My name has never seemed very popular in the States. I’ve met very few other Heidis. It’s not a particularly unusual name, people aren’t confused when they hear it, it’s just not a name that will ever make the top 100 baby names of the year list (it’s no Emma or Michael).
Strangely enough, however, my name has been weirdly popular in the other two countries where I have lived. I don’t mean popular in the sense that there are a lot of people with my name, I mean popular because people simply have a love for my name.
When I was living in Switzerland the reaction to hearing my name was astounding. This is based on the fact that one of the most famous novels ever written by a Swiss author was Heidiby Joanna Spyri. Heidi became a national symbol, and there is even an area in Switzerland deemed “Heidi Land.” In 1974, Heidi was adapted into an animated TV show in Japan. Later, a “movie” version of this show was released in other countries, including the US and Switzerland.
The film was of course originally in Japanese, but was obviously translated into German to appeal to the Swiss. This movie became extremely popular in Switzerland, growing the Heidi craze to an even higher level. Every child knew the theme song to the movie. Here it is in all its glory:
Holadio, holadio (Jodel Jodel Jodel)
Deine Welt sind die Berge
Denn hier oben bist Du zu Haus’
Gruene Wiesen im Sonnenschein
Brauchst Du zum Gluecklichsein
Komm doch heim
Find’ Dein Glueck
Komm doch wieder zurueck
And, in case you feel the lyrics aren’t enough to capture the true meaning, here is a video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fffb078iXU
I started to avoid telling anyone my name in Switzerland due to the embarrassing response. The most typical reaction to my name would be to begin a rousing rendition of the movie’s theme song. This proved to be very awkward when, for example, the person next to me on the train began singing it, or the store clerk, or the doctor…
Ultimately, however, the reaction to my name in Switzerland made sense. I think the equivalent might be somewhere near if your name was Dorothy in the States. Chances are you couldn’t go too many places without someone referencing the Wizard of Oz. (But even then, there’s no song from the Wizard of Oz that allows the singer to bellow the name “Dorothy” over and over again, so some of the appeal is lost.)
Eventually I became accustomed to the shock and awe my name produced, but after I returned to the States the grandeur of my name swiftly dissipated. No one seemed to care about my name anymore. Which is fine, since for me it’s actually kind of startling when people say my name during a conversation. (And it’s even stranger when they sing your name.)
So I gradually forgot that anyone ever found my name so interesting, and besides that, most people have been calling me Ms. Jensen for the last three years.
Then I arrived in Japan. Now obviously my name, and any “American” name, would be different here. I was expecting people to perhaps have difficulty pronouncing or remembering my name. I wasn’t expecting people to have the same reaction as they did in Switzerland, let alone for exactly the same reason.
Heidimay be national classic in Switzerland, but it’s also a national classic in Japan. In Switzerland it’s famous because the novel was written by a Swiss author. In Japan it’s famous because the animated TV show was so popular (even though it’s pretty old, I’ve found the DVDs in many stores).
The reactions aren’t quite as strong here, there is no singing, but there is typically a lot of giggling. This is how the interaction usually plays out:
“What’s your name?”
“Heidi?? Like the movie??”
“Do you know the movie???”
I do find it a bit amusing that the two foreign countries I’ve lived in have such a fondness for my name. It makes me feel a little bit famous!