Challenging Name

“Hi, I’m 872390, pleased to meet you.”


Challenging Name
by Homayoun

When one leaves Iran, he or she faces a large number of challenges when leaving the warm and trusted home environment and entering the wild, strange, unsure scene of the “Abroad”, or as we say it “Kharej”. To just name a few challenges to be overcome: 

  • Ghorbat
  • New language
  • New culture
  • Missing family
  • Missing friends
  • Not belonging somewhere
  • Poor economic situaion
  • Etc
  • Etc

The list can go on for ever and every single person who has left Iran has a list with different top 10.

But one challenge that at least I have faced, and I’m sure many others would have experienced like me, is the challenge of my Name.

After living for almost 22 years outside Iran, still saying my name and introducing myself to foreign audience is a challenge for me. Well, to be honest, it’s more than challenging, I’m actually fed up with my name. And to us, Iranians, I haven’t even got a very difficult name, but I’m still not comfortable with it. 

OK, by now you of course wonder what the hell is this guy’s name??

Well, my name is Homayun Mohasel Zadeh, as it is in my passport.

So, let’s analyze this name first among Iranian names.

Well, I think in whole Iran there are only a hand full of people having this strange name: my father and his brothers and my half brother…that’s it.

But this is even for us Iranians is an odd name isn’t it?? Have you ever met someone with such a surname?? I mean I even have problems introducing myself to my fellow Iranians. Whenever I introduce myself they go:

“what, MoaseNzade, MohseNzadeh??”

And then by the look on their faces I figure they are telling to themselves “what a strange name…”.

So here you go..

But then the problems really got started when I left Iran. 

For some reason, when I moved to the Netherlands, long time ago, the translator who spelled my name, spelled Homayoon as Homayun, which is a very odd spelling. Even for Dutch language one would have written it as Homajoen. So there you go the very first seeds are being planted…

But then they and by they I’m referring to Dutch authorities, put a space between Mohasel and Zadeh for some reason, which I don’t know why! So now my last name has become two, which is very frustrating.

So where ever I go and have to fill in a form they ask:

“ is Mohasel your middle name?”


“is it your last name”


“Is Zadeh your last name?”

“partly, my last name is supposed to be Mohaselzadeh, without a space”

So why is there a space”

”I don’t know”…. 

So this goes on and on and on for ever and doesn’t stop!

And then there is the problem of each time spelling it, being in a store ordering something, or on the phone, etc.…

I have just memorized it:

H O M A Y U N - M O H A S E L – Z A D E H

Have you been in a situation, in a meeting at work, where they go round the table and every one get to introduce himself?? Well I hate that and in that situations I usually just introduce myself as Homayun or Mohasel and forget about the rest..

But the worst thing is when someone else wants to introduce my name, or call my name, like when you’re visiting a doctor. Oh man that’s just awful…

But as this was not enough, my wife and I were stupid enough to name our son Khashayar, which is a very nice name in Iran, but not here!! And this happened long time ago before I diagnosed myself with having this fear of name… 

To make the matters worse, we spelled, I mean I, spelled my son’s name using the Dutch language and alphabet and I went against many others who advised me to spell his name as in English. But naive I was, I thought why? We are living in Holland, so why should I want to write his name like English?

You see, in Dutch the letter “G” is pronounced as “Kh”. And letter “A” that comes second in “Khashayar” is “AA”. But they don’t have a “SH” in Dutch. They have a combination of “SJ” which has a very soft “SH” pronunciation. It’s not a real “SH”, but still it’s the nearest to it. And the letter “Y” is “J”, like “Ja” for yes”.

So at the end, my son’s name got this spelling: 


But now the nightmare came true. We moved for my work to US! And it’s very unlikely to ever go back to Holland. So now my poor son is facing a yet worse problem than mine!!! I mean just look at his name in English…That’s just awful, isn’t it…and it’s the way it is in his passport. I mean for ever…

I have long thought about of changing my name. Changing my last name and adapting a new western first name. When I moved here in US, I met a lot of Iranian people who have chosen an English name. Like we met this guy, Ray, who’s real name is Reza. Or Hossein, who shorted it to Hossi. Or my best friend Shahin, who goes by Sean. Well that’s nice, I could shorten my name to Homy, but that’s not a name to call a 40 year old guy!!

And what about my last name? Changing the last name is a pain in the ass process, besides being too expensive in Netherlands…You have to have her majesty’s queen of Holland’s permission to change your name.

But would I want to change my name to some other odd Iranian name, but albeit easier name? It’s still strange name to westeners, isn’t it!! Would I want it to change it for example to Ahmadi? Certainly not as long as Ahmadinejad is in people’s minds. Would I want to change it for example to “Jafari”?? what about Hosseini?? Or Taghizadeh?? Definitely not, no Zade’s any more!!

The best Iranian name that I would consider is my mother’s maiden name, Attaran.

But if I ever want to go through the painful process of changing my last name, I want to change it to something western so that I solve our problem, and my son’s for good and ever.

But hey, let’s be honest, do I look like a “Van Brook” type person?? With my hairy chest, big nose, 1.72m, brown ey and curly hair??..I don’t look like a “Van Brook”. Typical Dutch people are blond, very tall (in fact they are the tallest in the world) and love cheese…

If I’d do that, I’d put myself and my family in a yet more miserable situation, wouldn’t I!!

But what if every one in this world would just simply have a number as his name?? I mean let’s ask yourself, everywhere we go, we are basically associated with a number:

  • Social security number,
  • ID number
  • Driving license number
  • Passport number
  • Tax number
  • Employee number
  • Etc,
  • etc

And then when you’d enter a meeting, you’d go proudly and say:

“Hi, I’m 872390, pleased to meet you.”

And they go like:

“Hi, I’m 56348”. 

And then you go:

“Oh is that you I have been emailing to?? It’s a real pleasure to meet you in person..”

Well, I guess this is just our fate (sarnevesht) isn’t it??


ebi amirhosseini

Dear Homayoun !

by ebi amirhosseini on

If you have had  problems both in Holland & here in America,for naming your son Khashayar,I have had it too,!! not only here in America,but also in my own country : Iran! seems funny,doesn't it!?As it is said in Iran the story of " Hussein Kord-e- Shabestari goes like this :

Part I

Location : IRAN

Scene I

Before the Islamic Revolution:

I was named " Seyyed Malek Ebrahim",but since the first day everybody called me " Ebi ",in high school,teahcers always called my name first to answer about the homework.Why; I would ask all of them,it is always me!? their answer was simple: "your name is too long and sticks out of the column,easy to notice!.Even a teacher when I was in 3rd grade,came up with the idea of calling me " Malek Hussein",in order not to confuse me with the other "Amirhosseini" in the class!.Ok,life goes on and still everybody in the circle of family & friends calls me " Ebi",except for my oldest aunt the calls me by my birth certificate name,i,e : Malek Ebrahim!.

Scene II

After the Islamic Revolution :

In 1985,my son is born,my wife & I decieded to call him " Khashayar" (Although the real name is : Khashayarshaa,but knew well I would not be allowed to have that name in his birth certificate!).

I applied for the name " Malek Khashayar",since I had heard that if in my birthcertificate there is the " Seyyed " title,they force me to use it for him too!!Since I believed it is rediculious to have the name " Seyyed Khashayar" for him( a pure Persian name with an Arabic title before it ) ,but the lady in charge said : "No,you can only have the names Malek & Amir as a single name,not as a title before another name!. WOW!!my arguments were futile,in my rage I told her " I made the child,you tell me what I can call him!?".At this moment her boss interfered & showed me the official order for the rule that she explained to me.So, here I am:have to use " Seyyed",cannot use "malek or Amir";the result was my nightmare :"Seyyed Khashayar".

To make the long story short & jump to Part II of this story;I turned toward her and told her : 'Ok,now that I cannot choose what I like,write his name " Amir Khashayar" !!.In her confusement & embarasement, due to what I told her before,she quickly wrote the name & I got the birthcertificate from her hands,thanked her, & on the way out told her:" this is better than Seyyed Khashayar".She suddenly found out what she has done & started to call her boss again that I bit it!!.


Part II

Location : America

Scene I

Both my son & I got the silly names " Seyyed.A.Amirhosseini & Seyyed.M.Amirhosseini",since upon our arrival at the airport the polite immigration officer told us: " Although I know you poeple from Iran have titles in your names,but....."

For me at work,there was no problem,since they all call me Ebi.For my son but that's another story.At school & with his friends ,he made them pronunce his full name,although some couldnot pronunce KH sound,they call him Kashayar.But at his workplace, he picked the name " Kash' for his name tag.

Scene II

Citisenship interview is getting close,and most of my Iranian friends tell me to pick an Anglosaxon name !,so ,according to them ,less problem in the society.But I changed it to Ebi,since this is the name I am called by everybody since I can remember,not because " Malek Ebrahim " is too difficult for them,or I want to hide my real identity.My son also changed his name to " Khashayar".no more titles for both of us.

Dear Homayoun:

As some of dear friends ( including my sister-Siboo) commented on your blog,let them learn how to pronunce his & your name.I also donot believe these beautiful names are more difficault to pronunce than the Chinese,Koeran & Indian names we hear in America.They never change their names,& everybody;including us,learns how to pronunce them one way or another!

Thanks for taking time & writing such a nice blog.

Viva Iran!!

Viva all Khashayars!!


Be proud of your name

by siboo (not verified) on

I have the same problem with my surname, and my husband told me you can change yours to mine which is easier to pronounce.I did not do it.
As Javaneh said let them learn our names as we do theirs. Have you ever seen those chinees, German, Dutch or mexican people with very strange names? They never change their name and they are very proud of that. Always remember Mr. Schwarznegger as Toofan said, and tell anybody whom can not pronounce your name,if they can pronounce his surname correct and easily?
When we were born in Iran, our parents did not expect us to come and live in another country, so they gave us the best name they could as an Iranian. But faith took us here and now some of our names are problem.(ofcourse for others to pronounce!!)
But we should be proud of our names. The only thing we can do, as we know our children are going to live in here (%90 chance), name them so theirs can be pronounce and spells well in here,as I did.
My dream always was if I have a son name him Sohrab or Siavash, but when I had my son, I realized these names are going to be a problem for him, not because of being Iranian, but because of trouble with correct prononciation, so we had a choice and we decided to name him Daniel which is very wellknow both in Iran and here. So let our children be happy with their names, But never change our names because of others!!!


True, regardless of your origin

by ZanAmrikai (not verified) on

When I was growing up here in the US, even MY name was made fun of--not saying anyone is making FUN of your name, just having a hell of a time figuring it out. That is an American tradition, a dumb one to be sure, but totally "normal."

Now my name--my American name and my Persian names that are tagged onto the end--is another thing entirely. My children each have names about three years I look at their driver's licenses, I think, "Holy crap, what was I thinking when I put their dad's tribal name on their birth certificates?!"

A couple things come to mind: first, when we got married, but before our first child was born, we changed the spelling of our name to reflect a more appropriate transliteration (translating the sound into another alphabet, you know). That is EASY to do. You just have to swear that you are not doing it to avoid being found after committing some heinous crime. I am going to assume that most of us have not committed any heinous crimes--yet. If those people keep mispronouncing our names, well, things could change in that department, but FOR NOW... But I digress. So it would be easy for you to become Homayoon Mohaselzadeh.

Which reminds me of a funny story about a dear friend of ours years ago who also had a "zadeh" on the end of his last name. Except the part that came before was a bit longer than your Mohasel. I remember him making fun of his own name, and telling me how when he would be on the phone and someone would ask for his name and then ask him to spell it, he said he would get through about 7 letters and they would say, "OK, thank you" and he'd be going, "Wait-wait--there's MORE!" and he'd have to wait while the person got a new pen from running out of ink.

OH, and I just LOVE when I say my name--only 5 letters long and easy as pie, by the way--people say, "Can you spell that?" I sort of pause, thinking, "Should I say this? Naaa, that would be too mean..." because being me, what comes to mind when they say, "CAN you spell it?" is, "NO, I can't! I don't know HOW to spell! Do you mean WOULD I PLEASE SPELL IT?!" But I don't. I just say this, "Well, how about if you give a try and we'll see how you do!" That gets them every time.

I LOVE the name Khashayar, by the way, and if I'd had another son, I would have wanted that to be his name. But you are right--who on earth besides Iranians sees the beauty of that name? I am horrified by the way the Dutch transliterated that lovely name. I am sure no one pronounces it anywhere close to what it is. Again, go change it in the US if you have legal right to it. It's a lovely name and deserves to be spelled better and respected, period. Regardless of its "strangeness" to us amrikaiha!

As for taking American names to make the Persian name problem go away, I cringe at that. I think it's a shame when people give up their name for the sake of making it easier for those around them--unless it's just a twist on the name itself, like Mo for Mohammend, Teri for Taraneh, Sia for Siamak, and so's what we do in English anyway with our own names...Mo for Morris, Teri for Teresa, Peggy for Margaret (Go figure!), Dick for Richard (Please tell me who wants to be Dick anymore?!), but Bob for Babak, Sean for Shahram, Kevin for Keyvan? Ticks me off all these things people give up and never think twice.

OK except. Let's say you have some horrifyingly ugly name that you have always hated with a passion. Then you should be on your knees thanking God that you now have the opportunity to become who you always wanted to be. You are AbdulGhassemRohollah? And you have always wanted to be Arash? GO FOR IT, MAN! What a nice name, easy to spell and easy to say...

And when Americans say, "OH MY GOD DO YOU HAVE A RASH?!WHERE IS IT? IS IT CONTAGIOUS HAHHAHAHAHAHAH" just roll your eyes and smile. Then sucker punch them.


name changing

by mohammad reza (not verified) on

I am having the same problem.People call me Mohammad which is not the name that they call at home ,I do not mind if they call me Reza,but they have been call laser,razor,rezar,Rayzar,Raza,riza,resa,Reja,Reeza,Reda.That is why I am changing my name to Ray.It is short,and easy to pronouce,I feel more comfortable and it is close to my real name.



by LoL (not verified) on

and so true



Add middle name to your son's name

by Realjamebond (not verified) on

I suggest to add a middle name to your son's name. He is gone go through a lot in shool with being Iranian. Kids can be really mean, you need to make it simpler for your son with adding english middle name.
As far as your name, I have english name. It is easier at work. I don't want people to call me all kinds of names or not calling me at all becuase of my name.
I have a friend, his name is Homayon. He calls himself TOM. Anyhow, you are 40 years old. You will have another 28 years in your career. You should make things easy for others to communicate to you.
You can alway go with your initial. Mr H.M.

Ask your son to come up with name for both of you:-) it will be fun thing to do...


Nice and funny

by ToofanZeGreat on

I agree compeltly with javaneh, my last name is so long that you need 3 pages just to write it, but hey, did Schwarznegger change his name when he came to the US? Keep your name, as it is, and teach how it is said to other who care, those who dont, well F them. I think changing your name to become more western is a lack of self confidence and will only cause you to sink lower and lower in your self esteem (not speaking to you, to iranians and immigrants in general). Whats next, your planning on using white lotion to get that Utah color? Or have a rhino to remove that persian typical nose? Be proud of how nature made you friend and how your parents named you.


Who we are.....

by javaneh29 on

Names, what we call ourselves, are our part of our identity. What our parents gave to us. Our family history. It says much about us. and if non iranians cant say our names, it is their problem not ours. Sometimes I find names difficult to pronounce and when that happens I have to practice saying it. I dont expect them to change their name for me.

I guess we all face those issues in one way or another and like you I know many ppl who have either had their names changed in translation or have chosen to change it. Sometimes its an abreviated version of their own name and sometimes something completley different.

PPl find my name hard to say too especially my family name. My two daughters have the same problems and one I gave an western name and I so regret that. I thnk changing a name for the benefit of others brings new problems.

Please dont change any of your name. Homayun Mohasel Zadeh is a great name. Be proud of it.



Nice Name!

by maryam hojjat,Ph.D (not verified) on

Being honest I think your name is very nice Iranian name particularly your first name, I would not chnange it despite of all you mentioned.
I have a kind of same problem even though I have quite easy name to pronouce. majority of people do not try to learn new names because of lack of attention to different cultures.
p.S. I would not change my Iranian name to any other name!


Thank you.

by Feshangi on

I enjoyed reading your article. It made me laugh very much.