I wasn’t warned or educated about this. That book 'Living in the U.S.A.- A handbook for Indian Students' handed out generously at the US consulate had no mention of this strange phenomenon that plagues this country. Orientation sessions conducted in the campus before we could embark on the Americans, talked about ‘kallu’ not being a politically correct word for African Americans, but no… we weren’t told about this. Maybe I was supposed to know- just like that.
Robert Stafford was to be my professor. My first day in the campus, fresh off the boat, I looked all over for him in my department…searched every corner of the campus. When I was convinced that I walked into another University by mistake (possibility of that happening was high considering my past), someone said they could lead me to this elusive guy in question. I saw the nameplate. No no, he is not that guy! I have met him before. He just shares Robert Stafford’s last name. You think this Bob is his brother?
Right there I was introduced to the American nomenclature system never to recover. Bob and Robert are the same entity? And everyone must take it for granted? Nick names are official names here? Just like Bill Clinton is actually William Clinton and Jim Morrison is James Morrison? And what? Dick is Richard? Why?
Seriously, I do not appreciate such sense of humor. Why take pains to morph a perfect name to mean a male genitalia? Me wondered if I should call Office assistant Pamela, Pussy, to prove that I got the picture.
It’s a learning process. You can’t get it all down in one sitting. I can see the American parents going, ‘Since we can’t decide on the right name, let’s name her Elizabeth. Now she can choose from eleven names- Beth, Bess, Bessie, Betsy, Betty, Bette, Eliza, Lisa, Liza, Liz or even decide to keep the actual name. Halleluiah.’ Actually I feel that comprised of 50% of the American girl names right there. Yeah, it’s like playing that game- make as many words as you can from this long word.
Talking of names and games, ever tried playing the game where you think of an important person, give out a clue (initials) and answer 5 yes-or-no questions for the other team to guess the right answer?
The opposition will never win if you think of Dick Cheney and call out RC. Throw them completely off track.
Imagine if Mahmohan was called Twinkle at home (with these Punjabis anything is possible). He would be Twinkle Singh and that would not be a cool name for a Prime Minister. To make matters more confusing, my friend Harry could be Henry, Harprathap Singh, Hariharasubbramani Iyer or Xiuxiu Soong Ching-ling.