About a year ago, in the car, Emma mentioned that she had mispronounced a classmate’s name that morning and the girl had become quite angry. I responded that I was surprised she was not more forgiving. “After all, in this area there are so many unusual names. It’s not like everyone is named Bill or Sally.”
Suddenly, from the back seat, Dara burst into laughter. I asked why, but all she did was laugh more. This went on for days. Finally she said, “Bill and Sally. Those are the funniest names I’ve ever heard.”
OK, I’ll give her Sally. That’s not a common name any more. But Bill? I told her it was a nickname for William. She didn’t buy it. “William is a fine name,” she countered. “We have a William in our class.”
“Well, what do you call him?”
“William. Sometimes Will.” I think she had trouble with the W changing to B for no apparent reason.
I realized that my kids’ friends are mostly first-generation or immigrants themselves. They are used to names that are much more unusual than Bill. So we made a list:
These are just a few of their friends from Ethiopia, Korea, India, Nigeria, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chad.… In our area 40% of the people were born outside the US. That doesn’t count their children who are born here but have ethnic names. I love the fact that my kids have friends from all over the globe. Their world is so much smaller than mine ever was at their age—until I was well into adulthood. The only drawback to having friends from all over is that during the summer they often go back to visit their extended families, and are gone for months at a time.
No wonder Bill sounds boring. Even now, a year later, if you say “Bill and Sally” to Dara she’ll laugh. But Mikadelawit? To her, that’s perfectly normal.