After being in English class for four years now in high school, analyzing the meanings and connections between names and characters has almost become a uncontrollable thought and routine for me. Looking back to grade 10 with the all to famous Juliet line of ” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (II,ii,45) has been engraved into my mind ever since. Then this year, my class read the novel “The Namesake” where, once again, the analysis of names and there meanings became a huge topic for discussion. Now, I find it almost impossible to go through another novel without wondering what the names of the characters mean and if there are any connections which can be found. So, I went through all of the common characters (and a few extra), found the origin of their names, the meaning, and tried to find any connections between their name and their character traits.
Let the games begin..
- The name Laila is of Hebrew origin and means “night, dark beauty”
- Laila is also a Farsi/Arabic name where the meaning changes to “nocturnal”
- Interesting Fact: the name Laila ranked 141 out of the top 1000 most popular U.S girls names.
- Connection with the text: Surprisingly, I couldn’t really find any connection between the meaning of Laila’s name and her actual character (I was quite disappointed actually). I mainly decided to do this post because I had originally thought that Laila (which is close to the Perisan name, Leila) meant flower. I thought that the connection between her name would be the meaning of flower and the fact that Rasheed called her his “gul” (flower) during the first part of their marriage.
- The name Mariam is actually of Greek origin meaning “bitter”
- Mariam ranked 673 out of the top 1000 most popular U.S girls names
- Connection with the text: The meaning behind Mariam’s name fits her character, but only for part of the novel. During the first part of Laila and Rasheed’s marriage, Mariam is completley bitter towards Laila and Aziza. She is even bitter to Rasheed through their entire marriage, but, who could really blame her? The sudden change in Mariam’s relationship between her and Laila doesn’t fit in with the meaning of her name; however, it still does fit when ever she seems to have interaction with anyone else. This can be found whenever she speaks to Rasheed, and even when they are at the hospital and she is ‘speaking’ with the people in the hospital trying to get a doctor for Laila
- The name Giti is of Persian origin meaning “world, universe”
- Connection with the text: The only connection that I could really find between the meaning of Giti as her character traits would be how she would be constantly talking about the future (with a husband and such) and her dreams which would often make her seem open to new opportunities which I found to connect with the universe.
- The name Fariba is of Persian origin and it means ” charming, enticing”
- Connection with the text: The main connection that I found was how Hakim was always telling Laila how happy, wonderful, and charming her mother was before they married. He also mentions that he mainly married her for her laugh, which would indicate that she was very charming, just as her name indicates.
- The name Aziza is of Hebrew origin meaning “mighty”
- Connection with the text: When I read this meaning and connection with the character Aziza, I didn’t think mighty in a sense of streghten, but in a sense of personality. Although Aziza is growing up in a terrible household in a dangerous region, Laila is still able to say that “Aziza had turned into a calm, pensive little girl, with a demeanor that to Laila seemed beyond her six years. Laila marveled at her daughter’s manner of speech, her cadence and rhythm her thoughtful pauses and intonations, so adult, so at odds with he immature body that housed the voice.” (264). The fact that Aziza has those traits while growing up with the childhood she has, just seems to be mighty in personality to me.
- The name Tariq is of Arabic origin meaning “evening caller, he who knocks or hammers”
- Connection with the text: With the meaning of Tariq saying ” he who knock or hammers” I find the connection with how he is so willing to go and stand up for Laila against the neighbourhood boys and beat them up for her if he has to.
- The name Rasheed is of Persian origin meaning “brave”
- Connection with the text: As much as I despise Rasheed’s character, I can see the connection between the meaning of his name and his character traits. When Laila’s house was hit by a rocket, he was brave and went towards the building to see what/who he could salvage/save. Also, when his own house is threatened, he sets up protection around his house and sits there waiting to personally defend his family if it comes to it. He doesn’t even show any fear in this, claiming “Let’s see them try to break into my house. I’ll crush their balls! I’ll blow their heads off!” (227-228). Although he later adds “Do you know how luck you two are to have a man who’s not afraid of Shaitan himself?”, which completely irritates me, he still does show signs of bravery.
- The name Hakim is of Arabic origin meaning “wise”
- Connection with the text: The connection between Hakim’s name’s meaning and his character personality is quite obvious. Hakim was a very successful math teacher and is constantly expanding his knowledge by reading different books. The fact that he is known as the wise individual in the marriage is often mentioned when the ‘strangeness’ of their relationship comes up between other characters; because rather than playing around with tools, Hakim reads and reads.
- The name Hasina is of Egyptian origin meaning “good”
- Connection with the text: Although Hasina is portrayed to be the difficult girl who does things her own ways, she can actually be classified as the ‘good daughter’. I figured this because as much as she talks about trying to scare off a khastegar, when she is finally arranged to be married, she doesn’t run away or anything and she just goes with it.
- The name Zalmai is of Afghan origin meaning “young”
- Connection with the text: Due to the simplicity of the meaning behind Zalmai’s name, I could only find the most obvious connection: his age. Zalmai is the youngest character and the last main character introduced in the novel which is really the only connection I could find between his name and his character.
Here are a few more translations from Pashto to English of the words that I found in the novel. There are certain words in the selected pages that I have not translated in this section, that’s because they had shown up earlier in the novel and I had already included them into my other posts.
|Kofta||Type of food||
|Rafiq||Friend, more like acquaintance||
|Ho Bacha||Expression: Bad boy/child||
|Nau Socha||Expression: Good as new||
|Khodaya||Expression: Oh God||
|Zahmat||Expression: no real translation into English||
|Kenarab||Expression: Shit hole||
|Ambagh||Expression: When your husband gets a second wife, she is your Ambagh||
|Dehati||Very insulting :Village Girl||
|Dokhtar e jawan||Young Girl||
|Buskashi||Very famous game in Afghanistan including horses||
|Degeh||Expression: What else?||
|Khosh Shodi||Expression: Are you happy now?||
|Bas||Expression: That’s enough||
|Kafir||A person who is not Muslim||