the laid.back Buddhist has MOVED...back!

Sunday, October 7

Accidental Ridiculousness

What’s in a name?

My parents have a wicked sense of humor. Often corny, yes.

But wicked nonetheless.

Now, some might think I meant “wicked” as in slang for “way cool” or “beyond hilarious.”

Ohh ho, nah-uh, I do mean wicked.

I swear they are always on the look-out for the purposeful enjoyment of any accidental ridiculousness. And a particularly favorite subject is their offspring. I do not kid when I say this has been the case from the moment I was born, as can be evidenced from the story of how my first name came about.

Or, I should say, how it almost didn’t come about.

My Chinese name was decided by my paternal grandfather and apparently that’s the only name that really mattered. So, my dad relishes in explaining how if it weren’t for my dear granny Anne (an elderly woman who was once a neighbor to us), they were going to take the nurse’s suggestion to English-name me…


Mm, yeah. Whew! Thank you, granny Anne. I owe you a big one!

However, like most things, the story doesn’t end there.

I’m not very close to either of my own grandmothers due to circumstance (one has been in a coma for the past 10 years) and temperament (the other, whom I respect very much, favors the males in the family: son, son-in-laws, and grandsons).

But granny Anne is so sweet.

She is the reason why I listed that I want be a grandmother before I die in my 3’s meme…because, well, I never really had one myself. And she brilliantly suggested that they take the combination of my parents’ names, John and Annie.

To create Johann.

Pronounced as “JO-han,” but if you’re like many of my past teachers who were surprised when a little Chinese girl instead of a little German boy raised her hand for role call…you probably thought “YO-han," like in Johann Sebastian Bach.

Then, why (when I've come to love how different my first name is) do I still use "Joanne"?

Well, it goes back to old habits dying hard.

When I discovered the existence of nicknames in elementary school, I nicknamed myself “Joanne” in an effort to make my name closer to the Granny Anne I admired so very much. A nickname which has obviously stayed with me throughout the years.

So that now “Joanne” is who I am just as much “Johann” came to be as I matured.

Does make me wonder though, as it’s often touted that it's not the shirt who makes the person but rather the person who makes the shirt instead: did I grow into my name or did my name develop who I am today?

I mean, I honestly can't imagine myself answering to the name of "Ruby." However I'm confident that if fate had made that my first name instead, I'd somehow make it a part of my identity. Though I also wonder if I'd still be the same sort of person today as a Chinese girl named Ruby instead of Johann.

Who knows, maybe a more feminine name might've made me less of tomboy growing up?

(Keep in mind that I ask this while highly doubting it myself)

You see, my mom has a very pretty Chinese name, "Gold Cloud," and compared to her 4 older sisters who all have masculine names, she was definitely the most carefree and tomboyish child of them all. In fact, my grandmother sent her to an all-girls Catholic boarding school for high school with the sole purpose of reining in her wayward tendencies!

Props to her for surviving that as I can't imagine more than 1 year in such an environmentmy sister and I did a brief stint at an all-girls school Hathaway Brown the year we lived in Ohio... And yeeeah, I'm pretty damn sure I broke every single rule in regards to the HB school uniforms I disliked wearing so very much.

Anyhow, it's interesting that in Asian cultures—and maybe this is true across the board—having a…uniquely different or a baser name is thought to be advantageous to the destiny of the person. Therefore, my Chinese name (besides being only 2 characters compared to the usually favored 3 characters and surprise-surprise! masculine as well) also sounds exactly like another common Chinese word.

Often, people who know Chinese do a double-take and exclaim, “Really! You mean like…”

Yes, you heard right. That is my name.

And now you're probably wondering what the story behind THAT name is. Well, you'll just have to keep wondering, my friends.

Because I tell ya, this wickedness is hereditary! ;)

13 Musing(s):

Anonymous said...

Never mind me, just scribbling down notes for future use...

me said...

The name's Kao, Ruby Kao.

Aww... How precious! ;)

Care to share with your loyal non-Chinese readers that common word?

Because honestly Ruby I don't think I can afford the time to learn the entire Chinese language...

Anonymous said...

Great post as usual, Ruby. (you opened a can of worms with this one, I tell ya...)

In all fairness, I was going to be Patricia or Patty if I was a girl. But don't tell anyone. :P

Anonymous said...

Then what is your chinese name ? Do you know how to write it ?

Anonymous said...

Whoa, that's an interesting post.. I wish I have a wonderful story behind my name as well..

conan_cat said...

cmon, tell us your chinese name, you know you got chinese reading readers :P

yeah, me being one XD chinese people in malaysia are taught to learn at least 3 languages. frankly my chinese is wayy better than my english XD

and LOL you know what, my lecturer just happens to be Miss Ruby :P

well having a masculine name doesnt mean that you should act like it, but since you're already a born tomboy, just go with it XD

Anonymous said...

Nice.. A combination name from your parents is pretty cool! But Ruby isn't that bad either!!

jon said...

When I was in Cincinnati I wrote my name out Jon just for a summer. By the time I got home, even though i told all my friends that the real spelling to my name is John they still would address email and snail mail to me as "Jon". I was never able to shake it so I just went with it forever. Shrug. go figure.

Kimchihead said...

Be glad they didn't attempt to name you Henrietta or Bertha. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love this post! I did some genealogy research on my mom's side of the family. Five generations back, when the first came to America, my great-great-great-great-great (I think that's it) grandmother (yes, German, was Johanna). I came very close to naming my daughter Johanna or Joanne or Hannah... We went with another relative's name instead.

It is great that your name has a history to it. And you are lucky to have Granny Anne in your life too!!

But please do tell the rest of the story about your name in Chinese!!! Don't tease us!

Unknown said...

Ruby would've been insanely cute.

My name is Nordstrom, like the Fortune 500, $8 billion revenue department store. Created by another man named Nordstrom, who came to the US with $5 in his pocket.

That's not the reason why I've decided to become a billionaire before I die, but still.

However, this is not all good. My math teacher in LA used it to his advantage. "Mr. Nordstrom has a famous last name so he'll answer this question ..."

But it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

I like both Ruby & Joanne.

I know what it feels like to have a difficult name and have people mispronounce it often.

My name is pronounced


but no one ever gets that right.

Joanne said...

Dan: But shouldn’t all that Pi practice strengthened your memory so that you don’t need to take notes? =P


Pete: Heh, that’s cute. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me…for the time being. Everything’s fair game in an open conspiracy!

Keeyit: Yes, I do. I haven’t decided yet if I want to reveal it, heh.

Ben: Thanks, yeeeah…sometimes, I think my family has too many stories and there are times when we really get going at the dinner table that my abs will hurt the next day from laughing too hard, haha.

Conan: Yeah, it’s much easier to go with the flow and I’ve naturally become more feminine as I’ve gotten older (though still very much the tomboy at heart)…some things just can’t be rushed, you know? Ahahaha, and well I’ll eventually tell the story behind my Chinese name, one of these days.

David: Yup, it’s pretty neat. It’s not an ugly name by any means, I think that when I first heard about this story I was too much of a tomboy to feel anything other than appalled distaste, hah.

Jon: You’re so laidback and chill, I love it!

Kimichihead: Haha, that would be a living nightmare! Though, my mom likes a name that’s easy to shout across the room so Henrietta would be one too many syllables, lols!

Nola: Ohhh, eventually. ;) I often get called Joanna (or Johanna by my mom especially). History of our roots is important to our family as well, but it’s interesting how my family is starting its own chapter (my parents are first generation in the US).

Daniel: LOL, yeah I’m surprised by how it’s grown on me. Perhaps the years do mellow a person? I like your name, the way it stands out can reflect who you are and who you plan on becoming. I’m glad you’re on a journey to make it your own! =)

Meleah: Ooo, I’m glad you told me how to pronounce it…because every time I read it on my screen, I sort of quickly glazed over it in my mind, LOLs. Haha, I always know when someone’s about to say my name as there’s usually the tell-tale pause right beforehand!

Winston Churchill