“Bond, James Bond” My Name Ain’t


After one day, I’ve got to laugh about the fact that my “BC All the Way” bracket has been most accurate, even outperforming the president.  Of course, all rests with BC’s performance tonight…

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(Read the subsequently-written Japanese version of this post here)

James Bond is a cool name because it’s short, crisp and balanced.  The last is important.  You can’t suavely pull off a “Bond, James Bond” if it’s “Bondessville, Jim Bondessville.”

My name, on the other hand, is long and unbalanced, with a one syllable first name and a four syllable last name.

The unbalance is worse in print.  “Joe Sasanuma”* has terribly few characters before the space in comparison to the after.   One of the reasons I don’t add an “Esq.” at the end of my name, other than because I find it pretentious, is because it exacerbates the problem.  “Joe Sasanuma, Esq.” looks so hideous if I saw that in my letterhead I’d have to return my law degree just so that I can stay sane looking at my name.

I don’t think my loving parents ever considered this when they named me.  I can’t blame them, because my name in Japanese looks, if I may say so myself, simultaneously sleek and distinguished:  笹沼穣.   The complexity of the last character, representing my first name “Joe,”** nicely contrasts with the relative simplicity of the first two characters, representing my last name.  That this choreographic beauty doesn’t transfer to English is a source of great irritation.

Incidentally, the unbalance in my name not only exists horizontally but it exists vertically as well.  You wouldn’t know this because you (I hope) are not signing my name, but you will especially notice upon writing in cursive that “Joe Sasanuma” only goes “up” when you write the “J” and the “S.”  This wouldn’t be so bad if you were James Bond.  It’s a terrible hassle when you’re Joe Sasanuma.  That’s why my name is “Joe Sa——–” when I sign my name, because writing it out is just not worth the effort, the time and the look.

Thus, over the years, I’ve fiddled with ways to improve my nomenclatural balance.  I tried reducing my first name to a “J.” and adding “Minoru,” which is another reading of the character 穣 that represents my first name.  This solution, although creating a more visually tolerable name, was hardly satisfactory.  “J. Minoru Sasanuma” is 1)  hard to pronounce, 2) can’t tell it’s a male name, 3)  weird with an abbreviated first name, 4) too long, and, oh yeah, 5)  it’s not my name.

Then I tried inserting my middle name, but now the name read “Joe Michael Sasanuma.”  Now it just looks like a train:  “Joe” is the locomotive pulling the the passenger train, “Michael” and cargo freight, “Sasanuma.”  A lawyer shouldn’t have a name that can’t be taken seriously because it looks like a toy.

It’s clear that had my first name been “Joseph,” the solution of inserting my middle name would have been perfect.  “Joseph Michael Sasanuma” has easy first and middle names and all parts are nicely balanced.  One fault is that the two names are a little boring, but all easy names are.  I want strangers to correctly refer to me as “Mr. Sasanuma” rather than be mesmerized by the uniqueness of my name.  The novelty quickly wears off, especially if you have to live with it.

But I am pleased to report that for several years now, I’ve reached a happy medium:  “Joe M. Sasanuma.”  This is perfect.  The “Joe M.” contrasts with “Sasanuma” in perfect harmony.  It’s an accurate representation of my name.  And I get to go up twice when signing my name before my last name tails off.  If you’ve paid very close attention, all formal letters and cards you’ve received from me have been addressed and signed “Joe M. Sasanuma.”

James Bond it ain’t, but I (now) like my name just fine.

*  Please, please note:  It is not “Joseph Sasanuma.”

**  This is why I insist on being called “Joe,” not “Joseph.”

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9 Responses to ““Bond, James Bond” My Name Ain’t”


  1. 1 Paula January 20, 2010 at 9:38 am

    This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read in your blog!

    It’s lovely how you write about names being so mystic to someone, and the contrast between its meaning and writing in two different cultures.

    Once again, I absolutely understand what you mean – being someone who has 4 totally unbalanced names. We can even get into a discussion about why I chose not to have 5 names, where Japanese, Italian and Portuguese get into a crazy samba.

    • 2 joesas January 20, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks for reading as always, Paula! I hope you’re having fun in Brazil.

      This is a favorite piece of mine so I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I thought a only half-joking struggles with my name would be a fun read.

      I’m glad I could share it with someone who understands the cultural nuances. You know, I’ve spoken to Felipe about this, but you Brazilians have a lot of names! Does your legal name include five names????

      • 3 Paula January 25, 2010 at 3:28 pm

        I chose not to include all 5, but I could. Crazy?

        • 4 joesas January 27, 2010 at 10:28 pm

          Paula,

          Five is very crazy. What’s up with that???

  2. 5 Antonio July 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Nice read. I completely empathize with your post. My first name has 4 syllables yet only consists of 7 letters. That may be the reason why my family and many other people choose to chop it down to the diminutive, “Tony”. Back in 8th grade, my CYO coach even insisted on calling me that because (and I quote) “It would take to long to yell ‘Antonio'” whenever I messed up. I won’t even go into discussion about my obscure middle name. All I will say is that whenever I’m filling out any form I jump at the chance to provide my middle initial when the option is there. I’ve also contemplated the “Esq.” title at the end of my name and think it sounds horrendous. I would probably not like that business card. Then again, I’m putting the cart before the horse thus I should not worry about that for another 3 years or so.

    • 6 joesas August 9, 2010 at 10:07 am

      Antonio,

      Thanks for reading! Sorry it took so long for me to respond. It’s been a really bad month…

      I think in my case having people call me by my real name is easier because it’s shorter than the more formal name. Most time, like you, people want to be called by their real, longer name rather than the shorter nickname. U know, like Jonathan instead of Jon, etc.

      There’s a funny story about that. Actor Topher Grace’s real name is Christophe and the reason why he ended up with the acting name “Topher” was because people kept on calling him “Chris” and he kept on saying “topher” so they will say his full name….

      Incidentally, I in general don’t think you should be putting Esq. At the end of names, I think it’s a bit pretentious, but that’s just me…


  1. 1 A Thirteen Month Anniversary « The World According to Joe Trackback on November 2, 2009 at 7:02 am
  2. 2 自分の名前探しの旅 (“‘Bond, James Bond’ My Name Ain’t” Revisited) « The World According to Joe Trackback on January 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm
  3. 3 Growing Up White And Dealing With an Identity Crises « The World According to Joe Trackback on July 5, 2011 at 7:22 am

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