I have a little more to say about my various names and how my confusing experience of them led me to identify with John Dixwell. The whole time he lived in New England he used a fake name to conceal his identity as one of the regicides of Charles the First. “Dixie” is essentially a fake name as well. “It isn’t my real name,” I have said hundreds of times. “My real name is Sarah.”
Funny, that expression, “real name,” for Dixie really is my name, in the sense I have always been called Dixie by anyone who knows me at all well. I have not felt like a Sarah, even though it is my legal name. Throughout my life I’ve been a bit perplexed and preoccupied by my name.
Once, a South Korean student of mine asked me what the name Dixie means. I could have told her that “Sarah” is Hebrew for princess, but I didn’t know what Dixie meant and said so. It turned out that asking me about my name was a graceful lead-in to her real agenda. She wanted to tell me that she didn’t like her name, Hoonam.
“Why not?” I asked. We were walking in the woods, just the two of us, and she didn’t look at me as she explained in a low voice that Hoonam means “After Boy” in Korean. Another translation is “Later, man.” Her parents were trying to increase the chances of their next child being a son. Hoonam is not actually a name, but rather an expression of hope for better luck next time. If your parents name you Hoonam, everyone will know your parents want to have a boy. Girls cannot perform the ancient, sacred rites to honor the ancestors. You need a son for that.
As we continued walking, I opted not to tell Hoonam that Dixie comes from Dixwell, and that Dixwell was someone who helped get a king killed. There was something intense and strange about my name, too. We continued on in silence.
Posted on: Jan. 13, 2022