Tuesday, July 27, 2010

By a name/I know not how to tell thee who I am

Of names, some are proper, and singular to one only thing; as Peter, John, this man, this tree: and some are common to many things; as man, horse, tree; every of which, though but one name, is nevertheless the name of diverse particular things; in respect of all which together, it is called a universal, there being nothing in the world universal but names; for the things named are every one of them individual and singular.
Thomas Hobbes

`What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where you come from?' the Gnat inquired.
`I don't rejoice in insects at all,' Alice explained, `because I'm rather afraid of them -- at least the large kinds. But I can tell you the names of some of them.'
`Of course they answer to their names?' the Gnat remarked carelessly.
`I never knew them do it.'
`What's the use of their having names the Gnat said, `if they won't answer to them?'
`No use to them,' said Alice; `but it's useful to the people who name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?'

Yesterday Fred had gymnastics. During her class I sit upstairs and watch or chat to the other mums. I can see when the class is ending, and I go downstairs to meet Fred coming out the door. Yesterday I was caught up in the conversation as class ended and Fred came upstairs to find me. She often comes up before class and it's not a big gym, though between classes there is always a throng in the cramped foyer, so it wasn't an overly alarming scenario for her. However she was most upset that I wasn't downstairs to meet her and had a little cry when she saw me.
I got a little telling off in the car for forgetting her.
"But we were talking about you," I said. "I was telling Emma's mum about you walking to school."
"But talking about me isn't me," she protested. "I am not the talk of me. I'm real me. I'm not a word. I don't live in your mouth."
I thought it was interesting that she made this distinction so abruptly, that she so violently separated the word girl from the skin girl. It is an insightful distinction - Frederique might have been Daisy or Anouk and Una was very nearly Kitty.
And yet, without her name, who is Frederique? The word girl can live without the skin girl, and the skin without the word, but each of them adrift, signifier and signified. For Ferdinand de Saussure, a founding father of semiotics, only together do they make up the sign, the object.

Is naming truly arbitrary? Or is naming destiny? When I name a character in a book I already know the sort of person they are, and I choose a name that I think reflects their place in the world, the values and attributes that they are composed of, and also their status in the novel. Do we shape our children with the names we choose. There seems nothing arbitrary about Fred's name now, it seems entirely adjectival. We chose it because we wanted her to be Fred/Freddie/Frederique, a chameleon child who could alter her name with her identity - be wild and boyish Fred, or sweet and girlish Freddie or glmaorous, elegant Frederique - and to us she is all these things. In herself she is far more gender neutral than Una, her favourite game is tiggy (which I used to call chasings, but what's in a name?), her hair has the sometimes appearance of a cartoon character at top speed (but it can also fall in soft, ethereal waves around her face), she is kinetic and likes science and maths and maps - in my view non-gendered activities. Yet she is fascinated with the mystique of her own femininity. She is complicated and changeable like her name.

As I write this, she is trying to make a pencil out of foam, reclaimed lead that mysterious separated itself from its pencil and stickytape. It is a stormy exercise that is leading to much frustration.

When we named Una, we gave her a simple, clearly feminine name. It is everything Frederique is not - straightforward, easy to spell, difficult to modify (though as it turns out easy to rhyme with: Una Balloona, Una Petunia, Una in the Moon-a, Una the Tuna). Pearl, her middle name, was an extra secret gift (Frederique doesn't have one, because we didn't feel she could possibly ever need one with such a fabulous elastic name as Frederique). And she is a simpler girl, or, perhaps it is just that my relationship with her is simpler. I love her dearly, but I can see the edges of her. With Fred (and I have blogged about this before) I have always found the boundaries ambiguous, where she ends, where I begin. We are more similar but also, simply, she was my first and my mother-identity was born with her. Frederique is the name of the piece of me that broke off, and became her.

That their personalities are reflected in their names can hardly be a surprise, we named them, and the values reflected in our naming also inform our parenting. Recently on a name forum that has become my new guilty pleasure there was a question about naming as branding - are we giving our babies a "brand" that they will carry with them through their life?

I asked Fred tonight if she would be a different girl if we'd called her Daisy. She took a moment to decide, swinging between yes and no. Finally she said, "No, because I would still look like me."

I asked Una the same question - what if we'd named you Kitty, would you be different? Not entirely understanding the question, but instead responding as if she'd been offered a choice, she said, "I'd like to be different." (She is the one out of the two of them that sometimes talks about changing her name, though I remember Fred went through a phase of it a year or two ago). Una said,
"Then people would look at me and say Hello Una and I would say I'm not Una, I'm Kitty."
Fred said, "But no one would know you because you'd be different."
Una replied, "But I'd still have the same clothes."
It interests me the importance the girls put on their appearance as determining who they are as opposed to their interior existence, or the history they have lived. (In Star Trek identity is always attached to memory.)

At eight I changed my name to Laura. It didn't stick. At ten I changed the spelling of Penny to Penni. That whim continues to haunt me. I was confronted with the choice when I published my first book. But by then, I felt branded, in the literal sense. Marked permanently by the shape of my name. It was the same reason I kept my maiden name. I just couldn't conceive of being called anything else. (Having said that, I see the appeal for changing it as well.)

My mother wanted to call me Rowena. Who would I have been if I'd been called Rowena? Penelope is a name attached to folklore and myth. The wife of Odysseus (aka Ulysses), who was courted by suitors when her husband went missing after the Trojan war. She promised to choose one to marry when she finished weaving her husband's funeral shroud, by day she would work and at night she would unravel it, until she was dobbed in by a servant. Odysseus turned up just in the nick of time. Is it because of my name that I studied Classics at uni, that I became a weaver of stories (and a liar)? Rowena apparently was a scheming Saxon seductress. So maybe I wouldn't have been totally bland and boring, though for some reason I think of Rowena as a bored housewife. No offence to Rowenas out there, but the name Rowena makes me uneasy.

Perhaps there is something about the almost-name that haunts me with an other person I might have been. There is almost a touch of the abject: that which “disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous” (most commonly identified in the spectacle of the corpse). Rowena is more not-me than Susan or Jacquie or Lily or any other girl's name.

So I am curious, do you know what other name you might have been called? How do you feel about it?


  1. Ah! My favourite academic quote, that one about the abject.

    Rihana means sweet basil, which is not a particularly cool meaning, and since it rhymes incredibly well with "banana" I longed to be called something simple like Kate or Sarah as a little girl. I have grown to like it as I've gotten older and don't even really care when people mispronounce it (or start singing "Umbrella-ella-ella eh, eh, eh").

    If I were a boy, I would have been named Axel, which means "my father is peace", and my father is the most relaxed and peaceful man in the world so it would have been quite fitting. Although Dad did remark that if I had been Axel, he would have wanted my middle name to be Graham, so I could be "Axel G. Ries". So there was a 50/50 chance my name could have been a joke.

  2. Anonymous7:51 PM

    I have no idea what my name might have been. I suspect my parents name choosing went rather like the Bloke and my efforts: no shortlist, just one name that they could agree on and a whole lot that one or the other vetoed. I'm a Katherine, partly so that I would be able to have lots of possible shortenings.

    I was always Kate & Katherine interchanageably at home until I got to age 10, when I decided that I preferred Kate. I was sick of telling people how to spell Katherine. Now I find Kate is so common (I even job-share with another one) that I have become a full name person, which is certainly not something that ever happens to my friend Isolde. I can't imagine being called anything else now, but at the same time I doubt my life would have been measurably different had my parents called me Jennifer Katherine instead of Katherine Jennifer. I'd be one of three Jenny's at work...

  3. I would have been Alun if a boy, and I thought through my childhood that the other name seriously considered for me was Rebecca, but when I mentioned it later to my mother, she insisted that she would never have given me a Biblical name (she constantly revises my childhood memories, I have no faith in her memory).

    My name has taken on mythical proportions in my family - there are stories about my birth, about the few other Tansys encountered through my life, and my father constantly collected books with my name appearing in it and so on. I can't imagine having another one. Though of course I constantly invent new names for myself, when planning pen names.

  4. This is a really interesting post. I love discussions about names.

    I never had a different name planned for me, but I was named Karin, which is the most common spelling here. I had three Karins in my class throughout school, and at 18 I actually changed the spelling to Karyn instead, AND my last name to my mother's maiden name because it's more me, and I'm closer to my maternal grandparents than my paternal.

    I was sometimes called Kajsa growing up, which, odd as it may sound is a shortening of Karin. I guess it's kind of like the John/Jack thing?

    And then, when I wanted an online name for myself I took Kajsa and revamped it to Kaia. It's my pen name now, but my family and friends still call me Karyn. It took about twelve years for them to get used to THAT, and of course I in the last year or so decided to go back to Karin because I'm tired of explaining the spelling...

    My legal name is still Karyn, I haven't gotten around to change the spelling back, but it doesn't feel like me anymore.

    My sister, on the other hand, was nearly a Sara, which sounds so weird to me. Her real name is Anna, but usually she now goes by Ania, because it's not as uncommon. That's also the reason I went with Kaia rather than Kaja, I liked the connection.

    My brother is named Erik, and it was me and my sister that named him. We were four and six at the time and INSISTED on it. The name our parents picked out for him is now his middle name, and he hates us for it, because it's an old man's name around here.

    Wow, that was wordy.

  5. During my younger years, probably around the age that our Fred and Tara are now, I insisted I would be called Troy (the name I was going to be given if I were a boy). I would not answer to any other name and desperately wanted to be 'Troy'. I wanted to escape who I truly was. I wanted to be a boy in no uncertain terms. I remember being devastated with the realisation that my demands in being called Troy would never in fact change me to being a boy. I would always be perceived as being a girl no matter how hard I tried. I have never liked my name, but aside from my brief interlude as Troy, never entertained the idea of changing it to anything else. In the online world I have always been known as Traceyleigh..a combination of my first and middle names.

    I am comfortable with the names we chose for our children. I can't imagine them being anything else out of the many lists that were constructed for them.

  6. Catherine11:11 PM

    If I were born a boy I would have been Guedo. On the days when being a girl is annoying/ painful/ downright shitty I always take a little comfort in the fact that things could have been a whole. lot. worse. No offence intended folks.

    I'm Catherine, which means 'pure' and also means 'the really boring traditional spelling of the million other Catherine variations'. But I like it. It's me.

    I have played with the idea of changing my surname to my mother's surname (which is currently my middle name). I might do it, one day, when I can be stuffed dealing with the paperwork.

    LOVE this blog and have long been lurking around quietly. Keep on writing Penni! It's brilliant.

  7. If I wasn't named for my grandmothers (Caroline and Josephine and I am Caroline Jo and known as Jo) my mother says 'if only she'd had her way' I would have been Ainsley or Zelda.
    Who knows what may have been.

  8. re: rowena v. penelope, i find my ideas of names are completely formed by the people i've known with that name. so, if i knew a rowena who was a vibrant lithesome beauty, there you go. :^)

    a friend was considering two names for her new baby and i threw my vote in for one because the other was the name of a boy who used to beat me up in school. i could not *imagine* her naming this baby such a terrible name. and then she did. and my idea of the name changed over to this roly-poly baby boy and eventually my idea of him was what popped up when i heard that name.

    so we have as much power over names as they have over us.

  9. Lilybett9:43 AM

    Elizabeth, meaning 'God has sworn' or 'Oath of God'. This was my great grandmother's name, who was a bed-ridden but charming woman by the time I was born. My middle name is for an aunt that died when she was still an infant (Is she still my aunt if she died so young?).

    If I was a boy I would have been Alexander, which my brother was named when came along. So I associate my alternate/what-if name with his life. Perhaps I could have been my brother.

    My name has always been flexible and people seem to choose my name to suit themselves. I always introduce myself as Elizabeth but it is interesting how many immediately shorten it to Liz. My parents introduce me as Lizzie. But my cantankerous grandfather has always called me Lilybett and it's the name I love, though no-one else uses it. I only have the balls to use it online.

  10. I'm completely unattached to my first name.

    I think of my surname (Ryan-Punch) as standing for me, but 'Anna' doesn't seem to have anything to do with me. If I get a phone call and someone asks for Anna, I have to think for a minute if that's me or not (a bit like when someone asks you how old you are, and you have to stop and think).

    ...Think I'm a bit weird.

  11. I'm yet another Katherine. I was almost Kirsty. (For some reason I always picture the putative little Kirsty wearing a kilt.)

    When I was 4-5 I decided I was too mature & sophisticated to be Katy any more and changed myself to Kate, which I love, even though it's so so SO common. I love all the historical and literary Kates I can identify with.

    Having said all that, as a child my true secret name was Selma. Which makes me gag now.
    (apologies to any Selmas out there!)

    I love Fred. She has a poet's soul.

  12. My name is Heather. I love my name, and I can't really imagine having any other. But I'm the second of three, and the story goes that my mother wanted to name my big sister Heather, but my dad wouldn't let her. She's very blonde and very sensible, and it always used to hurt my brain to think of my name applied to her. It just wouldn't fit! Or would it, and she and the name would grow together so that they made sense?

    If I had been a boy I would have been Alexander, which I think is a warm and lovely name. I envy its abbreviations. Heather is virtually unshortenable, and possibly because of this, nicknames have never stuck for me. My partner is a bit sad that there is no version of my name that he, as an intimate, can call me.

  13. I was going to be called Tom until the day I was born.

    My mum called my grandpa Laurence "Mack" MacIntosh in England as soon as i was born. He asked what my name was and Mum said she was thinking about naming me Laurence, after him.

    He was so chuffed that she didn't have the heart to change it back.

    I feel honoured to share a name with my now departed, old-school, spoon-playing legend of a Grandpa, who once worked for the Queen and would never drink alone.

  14. If I was a boy and able to choose my own name, and had already read Joyce (as if!!) of course I would be Stephen.
    I think my mother likes Eugene, too, which would have led to dire consequences in 60s playgrounds, but is a great name.
    I also like Deirdre, precisely because of the legend attached to her - though she had more issues with being seduced than seducing.

    I now like being Genevieve, but for many years I was Genny with a G, which I still am to some. I disliked that until I saw it used as a Versace label in the late '80s on some Vogue patterns.
    Recently I met a carpenter called Thaddeus with a daughter called Genevieve - I was pretty impressed by both.
    This is a great post, Penni.

  15. Oh, what a beautiful post Penni.

    I always hated my name when I was a kid. It annoyed me. I really wanted to be called Jo.

    My parents both had shortlists of names and picked the first one on both their lists that matched. It wasn't high up on either list. I always thought about the other possibilities (those names that were higher up on one or other list).

    There only two that I can remember now are Bronwen (the name of my primary school best friend, so that would have been odd); and Celia (I quite liked that one, but took Mum's point about the Simon & Garfunkle song awkwardness).

    I rarely think about my name now. It's a bit like my face - so familiar as to have become invisible (or inaudible). I like the way it sounds when my daughter says it though, which has surprised me. It amuses me that she so often uses my first name rather than calling me Mama.

  16. Stephen Fry talks about how his family nearly moved to the US just before he was born, and how he has this imaginary alter ego called Steve, who is healthy and athletic and white-toothed.

    If I were a boy I would have been either Quincy, Thor or Eugene. I'm very happy to be a girl.

    Never tried to change my name, couldn't imagine being called something different. Even nicknames don't stick. I love my middle name (Mei-Ling), but don't really see it as forming part of my identity, because I don't use it very often.

  17. Anna, I completely related to you post. My name was Julie and it never felt like it fitted me. I had to fit into it and it chafed me.

    At ten, I told my Marmie I wanted to change my name to Esmerelda. At 37, admist her continuing objections, I finally did and the day, oh that wonderful day when the notice arrived that my name was now Esmerelda - it felt wonderful. Bits of me that had felt empty were filled and other parts the had been molded and squished out of shape before rebounded into their natural shape.
    Who I was hadn't changed, but I felt freer to be that me.

    If I was a boy, I was to be a Barry. I don't identify with that name at all, either!

    Great post, Penni, your writing style is lovely. :-)
    I love the concept behind Frederique. One thing that disturbed me about Julie is that it was already a diminiuative form of Julia/Juliet. I wanted a formal name that could then be altered for nicknames. :-)

  18. Lilybett2:30 PM

    @ Heather - I've known two Heathers and both have been known as H. One was pronounced 'Haitch' and the other 'Aitch'; these always seemed like two completely different names to me and suitable for each of them (Haitch is more welcoming with a breezy personality, while Aitch has sharper edges and an efficient way about her).

  19. Lovely post, Penni.

    Both my kids were named before they were even conceived, so for me the initial seed of their identity came via their names (Porter, our son, is named after a character in The Sheltering Sky, and Elm, daughter, is a variation of her g-grandmother Elma.)
    When I was seven I told everyone my name was Lisa - a 'normal' name in my eyes. But since then I have always felt unique because of my name (Thalia).
    If I had been a boy I would have been called Paul - so, like lili, I'm happy I am a girl.

  20. I love stories around names. A friend of mine tells the story of how she and her sister loved the name Lydia because of a beloved childhood book. As they grew up they used to say 'first one to have a girl gets to use the name Lydia'. The younger one (my friend) partnered first and when pregnant told her partner of the long cherished name. He replied 'eew, similar to that disease pigeons carry' (chlamydia actually) and in one fell swoop, her lifelong ambition was thwarted.

    It both cracks me up and saddens me.

    I was to be Simon if I were a boy, which feels quite comfortable.

    Also, I grew up as Susan, was Sue at school, went to America for a year and introduced myself to everyone as Susan and forged a whole new identity out of that. I was Susan from then on, and only old schoolfriends call me Sue. And now of course I'm Suse online which is yet another identity. Sue feels immature, Susan sophisticated, and Suse somehow free.

    And only one person in my life has ever got away with calling me Susie as it always sounded so Barbie-dollish to me.

    Oi, that was long.

  21. What a lovely post.

    I was going to be Kerry if I was a boy. I am not sure how I feel about Rachel-it has always seemed to me, to be such a plain name. I remember relating to the meaning of my name, and not so much the sound of it in my mouth.
    Yet, I think I went on to choose common names for the boys. Again, it was the meaning behind both that attracted me..asked for of 'God'...and 'fierce guardian'..for the second.

    I love the way Fred thinks. She is a delight.

  22. What a beautiful post, Penni.
    I was going to be Tasha because my parents liked Russian/French names, and there's a photo or two of me as a very tiny baby that have that name on the back. Hadia was considered as more of a 'heritage' sort of name, but it took a day or two for everyone to agree it didn't suit me. Nadia was the final choice and, for a short name, it's quite modifiable. It's also pronounced in slightly different ways by different people/groups, but I seldom feel it's being pronounced 'wrong'. In a way, each pronunciation helps me locate myself and remember who I am in its context.
    Sometimes I think my 'real' name isn't Nadia at all but its source: Nadezhda. That's a purely Russian name and my father is the only person who uses it regularly. I did for a time want to make it my legal name, but now I'm glad I didn't. Only people who know me (and pay enough attention to know what it means, and how to pronounce and abbreviate it) can use it so in a way it acts as a sort of filter.

    This makes me think of the old idea of the 'true name' and how it had power over its bearer, so knowing it gave you power over them. It raises all sorts of questions about one's conception of one's self, of the self as an idea, the self/name as something we are given and that we create and modify and build over time, whether it would exist if there were nobody to see it, and the potential it has to change entirely when somebody new looks at it or when we give it a new name.

  23. My parents stayed up all night after I was born, unable to decide between the 2 names they liked, which had the same meaning. In the end, they went with both.

    Although when I was younger I found it cumbersome and hard to explain, these days I like that my name is unusual. I have only ever known one other person with it, and bizarrely enough she lives in my street (although she only uses half of hers these days). Her mother had heard of me through mutual friends and decided she liked the sound of it.

    I have often felt I have not lived up to the expectations of my name - doubly graced in name, but not in disposition or behaviour!

    Unlike Lili, I have picked up a multitude of nicknames over the years, always with a story behind them. You can usually tell where people know me from - family, primary school, high school, acting, different jobs, blogging - based on which nickname they use for me. My nicknames are easily as important to me as my actual name.

    "Jellyfish" was given to me by some kids I worked with when I was about 21, and it stuck fast. My brother says it suits me because I am small, and sort of squishy and cuddly, but I can sting if I need to.

    If I had been a boy, I was to have been Huw. I'm pretty glad I escaped that lifetime of mispronunciation.

  24. I was to be called Kathryn, known as Kate. My mother says it was always that way. "I wanted an independent Kate," she told me, a flicker crossing her face as she suddenly pondered the wisdom of that fated decision. I am independent and fiercly so as a child, I am told. My sister was the child closest to my mother. Maybe she rethought her naming prophecies. I think there is a legend that if a boy, I was to be David, but no one seems to recall if that's true. We've had two children, of four, wish to change their names. No, three. Sarah wanted to be known as Sally for a while. Amy insisted for years - as an older teen - her name be spelled Aimiee. She, at 21, still sometimes spells it that way. Emily has tried on various names, our favourite being Lightning. She refused to answer to anything but and zipped about as though she was storm and tempest.

  25. I've never felt terribly connected to Melanie. It's alright I suppose. Nearly everyone calls me Mel, except my Grandma, and a couple of male friends from university days... Oh, and all the Norwegians of course. They are not into abbreviating names here. Meli is a name Michael made for me - I'd never seen it spelt that way before. M reckons Melanie is a terrible name and reminds him of women who work in banks. This is probably partly because it sounds pretty wretched with the German pronunciation. His parents call me Meli. Some of my cousins call me Mellie. Oh, and all my closest friends in my early twenties called me Duckie - first behind my back and then to my face. I secretly loved that.

    I love that I have my Grandma's name for my middle name: Ruth.

    My Mum chose Melanie cos she thought it sounded melodic, and there was a folk singer they like with that name. Dad wanted Sarah, but Mum thought that was too common. I sort of like that more but maybe it's too floaty... I don't mind being a Meli.

    Anyway, Melanie and Sarah are equally awkward for someone who stammers. I have worked out that Hannah would have been best - it's difficult to stammer on Hannah.

    I discovered this weekend that I would have been Joshua if I was a boy. My little brother ended up with the best name, though: Jonathan Luke.

    Oh and sorry to go on and on but there's another story too...

    Michael's mum always wanted two children: Michael and Sabine. When her first son was born, however, all the grandparents insisted on Jorg. When her second son was born she put her foot down and Michael was Michael. (She never had a daughter.) He loves his name and never lets anyone shorten it. It's good cos it works so well in English contexts - something like Jorg would have been a pain! I always use the English pronunciation, although I prefer the German. Michael in German is completely gorgeous, with a lovey soft ch sound, rhyming with Rafael.

    Shall I stop now? The only names we can agree on so far for future offspring are really simple names like William and Lucy, but I would like something more interesting...

  26. Melanie - as a big fan of Melanie Safka (the folk singer I think your parents liked) I love your name!

  27. Laurie9:38 PM

    I have never liked my name and am not sure what other names my parents may have considered.
    However, I have been haunted by what I call a "secret name" - Julie - my whole life. That is the name that seems to pop into people's mind when they have forgotten my name, or what they call me absentmindedly. I feel that I must have some essence of a "Julie", it has been happening my whole life.
    I always know that someone is referring to ME when they say "Julie" instead of "Laurie."
    On another note, I named my daughter Elianna -- I love it and she hates it, wants to only be Ellie, even in official documents.
    However, the name I was set on was Abby (or Abigail,I guess). However, in the delivery room my husband kept saying "Abby Normal" (from Young Frankenstein) so I couldn't do it b/c I knew she'd be called Abby Normal her whole life. But when I meet someone named Abby, I have a moment of recognition, like "that's my daughter's name" -- even though it's not.
    Strange. Sorry for rambling!

  28. "Frederique is the name of the piece of me that broke off, and became her".

    As someone moving towards parenthood for the first time, that sentence cut through beautifully. Lovely, lovely.

    Apparently I could've been a Madeline or a Lily and a Reuben if I was a boy. My name is Jessamin Eve. I remember changing the 'i' to a 'y' for a while, but I've always embraced my name. The fabulous part about it is that 'Jessamin' is actually a misheard David Bowie lyric, from a song called Always Crashing in the Same Car. The lyric is actually 'Jasmine' (a name that frequently gets mistaken for mine, but that I don't feel any more connected to than I would Sue or Kate), but my mother heard it as Jessamin. It's a great anecdote and always attracts interest or is a nice little conversation starter in an awkward moment. Who doesn't think David Bowie is damn cool?!

    My name day-by-day is Jess. Interestingly,the year I was born, Jessica was the No.1 baby name for girls, which my mother hates. I have had 3 surname changes though, without ever being married, and while my current surname is hyphenated and complex to pronounce, I will never change it. It is MY name. Since my mother and I are the only ones with my surname, I do find it weird thinking about potentially having a son that will take my surname - it feels my surname is feminine, purely because only women have inhabitated it.

    Overall, I feel there are large sections of my journey that would've been altered had my name not been exactly what it is.

  29. Jessice8:06 PM

    I am loving this post!!! Official new blog follower. :)

    I am Jessica. Born in 79. I grew up with Lavina, Barb, Kari, Lora, Hazel and Heather. I hated my name. I thought it was too weird. I knew no one with it. I chafed so badly that when I was 13 or 14, my Mama said if I still hated it when I turned 18, she would help me change it. Wow. I set to work finding the perfect name. I settled on either Alexandria Tyne or Calandra Tempest. Double wow. Thank God neither stuck!!!

    I was nearly named Heather. But then Mama decided that Heather Hoover did not live well together. Then she chose Nicole. Until an aquaintance used it. I've always wondered what it would have been like to be Nicole. Yet, I have never ever wished it were my name.

    Had I been a boy my name would be Ryan. That name belongs to my second younger brother. Have never enjoyed it when thought of in the context of me.

    I have been unwittingly called Janelle multiple times. Somehow I am quite comfortable with that.

  30. Frangipani8:48 PM

    For a few hours at the beginning of my life I was Patricia due to an emergency baptism for an ill baby. My father was not best pleased and I became Frances Mary. Dad had an Auntie Fanny, but I was never given that diminutive. Lots of abbreviations for my name have come and gone Fran, Frannie, Frankie, Francesca and Francie. Only Fran has been constant with family and friends. I don't think I've ever thought about calling myself another name.

  31. That's an amazing post by Esmerelda, who changed her name in her late 30s and finally felt like herself! Almost as powerful as gender-reassignment! Wow!
    I would have been Chloe, if not Zoe. I like my name. "Life". Not a bad meaning.

  32. My mother wanted to call me Kylie, and I can't imagine growing up as one of the 4 or 5 Kylies in my year. If I'd been a boy, I would also have been a Simon (thanks Suse, I had completely forgotten that until I read your comment), but it's not a name I could ever imagine identifying with.

    But I won't criticise my parents, at least they didn't get my name wrong. I got one of my kids' names wrong, and had to change it by deed poll by the time he was 1. So at least sometimes, names aren't destiny, they're just wrong.

  33. Such a great post.

    I've always been Megan.

    I HATE Meg with a passion, and correct anyone who calls me that.

    I have a few very close friends/bosses (namely, like four) who call me Megs, and usually when I get closer with someone I'll sign off emails as 'Megs'.

    This is also the online name I've given myself ('bookworm megs') as I feel Megan is too formal.

    I've never really liked my name. I have a problem with the 'ME' at the beginning of it, as if saying it's all about Me or whatever.

    I've come more to peace with it as I've gotten older, but I still look at other names in envy and wish I had them.

    I keep a notebook filled with names that I want to name my (future) kids.

    They are a mixture of people who have meant something to me (Elisabeth, Jessica, Rebecca) and names I like (January, Ben, Alex (male or female)).

    I too have names I hate, purely from knowing someone with that name and something went wrong (Karen). That, therefore, becomes a problem (in my head) when I meet someone of that name because I forever assoicate it with my original memories.

    I also have names I just dislike, but then there's names like Claire, which is really growing on me and I like reading about Claires and talking to Claires but I don't think I'd ever name a child Claire.

    I love names. I love creating new characters and searching through baby name books and finding the perfect one.

  34. Oh!

    I was meant to be either Rochelle or Nyree... Guess Megan isn't that bad after all!

  35. Joanne Lisa. Named for my Grandmothers Joan & Elizabeth. I should be grateful that my Nan was known by her middle name of Joan rather than Ethel, her "real" first name.

    Ethel though was to make a comeback. Nan lived in the UK and we in Australia, so it was years & years before my brother and I were able to sneak a look at her passport and discover what the E stood for... it was like a state secret. My brother soon took to calling her Nanny Ethel and for the rest of her life only he was allowed to do so. A name that she had detested became a loving exchange between a Nan & Grandson.

  36. I loved this. It's funny how names become adjectives. The names of people you dislike are often tainted and subconsciously anyone you meet with that name thereafter may hold those traits. Mum once told me she toyed with the idea of 'Jenna'. I used to pine for that name when I got sick of hearing 'Miss Molly had a dolly who was sick sick sick...' I could have been named 'Morrisey' if I were a boy. Not sure how to feel about that one. It means 'sea' or 'action' or something. I hate swimming and I'm terribly inactive, so that's probably not very fitting...