You Taught Me How to Say My Name

Written by Nadine Araksi/Նատին Արաքսի

25 March 2024

“Teach it to me,” you insisted.
Shyly, I pronounced it in English, “Nuh-DEEN Ah-ROXY Dis-lee-OG-loo.”
“No, teach it to me the way your parents named you.”

So I spoke it softly, uncomfortably,
Like being back in elementary school and asked my name
—only to have it butchered in the mouth of another.

I don’t hate them.
Their ears were untrained
for the beauty of rolling Rs and hard Ks,
for the gentle hill of the “oğlu” that we got from the Turks,
for a 38-letter alphabet —31 consonants and 7 vowels
that landed like God’s whisper in Mesrop Mashtots’s dream.

(But the shame of being different.
The gaping-wanting to be like the others
is hard to release, even years later.)

Determined, you rehearsed and repeated,
calling me by all three of my given names
until they flowed like molasses into tahini.
Sticky, sweet, swirling,
you whispered, hot, searing,
“I love you, Նատին Արաքսի Տիշլիօղլու.”

I remembered my own name —its power.
I returned my pretty white surname through marriage,
grateful for the doors it had opened, ready to own who I am.

Now I make them say it;
correct them when they get it wrong.
I patiently explain that the KS sounds like an X
And I would have liked an X,
but there’s no X in the Armenian alphabet.

“I love you, Նատին Արաքսի Տիշլիօղլու,”
you repeat, as though etching it in a khatchkar,
until I echo it loudly in my heart.