Saturday, March 12, 2005

What's in a Name?

I recently spent a long weekend with my childhood friend Freddie Lee. I found myself being introduced as “Barbie”, a name I grew up with but had come to loathe upon the birth of that doll with the same name. But then I realized that my friend was not known to her Florida friends by Freddie Lee, but she was now “Fredericka”, a much more grown-up version of her old name. We quickly realized that it would be impossible to think of each other in new names and that the old ones would just have to do.

A similar thing had happened many years ago with my husband, now David, who when I met him was simply Dave, a “cooler” version of his name which he had adopted after college. At some point around the time we were getting married, he informed me that he really preferred David. I found that it is very hard to unlearn a name!

Then there is R, who was born with a good Jewish name Rebecca, was called Becky by her family, and then in one of her initiation ceremonies adopted the name R.

I guess many of us are given sophisticated names that just don’t work for children. So we use diminutive versions of those names with an “ie” or a “y” at the end. But then when we are adults those names no longer fit. We’re still the same persons under whatever name. It’s just that we have to always remember which name to associate with our various friends, relatives, and professional and social acquaintances.

The interesting thing is what name we give ourselves. It probably doesn’t matter and doesn’t say a thing about our psychological health. But it is something to think about...

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