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It's all in the NAME

By Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan

It's all in the name.

Every day of the past 19 years: 10 syllables, 24 letters. My last name alone is five syllables and 14 letters. It's a long time to live with anything, wouldn't you say?

G as in, "God-damn!" A as in, "Are you kidding?" N as in, "No way!" E as in, "Everyone must have a hard time remembering that." S as in, "Seriously?" H as in, "Hell no--I'm calling you by your first name." "Ganesh" is actually the short form of my last name. After the first grade, when I used the short version to make things easier for everyone else--I could handle the whole thing just fine, I figured--I grew angry and thought, "Why should I make things easy for anyone? It's my name and if you can't handle it, that's your problem." I was going all out. As far as my last name was concerned, it was 14 letters or bust.

Even my parents questioned the sudden choice. My brother went all the way through high school "making things easier," despite my arguments. My dad still goes by "Dr. Ganesh." People have suggested various alternatives to me. "Use the first name solo," like Cher, Roseanne or Jackee. I roll my eyes. I don't think I bear any great similarity to any of those people. No, I want to be just like everyone else. First name, last name, middle initial--thank you for coming, thank you for going.

It's been interesting over the years. First grade: People attribute my success with the alphabet to "lots of practice." Second grade: My teacher expresses concern. People wonder if I get less time on tests because I spend so long writing my name. I assure them that my academics have not suffered as a result of my surname. I do, however, learn that if I want my name to fit in the upper right hand corner of a piece of notebook paper, I should start in the middle of the page, not four-fifths over to the right, where everyone else does. Fifth grade: In an unsuccessful bid for school president, I realize that "Vote for Ganeshananthan" isn't exactly, well, pithy. And absolutely nothing rhymes with it. It also makes posters and stickers expensive. I lose. I also begin to realize that when I leave phone messages with people who don't know me, I get the comment "wow" a lot. My mother and I get a similar reaction at the grocery store when she hands over her credit card to pay.

"How do you say that?" the cashier asks politely, eyebrows shooting up.

"Gun-ay-SHAN-an-than."

"Oh." Silence. "I get it. That's long."

Thank you.

Middle school: A bunch of teachers mispronounce my name when I first arrive. They are still mispronouncing it when I leave. "You're missing the second-to-last N," I try to explain to them.

"Are you sure it's phonetic?" they ask.

Yes, I'm sure.

High school: I take the SATs and the APs and similar standardized tests for people with short names. They turn me into "Ganeshananth, Vasug" or variations thereof. Rumor has it that each test-taker gets 200 points for writing his name. Someone asks if I get extra. When I am a sophomore, one of my friends is the editor of the school paper. When stories are a few lines short, she gets her reporters to call me for a quote so they can use my name to take up space. Before graduation, I have to spend extra time with the student announcing my name so she can get it right. I catch her in the bathroom before the ceremony, practicing the fourth and fifth syllables furiously.

College: I comp The Crimson. One of my stories runs in Crimson Magazine. The column isn't wide enough for my name to fit on one line so I become what is believed to be the first person in history to have a hyphenated byline without a hyphenated name. When I look to purchase a Crimson softball jersey, Crimson President Joshua H. Simon '00 tells me he's pretty sure my last name won't fit above my number. No, not even if they make the letters smaller and stretch them across the sleeves.

Ganeshananthan.Ganeshananthan-andonandonandonan donandon, as someone once said. But you know what? It's my name and I like it. I even like that some people think it's a pain and that I'm a pain for making them use it.

And we're not even on the topic of my first name yet. Relentlessly misspelled, mispronounced and misgendered, my first name has been an experience. Example 1: A recent job rejection letter addressed to Mr. Sugi Ganeshananthan. (It's hanging over my bed, the "Mr." circled in red.) Example 2: This past pre-frosh weekend, I went to dinner with three friends from high school. We were at Uno's, and the hostess had an abnormal amount of energy. The restaurant was crowded with a mixture of what looked like prefrosh and frosh. It had been a long day and we were hungry. "Four please," I said.

"Name?" the hostess asked, looking up expectantly. I hesitated for a moment, turning back to my friends, tired and not in the mood to be called "Susie." The male among us just laughed, but one of the two women came to my rescue. "Emily," she said, stepping up.

The hostess handed her a timer with a name on it, telling us it would be about 15 minutes. We sat down and Emily shook the timer. Then she laughed. It said, "Elimy." You see my point.

But strangely, my name crops up where you would never expect to find it. Granted, I never find a Sugi mug or keychain or for that matter, a Sugi anything in the card store aisle with all the name merchandise. (There are about a zillion variations of the name Alissa, though. Alisa, Alysa, Alyssa, etc.) But there's a restaurant near Fort Lee, N.J. with my name. I've never actually been there myself, but a friend handed me an advertising card. "Fine Japanese Cuisine...Sugi features Six Tatami Rooms accommodating up to 20 people." What? There are at least 100 Sugi's on America Online. Sugi.net is a Web site. I hope to buy sugi.org upon graduation. Or maybe ganeshananthan.com. I'm torn. I'm pretty sure no one would ever make it to ganeshananthan.com because they'd forget that pesky second-to-last "n."

So what, in the end, do I think of my name? What should I do when I get married, for example? Keep Ganeshananthan? Change? What if I marry someone with a really long last name? Oooh, I could hyphenate. The excitement!

No, I don't think so. I like my name the way it is. Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan is a freshman in Holworthy. Have we spelled it right? The key is copy-and-paste.

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