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What’s your name?

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What’s in a name?

 

Is a famous line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that gives us various interpretation about identity. It gives me thoughts as I was first being asked of the meaning of my Indonesian name about 5 years ago on my first sojourn in Osaka, Japan. This article is focusing mainly on the background culture of the interpretation of my name.

In his book, A Memento of The Three Chronicles of Indonesia (“Kenang-Kenangan dari Tiga Zaman” page 7), as a turning-out teenager born in a Javanese noble family in around 1890s, Margono told a story of his childhood struggle under the influence of classical Java figures such as “Kongso Adu Jago”, “Anoman Duta” instead of David Copperfield or Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens or Remy of Sans Farmille by H. Mallot. Margono’s full name is Margono Djojohadikusumo. Margono was born in an aristocrate family of highly honored among the other Javanese commoners. He possessed an honorable last name, Djojohadikusumo, typical name of nobleman in Java. The higher the position the longer the name.

In contrast, commoners only had one name that is generally initiated with “Su” which means good, for example Sukarno or Suharto. The least of people in old-fashioned Java gave their children simple name based on their birthday according to the Javanese traditional calendar which are not 7 days but only 5 days in a week; Legi, Paing, Pon, Wage, Kliwon which shows the strong influence of Hindu-Buddism. For example, Poniman, Ponimin, Legiman, Paiman, Wagiman (boy), Ponijah, Waginem, Poniti (girl), etc. This divisions are so innately dwelling in Javanese people as it closely related to the existence of traditional markets. Unfortunately, the concept of market is replaced by capitalism generation with its exagerrating advertisement of modernisation that has declined the traditional values and lifestyle as well as naming. As nowadays childrens’ name are ‘modernized’ they no longer carries meaning to the owner.

I was growing up as teenager in 1980s  and accustomed to the story of “Mahabarata” and “Ramayana” that showed the strong influence of Hinduism in Indonesia, particularly Java and proved the existence of Hindu Kingdom in the ancient times. Even though nowadays the story has faded away in today Indonesian children worlds and replaced with Donald Ducks, Naruto, One Piece, Pokemon, Digimon, and else I sensed somehow the story of Mahabarata and Ramayana are still lingering in my thought. The story of a heroic figure that has a strong character of nobleman, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sadewa.

Amazingly name can mark the era like fashion style. Given my step-grandmother’s name, she had been called by Poniti. That was her naturalized (localized) name, and she was born around 1930s. My mother’s name is Tartie Priandari is one of common names in her period as she was born in 1952. I was born in 1977 and my name is Lya Dewi Anggraini. Both my mom and I have no meaning for our names as we are commoners. My cousin’s name is Dewi, and she was born in 1979 in Yogyakarta Province whereas I was born in East Java Province. Three popular singer’s name is initiated with Dewi (Dewi Persik born in 1980s, Dewi Sandra born in 1977, and Dewi born in 1976) and a popular actress’ name is Sandra Dewi born in 1980s.

Literally Dewi means goddess or princess in ancient story of Javanese. One story that still vividly lingers in my mind is a story of a young lady who is responsible for the harvest of rice, she is a representative of the god of fertility, again the influence of Hinduism.

Children who were born in neewer generations are usually longer and sometimes imitate the famous figures or include foreign names. For example, Michael something, or Maria something, or even local names where the child was born, such as Akira something of lending Japanese words. Yet, of those long name, no particular meaning and no family name is necessary. Each name is treated individually, does not necesarrily show family relation or race or clan. In fact, name has changed its meaning drastically following the globalization and information world. Name is simply a brand for a person that though still carry the wish from the parents, name is simply to show off some character in the word based on parents’ interpretation.

So, what’s your name?

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