One thing I really enjoy about the 9-5 is that we get to see some of the most interesting spellings and pronunciations of names around. I can sit and tell stories about La’———a (pronounced Ladasha) and Enjoyl’k (pronounced Angelique) for DAYS. I’ve seen Shaquana spelt Shaquana, Shakwanna, Sha-Quanna and Sha’quana. Then there’s Ra’Quan, Deyquan, Jayquan and NeQuan. Trust me, there’s more with that came from.
And !Ble (pronounced CLICKING SOUND! bee-lay) is my ALL TIME FAVORITE (shout out to my sis for sharing this one).
I was in a Starbucks recently and saw a young lady named Shaquana ordering a drink. She looked to be a 9th grader (about 14-15 years old), light-skinned, pretty, dark brown hair, high cheekbones. When she gave the barista (person who was making her lemonade) her name, it caused an uproar of laughter behind the counter. They were in disbelief because she didn’t look like what a Shaquana looks like.
So what does a Shaquana look like? I guess the barista (who was black) was going off of his reference point (culture, possible people he’s met in the past with that name) and this young lady didn’t fit the name (she appeared to be white or mixed ethnicity).
So what’s really in a name anyways? Plenty, for starters.
I say that because living in a culture that sees such a diverse group of names has somewhat enlightened and desensitized us at the same time. There are days it feels like a chore when pronouncing names that it is if you go by how it is written, you’ll butcher it every time. I’ve found myself asking patients how they got their name, or just making the extra effort to get them to say their name right makes a difference. In a space where identities are transient, names still carry weight and meaning to their owners – whether positive, negative or indifferent.
I was taught when naming a child, to give a name that the child can own in confidence and is supportive of their identity. While I’m not knocking names like Peaches, Shea, Mercedes, Lexus or Hennessy, I’ve seen some stuff that has folks up for some of the stereotyping and labeling that Shaquana above has experienced.
So whether your child’s name has to have a specific meaning (mine means intelligent in Scandinavian) or it’s just a cool one that you like, just be sure to pass on the most important of all:
The name means something simply because it is a part of who you are – just not the only piece to the puzzle that is your identity.