What's in a name?
My post about Davids has not, as yet, sparked a riot of non-Davids outside my door complaining that I did not write about them. I will write about other names soon. But it did start some interesting conversations about names.
Many people change their name or the version of their name that they go by at some pivotal point in life. My mother switched from Martha Wray (very Southern) to Marti when she started as a freshman at Duke in the early sixties. My father switched from Chris to Christian when he retired. Kinda funny since his jobs were as a religion professor and a church pastor, but I guess he decided to come out as Christian long after he became a Christian! Many of my college friends who used to go by the short versions of their names are now going by the long ones. Some friends also have Dr., Esq., the Honorable, or even Mrs. added as a title.
I’m not a huge fan of my name (sorry Dad!) April is way too much like bunnies and flowers and sunshine and cuteness, which are just not me (she said, wondering if her fondness for Hello Kitty might present a challenge to this statement, but moving on). I wanted to be named Elizabeth, which was my mom’s choice. I always thought I should have been named after a queen. It’s way too late to change it though, and I always publish as my entire name, April Wilson Smith. Smith is a name that has almost nothing to do with me now - it was my first step-father’s last name, and my mom and I both took it when she married him when I was 3. I have thought of going back to just being April Elizabeth Wilson, which was my original name, but I’m published so much as April Wilson Smith now that it would be confusing. I always want my dad’s last name to be in my publications, and I share Smith with my mom so that’s good too. It also forms a rather niche market joke: for the person whose best known article is one of the most read articles opposing AA (it’s fine for the one percent of the population for whom it works, go practice your religion just stop imposing it on others thanks!), my last names are the names of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith.
I think for a long time I thought I’d get married, and then unless my husband had a really annoying last name I’d just take his last name, leave Wilson as middle name, and move on. But I never did get married and even if I did now, I’m published under my whole name.
But! If I married someone whose last name was Wilson, I could go by April Wilson Smith Wilson! Great idea, right? Anybody know a David Wilson, preferably Jewish or Jesuit educated Catholic, brilliant and single? I’m not really looking to get married anymore, as outlined in this one, but I’d definitely go on a date with a David Wilson. Or if he had been previously married to a Smith and had hyphenated his name as David Wilson-Smith I could be April Wilson Smith Wilson-Smith.
(Perhaps that second cup of iced coffee was not the best idea? Someone please unplug me from the power source for a minute and then restart.)
I have gone by different names in different contexts, and even by aliases. My first was Rachel. In college when I was a computing assistant, I would use Rachel as my name on shift. A lot of my friends started calling me Rachel, including my old friend Ken (whose name really was Ken) who famously would say, “Easy, Rach!” when I got too excited or mad about something.
My other alias is Katy, which I’ve used in all sorts of situations. Doing research, hanging out with pretty sketchy people in Jersey City (no, not our college friends who live in Jersey City, they are the least sketchy people any of us have ever met!) and more recently as a kind of stage name in acting work. Katy is a bit of an alter ego. Not a true split personality by any means, but a side of me that doesn’t match up with the perfectionist (and somewhat judgmental, though not about the things most people are judgmental about) person I was when I was younger. I thought I got it from Katy Perry, but my ex reminds me that I actually got it from Steely Dan’s “Katy Lied.”
So what’s in a name? A lot. People change their names when they make a major life change or want to try being someone else, somehow different.
Obvious examples are when people choose a name that matches the gender they identify with. Or matches no gender at all. Or just is different from the names they were given. Or when a person changes their name when they get married. Or when a human adopts a pet and gives them a new name. Such as Loviefluffy Candace, an excellent name if I do say so myself.
I’ve said many times that if you want to make a change, sometimes just making any change, even a seemingly unrelated one can help. Change the way you walk to work. Change your shower gel. Change anything. Change your name.
Have you ever changed your name? Would you? What do you think about kids choosing their own name after they get to a certain age? If you were to come up with a fantasy name, one under which you would ride a dragon or wield a light saber or refuse to remove your helmet, what would it be?
When I was a kid, I had a doll that was a cat in a shiny blue dress with braids and a gold crown who looked like a plush version of a stylized hieroglyph and was named Cleocatra. I’m sure I was given this doll because in sixth grade I read about twelve Cleopatra biographies, was obsessed with Alexander the Great* just like Cleopatra was and fantasized that eventually I would meet a reincarnation of Julius Caesar. I haven’t, and other parts of my ongoing Cleopatra fantasy have also failed to materialize, such as ruling a country in major political upheaval or being rolled up in a carpet (that is not actually a fantasy, no need to volunteer to make it happen but thanks for offering!)
Pretty sure I will not go by Cleocatra, charming as the pun may be. I’ll probably stick with April Wilson Smith, MPH, Katy to a certain audience, Katherine to a few close friends, and the names of a few deceased cats to my mom (she occasionally gets me confused with the cats of the past, which I find quite an honor.)
Maybe someday PhD, but I doubt it. Maybe someday Mrs., but I doubt it. Every once in a while the idea of Reverend crosses my mind, but I usually come to my senses within a few weeks, so I doubt that too.
How about Change Anything?