This collection of resources for the season of Lent features A World Worth Saving. One slight problem: the reviewer misspelled my last name, leaving out that second letter i and transforming me from an Armenian into an Irishman. As I explained over Armenian coffee to Vikram Purushotham and Scarlett Mgrdtchian, the misspelling of my surname is not new. People spell it as Donigan, Donagan, Donovan, and Donavon. I’ve been called worse.
Maybe that misspelling goes back to the days when my family in Virginia gave up the Armenian pronunciation of the surname. Maybe that act stood for the Americanization of the family. In going through old family papers, I discovered personal property tax receipts for my grandfather, naming him Garabed Donigian, Garabet Donigian, Karabet Donikian, and Charlie Donigan.
The Donigian family was small. My father’s brothers died as a result of the genocide and no one knew what happened to other relatives. My father only met one other Donigian in his lifetime—a soldier during World War II—and they went their separate ways after exchanging names and not much else. I’ve met more Donigians than my father imagined.
In some of my earlier writings, I spelled it Donigyan and Donikyan to avoid confusion with the Irish name. Despite those other pieces, Donigian it remains. Properly pronounced Doh-nigk-YAHN, the best meaning for the surname is “son of the little feast,” which refers to the Sunday after Easter.
Both i’s remain in my surname. Jesus spoke truth in the Sermon on the Mount: “Not one iota, not one stroke of a letter, will pass…” (Matthew 5:18). I know that iota—both of them.