How does Pi get his name?

Pi gets his name from a swimming pool in Paris where a friend of his father's used to swim. Pi shortens his name to stop the constant teasing his full name, Piscene, inspires.

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In Yann Martel's Life of Pi, Pi's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel. He is named for the Piscine Molitor swimming complex in Paris, where his father's friend Francis Adirubasamy, a swimming champion, used to visit and talk about.

Pi, however, does not like his given name at all, mostly because when he starts school, his schoolmates tease him unmercifully because his first name (which is simply French for “swimming pool”) sounds far too much like a slang word for a bodily function. Pi has to endure jokes along those lines before he shortens his name to Pi.

Pi's life is as unusual as his name. Pi was born in India into the family of a zookeeper. When Pi is a teenager, his father decides to move his family to Canada, but most of the family never make it. There is a shipwreck, and Pi is the only survivor. He manages to stay alive through horrors that he describes in terms of animals but that are likely really perpetrated by human beings. Further, Pi has to do things he never thought he would, and he struggles with his own actions, beliefs, and ideas. Pi is finally rescued but not before his life is completely changed; however, he manages to survive his ordeal both physically and emotionally.

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