Friday, August 20, 2004

What's in a Name?

How many of you got to choose your own first name? I did. After I came to America at the age of twelve, I was able to choose my own name. I remember that day vivdly. I was in the living room of my grandfather's two-bedroom apartment. Ah Gung ("Grandpa" in Cantonese) told me that I need an English name now that I'm in America. He asked me to choose a name that I liked as he named off a bunch of first names. He gave me a couple of suggestions, but I didn't like the sound of them. I could only go by sound since I had no idea what Ah Gung was saying. About fifteen or so names later I heard the name "Eddy" and stopped him. I asked him what it meant. Ah Gung looked it up in the dictionary and said something about moving and fast. That was good enough for me. "Eddy" became my first official indoctrination into American culture.

Recently, a friend asked why I signed my name "Eddy" instead of "Eddie" because she saw "Eddie" being used in so many of my documents and writings. The fact is the prison officials changed the spelling of my name during the early stage of incarceration. When I told them my name is "Eddy" they automatically assumed it was spelled as "Eddie." For a non-English speaking prisoner, I didn't know that difference between "y" and "ie." Therefore, "Eddie" became my name in most of my documents. For convenient purpose I didn't dispute the mistake and continued to allow the prison to use the spelling "Eddie." Personally, I always sign my name "Eddy."

So whichever why you choose to spell my name it's cool with me. After all, as Shakespeare writes, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'

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