Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Name Game

"The Name Game," or "The Banana Song", is a children's singalong rhyming game that creates variations of a person's name. It was written by singer Shirley Ellis and released in 1965... [Source: Wikipedia]

Tala loves that song, and she's so good at it. She picked it up around December of last year because the song has Nick's name with its variations.

Now here's the real name game:

In the process of obtaining passports for the whole family in case we decide to visit Libya or wherever, depending on where Ennis and Juju end up, I sent lots of forms to the Libyan consulate in DC (it's still the Libyan Liaison Office.) Among those forms were the birth registration forms for Moody and Tala, and the forms to add them to my passport. Wait, wait... keep reading, it gets to be interesting...

Today I received a call from the consular saying that they cannot register Tala; her name is illegal! Holy crap! I just kept laughing and still laughing. She suggested that we fill the application with a different name--one that is legal--and send it back. "Hold on, you mean we need to change her name?" I asked. She said, "No, just put a different name on the form and send it back to us. Then later, you add or change her middle name with a legal one you can use to register her in Libya with. A lot of people do that."

Hmmm, I started thinking, my mind spinning. Sol was not for even taking his pictures for the Libyan passport, let alone sending it for renewal, and yet worse going to Libya. How did he react? Exactly as I expected: "To hell with them. We don't need them. She [Tala] does not need anything to do with them. We are not going!"

OK, so I do a good job at predicting Sol, and I had an incentive stashed to overcome this obstacle. When we got married, Sol's Dad 'requested' that we name the girl, when we have one, Amna, after his mom and Sol's mom. We didn't, but he got his wish with naming Ahmed. But then after we registered Tala, I kept saying that we should have used Hana for her middle name and not Suliman. Not fair to have his name be the middle name for both kids, and really why would she have a guy's name as the middle name? Well, I know, in Libya the middle name is the Dad's--doesn't make it any less unfair. So now I started thinking that here is a reason to change her middle name to Hana, or even to Amna--whatever it takes to get things going.

Sol, ball in your court!


  1. Ahhh.... how funny! I have lot's of names! One official one - Therese - Libyans can't pronounce it , it always comes out sounding like Idriss (men) and I only use that name for official things anyway. This way if someone calls on the phone asking for Therese I can be forewarned and find out what the call is about before taking it.

    I've got a nickname - Teri, Libyans mispronounce this too - it ends up with the r being rolled and sounds like what you say to make a horse go faster!

    Then there is the name Khadija which I chose when I became a Muslim. Can't go wrong with Khadija, the name of the first Muslim woman, the Prophets first wife and love, she was rich and successful, and she really must have had some sex apeal to catch a man so much younger than herself ;)

    In Libya they insist that my father's name be my middle name - so here my middle name isn't Anne, it's George!

    KhadijaTeri is a combination of who I am...

    In a way it can ba a nuisance to have all these different names, but it's nice in a way too.

  2. Hana, unfortunately there is this whole list of 'illegal' names in Libya nowadays, can you imagine ? Fozi and Fozia is illegal NOW - this is so silly because you keep having to consult the list to name a newborn. Even Ferial is illegal this month. Who on earth comes up with these lists ?

    Anyway if there is no other way around it just add that Amma middle name to Tala and be done with it... So she will be Tala Amna Suliman Dregias - Alhamdulilah :)
    Good luck and it's good to see you in fighting spirit again .

  3. Yeah, Khadija, you really have a bunch of names, sometimes it confuses me :)

    HL, why did you say Amna and not Hana :( How dare you not root for me, FRIEND! lol Glad to see you around.

    I should start a poll of some sort for the name.

  4. What a useless job - creating and managing a list of illegal names! Libya surely has other ways to generate revenues.

  5. Hanu I thought you had started the poll name and I cast my vote :)

    Well since you were going to give a courtesy name might as well make your in laws happy ....get brownie points . .. LOL it really is good to see the humour back in your tone!

  6. OK, let me drag my soap box...

    Seriously, I cannot even come close to understanding this one. What the hell????? I make my living rationalizing things, how can I deal with this insanity?

    To begin with, I completely understand everyone's points, including "George"'s point about the strange things that people have to deal with to be part of two cultures. And even growing up in one culture, I was formally named Suliman, but everyone says Sleman. In the US I am called Suliman and Sol. That's all fine, even normal, but the case of Tala is quite different. This case is really about the dignity of Libyans as humans. As the Libyan state rebrands all Libyans from terrorists to cowards, through its shady bargains with the likes of George Bush and Tony Blair, then the need to assert and preserve our human dignity becomes all the more pressing.

    If being Libyan necesarily means being subject to the authority of the State of Libya, then to hell with it! I spent most of my adult life fully aware of the stigma of being a Libyan citizen. It is like having a birth defect, but the good news is, you don't have to pass it on to your children. Why would I make my children eligible for being treated like the scum of the earth, not just in foreign airports, but even worse if they should happen to be in their own ancestoral homeland? Libya as a state is now an admitted mass murderer and a coward, so why would I want my children to inherit that brand, let alone being the subjects of a criminal organization? I am done with all that. My children should not ever have to be subjects of any state that cannot be held accountable for crimes against its own citizens, committed in broad daylight and through a period of decades. Why should I compromise my own child's dignity, and what for, a share in the responsibility for crimes against humanity?

    But if being a Libyan means having a Libyan heritage and culture, albeit pleased with some and displeased with the rest, and if it means having a Libyan taste and tasting Libyan, then you and I and our children will always be as Libyan as Bazeen, and definitely more dignified than all of those racist donkeys who created a law to ban people like our daughter from bearing a beautiful name like Tala, so simple and so meaningfully Libyan.

    Listen World: We are talking about 21st century Libya, OK? Not the bloody cultural revolution of last century's China! They have a LAW in Libya against non-Arabic names. There is also a damned "committee" that produces the black list of banned names. One founder of that committee is Ali Fahmi Kshaim, another is a certain Mohamed (I believe) Urayeth, both of them from my home town, Misrata, of all places. These guys represent a totally defeated ideology, fundamentally racist, though packaged in all sorts of "nationalist", "cultural preservationist", "Arabo-Islamist" garbage. This committee bans names for a number of apparent reasons that can all be grouped under the single banner of TOTALITARIANISM. Some of their stated reasons appear to be based on linguistics, like banning names that come in masculine and feminie variants, like Fawzi (masc.) and Fawzia (fem.) I'll be damned if I understand that one, but you can at least say it is non-discriminating in its insanity. But, by far, the most disgusting reason is the one of banning names that are non-Arabic, unless they are considered Islamic non-Arabic names. The name ban covers names of Turkish, Persian, and Western origin, but most of all, names of Berber origin. Now, get this: Tala IS AN ARABIC NAME! Strictly speaking, it does not fall under the letter of the law. But it "sounds" exactly like a Berber name for a girl. So, the donkeys think they must ban it all together, just in case a Libyan family decides to undermine state security by naming their daughter Tala and meaning it in Berber sense while presenting it in an Arabic disguise!

    Do you get this, world? It is sort of like Megan and Meghan, one being common among Catholics and the other among Protestants, and the government bans both. In Arabic the word sounding like "Tala" means a palm tree offshoot, or a transplant. The same-sounding word in Berber means water spring, but when the Berber name is written in Arabic it has a slightly different spelling from the Arabic Tala. Now, the palm tree is nearly holy in Libyan culture, OK? It certainly is for me and I suppose every other Misrati from many generations. And if there ever was a single image representative of life itself in the desert, it would have to be the image of an underground spring and a palm tree.

    Imagine: Libyan culture, largely a historical Berber-Arab mix, is fortunate to have a single sound for two feminine names, two representations of life, two things that also represent the two major ethnic tributaries to the mainstream of Libyan society. What does the Libyan state do? It makes that very name illegal!

    Yesterday, after I'd heard from Hana, I came home from work, and a little 4-year old girl ran up to me, her French braided hair giving way to beaming dimples. I thought for a second, what do I tell her, that she is wrong? No, she is just fine being who she is.

    Again, Hanu, I say to hell with the Libyan state and its stupid laws. We don't need them. There is nothing wrong with the name Tala for any girl, and for Libyan girls in particular, no name could be more representative of the preservation of human dignity against whatever odds. You don't raise a Tala to bury her head in the sand, you raise her to stand tall in the sunlight and reach for the sky.


  7. Maybe you have seeen the PBS Frontline clip on the minders given to foreigners. At least during the resent total eclipse of the sun by the moon. You will probably be asssigned a minder and you won't even know it. Good luck inn your decision on the name thing and on giong there. Anyway, as US citizens can they touch you? Or do they still consider Libyan citizens because you will have Libyan passports? I never got the whole Suliman, Sol thing, but it works for you. Best of luck.

  8. It has been 8 months since a friend of mine heard from the Libyan embassy. He attempted to go through the proper channels to renew his passport. When he called, they told him to find someone, in Libya, who could help speed up the process, otherwise, they can't do much! Where on earth does this happen?

    Myself, a person without a valid Libyan passport, would not even grant them the chance to give me the run-around, let alone change the name of my child. The day when everyone is able to practice such basic rights as renewing their passports, making trips to and from Libya without the faint possibility of interrogation, is the day I send mine to be renewd. Until then, to hell, I don't need them and neither do you nor Tala.

  9. Hanaaaaaaa!!! She is so beautiful that girl.. she has your dimples. Sorry, I just had to make the comment. MashaAllah. :)