Despite my lack of personal experience, I am assured that the hardest part of pregnancy is not the physical pains of labor, but rather the mentally demanding process of name selection. Parents must rely on the scant facts available: gender, height, weight, and eye and hair color. As if derived from the Bokanovsky process, the infant is like countless others, without any discernible identity. Yet, my parents, like a myriad of others, adhered to the arbitrary art of baby naming, identifying a connection that did not exist.
Whether by intuition or luck, my mother decided against naming me after the renowned Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini. The sing-song quality of the name suggests some musical virtuosity on the part of its bearer, and while I do appreciate the beauty of music, I would have tarnished the legacy of the name. Besides, what would my nickname have been? “Giac” could be easily confused with its false English cognate (jock), and although I do enjoy winter sports, the connection is unbefitting. “Como,” Spanish for “how,” would be no better, as I would not want to be addressed as an interrogative – a word that represents uncertainty and confusion. Giacomo, quite obviously, would have been a bad fit.
But how did my parents know that? How did they know that the blue-eyed 6-pound 3-ounce noise box was instead a Jacob? They did not. Perhaps by tapping into the era’s zeitgeist (i.e. by reading Newsweek’s top 100 baby names), they were attracted to Jacob’s mass popularity, hoping for a “normal” child (which they indeed did not get). Or perhaps they hoped for a son with a strong connection with his Jewish heritage (yet another unrealized wish). Despite my incomprehensible, infantile cries of protest, it seemed that I had entered a life of nominal misidentification.
Years passed, and the need to discover a more suitable name became the secondary purpose of my adolescent life, right after the removal of my palette expander. With the gift of retrospection, I commenced my searches, gradually finding the most essential pieces of myself. Out of these distinct yet interrelated parts, my true name was born. I became Jacobo: the toddler who watches Mexican soap operas out of aural appreciation of the language; the child who owns no CDs but only salsa mix-tapes; the teenager who capriciously switches to rapid Spanish, even when the intended listener understands nothing beyond the doubly emphasized “Sí, sí.” Out of passion’s powerful paste, my eccentricities begot not some typical freak, but a quasi-bilingual one.
The Twenty Years’ War had ended. Jacob, my false exterior, became meaningless, because I lived freely and richly underneath. The Spanish language became a part of me, just like my fingers typing these very words. But Spanish is more than a network of exotic words and sounds; it is the unspoken knowledge – the gradual process of understanding others and myself – that gives the language its true value. And though I still have much to learn, there is one thing of which I am certain:
Me llamo Jacobo.
Article name: Jacobo essay, research paper, dissertation