I am Nareg

Special for the Armenian Weekly

When I was three, my younger sister Sareen would follow me around everywhere. She was only 18 months old and called me “Daga.” “I am not Daga,” I would admonish quietly. “I am Nareg.” Even at the tender age of three, I understood that I had a lifetime of gently, yet emphatically, correcting mispronunciations of my Armenian name to look forward to.

‘Nami told me that I was named after a Christian saint, Gregory of Nareg, who wrote meaningful and beautiful prayers.’

Growing up, I often wished that my name were John. It’s common, easy to pronounce, and not weird. My name, Nareg, is the opposite of all three of those things. Nareg is not on the Top 100 list of baby names in the United States; no one pronounces the name Nareg correctly unless they are Armenian; and it is, well, kind of odd.

The day I met the only other Nareg in America was a seminal moment in my life (I know there are other Naregs in America—it’s just that I feel like there are no other Naregs in America). I was nine years old, and I was attending a service at the Armenian Apostolic Church. After the service, all of the children gathered in the hall to hear a talk about an Armenian camp in the Boston area: Camp Haiastan. A handsome, debonair young man came up to the podium and began to speak to us. I don’t really remember much of what he said about the camp, because I stopped listening as soon as he introduced himself to us: “Good afternoon kids, I am Nareg.” What? His name was Nareg! I was thrilled that I was not the only person with this strange name! There was hope yet! Here was this smart, articulate Nareg, whose life clearly had not been marred by years of correcting mispronunciations of his/my name!

Though my name is not easy to pronounce, most of my teachers and friends are able to approximate its pronunciation, using a slightly Anglicized version. Armenians, even those born into the diasporan communities, have no such problems pronouncing my name, of course. The “r” rolls off the Armenian tongue, and the “ah” in the first syllable of my name is correctly and easily vocalized as though one is opening wide (“ahhh”) for the dentist. However, those poor non-Armenian souls who first encounter my name have a rough time of it.

One day in fourth grade, our substitute teacher, Ms. Wolfe, called on me to answer a question. The class, somewhat lacking focus, immediately quieted down in anticipation of what promised to be an interesting (and humorous) attempt to say my name. In Ms. Wolfe’s thick New York accent, I became Nurraajj. I tried to correct her. “I am Nareg,” I said simply. But, alas, my attempts fell on deaf ears. I am grateful that my classmates stopped calling me Nurraajj after only three years.

Ms. Wolfe’s mispronunciation notwithstanding, my name sounds odd to any English-speaking person. Many verbalize Nareg as “not egg,” or even “noir egg.” I like eggs, so I am OK with egg references—but generally not when they’re connected to my name. “I am Nareg,” I asked my grandmother Nami, “but why?” Nami told me that I was named after a Christian saint, Gregory of Nareg, who wrote meaningful and beautiful prayers. Apparently, I was born after my parents, my extended family, and our church community read Gregory of Nareg’s prayers. Doctors had told my mother that after my older brother was born, she could not have any more children. It seems the medical professionals were wrong.

I have decided that even though my name has its challenges, it is something that I am proud of. My name is more than my identity; it is an answer to many prayers. In that, it is a peek into the soul of the Armenians.

Nareg Balian

Nareg Balian

Nareg S. Balian is a student at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. He won a fellowship to study in Armenia in the Musical Armenia Program at the Yerevan Conservatory and will be taking two college courses at AUA in the summer of 2017. He will also be as volunteering at Orran, an at-risk center for Armenian children and the elderly. Nareg is a member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). He has performed piano in many Armenian events and venues, including the Armenian Embassy and won competitions at Carnegie and Merkin (Juilliard School) Halls. He is President of the National Opera Teens Advisory Council and co-founded the Capital Opera Teens.
Nareg Balian

Latest posts by Nareg Balian (see all)


  1. Hey Nareg I’ve never met a more relatable Nareg in my life. I’m 15 and my Instagram name and bio literally states how to pronounce my name, and it includes “not egg” quickly. This has been like that for more than a month which is way before you posted this article so I don’t want you to think I changed it to that.
    If you’d like to see it for yourself check out not_egg_quickly on Instagram and direct message me so that I know you stopped by!

    • Hi Nareg,
      So glad to meet you! “Not egg quickly” is hilarious! I’ll definitely check it out.

  2. Parev Nareg! My name Tvine so i feel you! It’s not easy when you need to present the history of the Armenian people every time you meet a new person. I am 34 years old and have yet to meet another Tvine older than I. (I know there are others out there, my cousin even named her daughter Tvine but she is younger than me) Having gone through similar experiences as you growing up I was sure I would name my kids john or James, but when the time came to chose a name for my boys I did not consult the list of the 100 most popular names websites. I am the proud mama of Varak, Shirak and……Nareg. Hope they have similar experiences as you and become accomplished and successful just like you will be! Great article! Keep being you!

    • Dear Tvine, Thank you so much for your comments! Your boys’ names are fantastic! I really am grateful to my parents for my awesome name. It has meaning and a connection to our rich history. Thanks again! Best, Nareg

  3. Nareg jan,

    In the´80s I visited Vaspurakan together with an Armenian friend from Berlin (Germany). We stood some days at Van, visited Varaka Vank and later came to Krikors village called Nareg. First we saw a big marble stone in a creek crossing the village. There were several crosses cut into the white stone. We couldn´t find any left parts of the originally very big monastery. Some Kurdish villagers came and started a conversation. One of the men told us to stay somewhat longer, so that he could show us something interesting. He went to his home and returned after some minutes. He showed us a large iron key. He declared that this key would be the only thing that remained of Narega Vank.

    Only the next day when we were already near to Mush we regretted that we forgot to ask the owner of the old key to sell it to us. It would have been a wonderful object to be offered to a Yerevan museum !

  4. Dear WR, That is such a great experience. I really hope I can visit historical Armenia one day. My family is from Adana and Caesaria. Sincerely, Nareg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.