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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare used this vernacular to describe the artificial and meaningless convention of names. Further into the passage, Shakespeare presents the idea of renouncing a name.
To renounce a name, or adopt a moniker, is not unfamiliar at all. Hinenuitepo was amongst the first to relinquish her name and her identity. Born as Hinetītama, after procreating with her father, Tane, she bestowed upon herself a new identity as Hinenuitepo.
Renouncing a name, in this instance, was also renouncing an identity. Now, this is not something I would take lightly. A name is a significant part of who we are, used for others to recognise us—or frankly a massive hassle if you have a common name! To combat this, most of us will shorten our names or be bestowed with a moniker.
The use of monikers, or nicknames, has been present for eons. It was not uncommon for monikers to relay a particular message about the recipient. Native Americans have a tradition of naming a person based on how they were perceived by others. Biblical examples provide the same approach to names often associated with spiritual status. In this instance, Māori are similar. Names could be used to describe a person using a feature, circumstances surrounding their birth or conception, and particular achievements and stages of life.
For Māori, it is not uncommon for someone to have multiple names. For example, someone with the birth name Rutu-Tawhiorangi is able to be addressed by this name on the pā or around whānau, but may have to adopt other names for ease in other situations. The idea of having a “going out name”, such as Rachel, or a nickname, like Shoey (like shoe-polish) in reference to someone’s characteristics.
There are times others find our real name hard to pronounce, an issue that has long plagued Māori as well as others. My own name is apparently difficult to pronounce and others fail to read it correctly. In some instances we are given a shortened version of our name; in others we are given different name entirely.
Personally, when I introduce myself by a one-syllable nickname, it is because I am lazy as well. It’s awfully boring to have to correct someone multiple times when they mispronounce your name. It is equally tiresome when they ask a series of questions on the origins of your name just because it is unusual.
Sometimes I wonder if people even know my proper name as a result of only being exposed to my nicknames. This has translated from social settings into my correspondence with lecturers and my employers. It’s almost a new identity.
The pervasive use of alternative names is clear—they are easy, lazy and informal. They also are form of familiarity. However, it is common in the case of children, and probably adults, where nicknames are used to ridicule or have insensitive origins.
Being affectionately referred to as Whaea hit the personal insult button. Although it was meant to be a term of endearment and respect, it wasn’t initially received that way. I interpreted Whaea as old. And at 20-years-young, I wasn’t too keen on receiving this moniker from thirst years (see definition below). After some deliberation, the name was meant to signify respect as the “Boss” (something which will probably be denied now), but I have no qualms about welcoming this new name.
My mother still cringes when she hears people refer to me by a nickname. I see no harm in it, although personally I have become predisposed to answering to many terms, sometimes derogatory, yet I fail to take any offense.
Humans are programmed to respond to fondness and kindness—two features that nicknames usually aren’t. A central reason for accepting many of the monikers we give is not usually because we like the name, more so what it represents. In most cases they are public acknowledgement and signify belonging to a group.
This idea of belonging also has the potential to provide others with an additional influence over your identity. In some aspects it signifies possession through the rights of naming someone and in turn claiming an aspect of their identity. This can be negative, in the sense that they gain a sense of authority and/or pride from their contribution to an identity.
This identity is sometimes represented by a nickname borne from the masses. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter often rally behind terms to describe a particular type of person, creating a plethora of new nicknames that serve as both compliments and insults. Here is a list of my favourite terms.
The Daggerin’s Top 5 terms of endearment:
This is the primary moniker for young members of a whānau, usually short for bubba, baby etc. However, the use of “bub” quickly turns into ten people responding at whānau events until one speaks out against the rest and claims the name as their own.
- Fuckboy (Inappropriate?)
Fuckboys are mostly heterosexual young men who use sexist language, throw around homophobic slurs, think all girls are either sluts or objects, thinks rape jokes are funny, believes the friendzone is real, are usually quite misogynistic, and embody ignorance on every level.
- Thot or thottie
A girl who thinks she is hot, but in all honesty, she is just That Ho Over There.
- Thirsty (often applied to my good friends, the #thirstyears)
To crave attention, usually from the opposite sex.
- Hern (unfortunately there is no agreed upon written definition, so I turn your attention to “muppet”—the hern’s closest known relative)
A person who defies explanation with regard to common sense and logic, exuding an air of confidence disproportionate to their accomplishments or abilities.
On any given day, we really don’t think too much about our name or nicknames. But deep down we all know our name is an integral part of our identity, something our heart strongly connects with. It’s something we tell others when we meet them. Although being Māori, there is often more interest in the name of your whānau, hapū or iwi as means for them to find a connection.
Nā The Daggerin, Gendagg, Gendog, The Genstick, Dagger, Kunta, Bub & Gen, aka Geneveine Wilson