My Less-than-poetic Name

I don’t remember when was the first time someone pointed out that my name sounded funny. That is to say, many times when I mentioned my full name (first, middle and surname) it would draw a smile on someone’s face, and sometimes they would repeat it as if to feel how it articulates. “3ola 3ali 3laiwat”. I would laugh too and joke about it, but as time passed, instead of growing used to it, I found the sound of it more ridiculous everyday.

Many times I’ve tried to conceal that “dull” sound pattern, no matter how pointless that might have been. Sometimes I would unnecessarily mention my granfather’s name, Ahmad, to break the sequence of the “ʡl”. Sometimes when I’m asked about my name I would cut it short to my first name, and wait to see if I’m asked for the rest.

Probably it wasn’t before my sophomore year when I saw the rhythm in it. One novel lecture as the professor read the name roll, she stopped suddenly to say: “Who is 3ola 3ali 3laiwat?” And I was like: “Hmmmm, it’s me, so…?” And there she set the record straight for me. She looked at me and said in her own reflective way:

– “Do you know that your name is poetic?”

– “Yeah right!”

– No, really! It has something called alliteration in poetry

Now, I have studied alliteration before but it never occurred to me, as far as I can remember, that the odd sound pattern in my name actually an example of that poetic technique. Perhaps this made me admire Dr. Hanan Ibrahim who pointed that out more and more. And although later on that semester she kicked me out of class, I still consider her one of my favorite professors.

Away from poetry and alliteration, there’s another problem with my name, my family name to be precise, that not only I suffer from, but the descendants of the Eliwat family tree in general.

Some people seem to find the name hard or perplexing or whatsoever. The point is, whatever the reason was behind this, some people seem to find names like: 3elwan, 3laiwan or even 3laiwy more practical. It’s pretty funny actually, and the recurring incidents provide good joking material between family members. One of my cousins even created a group on Facebook for the family in which she made a point of stressing this problem…

Case in point, and the first spark that triggered all this is this wedding invitation we received yesterday. Maybe we should give up…

Originally Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2007 on


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