Monday, August 4, 2008

The Chronicles of Ehav Ever - Names

I come from a culture where over a lifetime people acquire many names. Names are used to define people, keep track of events, give joy to new life, sum up feelings, and to serve of a remembrance that we were here and our lives have meaning beyond the grave. I have been called many things in my life. Some were in passing, and some have stuck. This is the story of what happens when a person is known by many names.......These are the Chronicles of Ehav Ever.

My Arabic Name - Rashad

When I was born my father gave me an Arabic name and that name was Rashad. Pronounced more like Roshath, but spelled Rashad and most often pronounced as Rashad. Yet, no matter where I went people would also mispronounce it incorrectly. Variations were Rasheed, Rashard, Rashaad, as well as well as those who would simply just ponder its pronunciation for a while until I would simply tell them.

My father's oldest brother, my uncle, told me that he and my father got into a big argument when my father gave me an Arabic name. He said the argument was so heated that they didn't talk to each other for about a month. My uncle's problem was that he felt that the time for us receiving Arabic names was over. Prior to the state of Israel, Jews from the Middle East and Africa often had Arabic names. The development of the Arabic language took place in both Jewish and Arab culture. We Jews though had our own special form of Arabic known today as Judeo-Arabic. There were several dialects of Judeo-Arabic, that varied, just as Arabic does from region to region. After the state of Israel was established, many Jews from Arabic speaking lands changed their names from Arabic names to more ancient or semi-modern Hebrew names. Some Jews though felt no need to throw off the language that they had helped develop.

So this was the crux of the argument. My father felt he was preserving our ties to our semi-Arabic speaking past, even though we stopped speaking it and instead many in the family spoke Spanish. The thing I hated about this name was all the times people would make fun of me. The other issue was that I would run into Muslims who thought I was Muslim because of the name. A few of them became real argumentative when they found out I was in fact Jewish. I used to hate all the names that I got from people who didn't, because of their Western centered focus, know how to pronounce my Arabic name. They would make fun of me by calling me things like Mustafa, etc, etc.

Now a days I only allow CERTAIN family members to call me by my Arabic name. I don't answer to it from anyone else, since I legally changed my name to my Hebrew name.

Prior to about 20th century my father's side of our family had the last names Ever and Lyons. The Ever part of the family came from a family that was once called Awhalyahud or Al-yahud in Senegal and Mali. About 100 years ago some how the Ever part of the family became known as Harbert, although part of the family stilled pronounced it as Ever or Eber. So when I was a kid my part of the family was being called Har-bert. Several years ago I decided that I wanted to go back to what we used to be called. Ever or Eber is a Hebrew word derived from עבר. It means a crossing or the other side. It is also the name of one of Abraham's ancestors in the Bible.

My Hebrew Name - Ehav Eliyahu Ever

Many of who are Jewish and born outside of Israel often get two names. One name is often derived from the local language and the other is our Hebrew name. My Hebrew name is Ehav ben-Eliyahu Ever or in Hebrew (אהב בן אליהו עבר). The ben means, in Hebrew, son of. So I am Ehav son of Eliyahu Ever. Most people who knew me in my youth would have never heard my Hebrew name. I didn't start going by my Hebrew until college. In fact one of my cousins who grew up in Kansas City also, does not even remember his Hebrew name. Ehav is not an average Hebrew name, although there is a similar name to it in Arabic (Ehab). Ehav is properly pronounced Ey-hav with the stress on the first syllable. Ehav is derived from the Hebrew word for love (Ahav). My name shows up in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) once in the book of Hoshea.'

Other Names

Like most people I have other names that I have been called by throughout my lifetime. Most of them nicknames, others names given to me in particular situations. Here are a list of them and how I got them.

Pughtwaat -
My mother sometimes calls me this. I am not sure where it came from. I will have to ask her about that one.

Sharbee -
One of my mothers cousins has been me this since I was a child. She would babysit me when I was younger. Even to this day she randomly calls me this. She once started yelling this out when I was playing football and I made a good tackle. I was trying to convince a friend of mine to run towards the sidelines on the next play and tackle her. (Just kidding)

Puppet Master - I received this name when I was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. It was not the original pledge name I received when I pledged, but it was changed to this because I was really big into control and pulling strings to get things to work in my favor.

Rosh - A friend of mine in college, Trevi Wormley, used to call me this. He would only use it when he was being funny. He would walk into the room and yell out ROSH!

Yokazuna -
I got this title from one night when my friend, Sean Slade, and I were went around our dorm doing impersonations of WWF wrestlers. Sean would do Hulk Hogan and I would do both the Undertaker and Paul Bearer.

The Undertaker and Paul Bearer

The Undertaker vs Yokazuna

The first time we did it I was keeping up with the rivalry between the Undertaker and the sumo-like Yokazuna. During my impersonation there was a part where, while imitating Paul Bearer's high pitched voice, I said something like "Oooohhhhh Yokazunaaaaah, my Undertaker......" After that guys who had been there that night would see me on campus and yell out, "Oooohhh Yokazunaaaaaaaa!" Severals years after I graduated from college and I was living near Oakland, CA I was in a club in San Fransisco with a friend. There was this guy that passed by me, stopped, looked at my face and he yelled out "Oooohhh Yokazunaaaaaaaa!" It ends up that he was one of the guys in the room when we first started doing the wrestler impersonations.

Superman/Surgeman - At my job, I have two names; Superman and Surgeman. People at my job started calling me Superman because there are times when there is a lack of people who either have the time or know how to do specific jobs, and I have been able to do them. I have had a variety of work thrown at me and I end up getting it done. So I am being called Superman. Whenever one of these jobs come up, I take off my glasses and start humming the theme to the old Superman movies. The other title, Surgeman, I got from one of these such situations. There is a test we do at my job which is called a Lightning Surge test. It simulates lightning strikes on equipment. When a particular person at my job quit it ended up that I was the only one who knew how to use the surge equipment. So one of my co-workers started calling me Surgeman. He now says I am Ehav ben-Eliyahu Surgeman.

The Final Analysis

I come from a culture where over a lifetime people acquire many names. Names are used to define people, keep track of events, give joy to new life, sum up feelings, and to serve of a remembrance that we were here and our lives have meaning beyond the grave. I have been called many things in my life. Some were in passing, and some have stuck. This is the story of what happens when a person is known by many names.......These are the Chronicles of Ehav Ever, aka Pughtwaat, aka Sharbee, aka Puppet Master, aka Yokazuna. aka Superman, aka Surgeman.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post and the Whodini video...I had to throw my hands up! I used to have the album. Keep the Chronicles coming.

Laisha said...

This was an interesting read. Keep the Chronicles coming. That Whodini song was the jam back in the day!

Ehav Ever said...

Anon - Hey Anon. Yeah that Whodini song will always be the bomb. It just has the right lyrics, the right hooks, and the beat is perfect. Your wish is my command, the Chronicles will continue. Thanks for stopping by.

Liasha - Hey soror. Thanks for checking out the blog. Sorry I didn't respond to your earlier comment. Thanks for your words. In terms of Whodini, that is still the jam. I still ride to it. I have a few more old school hits up my sleeve. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

You remind me of leaving a message on my brother’s answer machine after it announced the owner as “Iceman, Zeke, or Mike”. Those names are names that different communities gave him.

I tried to do the same in a story that I wrote, but my workshop insisted that nicknames are built out of trauma. It was difficult to get across to them that personal names are sometimes built from your position in society. No angst need be involved. I loved this post.

(Sorry if this shows up twice in your inbox. I am having problems posting.)

Ehav Ever said...

Hey Makeda,

Glad to make the connection. It looks like wise minds think alike. (smile)

I agree with you that, especially in Western cultures, names don't take on the same meaning as they do in other parts of the world.