Today was a languorous, leisurely day at work, and I couldn’t have been happier. It’s so springy and breezy and fresh outside, and all I wanted to do was walk around the campus of the beautiful hospital/university where I work, finish the book I’m reading, and let myself be windswept. Work probably would have seemed unremarkable to the unobservant eye, but I almost always manage to find at least one fascinating or charming detail in my daily comings and goings, one tiny glinting emerald in the immense field of grass. Today’s gem was the fact that I had not one, but two patients with the most curious of names: Narciso.

Narciso–what a name! Narcissus, naturally. Can you even imagine having this name? Or choosing it for your child? Or dating someone named Narciso? I sure can’t. I have never, ever, ever heard of anyone named Narcissus, but it looks like a few are out there. Would you just get used to the name over time? Yo, Narcissus! It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It would be like being named Pegasus or Sisyphus–who could really say your name without thinking of your mythological namesake? Any time you’d say your name, eyebrows would go up and then you’d have to quickly assure people that no, there’s no connection with, ahem, your infamous homonym. It’s pure coincidence that you have the exact same name as literature’s most well-known egomaniac. Desperate to prove that your name is just a name and nothing more, you don’t even have any mirrors in your house. You also take great pains to make sure you’re never spotted lingering around pools of water.

Once I saw that there was a patient named Narciso on my schedule, my curiosity was piqued. I couldn’t wait to meet him in order to see just what a Narciso looks like. It turned out, though, that he had arrived early, seen the doctor, and already left by the time I showed up. Drat! My one chance to meet a real live Narciso had been smashed to smithereens. Talk about an anticlimax.

I finished my morning appointments, went to the library and read, had lunch with a friend, and then was given a last-minute appointment in the afternoon. This patient was named José, and, long story short, I just so happened to find out that his full name was José Narciso. My jaw dropped. Narciso again? What were the odds? He told me that his mom had chosen his name from the calendar. Apparently, for each day of the year, there’s a different name. José was the name for the day he was born on, and Narciso was the name of the following day. As simple as that, as if he just as easily could have been named José Glotón or José Malandro if those pejoratives had appeared on that day instead. He knew the story of Narcissus, but he confessed that he wished that he was a little more like his tocayo who, as he understood it, was tall and handsome. Instead, he lamented, he was chaparro and feo. We had a good laugh about it. I told him that I’m sure his wife thinks he’s the most attractive man in the world and that the only thing that matters is that he’s perfect for her. It’s all about inner beauty, anyway–all the rest withers and fades. He didn’t know about the original Narcissus’ sordid treatment of poor Echo, so I gently broke it to him. Let me tell you, it’s not every day that I discuss Greek mythology with patients. Not even every week.


Ayyyyy . . . how I love my job. Once I move on, I’ll definitely look back and miss these exquisite moments of intimacy that I share with strangers day in and day out. I may be just squeaking by financially and not nearly as stimulated as I could be mentally, but I have to say that interpreting has been so nourishing for my soul and spirit this past year. I hope that you also had at least one moment–if not several–of delight, surprise, and fun at work today.

17 responses to “Narciso

  1. Interesting post. In Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy’s mother is named Narcissa, but that’s obviously because JK Rowling wanted her name to have a negative connotation. So it remains baffling why any real person would want to name their child after Narcissus.


    • Interesting! I only read the first book of the series, and that was many moons ago. I suppose it’s a pretty name and I guess you’d get used to it with time, but still. The association is just so strong.


  2. I always thought the same thing, until the day when we got a real one at work. A great guy from Barcelona, going by Narcis. Regardless, I also wonder why somebody would give this name (or one of a few others) to their child. I mainly try to imagine how it would be to grow up and go to school with one of such names, as that is where you get teased beyond belief. People get over these things when they grow up.


    • I would like to imagine that kids these days would be cultured enough to know about the Narcissus legend, but, sadly, most probably wouldn’t. Still, I mostly just find it an interesting choice on the parents’ part.

      What kind of work do you do?


      • I’m just a scientist (computational biology/bioinformatics) that likes to run and dance to keep things colorful. Very glad to know that you like bachata.


  3. I’ve never seen a Catholic calendar, but every day is dedicated to a saint. If you’re in a predominant Catholic hispanic culture, ( rule 1) you have a high chance of being named after one of these saints based on your birthday. If your parents would rather (rule 2) choose to name you after a parent or grandparent, you still have a high chance of being named after one of these saints (because your predecessor’s name deriving from rule 1 or rule 2). Sadly, there aren’t 365 different saints, or a lot of saints happen to be named the same, or some saints are recognized on more than one day, explaining why we get a lot of Juan’s and Jose’s, and why males are named Guadalupe. So where’s originality come in? –from the Chuy’s and the Chepe’s — of course!


  4. cesarincarabello

    I learned this when I inquired about the “dia de tu santo” lyric on the Mananitas birthday song…


  5. También iba a preguntar si era del santoral el nombre… es una planta ademas, verdad?


    • Sí, es una flor. Que yo sepa, es el único nombre masculino derivado de una flor. ¿O se te ocurre algún otro? Buscando por ahí, me fijé en Gardenio, pero claro que no es para nada común.


  6. Yes, naming a newborn after the Saint of the Day is pretty common in many Catholic countries. Funny that some French people are called Toussaint (which means All Saints), because they are born at All Saints’ day. It is even reported that in some French speaking African countries, children are names FetNat because the calendar showed Fet.Nat, which is the abbreviation of Fête Nationale (National Day) the day of their birth.
    Another fun fact is that some Saints are celebrated on different days from one country to another. For instance Santo Lázaro is celebrated Dec. 17 in Spain, and July 29 in France. Go figure…


    • Very interesting, thanks. I confess that I’m pretty ignorant of Catholic traditions. It seems that they still have much more of a foothold in Mexico, for example, than in Colombia.


  7. ¡Qué interesante que pasen estas cosas en tu vida cotidiana! La verdad he escuchado de gente que se llame Narciso, pero nunca he conocido personalmente a uno. Aunque es verdad que en países católicos se acostumbra nombrar a bebes con nombres extraídos del calendario o llamarlos como los padres o abuelitos, existe una nueva moda entre padres primerizos. Ellos formulan nombres con palabras peculiares para que los nombres suenen de una forma divertida y original. Pero la verdad es que esto es tan desagradable que el registro civil ha prohibido la combinación de palabras que tienen una connotación sexual u otra. Así por ejemplo, se han presentado padres ante las autoridades para nombrar a sus hijos como “Virginia del hoyo”, “Elvis Teck”, “Susana Oria”, “Mary Conazo”, Zampa Teste”. Etc.

    Hasta hace poco no sabia la leyenda de Narciso. Me pareció muy interesante y la verdad aprendí muchas cosas en ese documental en la televisión. Por ejemplo que la raíz etimológica de Narcisuss viene de Narcisista. ¿O era al revés? Quién sabe.


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