What is in a name or a title? Actually, quite a lot if you consider it.
It is our identity.
A name or a title is how you are known by others and, in addition, illustrates how people feel that they should address you, even though they are strangers. It is a matter of respect and has a powerful influence on how you are perceived.
However, when you move to another country, it may be difficult to preserve your name the way it was in the old country. You can easily become someone else. Certainly, things can get a lot more complicated.
For example, my name, Larry, is short and simple. Despite this, I have had some problems with it. For others, with more complicated names, the situation must be much worse. For example, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in Peru and have a name like Zbigniew.
For me the name problem began a long time ago when I was a young man living in Bolivia.
I was a twenty-four year old Peace Corps Volunteer. In the house where I lived, the people called me “joven Lorenzo” which can be translated as young Lorenzo, because, they said that Larry was a bad word in Quechua, their native language.
So Lorenzo, the equivalent of Lawrence, was substituted and, though not really my name, that was what they called me for the two years I was there.
Well, I went along with that, but after a while, I was joined by another young American, exactly the same age as I, and they called him, “Don Esteban.”
I was jealous. I also wanted to be called “Don”– it just seemed so much more powerful than “joven”– and perhaps I had visions of myself as Don Corleone from the Godfather.
But, getting back to Bolivia, I never convinced them that I was a “don.” I was always just “joven”.
How times change. Now I would be glad to be called “joven Lorenzo.”
When I moved to Australia, I had another problem with my name. There, they insisted on calling me “Laurie”, the shortened form of Laurence because they were not used to the name Larry.
Now, I have moved to Peru and again things are different.
In my house, they call me “Señor Larry”– so finally at least I have part of my name back.
Also, Peruvians are polite and generally respectful so this is reflected in the titles they give me as a stranger.
Outside when I encounter people who do not know me, I am addressed in a number of different ways.
For example, some call me “Maestro,” which I translate as “Master”, but I don’t take it as more than a title of respect.
Other people call me “caballero”– gentleman.
Occasionally, and I sort of enjoy this, they call me “Jefe” or chief.
Then some call me “Mister ” pronounced Mestair .
There is one place, however, where I have control of the name situation– at the University– and during the first class of the year, I immediately settle the issue.
I tell them, “Call me Larry.”
You can listen to Larry reading his stories at www.soundcloud.com/larryoflima.