Roll Call

Over the weekend, I witnessed something interesting and thought to share. It certainly got me thinking, whilst aspects of it puzzled me. An interview was to take place and prior to this, registration of attendees was carried out. This involved documents that had been previously filled and this meant retrieving those papers by matching them with the names in the attendance register.

For some candidates it was a breeze and they got their documents easily. Others on the other hand proved a little bit more difficult to find. Some surnames were common but other names clearly ended the debate and fished the individual out. For some that were not too clear, other details were scrutinised to confirm the identity. In some cases the applicants were drafted to help find their forms. That’s when things got weird…some spoke up that they may have used another name when they filled the forms.

Some of these culprits registered with the native version of their names but had filled the form with the anglicised rendition. In fact there was a particular person that the first and surname were totally different even when translated! To further muddy the waters they couldn’t remember which name they had used and were only reminded when confronted with the document. In those instances I wondered how in the world total strangers were supposed to know and figure it out either.

A name is above all else very critical; it’s what identifies every individual. The process of name selection is not only important in various cultures but often entails research and other complicated processes. Some take into cognisance the situation of conception et al with each factor being crucial in the name eventually chosen. Although with the names some people go by nowadays, one wonders what exactly their parents were occupied with when they got theirs.

However we’re not here to debate that but what happens as people evolve and the choices they make about this crucial means of identity. Official names are sometimes only found on birth certificates and other documents, whilst what the person goes by varies greatly. This could be different versions of their given name and maybe a ‘pet’ name that only family know and call them. It’s a common practice to take up other names when transiting from primary to secondary school or from secondary to tertiary.

Nick names also evolve over the course of a lifetime and some may have more than one. There are instances when people just decide and pick any name they like and some change for reasons they prefer to keep private. Families also differ with some versions of the same name in a line. Anglicised names are now widespread in the populace as is the shortening of names into meaningless consonants. These different combinations all form identities and most are usually quite clear.

So I was flummoxed by the fact that some people at an interview weren’t sure what name they had used in a form! Most people have a regular identity they use and will not hesitate when asked, so it was unusual to encounter those that seemed to be the opposite. If anything one ‘official’ identity makes life less complicated for everyone concerned. At least I would think this to be the case.

I would have thought a name by which you were commonly known would be considered ‘normal’. Apparently the boundaries of normalcy keep moving as does its definition. To have a solid identity is not only important but necessary and starts with a name. Don’t you agree that a name is a very crucial part of personal identification?


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