Brett. Not the most common name but prolific enough that I’ve met a few personally. Ironically though it means “man from Britain” although not many Brits are named Brett. Now Pituka, that’s a different one. As far as I know my family is the only Pitukas in the Edmonton phone book although there are probably a few in Poland where the name originated. Rightly enough I got teased about my name when I was a child, things like “Pituka Bazooka” or “Pitooks” and the most recent “kooky Pituky” but that was nothing compared to what I was to face once I started traveling.
I made my way through Guatemala introducing my self as Brett but received many funny looks which told me that people there had never heard of such a medley of consonants amongst the Pedros, Miguels, and Juans. It was when I began volunteering in Nicaragua and received my first response of “bread…like what you eat!?” that I knew something had to change. I couldn’t walk into schools and villages and introduce myself as an edible delight and expect to be taken seriously. I know if someone came to my class when I was 10 and told me their name was soup or pancake that I would laugh and start making fun of them with my friends. I though of an ingenuous plan – take on a Latin name – and the first one that came to my mind was Hernandez. So just like that I was to be known as Hernandez. Little did I know this would cause more eruption of laughter as not many caucasian foreigners (Gringos) who could barely speak Spanish were known solely by a Latin surname. On hindsight I could have chosen a better name so when I went to South America I thought I would overcome the comedy show and call myself Fernando. I was wrong. “Fernando, but that’s a Latino name…ha ha ha…Fernando…” was what I received every time I introduce myself. Fortunately this worked as a great ice breaker which helped me to make friends quickly. At this point I thought I was pretty clever and was happy being in on the joke but when I was asked of my surname I was laughed at instead of with. In the Peruvian amazon Pituka refers to a semi-arrogant suave man who is well dressed and knows it. Calls of “oooh que pituka” or “ooh la la how pituka” as people arranged an invisible bow tie or fixed non existent cuff links was the normal response. The funniest thing was seeing the depiction of ‘a pituka’ on a local soap opera which was paired with an equally cringe worthy music video whose song haunted me months. Even though this was truly hilarious I laughed even harder when in Ecuador I was told Pituka meant “a funny looking potato”. Don’t ask me how a Polish surname became a colloquial term for a root vegetable, or why they even have a slang for an odd spud, but there I was in the thick of it once again the centre of attention. Fernando Pituka, the quasi latin ultra fashionable yet silly looking tattie…Yup that’s me.
Now I’m in India and once again the hard sounding ‘r’ is novel to the native speaker’s ears so I find myself in the same position. Just the other day I was engaged in a great conversation with a young Hindu boy who responded to my introduction with “bread…like the food”? I explained to him my recurrent problem and through his laugher he suggested a better, Indian sounding name: Barfi. He explained the name as an Indian sweet name which everyone would know. I felt honored to be anointed with a new identity, especially since it was from a local rather than simply something I thought sounded good. I went to bed happy that my plight may not haunt me in this new country and was excited to tell my other Indian friends of the name. Well, the laughter continued. I was soon told that “Barfi” is the name of a local candy, so in translation I was introducing myself as “M & Ms” or “Twix”…yup the boy was right the name is a common sweet name, that is of a sweet (my fault for lack of comprehension). Sarah thought this was hilarious and told the next family we met of my new name only to receive the response “ha ha and what’s her name, Slim Jim”; finally the joke was on her too (Sarah the most universally lovely name in all languages).
So what’s a guy to do? Should I be Prabu, Gurdeep, or Vikram? Or should I stay true to my actual identity and be known as the walking loaf of flour, yeast and water? Maybe I should just adopt the Indian version and call myself “Nan”, “Roti”, or “Chapati”. Either way the laughs will come and will be at my expense. At least I find it just as comical as they do.
This leads me to this week’s question:
Do you have a nick-name and if so how did you get it? or Have you ever been involved in giving someone a nick-name?
The story goes on…
by: Brett Bread Hernandez Fernando Barfi Pituka ????