Listen
On Now : Saturday Review
Grayson Perry, Brad Pitt in Fury, Dance Umbrella: Harlem Dream, Per Petterson I Refuse, The Missing
BBC Radio 4

What's in a Name?

Listen in pop-out player

Impiaz - yes. Oisin - yes. Musa - yes. Ayisat - yes. Araya - yes. Tianna - yes. Taking the register at the start of the school day at one London primary school says much about names in 21st century Britain.

As a child growing up in 1980s Britain, journalist Sangita Myska desperately wanted a name her white English friends could pronounce. She says getting someone to pronounce her name was like sending it through a verbal mincer: Sanjeeta, Fangita, Sageeta, Sangria. As she tries to book a table in a restaurant, we hear just what this feels like when you have a "foreign" sounding name.

Years of garbled pronunciations and awkward corrections later, she now believes those challenges have helped her forge her sense of identity.

Sangita talks to other people whose names have had a huge effect on their lives and work. Over honey cake with Rabbi Lionel Blue, he tells Sangita "I'd much rather be called Pete. I don't feel like being labelled. I'd like to be something like Pete Brown or Pete Smith or Pete Jones or something like that. It would mean I'd finally graduated into English life".

She meets poet Musa Okwonga, who describes how his surname led to his family being expelled from Uganda under Idi Amin's regime....and later influenced many of his career choices. He wanted to study English at university. But in the jobs market he thought he'd get nowhere with a name like his. So he did law at Oxford.

Shahid Iqbal and Richard Brown (one and the same person) explains why he has both names. One for his personal life - and one for business. "People would cancel contracts when they heard my name".

Producer: Adele Armstrong
Original music by Giles Hayter.

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Fri 9 Nov 2012 11:00
Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss