Name That Turk

Posted on March 29, 2011




Everyone has a family tree.  Now Husband Dan has a family tree, only the branches have a permanent  bad hair day and refuse to organize themselves in any logical way.   Part of this is because  people in his family believe strongly in marriage and so they marry often, creating lots of half and step siblings dangling amok  from branches.     

NHD’s family is Turkish.  This means that against their better judgment, most family members gave their children Turkish names.  Turkish names are characterized by sounding like no other names on the planet, each name having a mandatory close relative that sounds just like it. Turks also like to give siblings names that sound alike, so that a mom can yell just one name, and all children will respond.  For example: 






  NHD was named after an American friend of the family who happened to be at a social event with his parents when his mom went into labor.  He drove NHD’s mom back to her house, where she could give birth.  NHD’s mom then named her son after this man, thereby giving NHD the only name in the family that could be pronounced outside of Turkey.  

 If you are Turkish and you can find some kind of connection between people, no matter how tenuous, they are family.  This gives each person approximately 3000 close relatives, some of whom like to show up at the front door and sleep in the guest room.

 NHD likes to talk about his family.  A lot.  A typical sentence will be “Binnaz and Ilkeh are visiting Oya in Jacksonville.”   I used to make the mistake of saying, “Remind me again how Binnaz is related to Oya?  Isn’t she from the fourth wife of the other one’s grandfather?  Or is she the one whose mother remarried her cousin?”  I will then get a verbal relationship roadmap that spans several centuries and at least 12 marriages, in order to connect the two.  Somewhere along the way, I realize I need a Turkish Family GPS.  Now I don’t ask.  

NHD keeps all this straight.  Unless he doesn’t.  It probably doesn’t matter anyway, when someone is knocking at the door with a big suitcase and a bigger smile.  And I know that whoever this person is, they are family, and all I have to worry about is whether the sheets on the bed in the guest room are clean.  And I also know that they would do the same for me, because I am Sehdane’s daughter-in-law, and she was the daughter of Shevket from his first marriage to her mother and it was the child of one of the other seven marriages that….