Is my momma a physic? A free spirit who spins in the wind and says with ease….”the ancestors say go that way.” I often wonder because she had the magic power of knowing what I wanted to say before I even said it…the powerful eye who read my mind before I acted up…and even the power of shutting down any temper tantrum in the three seconds by saying, “I can give you something to cry about…”
Maybe my momma is magic and my father handed her the wand. Gathered all the spices and herbs to create the potions that helped shaped the moments in my childhood. Because, when I look at their concoction of my name…I have to wonder how, in the midst of 1977, in bell bottoms and afro sheen, how did my parents know that I would one day reside in an Arabic world?
See….my name is magically, beautiful and unique…and for the sake of this blog will go ahead and say it and spell it out for you.
Yep….its simple. Say it how it looks. Jes. Ka. My folks even threw an accent in it to help yall out.
Yet, I am called Jessica. In America. People look at my name and call me Jessica. Or Jesika. Or Jessahkay. Or Jes…….uhm, whew….uh?
And my name brings jokes like, Jes…..Cause. Jes Because….right? I been called J Dubb. Jes a Girl. Just every variation of Jes’ka but my actual name…..sigh.
And after some years….you pick your battles. I absolutely HATE the name Jessica….That is not my name. That is the one mistake I don’t condone. At all….it seeths in my soul. So, I refuse for that to happen…but i do allow a nickname or two. So, I created a trick. When i go to trainings or meetings….or meet someone by chance…I started introducing myself as Jessi.
“You can call me Jessi”.
Yes a compromise…..because I won’t know you for long….you can forget it and for the 24 hours of life we know of each other…I don’t have to fight you on the pronunciation of my name. I don’t have to explain the story. I don’t have to go the questions of why my parents did it, where I was born, does it have special meaning, sounding it out with persons, writing it out…and all the first five minutes of an introduction that is my life meeting any new person…a life that started at age three.
“I’m sorry…that is not my name..you are saying Jessica…my name is Jes’ka. Yes. Jes’ka…two syllables. My momma did it. Yes. On purpose. Just two. It’s spelled J…E…S…accent…K…A. Yes, an accent. No its not Spanish…the accent. Yeah, you know it as an apostrophe. There we go…yes. Say it again…yes…it rolls right of your tongue. Ha Ha…i see, you said Jes Cause…because…yes I get the joke. Ha…Ha.”
So moving out here….I honestly called my homegirl and was stressed out. What I am going to do with my name? Now I am going to have to explain this pronunciation and this uniqueness in a second language. See at my school out here, teachers are called by their first names. I guess it is the sharing of so many family names which our last names…it is much easier to distinguish people by their first name.
What would I be called? Ms. Jay? Ms. Jes’ka? Ms. Jai? Ms. Jessi? Ms. Jesi? I finally decided on Jesi. (Yes…its Jessi…but I wanted to respect the one S in my name…yes I know it doesn’t make sense but it makes sense to me)
So Ms. Jesi it is….Hello, Ms. Jesi. Welcome Ms. Jesi….Do you like it here Ms. Jesi? Yes….I can easily be Ms. Jesi.
However one day….I was sitting the office and the HR person came to tell me about some visa requirements…I sat there and listened…signed my paperwork and then she smiled at me and said, “Okay Ms. Jes’ka….I will be back.”
Wait a minute…..Whoa!
Did you say….Jes. Ka. And there was not a big cultural misunderstanding? Hmmmmm. Really?
Well it turns out that in the Arabic language…there are a lot of hard syllables. And interesting enough…majority of names stress emphasis on the first syllable and not the last.
For example Malik. Americans…we say Mah LEK. Arabic is MAL ik. It seems like two different names…but it is the same and even same spelling…its the emphasis and the phonics. We have Ra SHEED….they have RAH shid. Ja MAL ….verses JAM al.
Soooooo…..my name is JES ka. And when it goes together….Jes’ka.
My name is Arabic…well phonetically at least and my name has found a tongue it can rest on and do the wop…..
So the world can say my name, say my name and I don’t have to explain it in crazy details. No more attitude. Gestures or confusion. I can just say my name and let it be.
And that my people….feels so good.