Bookmark this

Poet, badass, and rockslinga pal Hayan Charara is now guest-blogging about topics as varied as sexy Arab potentates, name changes, rejection, and Arab American poetry, over at Arabisto. Check it out.

Here is a snippet:

Arab Name Substitution happens a lot, too. The premise here is that a name is too difficult to pronounce, so rather than butcher it or even make an attempt, the original is dropped for a new and improved version.

Some examples:

Mike = Mohammed
Charlie = Khalil
Abe = Abdul
Ed = Ahmad
This is an equal opportunity name game.
Sue = Saada
Jamie = Jamila
And my personal favorite:
Babbette = Ibtisam

Mispronouncing, on the other hand…is it really that hard? I’ve been called “High-on,” “High-yeen,” “Chai-yon,” “Ha-non,” and, technically a mispronunciation, “Hasan.”

It could be worse, I suppose. I could have an African name. A friend from high school was named Abiyamifalukemenarakuma. African names seem to get it worse than Arabic names. On top of mispronouncing, misspelling, substituting, and getting it all wrong, they get edited too. Most of my high school classmates just cut out the last twenty letters of Abiyamifalukemenarakuma’s name.


That’s a girl’s name. That’s a coming-of-age-1980s-movie-girl-actor-name. That’s hardly a beautiful African name.

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