1). Other cultures have distinct and unique reasons for naming their children the way they do. The influence and impact of other cultures on a traditional nomenclature. The effect of mixed marriages significantly altered historical names and provided the impetus to acquire new names based on external factors made famous by more advanced mediums of communication.
What really is in a name? Aside from giving one a sense of identity, names reveal patterns of traditions, way of life, a system of knowledge shared by a group of people, transmitted from one generation to another. As Njeri concluded, sometimes, even without mention of one’s name, other people who are sensitive to cultural orientations would have the innate capacity to assess which culture one belongs to. By looking at one’s physical appearance and by exuding a particular air or distinct manner, culture is revealed and lived, for other people to share and experience.
Works Cited
China Corner. Name Culture of China. 2004. Web. 04 October 2010.
<> Njeri, Itabari. “What’s in a Name?” Los Angeles Times Magazine.
The Name Site. African Names, with Meanings, Origins and Pronunciations. 2010. Web. 04
October 2010. <>Read More
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