The Story Of Your Name

I was reading an article in Geist Magazine last week about a writing retreat, and how the attendees were invited to do an ice-breaker activity on the first day where they had to write up “The Story of Your Name” and then read it out loud.

And I was wondering: does everyone have a name story? Is this a thing? I mean, I could tell the story of all three of our kids’ names in one line each:

The Captain: We bought a book of Indian Baby Names, and while Sir Monkeypants’ mother was reading selections out loud, she said this name and we both looked immediately at each other and just knew, and from then on there was no other name.

Gal Smiley: We had a long, long list, and picked one, and then that name got vetoed by some relatives (lesson learned: never share your baby name before the baby is actually BORN and NAMED) and so we changed at the last minute on a bit of a whim to a name Sir Monkeypants had always liked.

Little Miss Sunshine: Has the same name as one of Sir Monkeypants’ distant cousins but we both really loved it and dithered for a while about whether or not it was okay for her to have the same name as a much-older relative that she was unlikely to ever meet, finally deciding yes, yes it was.

I guess those are kind of like fun facts. Not sure they could turn into a whole story, though.

My own name, though – there is a story there. My middle name is Catherine, I am Lynn Catherine, and recently MyFriendJen asked me why my first name is Lynn when so many women of our generation have the middle name Lynn.

Here is why. When my older sister was born, my mother had a name she wanted to use, but my father didn’t like it at all. So they made a deal; if my mom could use her name for my older sister, then when they had a second child, he could pick any name he wanted.

So when their second daughter came around (that’s me), he picked the name “Catherine Lynn”, because “Catherine” has a certain rhyming synergy with my older sister’s name. But my mother really, really disliked the name Catherine as it was the same name as a frenemy of hers in high school. But because of their deal, my father would not back down or change his mind.

In the hospital, they brought my mother the forms to fill out, and she just could not bring herself to write Catherine Lynn on the form. So she got around the whole deal thing by swapping the two names, and I have been Lynn ever since.

Without providing too much commentary, this story does make me feel like it is no surprise that my parents’ marriage was not a lasting one.

What’s the story of your name? I want to hear them all, big or small!

5 thoughts on “The Story Of Your Name

  1. I was named after two relatives – my aunt on my father’s side (with whom I shared a birthday) and my maternal grandmother. Kid#1 was named after no one – we just went with names that we really liked, and chose French versions because he was born in France. He made us a family, so he’s got unique names. Kid#2 is named after grandfathers on both sides – his first name is his paternal grandfather’s middle name and his middle name is his maternal grandfather’s middle name (hope all that makes sense – as I write it, I’m aware this is complex….). He completed our family, so he has family names. I’m not entirely sure that we planned it that way consciously when we were doing it, but it works so we’re going with it!

  2. I was to have been named Amy Faye, after Amy in Little Women and my paternal Grandmother Faye. Vetoed by Mom’s friend Carleen, who no doubt read Little Women more carefully than Mom.

  3. My mother’s name was Mary-Jane and she vowed that no child of hers would be saddled with a double name. Because this wreaks havoc on all official forms. So, my first name is Lee and my middle name is Ann. The intent was that I be called Lee. But the only people who EVER called me that were my Uncle Bob and the visiting nurse (in the 1950s, nurses would check in on new moms and babies once discharged from the hospital.) And that didn’t last long; I’ve always been called Lee Ann and yes, this does wreak havoc on all official forms!

  4. No name story to my name that I know of – other than the fact that my middle name was a shortened version of my dad’s mother’s name. And I’ve always wondered, but never asked (and it’s too late now), WHY the shortened version? I’m guessing because it “flowed” with my first name.

    My brother’s name has a name story – and a possible lesson for mother’s to be – my mom and my aunt were pregnant at the same time. My mom told her sister-in-law what name she planned to use if she had a boy (pre-ultrasound days). Lo and behold, my aunt had her boy a month before my brother was born and, of course, used the name my mom had planned to use. I’m actually surprised my mother ever talked to her again after that.

  5. nicoleboyhouse

    “Never share your baby’s name” – YES. When we decided on our baby names we told no one, particularly since my older son’s name is the same as one of my cousins. But that cousin was much older, I wasn’t close to him, and I have like 35 first cousins, there are bound to be some overlaps. No one said a WORD to me about his name after he was born. Only my grandma said something about my younger son’s name; apparently she knew a man with the same name who was a real womanizer/ asshole and she was appalled I used that name. Sorry, Grandma, I had never met the man and even if I had? There are a lot of womanizers/ assholes out there.

    When she was pregnant with me, my mom read Nicholas and Alexandra and wanted to name me Anastasia. Luckily she didn’t because apparently then I would have been called Stacey and that just doesn’t seem to suit me.

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