Naming names

I was thinking, the other day, about given names and how keen so many of us are to change or ditch them,  at least when we’re young.  I say “we” but that doesn’t actually include me.  I’m not very name-minded.  I don’t even name the chickens, and it was probably only the necessity to register our children that made us choose names for them.  At that, when Ro was a small child, he was more often called “Thing” (entirely affectionately) by me than any other name.  Three children and a husband – how on earth was I to remember all those names?
My sister, here, is called Wink.  But that’s the name I actually call her by, more often than not, it being her childhood nickname.  It was my parents that called her that in the first place, when she was only a few weeks old.  Her name is Melanie, you see, but my mother didn’t want to call her Mel and intended to use the full name – but it’s fairly unwieldy for a small child so her babyhood nickname stuck.  Mine, which I used when I was too little to manage Z, didn’t.  But then, Z is quite an efficient name so it was easy to say and write.
A lot of people abbreviate their names of course, at least when they are children – though often, it’s mothers who insist on a full name being used and friends who shorten it.  Some reinstate the full name when they are older.  I know a Patricia and a Christopher who were Pat and Chris twenty years ago, for instance.  There were another two, hating their names, who changed them altogether.  One went from Dorothy to Jane, which was slightly confusing, as her mother and the rest of the family ignored the change, and I knew her through her family, so I innocently called her Dorothy for years because I knew no better, rather to the bewilderment of other friends.  Another woman changed her name to Zellah, with such success that I’ve forgotten the original.  Rather splendidly, she finally took the plunge and made the change in her late 60s.  Wink had to move nearly 250 miles to ditch her nickname.  I do make every effort to call her Mel when I’m visiting her, at least when we’re in company.  Hardly seems fair otherwise.

10 comments on “Naming names

  1. martina

    What was your nickname if Z was hard for you to say?
    I was nicknamed Tina as a child-never liked it. School bullies made fun of that name as well as my real full first name. Now the only person who can call me Tina is a very elderly aunty.

  2. Roses

    On my divorce I changed my last name to a name I’d chosen, not been born with. There are memembers of my family who still haven’t forgiven me.

    As for my first name, I don’t mind people shortening it to Rose, or Roses or my full first name. I still feel like me and I can’t imagine being named anything else.

    I find it difficult to call the Sage by his proper name. Every time I see him I have to make an effort not to call him The Sage.

  3. Dave

    I have a middle name which I’ve never liked. I never use it on church documents – I’ve even amanged to get it removed from the official Church handbook. Oddly, though, when signing cheques I do use ut.

  4. Christopher

    I was invariably ‘Chris’ until I moved to France, where they pronounce ‘Christ’ as ‘Creess’.

    The most extraordinary name-change I ever came across was by someone originally called Ron McHattie, who was transformed into Tanya Federova Arkipova. Admittedly this was on starting a new life after a sex-change, but it must have been difficult to start addressing someone you’ve known all your life as Ron as Tanya.

    If Dave would like to write me a cheque I promise absolute discretion.

  5. Z

    My middle initial is B. I generally avoid writing the name in full. It’s so damn silly, being named with one’s great-grandmother’s maiden name.

  6. Dave

    I should make it clear that I only use the initial of my middle name when signing cheques, I don’t write the whole name in full. Xavier is such a mouthful.

  7. Z

    No harder to say, and less to write, than Christopher, Dave.
    I’d love to be a man, Chris, but I’d never go through with it – the thought of having to choose a new name is quite beyond me. Although I think that Roses’ idea is brilliant – and actually, whilst I have no current plans to divorce the Sage, if I did I would not keep his surname, which I don’t like at all.

    Being called by a nickname that you don’t like and are teased about too must be the worst, Martina. And your question is answered in the next post.

  8. Ivy

    I was named after my two grand-mothers, (neither of whom I ever knew as they had died before I was born), but they were such short first and middle names that they couldn`t be shortened.
    Infact, quite a number of people have tried to lengthen my first name when talking to me by adding Mary to the end of it and another one added “ie” to it which I detested!


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