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The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

Does your name dictate who you are?

I never cared for the letter R. I never cared much for the alphabet in general. I must have learned it like everyone in kindergarten, and I used to get a surge of jealousy in elementary school when someone would be able to recite it backwards. I learned the song, and traced the letters and, but for the few weeks where it was required by the school curriculum that I lived and breathed ABC’s, I never really thought about it again.

I prided myself with good enunciation, clear S’s and R’s that rolled off the tongue like rattlesnakes. My younger brother, whose R was slower and softer, would make me growl like a wild animal every time we played in a jungle make believe. All in all, I never gave the letter R, or any other letter, much importance.

Then I moved to America, and suddenly I was back in grade school, reciting the alphabet every day, chanting letter after letter until the memory of them stuck.

Introducing myself, it is never just my name: it’s my name, followed by my name again, and again, and eventually the spelling of it until finally my interlocutor feels confident enough to repeat it, boldly and uncaring: Frederica. I never cared for the letter R, until it invaded my name, and made me someone I never thought I would be an outsider. However, is it worth it to be upset over something as small as an extra letter in your name?  

A few would say yes.

Whether it’s wrong spelling, or wrong pronunciation, hearing your name sound unfamiliar can be unsettling. As a foreign student, it reminds me that, no matter how comfortable I am, the country that I live in is not home. When I was little, my parents told me that they would settle on my name after ruling out Martina and Rebecca, and I would sound out the full names in my head trying to imagine what my life would be like if I were anything other than Federica. Would Martina not be afraid of swimming? For the last few years, I have been asking the same questions regarding Frederica, someone who is almost the same as me, but not quite.  

It’s silly, the notion of a slightly different name having an impact on someone’s already formed identity, but I become more reserved, when I hear my name wrong, I second guess whether or not I should correct people, I entertain the idea of giving them a completely different name, to become Jess or Mary or Sarah, in order to save them the discomfort of having to learn who I am.  

That doesn’t seem right though, does it? So, as I make peace with having to find a comfortable place in the middle, I have also come to accept who I have become in this new environment. Some of my American friends call me Fed, which is not right or wrong, just new: a new name, a new beckoning, and a new place I have found to call home.

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Federica Mantini, Advertising Manager

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