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Saturday, January 14, 2012

What's In A Name?

On the weekend that I wasn't able to attend school (Fellowships Of The Spirit - FOTS) back in November, my class learned, among many other things, the importance of one's name. I know this because I was able to view the DVDs of the weekend's worth of classes at a later date. Our name may be one of the most important things we own. Whether you stick with what you were named by your parents...or go by a nickname...or whether you've changed either your first name, last name, or both...your name is incredibly meaningful and significant.

I learned that how you say your name is crucial, as well. For instance, if you pronounce your name one way and a person says your name and totally pronounces it in an entirely different way, or puts emphasis on a different syllable(s) than you do, there's a chance that it'll feel to you like fingernails screeching as they travel down the face of a chalkboard. And what about someone who knows your nickname, but assumes your full name is something else, and gets it totally wrong? Eeeeeesh. This is what happens to me when folks figure my name is Jennifer because I go by the nickname, Jenny. I think Jennifer is a very pretty name. It just doesn't happen to be my name.

To demonstrate how important a name is, I'll relay a story straight out of my university days. After a semester of living at home, I found a way to move into the dorms. When a gal who had a room kitty-corner to me asked me my name, I found myself hesitating a moment. Here was my chance to proclaim control of my own life. I blurted out, "Jenny." I had never used that nickname before this. But I was having control issues with my Ma at that time, and it seemed the perfect way to state my independence. I also figured it would mightily bother my Ma...which it did...and which, at the time, I didn't mind one bit. I actually love my full name, Jeannine Marie Antoinette, but it was thought of to be decidedly rather snooty-sounding by some friends of mine and they kept giving me nicknames I didn't like. So Jenny I am. And Jeannine I'll go by, as well, especially in-print. And some folks like to call me Jen, Chris included.

Another thing to consider is who, if anyone, were you named for? I know my Ma had a younger sister that died as a baby and her name was Jeanette. I also know that Ma's best friend, Ann, had a baby named Jeannine. Ma always said that Ann went to live in another state, so she felt the name was up for grabs. Ma also said that the spelling of my name came from France, tho' I don't believe we have a French bone in our bodies. I do know that Ma had considered naming me Debbie or Rita...both fine names but it's hard to picture myself going by either one of them. Oh...almost forgot to mention that a huge reason for their choice of calling me Jeannine had to do with both Ma and Dad liking the old tune, "Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time."     

One of my own personal pet peeves is when someone does not care enough to use a salutation at the beginning of a letter or e-mail and include my name in that greeting. No problem if they don't know my name, but if it's right there in my letter to them from me, what's up with that? 'course this isn't an issue when I know a person really well or if we've got an ongoing conversation going back and forth. But otherwise, I always wonder what the person really thinks of me when they don't even say hello and include my name. Hmmm.

I know that I don't want to be just another person. I know that I don't want to be considered just another number on a page or another body standing in a line. I have a feeling most folks feel the same way. Let's consider honoring each other, and as we do so, let's do our best to honor each others' names. It'll put smiles all around!  


  1. My parents considered naming me Sally. Nice name, but I cannot imagine how different my life would be in I were not Molly Marie.

    I think perhaps our names are shortcuts for our brains to associate our larger selves with the bodies we inhabit. :)

    1. Thank you so much, dear Molly Marie, for stopping by and for your comment. I love the idea that names are 'shortcuts' for our 'larger selves.'