Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's in a name?


My husband is forever asking how I got on a particular subject, wondering if my brain has some random function.  But there always is a path, however obscure.

So here’s how I came to today’s topic.  As I was standing in the shower, I found myself thinking about people’s names.  I came to my new Internet friend Rayna and wondered if her parents were expecting a boy when they named her or if it was a family name.  I had known two other Jewish women with similar names -- a Reia and a Reya, similar but not the same.  Perhaps Rayna can explain how her name came to be.

Then I thought about my own name.  If you know any Barbara’s, I would wager they are 60 or so in age.  It seems were were all named for a popular Miss America, or at least that was the story my mother told me.  But I had never bothered to find out anything more about my namesake.  So today I Googled:  Miss America Barbara 1948 1949 and came up with Barbara Jo Walker, 1947, whose real historical mark was the fact that she was the last Miss America to be crowned in a swimsuit.  She was clear that the only contract she was interested in was a marriage contract.  She made good on that soon after being crowned.

My middle name, Todd, came to me through my mother’s stepmother’s family, who were directly related to Mary Todd Lincoln.  I guess my parents figured if Miss America could have Jo as a middle name, I could have Todd.  I can now appreciate the significance of my given middle name, but growing up I found it tedious to explain why I had a boy’s name.

What about your name?  Does it have a family history or some other significance?  Or was it just a name your parents liked?  Have you ever thought of changing your name?

11 Comments:

Blogger LiLu said...

My first name, not so much. They just liked it.

But my middle name is my grandmother's maiden name. So it's technically more of a "last name", which I thought was weird and oddly formal when I was little and all my best friends had middle names like "Alice" and "Betsy Jo". Or something like that.

But now? Now I wouldn't trade it for anything. Because it means a little piece of her will be with me always, corny though that may be. And I LOVE it.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

I got my name in a roundabout way. My grandmother's name was Clarice, but she thought that name was old-fashioned and drab, so she started calling herself Teresa, which she liked much better. (She was bit eccentric!) And when I was born she lobbied for naming me Teresa after her. My mother obliged and began calling me Terry the day I was born. So, you see, I was named Terry in honor of my grandmother Clarice! :-)

5:32 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

My story's a little twisted, but that's nothing new. My mom's cousin went by Kirstin. My mom liked the name but thought it would be slaughtered. Her best friend was Christine, which seemed somewhat easier, so she combined the two and came up with Kristin (which is actually my great-grandfather's name).

Danielle just sounded good. I used to have a roommate named Kristin Noelle, also Norwegian-American with Minnesota ties.

Christine (aka Chris) has been my stepmom for 25 years.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't actually know how my parents chose my first name. My middle name is my mother's first name.

After she got married, my mother, who was the family's unofficial genealogist, went by three middle names: one was her "given" middle name, one was a grandparent's surname, and one was her maiden name. When she passed away, I and my siblings made sure all five of her names went onto her headstone (per her instructions)!

F.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I was supposed to have been named Barbara, after my maternal grandmother. But when my evil aunt(my dad's sister-in-law)found out about that she deliberately and maliciously(according to my mother)went and named her daughter Barbara. She was born a few months before me so she got to it first. Apparently Pamela was also in the running for a while but it got ditched at the last minute for Cynthia, which sort of came out of nowhere. They told me that they decided to skip the middle name because I wouldn't need one after I got married. It was somewhat embarrassing to have such a lame reason for not having a middle name, especially when everyone thought it was probably something really awful that I didn't want anyone to know about. I have a feeling that giving me a name was a rather traumatic experience for them.

1:20 AM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

My dad would get fixated on things and the Vikings were one of his fixations. Hence my name, which is Eric, not Merle.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I confess I have a bias against people changing their names, except for culturally-embedded reasons. The two people I have really known (one intimately, one indirectly but who I know a great deal about) who changed their names did so in a misguided attempt to shed their inner demons, It didn't work in either case. And may have even led to their further self-delusion and great pain to those around them. I know you're familiar from your own experience with what I'm talking about...

F.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Rayna said...

Yes, I always wanted to be a Barbara, Nancy, Susie, blah blah blah. But now I am happy to be Rayna. I sent you an e-mail with the whole story, which is too long to post here.
Short story for the public:
I was named after a brilliant, beautiful, heroic woman who inspired love in everyone who know her. How's that?
R.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

My mother named me after her best friend. My middle name comes from my father's step-mother. I actively dislike both names though to this date, I haven't come up with a name I really like that suits my perception of myself. I remember reading a story of a child called Boy until he discovered a name for himself. Perhaps I should be known simply as Girl...

1:07 PM  
Blogger bulletholes said...

Rayna....
Some say the world has gone insane,
And some say that G-d just got up and walked away.
Some say dreams have frozen, Like a river that will not thaw.
But not me since I've seen Raina

Some say that all is lost,
And that innocence can't be restored at any cost.
Some say you lose your spirit if you lose a sense of awe,
But not me since I've touched Raina.

There's so little in this world that's true.
I have boundless dreams for you.

Some say that love is destined to fail,
And some say that what's pure must wither and pale.
And some say the dignity of man can be broken like a piece of straw.
But not me since I've held Raina.

There's so little in this world that's true.
I have boundless dreams for you.

Some say there's no end to the night,
And some say the reward just isn't worth the fight.
But I'm no stranger to the allure of despair,
I've spent a lifetime inside his jaws.
But not since I've seen Raina.

Peter Himmelman for his daughter...

2:59 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

My mom apparently chose my name just because she liked it, although I do coincidentally have a great-grandfather with the same name. My middle name is mom's maiden name.

5:19 PM  

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