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The Name

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A few times every year I get random inquiries by email about my unusual first name. They seem to occur near the holidays for some reason that doesn’t make much sense to me. This year was no exception.

Last week I received an email from someone in Sri Lanka saying they had given the name Arik to a newly born boy, and asking if I knew anything about its origin. I had to say I really didn’t, which I found rather unfortunate given that I’ve lived with it, and spelled it for people in person and over the phone several dozen times a day for the better part of four decades.

I really don’t know much about my unusual name. I have a little script I go through which everyone who sits near me at the office can recite from memory after only a few weeks. “A like in Apple, R-I-K. No, no C. K. Yes, that’s an A, not an E. Yes its pronounced like plain old “Eric” or “Erik…” at which point the person I’m talking to will either ask after its ethnic origin or comment on having seen the name spelled in some other variation or both. I have little patience for these conversations, because I’m usually in a hurry.

So back to my Sri Lankan interlocutor. I replied, saying that regrettably I couldn’t offer much on the history of the name Arik. The next day he wrote back shedding some light: “The name Arik is a variation of the name Aryeh, which is Hebrew for a lion.” The name also appears as Arieh, which is the name of an officer of king Pekahiah in the Old Testament.

I have to confess: It’s not that I knew nothing about the history of my name. Just that I know precious little. I neglected to mention that according to some obscure reference of which I have little memory, the name in English means “sacred ruler.” The German tradition translates it as “noble ruler,” while the Norse comes down as “rule with mercy.”

One thing I have learned about the name since I moved to New York a decade ago, is that Arik is a fairly common name in Israel, though I think in this particular case it’s pronounced “Ah-REEK” and not “AIR-ik” as in my case. Someone with the name has registered the domain name arik.co.il though, since I don’t read Hebrew, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about him. Still, many people, upon seeing the name written, will ask if I’m Jewish.

Ariel Sharon (born Ariel Schienerman), the current prime minister of Israel uses it as a nickname, and so occasionally I will see the name Arik used within the pages of The New York Times, or other international news organizations. Another prominent Israeli bearing the name is Arik Vardi, who with friends Sefi Vigiser and Yair Goldfinger founded the instant messaging company ICQ, which is now owned by Time-Warner’s AOL.

Still another notable Ariks in Israel include: a pop singer; a painter; an Olympian Judoka (a participant in Judo) a soccer player and another painter.

I’m not sure precisely why people who know no more about me other than what I publish here on the Web site expect that I’m some sort of authority on the history of this name. But perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve registered so many variants of the name on the Internet. Obviously I have arik.org, but I also have arik.net, arik.name and arik.info.

But these domain names are notable for what they are not: arik.com. I sometimes wonder how much email intended for me gets misdirected to a guy from India, who lives in Washington DC, professes to suffer from attention deficit disorder, and who apparently goes by the nickname “Riki Tiki,” an apparent reference to the Rudyard Kipling tale about a mongoose.

The arik.com domain had previously belonged to a commercial enterprise of some sort calling itself the Arik Group Ltd. in Sofia, Bulgaria. It can’t have been all that successful. I originally wanted the .com domain, but didn’t notice it had come available and then found to my dismay that the current owner has the registration sewn up through 2009.

Then there’s the mysterious arik.us which is in Spanish. I have no idea who “pops” is, but in this case, Arik is his last name, at least according to the whois registration data. His registration expires in 2008.

I made a concerted effort to get arik.net some years back mainly so that I could have a fallback domain in the event that some bureaucrat ICANN decided that org top-level domains were to be for non-profits only. I wasn’t truly worried, but figured it best to hedge. Its previous owner pointed it to a Web camera in Vilnius, Lithuania. Someone who also has Arik as a first name recently asked if I would be willing to part with arik.net, promising in some attempt at jest to use it for spam, a Phil Donahue fan club, or two other things so obnoxious I can’t print them here. I declined his overture.

Now what I find so interesting is the ethnic dispersion of people using the name. I’m of Scandinavian extraction myself. My family hails from Minnesota, and Denmark and Norway before that. (My folks have traced the family origins to 1654, and possibly further back than that now.) But here I’ve seen my first name in use all over the world.

Others outside of Israel bearing the name include an Economics Professor at Georgetown University; a furniture designer in Paris; A graphic artist; A professional wrestler; A Web artist; A character on Star Trek; A director of a Seattle talk radio show who blogs and podcasts; And an Elvis impersonator.

Ariks also appear in history. There was a King of Assyria, which is in the northern portion of modern-day Iraq, named Arik-den-ili ruled from 1319 to 1308 BCE (though I’ve seen different references as to the dates of his reign, some saying it was as late as 1295 BCE.)

Another Arik – or Ariq – was a grandson of Genghis Kahn. Arik Boke was youngest son of Genghis’ son Tolui, and a brother of the better-known Kublai Khan who was the founder of China’s Yuan Dynasty, which lasted from 1271 to 1368. Arik was a rival of Kublai’s, and had been the commander of the Mongol homeland while Kublai was campaigning in China. In 1259 he made tried to make himself the great Khan. Kublai then cut short the Chinese campaign and in 1260 had himself elected Khan. This led to a series of battles between them, which culminated in Arik’s capture in 1264. He died in 1266.

This particular reference caught my attention because of a comic book I once bought during my college years called “Arik Khan.” I had never seen it before and have never seen that title since. It turns out the character is the creation of a Filipino comic book artist named Franc Reyes. According to one source, he created the character Arik Khan for Andromeda Comics, a Canadian comic publishing concern, in 1977. Reyes was also one of a long series of artists to draw Tarzan for DC Comics in the early 1970s. The character appears to be similar to the tradition of “Conan the Barbarian.” Lots of swordplay, violence, you get the idea. Reyes went on to work for Disney on Brother Bearand the short John Henry.

The name also has many variants: The one I find most entertaining is the Swedish one: Jerk, though I would guess the correct pronunciation would be closer to “yurk.” Still, I can imagine a few people who might think me aptly named and preferring the English pronunciation of that spelling.

And so, that’s about all I know about my first name.

Written by ahess247

January 2nd, 2006 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized