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  • Writer's pictureNazifa Islam

What's in a Name?

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

I’ve never met another Nazifa. Not once. I take it for granted that when I introduce myself to people, they’ll 1) have never heard my name before, and 2) ask me to repeat it. Sometimes—maybe a fifth of the time—they ask me what it means. More and more often I’m told that it’s a beautiful name.

It’s odd how long it’s taken me to wonder about other people’s experiences. The Sarahs and Johns and Matthews of the world. They meet themselves—some funhouse-mirror miscast version—all the time. Do they know what their name means? Does anyone really want to know what “John” means? They sometimes feel the need to explain that they spell it “S-A-R-A, no H.”

I’ll spell my name sometimes. I’ll say that it’s pronounced pretty much just how it looks on the page. But that’s different than having to buck expectations.

I know there are other Nazifas in the world. There are even a few Nazifa Islams out there. But I haven’t run across one yet. I’m wondering how it’ll feel when and if I do. I’m finding it strange—almost disconcerting—that I can’t imagine that moment with any kind of clarity.

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