Friday, April 11, 2014

What's in a Name?

How attached are you to your name? I do not mean in the legal sense, where you have to use a name to conduct business, or in the cultural sense, where we use names to designate one from another, but in the sense of how your name fits who you are. Honestly, prior to this week, I had not given it much thought, but a course I am taking broached the subject, and the ensuing discussion was enlightening.

Many of the participants shared stories of changing their given names or wanting to change their given names to one that suited them more. Varying reasons were shared from pure dislike of the given name to making a sweeping life change. I had no idea so many people had done this or were even thinking of doing this. It never before occurred to me as necessary beyond the entertainment industry.

Perhaps it is more common in this group because we are predominately women, and let's face it, in our culture woman are almost always expected to change their names at some time during their lifetime. It happens when we marry, or at least that is a societal norm. How many of us practiced our new married name long before the question was even asked? [Go ahead, raise your hand. I know you're out there, just like me.] I wonder if males ever spend any time on the subject of taking a new name.

Perhaps this notion of name changes is ingrained in females at such a young age, one's name has less permanence attached to it. Prior to this week, I never applied this notion to my first or middle names. Throughout the discussion, I was presented with numerous reasons and thoughts for a person renaming her/himself, all as unique and individual as the person speaking. It made me think.

As far as my first name Rita, I have grown from indifference to it in my youth to appreciation of it as an adult. It is unique but not odd, familiar but not common. Rarely do I have to spell it for people, save those who through an 'e' in the mix, and when I hear it in a crowd, chances are pretty good it is meant for me. Until I was in my early 20s, I had only met one other 'Rita' who happened to go to the same high school as me. Since then, the total of those named Rita I have met is less than a dozen, I would estimate.

My middle name of Marie is one that has given me more, let's say, entertainment. I joked with my parents about simply using one of the Four Generics, as I called them, to fill in the blank on the birth certificate, a processed likely enhanced by their general fatigue of naming kids (I was number 4). The four generic names are ones I joked would fit with any first name and are easily plugged into the naming equation if parents expended all their energy selecting the first name. Ann(e), Lynn, Lee, and Marie are female middle names that pair nicely with any first name, much like a salad goes well with any main course. [My apologies to anyone with those names as this is just  one woman's humorous take on the child-naming process.] My parents used this formula twice, since my sister has the middle name Anne. Oddly, she was the third child, giving more traction to my theory of naming-fatigue since it appears my parents ran out of steam after naming the first two kids. None the less, my middle name holds no history or significance for my parents (or me) other than "it fit with Rita" (quote from Mom). I think Mom just came up with it in a pinch since I was four days old, and the hospital would not let her take me home without a name. I can just imagine her shouting, "Quick, give me a name! Anybody? Anybody?"

The subject has been swirling in my mind for several days, leaving me to wonder your thoughts on changing your name as an adult. Have you? Would you? What name would you choose? Do you feel your current name fits you?


  1. They had a name for a boy, so when they had a girl there was no name. Hence the scramble for 'any name'.


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