Autobiographical Posts

What’s in a name?

hello-my-name-isDo you like your name? Is it your given name, or a nickname; something someone identified about you that stuck – however astutely observant or wildly inaccurate it may be?

My parents took an enthusiastic approach to naming; ask my sister – she has three middle names. They began with a taste for the unusual fantastical, which had mercifully tapered to the everyday by the time their fourth child arrived.

I grew up with a very different name from the one I have now. I hated it. Its uniqueness was such that I surmised my parents must have asked all their friends to pick a letter, then swapped and shuffled the order until they came up with something vaguely pronounceable. Just to make sure they included everyone’s contribution, they made it hyphenated. And that was just my first name; my middle one wasn’t great either.

I have never come across another soul, either in person or otherwise, who had the same name as I did. My family moved around a lot and there was always that humiliating moment in a new school, when the teacher would attempt to read aloud my name while introducing me to the class. Their collective stare sought and held me like a prison-tower searchlight. I could sense their awful curiosity, like rubberneckers at a motorway pile-up, as they assessed the bearer of such an unfortunate moniker. I wished the floor would open up and swallow me. When I was nine I actually went through a phase of asking everyone in school to call me Jackie, I thought it was such a cool name! Oh! for something normal!

In my teens I dated a guy who went by the nickname of Boots (waaaay before Dora the Explorer), because of the Doc Martens he wore.

I finally rid myself of my hyphenated horror when I married, using the opportunity given by a change of surname to insert a completely new name on my legal documents. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to legally apply to change your name. You’re free to call yourself whatever you like. The difficulty lies in getting your documents (passport, drivers licence, etc.) changed.

In contrast to my childhood, where nicknames were met with disdain, we sprinkle them like confetti in our house! Some of us have more than one! My son is sometimes Taz, my youngest daughters latest label is Scribble, describing her mop of untameable curls. I might be Chamchi (urdu for “spoon”), Moti (urdu for “chubby” – yes, my husband knows which buttons to push!), or even Donkey, for my ability to do that popping noise with my lips, used by my namesake in Shrek 1 to annoy Shrek & Fiona on their journey to Far Far Away!

So, now it’s your turn to fess up! What do they call you? Have you ever wanted to change your name? Did you go through with it or did something change your mind? Let me know in the comments below, I promise I won’t laugh…


16 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Well in case anyone’s wondering, I was not christened “Unexpected Traveller”.

    That would have been, ahem, unexpected ….

  2. Well I inherited a surname I hate and was given a first name that I also loathed until I was about 16 or so. (My mother has a peculiar, unique first name so you’d think she’d have known better!) But oddly as the years have passed and the misery of school teasing is now a thing of the past I have grown into my name, and oddly wouldn’t surrender it lightly…I never thought I’d say that though!

    • So there you have it folks – it is possible that you may grow to like your unusual name! A happy ending for you Flora – I love the way you sounded surprised at your own admission!

  3. Hi there, just found your blog via Maria at I was an Expat Wife. Too funny you wrote the same blog posts independently. See my comment there – I am one like you who hated my name, but never had the boldness to change it, even though I moved countries several times and could easily have done it. But so WHAT was your hyphenated name? I’m dying to know. Like you, I never came across another soul with the same name (Melusine) and I have never forgiven my parents for picking it. Glad to find your blog, by the way.

    • Thanks for coming over! I’m afraid I will go to my grave and not tell – due to the difficulties of my life at home, it has so many unpleasant connotations for me it’s like nails over a blackboard! I may well be outed if anyone from my past drops by here and chooses to enlighten you all…
      I too have never heard your name before and I can imagine it must have been hard in school. At least it’s possible to shorten it. Mind you, (dare I say it..!) I quite like it

  4. My sister is a a great believer in family names, but with a surname like Codd, not everything fits well. She named her daughter Rachel (after me) and her first son Peter after an uncle. When she gave birth to her third child, another son, I had a sneaky suspicion that she might choose Christopher (after my husband, cousin and uncle) or Paul, after my brother. She erred on the side of diplomacy and used both, inadvertently condemning him to a life as a Chris P Codd.
    We call him Findus for short.

  5. In Jamaica everyone has a nickname, usually a childhood one that only family still use. So my husband (Neville) is called “Robby” but only by family and close friends. As for me, I love my name – it’s the name of my great-grandmother. I do feel sorry for parents who give their children ridiculous names though – it often happens here and names are often misspelt, which causes all sorts of problems…

  6. Mine’s not awful but I never liked it much (just dying to know what yours was!) My maiden surname was Szustakiewicz, which would be quite normal in Poland but phased a few of my teachers here in the UK.
    Worse was the tussle between Mam and Dad over my Christian name. Joasia in Polish, Johanna in English but somehow Mam managed to call me Janice and I never really liked it. One of my good friends was a Janice too and when I finally realised that it said Johanna on my birth cert I opted for that. Now I mostly get Jo, but family call me Jan.
    My son James gets “Chad” from all his mates and I’ve never understood why. Life…?

    • Wow! Pretty confusing – how’d they come up with Janice from Johanna? It’s funny, my family were very strict and unbending about names, almost a if they had been divinely appointed! My husbands family had a much more flexible approach to them. You grow up thinking one thing….and then… as you said; Life! 🙂

  7. My father was from Norway and our last name was Myklebust. All through grade school the boys in my class taunted me saying, “I’ll give you a nickel for your bust, because thats all its worth Nickelbust!” I HATED my last name!
    So what did I do? I moved to Norway and married a man with the same last name (no, we are not related)
    So once a Myklebust always a Myklebust…

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