What's In a Name? / by Misha Zadeh Graham

Today I made it official. I registered a new trade name and will be operating my new surface design work under my maiden name: Misha Zadeh. If I could go simply by Misha, I would. I've always loved my first name. Easy to say and spell in almost every language, and it really suits me. (I don't need to say this, do I? It's Meesha for the 10% of you out there who say Mish-uh or My-sha). My mom gets the credit for the selection, and I thank her often. It's culturally ambiguous, though my mom likes to say it comes from the Persian, "hamishegee", meaning eternal. Most people associate it with the diminutive form of the male Russian name Mikhail. I'm neither male nor Russian, but I love the name and I get a kick out of mail addressed to Mr. Misha.

As far as last names go, I originally had a longer one: Khorassanizadeh. But as many new immigrants do, my dad chopped it off to Zadeh after it seemed to give me grief as a kindergartener. For some cruel reason, we had to sit in circle at the end of the day, raise our hands, and spell our last name in order to be dismissed for the day. In addition to not wanting to spell my 15 letter name while Mike Moon had it easy, I was "painfully shy" at that point in my life. So each day I'd be the last to stay and the teacher would feel bad for me and just waive me off.

The next year I was Misha Zadeh and even though my dad and others in the family all went back to the original a few years later (minus an extraneous 's'), "Zadeh" stuck for me and has always felt like my own. Luckily in the mid 1980s a terrifically beautiful and talented singer emerged on the scene and she became my pronunciation muse. From then on as people struggled with pronunciation (Za-DAH? Zadie? Zayda? ZAHdee?), I needed only give them my catch phrase: Misha Zadeh; rhymes with Sadé! Brief, memorable, and you only have to hear it once to stick.

When around other Iranians, I feel sheepish about it since it is the equivalent of shortening Johnson to 'Son'. But, hey, I'm Iranian-American and it's a part of my story. It has always felt like a bit of a stage name and it's fun to be using it again.

So how did YOU assume it was pronounced before you read this entry?