Log in

Solving the Problem of My Turkish-American Name

By Eren Orbey - The New Yorker - Translated into English, my mother’s name means “joy”; my late father’s, “handsome”; my sister’s, “mystery.” In my family’s native Turkish, the name chosen for me, Erin, means absolutely nothing. My parents, chemical engineers who immigrated to the United States, mistook it as a boy’s entry in a book of baby names. They thought that they had discovered an appealingly Americanized version of Eren, a traditional Turkish name that means “saint.” But like many ill-fated hybrids designed for dual objectives—the spork, say, or two-in-one shampoo-conditioner—my birth name failed to perfect either; most Bostonians assumed that it belonged to an Irish girl. So, to amend this misunderstanding before the bullies abused it, my father rechristened me, unofficially, with the first name of his favorite composer, Aaron Copland. “Personally, I have always preferred Tchaikovsky,” my mother told me not long ago. “But we were not going to call you Pyotr Ilyich.”

Subscribe to this RSS feed