Who Am I?

Summer 2017.

I was in the hospital visiting my best cousin of all times, who had just given birth to a beautiful little boy called Riley.

Riley was sleeping. And we, my cousin and I, were chatting.

“Riley sounds to be a pretty name! Is there any special meaning lying behind?”, I curiously asked Jane, the cousin.

“Nah not really, we [Jane and her husband Kym] looked up online for baby boys’ names and Riley came to us as the first result,…”, Jane laughed.

I laughed along. Naming can be just that quick and easy. I remembered asking my parents about the meaning of my name, and they told me a whole story (well, a secret as they called) behind it. Vietnamese parents see naming a child as a complex process. You want the name to sound beautiful. And also has specific meanings. Usually, the names are chosen based on how parents want their children to be like when they grow up.


For a long time after coming to Australia, anyone hardly calls my real name. Not only because it’s hard to pronounce, but is also a bit of a challenge to remember.


NHI. That’s my Vietnamese name.


At the age of eight, with all of a kid’s curiosity about herself and the world around, I asked my parents about the meaning of my name.


Minh Thao Nhi Nguyen, such a long name!”, I complained.

“Every word has its own meaning, darling!”, Dad smiled at me. “Well, except your last name, which named after mine, the other names are kind of an artwork.”, he laughed loudly.


Minh” means bright. My parents want me to grow up being a smart girl not only in my academic career but also in every decision I make in life.

Thao” means filial to the beloveds, loving and caring. Thao carries the hope that I would become someone who is either respectful to her parents or nice and sweet to everyone she meets along her growing – up – journey.

And “Nhi” means as a girl, I am believed to be pretty, gentle and tender.


“Your mom’s name, Nguyet, can be understood as the moon in literal meaning. Mine means the mountain. And you came to us, added another detail to our family picture. “Thao Nhi” also means “a small but beautiful meadow“. As a family, we’re harmonising and can get really well together.”, Dad explained.


At this point, I fell so in love with that name.


Mountain Moon Evening Nature Beautiful Sky Background With Sun

Image: Google 

At the BCM313 seminar last Friday, we were asked to introduce ourselves. And I chose “Nini” as a preferred name. This is not because I don’t love my real name anymore, but Nhi is actually a pain for my foreign friends to pronounce. I believe it’s not what name that people use to call you, but your personality and the ways you make others feel that matter.

Stepping into the real workplace environment also means you’re on the way of creating, building and advertising your own brand. How do you appear in the employees’ and colleagues’ eyes when they mention your name? Is the self you’re popularising at work the same self to yours in daily life? Does it need to be different from one another?

The first BCM313 class has provoked lots of thinking in me. This when I started to seriously think about how I am branding myself, whether the current image is what I really am and how to manage my brand effectively. 

The very first idea, although still being vague, about how to build up a story of a character behind that name you introduce to people has come to mind when I asked a family member, a close friend and a co-worker of how they think about me. When I mention my name, either it’s Nhi or Nini, what will people think of? This is like a reflective exercise. Sometimes you’re not aware of how you’re portraying yourself, until one points it out in front of you. And from this very first task, I have really started to explore myself more and more. Understanding your true self to fix the weaknesses and develop the strengths, this skill is becoming so important. Knowing yourself can build up confidence and maximise one’s potential. And there’s no better way to master this knowledge than storytelling and reflecting your experiences in life.


Everything happens for a reason. There will be always lessons learnt or message received behind each personal story. And the journey of telling stories and building up myself has just begun.


Nhi, or Nini?

Who I am choosing to be?

10 thoughts on “Who Am I?”

  1. My real name is Katherine. I know the story of why: my dad was convinced I’d be a boy, and was only prepared for that. So I was due to be called Phillip. My mum didn’t challenge this but quietly prepared a girl’s name. I love this story because it tells me something important about their relationship. I also only know this story because my mum told it, and I’ve often wondered what story he would have told.

    As soon as I was born, my dad called me Katy, and I lived as Katy when I was little. But when my dad died, my mum again made a quiet switch, and I became (and stayed) Kate. It’s my professional name too.

    I’m often caught out by Katherine, which is my passport name and my hospital name. I think of it as my in-trouble name, and sometimes I don’t remember to respond to it at all.

    I love this post, it has triggered me into thinking a whole lot of stuff about how family shapes identity.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The family story goes something like this. My mother had a passion for Victoria plums when she was pregnant with me – so the intended girl’s name was Victoria – or Sarah after my father’s mother who died when he was only 17. But then something strange happened and I became Susan. Always. The moment I left home to go to university I rebirthed myself as Sue. That was the name I gave myself. My brand.
    Thank you for this illuminating and lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My dad chose my name. It was inspired by a song by Chris Rea. He told my mum when they first started dating that if he ever had a daughter, he would name her Giverny. My mum liked the name Cassandra, thinking this would be much easier to live with. But I was an emergency caesarean, and my mum woke up from the operation to find Giverny already written on the birthing board. The doctor overseeing my birth tried to convince my parents to change it. They didn’t. At first my nonna couldn’t pronounce Giverny, so she said she would call me Jennifer instead.

    I love listening to family stories about names. I have a family member who changed her name. This has always puzzled me because I think we are given our names for a reason, and we should respect our parents’ choice.

    I believe that people grow into their names. I cannot see myself as a Cassandra; Giverny is who I am. I love how my family and friends have appropriated my name in their own ways: Giv, Givy, Giz. My nonno gave my name an Italian spin: Givernella. I adored this. For my 21st birthday my nan framed the lyrics to the song my name came from. It’s hanging on my wall. Names are such an important part of who we are, and telling these stories allows us to share a little of ourselves with others. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think we might have involved in some kind of similar situation. As you said, choosing a name is likely to be naming a brand, and it depends on what you’re going to do to build that brand.

    For me though, my Viet name is Tri but I chose Jay as my preferred name, or so called my career or professional name. I used the name Jay to comunicate with people at work or even my daily life. The thing is people will find no difference between Jay or Tri, because no matter in which situation that they find me I’m going to treat them the same, and, this is how I built my brand.

    The tip is just be yourself, same personality, same characteristics, and if people are interested enough they would try to get to know you better (You know what, this’s the stage where my foreign friends find ‘Tri’ from the cover of ‘Jay’). So, why confusing yourself choosing the name that represents your personality.

    Hope this would help!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Would it be OK if I went a different route, and told the story of how we named my daughter? Her name is Hoda, which means something like “divine guidance” and is mentioned a lot in the Quran. As a child, there were two names I loved to use when playing with my friends: Nadia and Hoda. One of my close cousins also liked Nadia, so I used Hoda more often. As a kid, I did not think much of what that name meant. When I was pregnant, my husband didn’t want to know if we were having a boy or girl or to discuss names too much… but we had a general space within which to choose a name. I wanted a name that had meaning in Arabic and did not just sound nice, but that was also pronouncible in different languages, and not common (as in, not everyone was naming their kids that name right now – in Egypt, there are entire generations of girls called Laila, Jana and Mariam – as in, 8/10 girls born on a particular day would all be Laila for example. It’s kinda nuts). My husband’s main stipulation was that it not be a “weird” name that no one would recognize at all. In the end, the day she was born, my husband said “you name her” (I still remember the way he said it, with so much love) and I gave him two options and he chose Hoda. It was also really weird, because when I came out of the delivery room, my mother in law asked “Hoda?” because, for some reason, out of our shortlist of names, this was the one she remembered. Hoda is basically a name that many people my age and older have, but is very rare for my daughter’s generation. Many of my close friends are called Hoda, and people tend to think my kid was named after her grandmother (she isn’t) or someone else (she isn’t). But coincidentally, everyone I know named Hoda is someone I really love… so it kinda helps. It’s really funny, because now my boss (who also was my co-teacher after my kid was born, but whom I knew beforehand) is called Hoda and she has this special affinity to my child because she is her namesake…but I did not know at the time I named my kid 🙂

    One of the funny things we intentionally did was to NOT seek a name that was known in other languages – some Egyptians do this in case they end up living abroad, so they name their kids things like Adam, Nora, Jasmin, names that work in Arabic and English. But Hoda is not one of those names… but coincidentally, there is currently a US celebrity called Hoda Kotb on TV, so it is not an unknown name in the US anymore…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. With a name like Adelaide, I quite often get asked why my I was called Adelaide. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive reason like a fruit or a song! It’s a running joke in my family that they got to the ‘A’ section of the baby name book and then gave up. It’s also a running joke that I was conceived there, but I’d rather not think about that point!

    My dad wanted to call me Sequoia (which I actually kind of love!) but didn’t want to torture me with having to spell my name everytime someone asked! I was then going to be called Ebony but when I came out with red hair, that didn’t quite work, so they settled on Adelaide!

    My sister’s name is Elizabeth and my brother’s name is Isaac. They’re quite old school names. I believe there was a Queen Adelaide of Germany at one point and obviously, Elizabeth is the Queen of England so we like to think we’re queens!

    I absolutely love my name and have never really chosen a nickname like Addy because it’s just not who I am!

    Thank you for sharing this lovely piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Being of Italian descent, my father chose my name and my mother had no say. He was the eldest male born of a family of 10 siblings and followed the traditional custom of naming his children after his parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. My brother was named after my grandfather, my sister named after my grandmother. My name is after my great grandfather who was called Paolo, but as I am a girl, he named me Paola. My father’s male siblings followed this tradition too and there are several of us cousins sharing similar names.

    When I started school, it was expected that migrants would assimilate and so, I was called Paula (even though I always spelt my name Paola). Throughout my schooling years, I was always known as Paula, even by my first cousins and other family members. It was only when I started working at the university, that colleagues embraced my name and called me Paola. In a way, I have two identities, those who know me as ‘Paula’ and those who know me as ‘Paola’. I don’t mind be called Paula but really appreciate it when I hear people call me Paola and try to pronounce it. I love my name, it has a round, warm tone to it and I guess this is how I want to be represented.

    Thank you for so much for sharing your lovely story, it has made stop and think about how lucky I am to be named after a great grandfather!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I would like to show my deep respect and thankfulness to those who have shared the stories of their names and also their children’s names. Words cannot describe how touched I am reading those comments and stories! I’ve been inspired!!! Every name is a beautiful gift, next time when we have a chance, let’s show each other how to pronounce our names correctly 😉


  9. My first name is 慧 (hui)旻 (min), and 安 (An) is my family name.

    I was born in China, for those who are interested in Chinese history and culture, you can easily tell (by looking at my family name) that I don’t belong to the majority of Han ethnicity group.

    My paternal grandmother was the descendant of the Genghis Khan, and my paternal grandfather was the descendant of Angiya Hala group, one of the Eight Banners were administrative/military divisions under the Qing dynasty. Like my ancestors, I love blue sky and always want to explore the unknown world.

    My parents believe I am the hope, the light, and the future, they gave their best blessing to me by naming me: 慧 (hui) – wisdom, and 旻 (min) – the most knowledgeable person under the sun.

    Liked by 1 person

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