First Person: What’s in a name? A lot, learns Yale freshman

Kerri Lu is a freshman in Pierson College, who “hails from the almost-Vancouver suburb of Richmond on the west coast of Canada.” She is currently in the Directed Studies Program, and will be writing occasional pieces for the Yale Daily Bulletin.

College education — or rather, the path to get there — has often been described as a way to truly find one’s self. As high school seniors filling out applications, we defined ourselves, within the context of 500-word essays, our postures at interviews and a list of accomplishments we deemed to be most reflective of who we are.

All that is true for me, but something else happened at the same time: I learned how to say my name again.

In dealing with the many legal documents that are part of the admissions process, I found myself in discussions with my parents, counselors and teachers as to my real name. When I moved to Canada from China at age 8, my Chinese name, “Keyi,” was often mispronounced and misspelled, so I adopted a more English-tongue-friendly version: “Kerri.” “Keyi” then took the honorable place as a middle name, used only at home and with Chinese relatives who were equally as likely to mispronounce my new-found English name.

Throughout the application process, I found myself starting to teach others how to say my Chinese name, and I began to appreciate seeing it take shape on legal documents and in communications with colleges. Seeing “Dear Keyi” soon became something I looked forward to — especially on the notice from the Yale Office of Admissions that told me of my acceptance.

When attending Yale’s Orientation for International Students, the nametag I was given bore my legal name, in all its convolutedly pronounced glory, and I left it that way. In doing so, I started identifying with it once again. I blew off the metaphorical dust, and I realized that I did not live like the Marvel Comics superheroes who have two identities — but rather, that my two names were simply two ways to describe me as a whole person.

In a Directed Studies Section this fall, I learned that in ancient Greece, in the setting of Homeric epics, your name was associated not only with your face and your being, but with your honor and fame — your kleos — after you die. “Your name was everything! To say that you were nameless as a hero, it would be impossible!” exclaimed Professor Angela Capodivacca during the class. I immediately wondered if I would have had double the kleos if I had lived in those times.

Even now, I am still learning how to say my name. In the perpetual friendly handshakes-inducing atmosphere that is Yale’s community, I introduce myself by my English name. But I keep my other name, the other side to my identity, close by, never too far away. The neglected name of years past deserves recognition and identifies me in a way that I have discovered to be most truthful to myself.

What’s in a name? In short — everything.

I dare say that Shakespeare was right. A rose by any other name is just as sweet, but these names, these letters of the alphabet formed to make up our monikers, are the sweetest to us. We associate our personality, our attributes, our journeys with it.

In my search to understand the world better in these next four years at Yale, I know I will find my place within it, and realize my identity — and my names — on this journey to truth.

— By Kerri (Keyi) Lu

“First Person” is an occasional feature showcasing pieces written by Yale community members from their own perspective. If you have an idea for a “First Person” submission, write to the Yale Daily Bulletin editor at ydb@yale.edu.

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