Wednesday, May 13, 2009

쉐리 vs 하늘... What's in a name?

My friend 구현 was the first person to inform me that I'd been named after a laundry detergent (see above). After what was probably a bad soap joke, I then remember him mentioning that 구현 also stood for "implementation" so I shouldn't feel so bad.

Truth be told, I never really took a liking to my name. I didn't think it suited me, and I'd scribble a variety of alternatives, testing each one against how well it meshed with my last name, as well as how good it looked on paper, in both print and signature form. I never really had a problem with my family name, appreciating the way it rolled off the tongue and the fact that it was atypical, for America at least. That is, until last year, when I discovered that it's actually one of Japan's most common surnames. Ouch. I'm no longer unique?

I've got a variety of nicknames, but the only ones related to my first name are "Cher," "Cher Bear," and "Cheri Berri." I particularly recall one kid in elementary school who had it out for me one day and consequently wrote a jingle. It was actually pretty catchy, and I still remember the melody. Cheri Merry Muffin. She cooks. She bakes. And she smells stink too. The fact that his grammar sucked made it less scarring, and besides, I could think of worse things to rhyme my name with.

What really irked me was the mispronunciation (Cherry? Sher-ree?) and misspellings (Sheri? Sherie? Sherry? Cherie?). Not a single soul at Jamba Juice or Starbucks has ever gotten it correct to this day, FYI. I remember my friend Jihey once went so far as to telling the clerk her name was Kim Chi, because what's the point, they were probably going to spell her name wrong anyway. Luckily, it seems that most people (with the exception of my Korean side of the family, who insists on calling me "Selly" on some days and "Shelly" on others) have since caught on, and these days, it's my last name that people are having trouble with - likely a result of having moved from majority-minority Hawaii to the mainland.

After having lived in Korea, I took my long-neglected Korean name out of my back pocket, and have since started the debate.

쉐리, the laundry detergent or 하늘, translated as "sky" in Korean? If you could guess my sister's Korean name, you'd think my mom had a thing for astronomy. Truth be told, I guess it doesn't really matter. You can call me anything you want, as long as it's not 아줌마 ajumma.

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