Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's in a Name?

The other day I was questioned about the Z in my name for the millionth time.
Suzan with a Z not an s. That line came from my dear friend Macky, whose real name is Maureen by the way, and has stuck ever since.

In the course of the conversation, taking place in front of a t-mobile kiosk, two generations squared off on the topic of names. My family is rich with names like Etta, Nettie, Alice, Della, Mamer, Roberta, and Iva. Instantly conjures up images, yes?

So, apparently the oldest of the group I was explaining that back in 53 (OK WAY BACK!) classrooms were filled with Nancys, and Debbies and Susans, and I mean filled. I never had fewer than 2 Susans and 2 Debbies in my classes until I reached high school. DjR, my Dad wanted me to "shine" on my own but since Susan was the only name other than Scott that my parents could agree on, and they had already bestowed that moniker on my brother exactly 1 year and 1 day prior, I was named Susan with the caveat of a Z.

This has guaranteed that my name be misspelled 99% of the time. But I love it. I own it. To many from my past, I am simply Z and if you call me that it means you are a very old friend or a very dear new friend with the inside track.

Now the younger gals inside the kiosk found many "old fashioned" names hilarious and odd as in Charlotte, Sadie, Beatrice, Dorothy, Hazel, Helen, Margaret, Doris, Victoria, Clara, and Lillian. Granted even I never considered Bertha, Hortense, Gertrude, Mabel, Phyllis and Zelda. Though I adore Mabel on a wee one, thanks to Mad About You..."Mothers Always Bring Extra Love". The young gal whose name was un-pronounceable though she was a darling gal, commented that names such as these,"belong to only old people."

The two eldest in this discussion commented on the frequency of "made up" names in fashion these days. Those, whose names like mine, will never be spelled correctly with any frequency. Nevaeh, heaven spelled backword is rising in popularity. In addition the current generation is populated with their own versions of Debbies and Susans. The Jadas, Kennedys, Caitlins, Morgans, Meghans, Laurens, Hannahs, MacKensies, Ashleys, Brooklyns, Tiffanys, Haileys, Madisons, Briannas, and Kaylees will one day all be joining AARP together.

Does our name define us? Do we morph into the names we are given or do we adapt our personalities due to others expectations of our names? I had only one criteria in naming my children...well, two, their father had to agree. I required that the name be appropriate for an infant, a teenager and a senior. It also had to have the correct rhythm of a name. Hannah Grace, Benjamin David. It wasn't until after I had named darling daughter that I discovered Hannah means grace, so I had inadvertently named her Grace Grace. So, yes I suppose our names do define us, because that child certainly walks in grace. Benjamin has become Ben, and although I persisted for several years on using his proper name he is a Ben, and has the right to be called what he chooses, and the rhythm is better his way. Once again, defining us, because he is much smarter than I ever hope to be.

My Mother was named Alice Kae. She dropped the Alice and was known as Kae, until her marriage when she legally changed it to Kay. Mom felt herself to be a different person than that of an Alice I suppose.

What's in a name, what's in yours?

12 comments:

Cabin and Cottage said...

Hey Z! My parents asked THEIR parents for name suggestions at my birth. Susan was one, but by mother wanted to avoid 'Susie Q.' She called me Jack instead. Go figure. Ironically I sometimes go by Q anyway because it's in the middle of my name. I, like you, tend to think that our names DO have a big influence on our development if not defining us exactly. My daughter gave her daughter an old lady name, "Daisy", and she's also called 'Z'.I find it all very interesting. . . So of course I enjoyed your post. Q.

A Quilter Awakens said...

Oh, I get what you so elegantly write! Mom wanted to distinguish me from other Karen babies. My name looks, at first glance, to be Karen, so I have been called Karen many times. I always say "Karmen with a K" in order to distinguish myself from any other Carmen. To make matters worse Mother decided my middle name to be Leah, but pronounce it Lee. Yikes! I saddled my oldest son as "Eron with an E" just to pass it along.

oldgreymare said...

Hey Q and K!

That's hilarious!

z

Carole~Maynard Greenhouse said...

Names fascinate me. They do conjure up feelings and familarity. George and I are always noting how many Susans,Kathy and Linda's we know. There's definitely a trend to naming little girls with old fashioned names and often names that are gender neutral.
I was named after Carole Lombard....who I only just looked up to see what she looked like a few months ago. I think it was a popular name back then because of her. No one names their daughter Carole anymore.
Maybe that's a good thing:))

xxx
Carole

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hey SuZan
well ... interesting topic.. you know I always hated the name Julie.. probably as there were always 5 other Julie's in every classroom at that time.... and Debbie's and a few Susans.... Well my mother called me Julieann [my middle name is Ann] and my grandfather called me Julianna... not sure why.. but I do tend to like that one... and most of my friends call me Jules... and as you know my nickname is Ruby... so a mixed bag.....

It is funny though I distinctly remember thinking I was in trouble when I heard Julie Ann!!! rather than Jules... So.. a very rambling comment by me.... oh.. and apparently the nurse named me... yes..she said 'Julie Ann's been talking to me' on my first day ... come out chattering at the gate .. no surprise there haha xxx julie

Bead and Needle said...

My dad was reading a book on Russia before I was born, and Tanya was, I've been told, a character in the book. My grandfather came from Sweden when he was 17...my dad and brother both carry the name of Swedish moniker of Arvid (we are Andersons). I have a sister named Sharla - yeah, the "different" names were all around in my childhood. LOVE the old names, too...had a Grandmother named Hazel and an Aunt Violet.

Faded Charm said...

Suzan, I love this story and it's fun to get to know you a little more. I like the nickname "Z". I hope you had a relaxing weekend.

Take care,

Kathleen

erin said...

what's in a name...i was the only Erin until i met one in high school and we were best friends for a while. People often misspell my name and want to use an A or AA, but that is for the boys. i've known many Susan's, but few Suzan's. one of a kind, you are. thanks for thinking of me for the 10th post thingy...i simply have not had much time since my trip and can't seem to catch up with blog visiting... :0)

Kristin said...

Great topic. I often wonder the same, about one's name defining them, or one becoming whatever you are named. I'm still not sure personally having spent most of my life as "Kelly", and only the last 10 years as "Kristin". I used to find it so odd to be "Kristin", and now it seems strange when people call me "Kelly".

Before the twins were born, they of course had their names assigned. In my drug induced stuper, I allowed Rick to give the names for birth certificates. He switched the babies, and mispelled the names! Now Alex is my "great warrior", and Wyatt is my "little fighter". What's funny now, is that I could never in million years see them with their names reversed. They suit them so perfectly.

June said...

You write so well Z! I could read it over and over. I felt every name I named my children. I felt each one, even before knowing who or what they would be. As if they already had these names before. My name however, I never cared for much when I was young. I thought my mother was not clever enough to come up for a name for me and took the easy way out and named me after my birth month. It wasn't until many years later that I learned I was named after a dear friend of hers who died in a car crash. That changed how I looked at my name after that.
I so enjoyed this post!
hugs

The Happy Homemaker said...

I wanted old fashioned classic dignified names for my son and 2 daughters...so I gave each of them one family name, and one name that I chose for no other reason than I loved it...Morrison Grey,Catherine Arabella, and Camilla Margaret...I've never regretted it...I hope they never do,either:)

Susanne said...

Actually I haven't ever seen a Suzan, Susan and Suzanne of course, but not SuZan, how lovely. Growing up, I thought the Z was so exotic, when I was just an S. Well, I'm definitely fine not being exotic! Although, I've always wanted to be "high maintenance", I wonder, would the Z have made a difference? Hum.....?