Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday Night Stories: Allen Iverson

How do you feel about your name?

Would you change it if you had the chance?

What would you pick?

How would you pick it?

These are good questions to ask. Most Americans only ask them during 9th grade Spanish class, where there are two steadfast rules: the girl who pick the name Margarita will inevitably be joining a sorority later in life and one guy will pick Mercedes only to be informed it’s a girl’s name. He will be mocked incessantly for at least a week or more likely until the end of the semester.

While Americans rarely think about this question, this is not so for my friends in East Asia. There, picking an English name is a major decision, and thankfully it can be changed, because some people pick a video game character in 4th grade and Jigglypuff Zhao just won’t fly on that Harvard Business School application 13 years later.

After a few weeks though nothing really surprises you, especially when you are meeting the sheer number of people I was meeting in a given week. But some cases stand out. Some English names are exceptional.

While I was overseas, a group of folks from Madison came for a week and my friend Mike came along with me a few days at our campus. I made plans for us to have lunch with a couple students and it was in a crowded, third floor cafeteria that we met him.

We met:



Or maybe it was Alleniverson, I’m still not entirely sure.

The NBA is by far and away the most popular sport there, so the basketball inspired English name wasn't uncommon, but this was new. I never had (and never did again) meet someone who incorporated both a first and last name into their English name.

He wasn’t Allen. He wasn’t Iverson. He was Allen Iverson (in the photo A.I. is on the far left). And he was a good guy, at one point in our conversation, Mike wanted to ask him a question, but was unsure how to address him, so he asked, “So, Allen Iverson, do . . . can I call you Allen? . . . or . . ."

It wasn’t awkward. There’s no such thing as awkwardness in that culture (which is AWESOME by the way).

I know this though, my encounters with the Alleniversons, Sprites, and Gameboys of the world, has only enhanced the chances of one of my long-held dreams to become reality, to one day have a son with the middle name Toaster*.

*That's a real dream. No joke.