Remember the last time someone turned to you and said, “I totally love your name,” and how awkward it was to choose a reply? I mean, you could have just said “Thanks,” and been on your way, but it’s hard to take credit for something you had no say in. You know, unless you changed your name along the way, in which case a nice, tidy “Thanks,” would be warranted.
For the vast majority of us living our lives, though, one of the more important parts of ourselves, what people call us, is not up to us. When someone compliments our hairstyle or choice of shoes, we know we had the biggest say in it, but our names that are with us even past death, not a chance.
Think about who named you. I’m reminded of the old joke about the crazy brother naming his sister’s twins when they were born and explaining to her the names afterward. He named the girl Deniece, such a beautiful name that his sister is amazed. Then he named the boy Denephew, destroying her faith in him.
Normally we don’t have crazy uncles naming us, though, although some parents will indeed let a sibling name their child. Strange, but true. I guess the child rearing books say this is the best way to assure your older child connects with his/her sibling. It’s possible, I’m sure. Just be prepared to veto a young child’s suggestion if you choose that path.
Most kids are named by their parents, either because it’s a “family name,” (like Mathilda), it’s a name of someone famous during the time period they conceived (like all those girls born in the mid ’90s with the name Mariah), or it was the only name they could both agree on (compromise is fun, isn’t it Reuben?). If you’ve never asked your parents to tell you the story, I’m sure you might be a little surprised if it was the latter one when it came to you. Both of my children were results of this last one, but their middle names were tributes to other family members. I like that we did that, so when they do something wrong and we have to raise our voices and repeat their full names, we are reminded of those other people who inspired us.
Then there are nicknames, the monikers we are given by our friends, by our family members, or in my case, by my own mother, who was the first person to call me Sam, and it stuck. Go figure. Nicknames can be wonderful, they can be ordinary, or they can be downright harsh. Just ask Tubby Ted. The simplest way to come up with a nickname is to shorten the person’s name. Therefore, Phillip becomes Phil (just be careful if your last name is Phillips), and Megan becomes Meg. The next easiest method is to look at talents or obvious character traits. In that way, piano aficionado Yung Sol becomes “Young Playa,” and basketball player Greg Betts becomes “Betta Baller.” Just like with our given names, however, these nicknames are not often picked by us.
One thing is true about names, though. Whether or not you’re pleased with yours, unless you plan on going through the complicated process to get it changed, you’re stuck with it for life. So you might as well make the most of it. And you know I’m jealous of the ladies who can pick and choose last names based on possible husbands. Just be careful with those hyphenates!