What did Shakespeare have in mind when he said what he said about names? Did he ever encounter Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas or Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda? The South Indians and the Lankans would agree that the sweetness of the rose sorely depends on the name it bears. In fact, this quote by an anonymous author is more apt for us.

Better to see the face than to hear the name.

Having been born and brought up in a traditional South Indian family, I have gotten accustomed to these long and unbelievably stretched names. The key word here is accustomed. I am still in the process of figuring out why we need them and have been for a few years now. I was told that the longer the name, the more majestic it sounds. My grandfather’s name Pasivaram Rangarajan Lakshmi Narasimhan did not sound as good as his father’s Pasivaram Rajagopalan Venkateswara Swaminathan Iyengar. Our problem stems from the following habits:

  • We like to have names of God(or multiple Gods) in our names. Even when it comes to Gods, the South Indian Gods have longer names.
  • The birthplace is often included at the end of our names.
  • Depending on the spoken language or the geography, suffixes are added to our names. For example, a tamil name often has an ’an’ in the end and a telugu name has an ‘ulu/u’ in the end.

The dawn of the twenty-first century seems to have brought in a welcome change. People have started using simpler and shorter names for their kids. Every syllable is now carefully examined and discussed to ensure easy of pronounceability. I have to sheepishly admit that I do miss the humor and majesty in today’s names as I start to wonder if was just complaining unnecessarily. My name has the following: God, one adjective, one noun. And it’s only two words long(great value for words). What’s in your name?