Dutch people have a lot of names. For example, a woman is called Maria, but says, “My real name is Maria Alexandra Sophia. In the past I was called Rutjes, but now I’m Beekman, just like my husband.’ I often ask in the Netherlands what does your name mean? People then begin to look glazed. A name does not always have a meaning here. In Syria this is a condition. We may have only one first name. Our last name can never change, even for women. My mother is not called Manlasadoon. Like in the Netherlands, we also have crazy surnames, like ‘donkey’. But usually are the occupations. The first part of my surname ‘Manla’ means imam. Sadoon is my ancestor’s first name. So apparently he was imam. Other common surnames in Syria are ‘iron trader’, ‘carpenter’ and ‘doctor’. First names are not used in Syria. Men and women are addressed by the name of their eldest son. My mother is Am Achmed. (The mother of Achmed) and my father Abu Achmed. (The father of Achmed). Because I find Jazan a pretty boy name, I’m in Syria ‘abu Jazan.’ If I had a son, he would be called Jazan. It’s an appeal title that shows respect. Certainly for women, because it is very unusual for me to know a woman’s first name in Aleppo. It is considered private. If I would know the first name of my neighbor in Aleppo, the rumor would immediately arise that I have a relationship with her. Because my nickname is ‘Abu Jazan’, my in-laws also know that I would like to name a future son in Jazan. My mother in law does not like it. My girlfriend’s brother neither. He wants Pickachu. Abu Pickachu, I have to get used to it.

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