Mi chiamano Mimi: What’s in my Mimi-esque name
Growing up I was mimi. It was an endearing nickname that sounded younger and hipper than my actual name. Because I was one of very few Hispanic students when I went away to boarding school I no longer was mimi. Mimi was too New York or South Bronx sounding. I needed to be taken more seriously and be seen as less exotic. My very being was exotic in my looks, my hair, my New York demeanor and my ethnicity that no one could quite pinpoint. My name didn’t need to add to that drama (or what I perceived as drama at the time). My family still called me Mimi. They never have stopped.
My mom used to remind me that Mimi represented a little insect that went about buzzing in everyone’s ear. That was not really true but it was my mom’s truth. I was a chatterbox growing up. I couldn’t stop talking. I would read several books a week and then just talk and talk some more. My family knew I was somewhat different in that a higher education was most definitely in my future from an early outset.
Although Hispanic, I have a Hebrew name. Many of my family members have Hebrew names. The bible was the grand foundation of name giving in my family. Mimi is a supposed derivation of a Hebrew name. According to online baby name websites, Mimi can mean “sea of bitterness” or “sea of sorrow.” Such a sad and troubling name meaning. I don’t believe that was what my mother meant when she nicknamed me Mimi. Other name dictionaries note that Mimi can stand for “rebellion,” “wished-for child,” and “mistress or lady of the sea.” Those secondary definitions of Mimi are more like what my mom meant and what I came to stand for. At the end of the day Mimi stands for liberation.
Mimi also happens to be the family nickname of Mariah Carey. Quite telling is the fact that her 2005 comeback album was called The Emancipation of Mimi. One of the most famous operas is that of La Bohème whose main female character is that of Mimi, who has a tragic end and whose death is punctuated by a startling cry from her lover. The piercing cry at Mimi’s death serves to punctuate that the words and memories that we leave behind are passed down and remain with our loved ones forever. In a way my mom was right that it is a buzzing little insect spreading the word and truth from person to person. For example, in aboriginal folklore, a Mimi is a fairy-like being said to have taught the Aborigines how to hunt and use fire. These fairy-like Mimis are supposedly like humans (although very long frail elongated bodies). Interestingly, although human-like they live in a different dimension.
Admittedly everywhere I have been I have felt a little bit like an outsider-perhaps akin to living in a slightly different dimension. There is also something about a Mimi standing strong against pushback and grand odds. There is a bit of snarky bite to a Mimi, as well.
From this storied history comes my name and my being. We take on attributes of our names. Parents should be aware of such power when naming their kids. My Mimi-esque nature means that I strive for justice and truth, I love storytelling and like a little insect I will buzz in your ear. A blend of science, snark and sassiness drives my mimi-esque nature.
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