Monday, August 16, 2010

Identity Crisis @ 31

I've always had issues with my name.  I don't like it that much.  For one, there is the bewildered expression I get from friends when they come to know that I have a different surname than the rest of my family.  It always makes an interesting conversation piece.  A topic that can be personal, which can be good for opening up, without being too personal for me.  However, interesting as it may be, sometimes it just doesn't amuse me.    

And then there's my first name which has been interpreted more than a couple of times.  People in my hometown of Davao City know me as Stephen (stef-en) but I grew up with a nickname of "Pen".  When I moved to Manila to attend university, my name became Stephen (stee-fuhn).  And people began calling me Steph (steef), which was perfectly fine for me as this was the most acceptable pronunciation of my name in the whole Philippines.  Or so I thought, because when I moved to Cebu people found it weird to call me Steph (steef), as for them, this nick is mostly used for girls with a name of Stephanie.  And so variations like "Tep" and "Tebs" arised.  Tep from sTEPhen and Tebs as short for Esteban, which I guess is the Tagalog version of my name. (Worst of all some would call me Phen ("Fen!"), I can't think of anybody who would want to be called that?!)

And the variations didn't stop there.  In Japan people referred to me as su-te-fan which is pronounce as Stefan, the same as that of the great Swedish tennis player Stefan Edberg.  I tried to correct them but it was futile.  Any other pronunciation would require additional syllables which would be awkward to pronounce in Japanese.  And so I settled for this, as this was the most natural for the Japanese and I didn't mind being called the same way as Edberg, a tennis legend in his own right.  And lastly, western friends would refer to me as Steven (stee-vuhn), and would shorten it to Steve, which is the American way and probably the international pronunciation of my name.  

No doubt, all these names have caused their share of confusion.  A college friend once called me up in my uncle's house in Manila and my cousin, who also hails from Davao, answered the phone.  "Hello," my friend asked, "may I talk with stee-fuhn. please." "Ha?," goes my cousin and after a brief pause came to realize that it was for me and says, "Ahh ... si stef-en."  

These all adds to the mystery that is me but what I can't stop pondering is whether if I could have confused myself in the process as well? No doubt, this identity crisis has gotten into me as well.  Tsk tsk tsk.

One good thing I can think of that can be derived from this whole experience is the fact that it would be easy to recognize where and what time in my life I met someone by the way they would call me.  But I guess this is looking at the glass way half-full right?  Or as we engineers would see it, the glass is 50% full!

And so I am planning to internationalize my name soon.  I think the best way to go, especially if my plans push through, would be to use Stephen (stee-vuhn).  What do you think?        

And oh yeah, before I forget, did I mention that I went through 3 different Chinese names as well? This makes me wanna say Vaffanculo! (Just a little Italian a learned today (^o^)v)

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  1. it's really up to you how you want to pronounce your name. but you will always be 'stef-en' to me. :)

  2. haha! you forgot step-pen!! so i guess i won't be naming my son stephen then huh? :P

  3. @charm

    thanks ^^


    I would be honored if you name him after me. hahaha

    I think the name itself is not flawed. It's those that gave me the name that are to be blamed for not getting it right the first time ;-).

    Yup, there's that too ... I was lost as to how to write it because sometimes bisaya people pronounce it with an F and some with a P so i settled for stef-en. hehehe

  4. Now that you reminded me, I actually realized that I make the same mistakes! Sometimes I introduce myself as Stefen, and sometimes steppen! waaaah!

  5. and how did i ever end up calling you step?!

    i've got my share of this growing up, i gave up and unknowingly, people started pronouncing and spelling them right. :)

    fyi, you can actually change your name and your so called dysfunctional family name when you change citizenship. hihi

  6. Really? Do you get to change it the moment you apply for citizenship? o wow! Thanks for the idea.


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