Whole Lotta Love

Hi there! I hope everyone is doing well!

While traveling to foreign, English-as-a-second-language countries, I often default to using my full first name — “Jennifer” — instead of my nickname — “Jenn” — because it is usually easier for others to hear and pronounce. However, because I generally go by “Jenn,” my ex-pat colleagues call me “Jenn,” and my business card even lists my name as “Jenn,” many of the staff know that I go by “Jenn.” That has turned out to be a funny thing here in Afghanistan.

After a few days of working in Afghanistan, I noticed an interesting pattern to the way my Afghan colleagues addressed each other. Plus, they seemed to find MY name very amusing.

It turns out, Afghans use the term “jan” ( pronounced “jahn”) — attached to the end of a person’s name — as an indication of affection. It translates to “dear,” so when they greet each other or speak to each other, they will often say “Layla-jan” or “Fawzia-jan,” which means “Layla, dear” or “Fawzia, dear.” If it is said between a husband and wife, it translates to something more akin to “my love.” So, because of pronunciation, when my colleagues say my name, it sounds to them like they are all calling me “jan” instead of “Jenn.”

The gender team and I had a good laugh over the closeness of the two words, so now, when they want to tease me, they call me “jan jan.” When a different Afghan colleague recently heard this, he laughed and declared, “Afghanistan has much love for you!!”