Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Name recognition

My last name also happens to be the name of a city in Iran. While my family's genealogical knowledge only goes back as far as Eastern European shetls, it seems reasonable that some time long ago, an ancestor emigrated from Iran and kept the name of this city.

Yesterday, I visited the library to see whether they could scan in a big pile of xeroxes to my online course reserve. The man in charge -- 50's, glasses, short gray hair -- walked down the stairs to the reserve area and politely introduced himself. As I was filling out the appropriate form, he looked over my shoulder and saw my name.

"Where are you from?" he asked. I gave him the story above, and the atmosphere changed instantly. "I'm from Iran!" he said, and re-introduced himself, this time beaming. "You should visit [that city] some time. But don't get kidnapped. Bandits come from Pakistan and kidnap people for money."

I assured him that, while I wished to visit, it wouldn't happen any time soon.

[This has happened to me a couple of times before; whenever someone realizes that someone who doesn't look Iranian has this tenuous connection to Iran, they get much, much happier to talk to me.]


luckybuzz said...

I once got an apartment--despite my horrendous credit--because the Iranian realtor recognized my name as Iranian and "personally vouched" for my credit with the landlords.

I'm just saying, I can relate. And it can work in your favor regardless of your actual ethnicity. :)

Phantom Scribbler said...

One of my family names is a rare Iranian variation on a common Jewish name. I broke some poor genealogical researcher's heart when I had to admit to him that we were not the real deal -- an immigration judge changed it to the Iranian variation from the more common shtetl version, for no particular reason except that the one we came in on was "too common."

kermitthefrog said...

LB - boy, did it work in my favor -- all the material to be scanned was up today!

Phantom - LOL at your erstwhile ommonality. :)