Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Noura with a lam?

I suppose I should explain why I am Noura with a lam. It may sound like I am trying to make a nerdy joke about html or a humorous reference to Latin or Greek grammar. I assure you I am not. I am not nearly qualified to make those types of witty quips. Unlike Boris Johnson (whose father apparently boasts "anyone who can master ancient Greek can run London" never mind the 3,000 million pound budget) my knowledge of classic languages is entirely dependent on Asterix and Monty Python. And everything I know about computers, I learnt from Wikipedia. They even have a special "dummy" section for me.

No, I should explain. Noura is an Arabic name. I live in Sudan. Everyone here wants to call me Noura... all the time. But my name isn't Noura. It is Laura. It has always been Laura and I am very attached to Laura! 

Sometimes, I try to explain: "My name is Laura but with a lam." This explanation invariably ends with everyone calling me "Nula".  They tell their friends, "This is Nula. She is from Bulgaria" (I also like to make up more interesting origins for myself- but that is another post entirely). I then try and intervene, "No, my name is not Nula. It is Noura with a Lam." A confused look falls across their faces, "Noura with a lam? So you are called Luna? Like the moon?" At this point, I usually just give in. I can see that I am not going to win and Luna is slightly better than Noula after all. 

But it still bothers me. They just don't want to get rid of that N. I don't know why. Perhaps it has something to do with the meaning of the word?

Noura means Light in Arabic. It's not a bad meaning. If we go back to the first monothesistic religion, Zoroastrianism, (which if you are unfamiliar with ancient Persian religion was the original "One God" gang), we find that they worshipped light and fire as an incantation of God on Earth. Could this be the connection? That somewhere deep in the monotheistic psyche, there is some strong association between Light and God, and accordingly, Light and Civilization itself? 

For what would the world be without Light. No-one would get anything done. Especially in a place like Sudan. Cairo may be the city that doesn't sleep but Khartoum feels very differently about the night. It is a slumberous place when the sun goes down (which suits me fine!) So perhaps I should go with the name, Noura. On the whole, I am a fan of civilization. We have done some great things. 

The only thing is that I am pretty attached to my real name. I wasn't always, especially when there were three other Lauras in French class in year 7. But over, time I have come to love it on its own terms. It was explained to me by Greeks that Laura was a Goddess who got turned into a tree because she fell in love. I like this. I like the idea that I an overly romantic tree. It makes me feel like an Ent. Maybe it is better to be an Ent than the pre-requisite for civilization? I don't know.

And I suppose I am not that unlucky. There are worse things to be called in the Arab world than Laura. Nick means "fuck" and Paul means "to publicly urinate". Marisa is a kind of beer and Anna means "I" or "me" (which can be pretty confusing, let me tell you!). Laura is kind of like the Arabic word for language too, "Logha"; I guess I have that going for me. 

Someone recently called me "Gloria". One of my mum's best friends is Gloria and she is a Chilean artist with a beautiful voice! Maybe from now on, I should just say my name is "Gloria", then I shall be introduced as "Gloria from Chile." Fantastic. I don't mind being Chilean. They have good wine and sweet temperaments, so....

"Goodbye Noula from Bulgaria. It has been nice knowing you!"

Your sincerely,


  1. An excerpt from a book by Freud I have been reading:

    "Psychoanalytical material, while incomplete and impossible to interpret with any certainty, at least allows a surmise- a fantastic sounding one- about the origin of this great human achievement. It is as though primitive man was in the habit, when confronted with fire, of using it to satisfy an infantile desire by urinating on it and so putting it out. Extant legends leave us no doubt about the original phallic interpretation of the tongues of flame stretching upwards. Extinguishing a fire by urinating on it- an activity still resorted to by the latter-day giants Gullvier in Lipput and Rabelais' Gargantua- was therefore like a sexual act performed with a man, an enjoyment of male potency in homosexual rivalry. Whoever first renounced this pleasure and spared the fire was able to take it away with him and make it serve his purposes. By damping down the fire of his own sexual excitement he had subdued the natural force of fire. This great cultural conquest would thus be the reward for forgoing the satisfaction of a drive. Moreover, it is as though the man had charged the woman with guarding the fire, now held prisoner on the domestic hearth, because her anatomy made it impossible for her to yield to such a temptation. It is remarkable too how regularly analytical findings testify to the link between ambition, fire and urinal eroticism" (pages 34-35, Civilization and its Discontents)

    GREAT! So maybe deep down in the pysche, everyone wants to urinate on me... Maybe Laura is worse than Paul after all!

  2. Don't worry. In Egypt, I was occasionally "Gay son."

  3. that was so much fun reading that!!!

    wer all sitting around the table and really enjoyed it :))) THANKKKS!!

  4. Reading Freud can certainly teach you things about reality, though not if you fail to recognize it as delusional.

    Click my name to see a discussion of that passage as a psychotic symptom.