Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So you got stuck with a rotten name...

Today I talk about names.
You know, that thing your parents saddled you with at birth and half of you are like "Really? THAT'S what you came up with?"
Most people don't like their names.
Or perhaps how their names are spelled.
And there's usually a story behind how their name was picked that gets told repeatedly, whether the name bearer wants to hear it or not.

For example:
I've been told if I was to turn out to be a boy, I would have been named Darren. Or Darryl. (?) I can't quite remember, but either way I'm good with Stephanie. It's still unique enough, and even though I was relentlessly teased by crappy little boys who liked to make up songs emphasizing the "Fanny" portion of my name's ending...I still lived through it and enjoy having a *fairly rare* yet *not borderline your parents were on crack when they named you* name. When asked how my name was chosen, apparently it was an afterthought. I think my parents were pretty convinced I'd be a boy, considering the fact that they didn't actually have a girl name picked out by the time they were in their blue Mach I headed for the hospital. So when the nurse was standing there tapping her foot, clipboard in hand, pen poised for the all important birth certificate moment...nothing came to mind. Then they managed to land on the idea of naming me after my dad's middle name (Steven) and Stephanie flew out of their mouths. Go figure.

My middle name (Sue) was easier as I'm named after my mom, Diane Sue, and my great Aunt Jimmie Sue. Yes we are a very southern family, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas... you get the idea.

My sister is almost 11 years younger than I, so I very clearly remember the naming games we went through to land on Tracy.
Tracy Anne to be exact.

Back in the early 80s, they'd finally come out with reasonable baby name books, and not wanting to be caught off guard like their previous hospital stint, my parents shelled out some money for that all important book. We hauled that sucker around everywhere we went. I was 10 years old and the main researcher; I'd read out hundreds of baby names to my mom on the way to the grocery store, coming home from school or dance practice... I was always reciting names. And usually the most ridiculous ones too, because (of course) I thought it would be funny to have a sibling with a hoaky embarrassing name. We knew mom was gonna have another girl, so once again my parents were slightly disappointed that they didn't get a chance to unleash Darren (or was it Darryl?) upon their second child. Oddly enough my mom got stuck on the name Emily for quite some time; for months my sister was going to be Emily. Then something switched up (perhaps the increasing frequency and intensity of the kicks in the tummy?) and suddenly my mom had a very solid conviction that Emily was too "dainty" for whomever was jostling around in her belly, Tracy sounded more appropriate. And of course, everyone knows that Tracy Anne just rolls off the tongue now doesn't it?
Now that my sister is here and a stunning grown woman, I can say with positive conviction that she is definitely a Tracy, not even close to an Emily. She bosses people around in the most professional manner as a restaurant manager and wrestles horses in her spare time. Definitely a Tracy, not an Emily.

My husband's name story is quite interesting, and being a good journalist type, I went to the source- I emailed my in-laws directly to make sure I had the story straight.
Originally Russell (hubby) was to be named either Andrew Victor or Russell Victor, but once mom-in-law was wheeled into the birthing room and dad was left out in the waiting room, things apparently changed up. (For the record, this was 1973 people- there were no dads in the delivery rooms, let alone the rest of the 27 family members and camera crews people bring into the birthing rooms today...) Having finally given birth after 14 hours of intense labor, mom-in-law had full control over filling out the birth certificate paperwork. So she chose Russell Allan, instead of Russell or Andrew Victor. As the story goes, she liked the idea of being able to nickname her son Rusty (even though he is not a red head) so Andrew was out the window, and the Victor portion was switched out to Allan as she had a severe aversion to the concept of her son having initials representing a Recreational Vehicle. Ironically his last name starts with an N, so to this day Russ does not understand how it was okay for him to be a nurse (RN) but not a recreational vehicle (RV). Too many hours of pushing without the luxury of an epidural perhaps? Who knows how this exactly came about. Needless to say, father-in-law was surprised to learn it had all switched up and already been etched into stone while he was in the waiting room handing out cigars. (Surprise!)

When I asked my brother-in-law if there was any special story behind how his parents picked his name (Noah) he said they simply saw the name listed as one of the actors on the early Battlestar Galactica TV show and they liked it...not that they necessarily had an affinity for arks and things paired in twos.

So all that being said, names certainly are an interesting topic now aren't they?

Why the heck am I talking so in-depthly about names today? Because it's a routine part of my day that I get resumes with "odd" names and have to figure out just how the HELL I'm going to pronounce them if I choose to try and get these people on the phone.

Here's a list of actual first names that have floated into my work in-box over the last month:


I just finally figured out how to pronounce the last name "Nguyen" the heck am I going to pull off pronouncing any of these names?

When I do call them on the phone, the majority of them are polite as I suppose they are used to hearing their name hacked into pieces and spit out of some white chick's mouth. But some of them? Not so much. They get MAD. And I mean mad. To the point where I just apologize and say "You know what? Let me call you back" and then I hang up quickly, all the while acting as if the building is burning down or some such nonsense requiring me to get off the phone in a big ol' hurry. And naturally I don't call them back. Because if they are treating me like that? How are they going to treat our insurance customers? After consulting my crystal ball, I'd dare say pretty shitty, that's how.

So people? When you are stuck with a really crappy name- don't take it out on the HR/recruiter types trying to call you about employment okay? It's totally not fair that you lash out at us. If you feel the need to bash somebody about it, call up your parents again and say "What the eff were you thinking??" Or just rename yourself already. At least give yourself a reasonable nick name to go by, no?

This YouTube video highlights my sentiments exactly on this topic- it's 4 minutes long but worth the watch.

Naming Your Child by David Mitchell

PS How did you get YOUR name?? Please share any cool (or even boring) stories with us all!


  1. It gets old when people comment on your name, even if it's complimentary. And it makes it harder to be anonymous. Four years after I graduated high school I ran into somebody who heard my name and said, "I don't know you, but I clapped for you at graduation because I liked your name."

    For the record? Crystal Bleu Waters

    Could have been worse - my dad wanted the middle name to be "Clear."

    Oh, and my mother, who so carefully named me? Got MAJORLY upset when I wouldn't (couldn't) change it when I got married.

    Crystal Bleu Shiras? Not gonna happen.

    Think before you name your children, people.

  2. Amaranth Davinia. Amaranth is the grain that, in 1980, was supposed to end world hunger; Davinia is a family name, but nobody actually knows which relative or which side of the family. The first words out of my mouth are usually "Just call me Sam, it's easier all round".

    Normally I only lurk, but you put David Mitchell up, which officially makes this the greatest website in all of today.

  3. I am pretty sure my parents never even considered the "Jenna-talia" taunts I would later endure when they named me, so I mostly forgive them.

  4. @Crystal- thank you for sharing your unique story. I imagine it gets incredibly old having to discuss your name every week (day?) even if they are being kind.

    @Sam- my lurker- thank you for "unlurking" yourself. (What? That's totally a word cuz I just made it up.) I applaud you for choosing a mainstream nickname, even though your real name is quite beautiful BTW.

    @Jenna- who I'll refrain from calling Talia- first: JENNA MCCARTHY COMMENTED ON MY BLOG EVERYBODY!! Squeee!!! Okay, calming down now... I sympathize, empathize and commiserize (also a word I made up but everyone can feel free to steal for their own use- the sister of commiserate of course...)I feel your pain for the nether regions taunting. There was this foster boy that lived across the street from us when I was growing up, he lived there for about a year and I'd be riding my Big Wheel up and down the street minding my own damn business and he'd yell out "HEY EVERYBODY LOOK! IT'S FANNY!!" I swear I'd lay in bed every night plotting my revenge on little Bradley. I had a master plan in place (involving inviting him to my birthday party and then "accidentally" hitting his head with a baseball bat instead of the pinata)and when I was weeks away from execution ala Fanny Style, he moved away! Little asshole was whisked off to another foster home. I suppose being moved from house to house as a child is enough of revenge on him but still- I loathe him to this day.

    Thank you guys for commenting and being some of the coolest readers ever. ;0)

  5. I feel I have to point out that while "Sam" may be mainstream, my true joy in it comes from the fact that my last name is "Wise".

    I thought I should share that some brilliant child managed to come up with my sister's most hated nickname, "Vicdorkia Weinie", thereby managing to mock both first and last names.

  6. a24hrmo... eh, getting old... SharonSeptember 8, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    I recently had the pleasure of meeting a woman whose name (no lie, saw the records where she enrolled her son William in school with his aunt, my BFF) is Bojangles Lamonde (no middle)... She has a sister named Tomorrow. ??? Hopped up hippies much???

    & while working in the glass industry I got all sorts of fun and interesting clientele for automobile glass replacement & home window estimates... Such as one Counge (koonj) Cattergoone and a Dondra Dildeen.

  7. @Sharon- you are clearly in the south my friend! As is evident from the names you just listed. Although I got a guy last week named Sixto. Not sure where THAT lovely name hails from LOL.

  8. I had the opposite problem. After considering such original possibilities as Sarah and Jessica, my folks decided on Kate. Mum got ticked at me when I asked whether they knew that there were more than three girls' names from which to choose. I am a child of the late 80s, when a bumper crop of girls were given those names.

    Fast forward 20 years... I began graduate school in a female-dominated field. Out of 33 students, a whopping eight of us were named Kate/Katie.

    Now, I have encountered some "unique" names in my day (My-Lady comes immediately to mind), and the ones in your post are fine examples. Names should exist to help tell us apart, but shouldn't set us apart. I will get off my soapbox now.