May 24, 2024
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May 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Poor Idina Menzel, John Travolta mispronounced her name at the Oscars last week. My heart just breaks for the beautiful and talented singer who was married to Taye Diggs. Boo freakin’ hoo. By the time you read this, I am hoping that all of the tabloid fodder about that is over. Idina will be back to rehearsing for her Broadway show and she still would have been married to Taye Diggs. And I will still be stuck with a weird name. No Oscar performance. No Broadway show. Just 43 years with an unusual, unique, weird name.

It is not easy growing up with an unusual name. Perhaps if I had been a wallflower, a girl with a meek personality and quiet way about her, my name would not be an issue because no one would know who I was. Unfortunately, that has never been the case. Big mouth, big hips, weird name, and that is the way it has always been.

“Is that your real name?” “Is that a nickname?” “Is Banji short for something?” “Are you named after someone?” “No, really, what is your given name, the one on your birth certificate?”

People, why, oh why, would I make up the name Banji on my own?

In the olden days, when there were pay phones, making a collect call was always quite the challenge. The operator could never get it right. Ever. Eventually, I just gave up giving my actual name and I became Chris Everett or Pat Benatar. My bank statements were addressed to Banjo Danjo. When I was interviewed on television after my neighbor’s house blew up, even though they took the spelling of my name, they still called me Anjie Banjie.

Every year, on the first day of school, the teacher would start calling out names for attendance and right before mine gave the “if I mispronounce anyone’s name, please forgive me” speech. And then, Banji was butchered (the name, not me, unless butchered is code for sent to the principal’s office, but those stories are for another time.)

Many of you out there think you have it rough because you have a Hebrew name like Yael or Chava. I have no sympathy for you because there are others out there who have those names. I have never met a Banji. I am assuming there are Banjis in India because whenever a telemarketer calls, they ask if I speak Hindu. The closest I have ever come to a Banji is the lovely Asian gentleman who works at the Swatch store. His name was Kanji and he thought it was so cool that we almost had the same name. Almost, Kanji, but not quite. And, you are a guy. And, you are Asian.

Where does the name come from? Well, my mom wanted to name me Bambi and my dad said that if my first name was Bambi, my middle name would be Dumbo. As is being the middle child wasn’t going to be psychologically damaging enough, I was going to be named after two Disney characters. (And with the name Bambi I might have grown up to be a woman of ill-repute.) So I was named Banji Dawn, after my great-grandfather Benjamin and a distant cousin named Daniel.

I was named after two men. “Did your parents want a boy?” I have been asked. According to my mom, she wanted to have a girl so my sister would have a sister. She has stuck to this story after all these years and even though the boy in my family is the favorite, she still stands by her story.

My children were not going have unusual names. They were going to have names that could be found on mugs, key chains, and those little license plates you could put on your bicycle. They were going to have names that people could spell AND pronounce. Their uniqueness would just have to come from their personalities, not their names. And I am proud to say that 95% of the time, that is the case.

So if you are a parent-to-be and you are thinking of giving your child a name that no one else has, think again. You never know how that is going to turn out.

Banji Latkin Ganchrow is a Teaneck resident and writer who enjoys traveling across the country by car with her husband and three sons. She is also the author of the blog holycrapimgonnabe40 and hopes to, one day, write a best-selling novel and appear on the Ellen Show.

By Banji Latkin Ganchrow

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