Thursday, January 03, 2008

What's in (Your) Name?

Some years ago, my friend Diane and I had the pleasure of introducing ourselves, at our local coffee shop, to a man from the Ivory Coast, studying here at the University of Illinois. He was a real, live, African Chief, who had to turn over responsibility of his village to someone before coming here to finish his studies. He told of how he was frowned upon, for leaving his Mother in charge. A woman! For 4 years?!

His name was Yao.

Yao told us another story, one day, about his name, Yao. It means Thursday. He was born on a Thursday. All men born on a Thursday, at the time he was born, were named Yao.

(This next paragraph is kind of true, and kind of B.S., as I forget a lot of the particulars, and don't have time to research them. There, I said it. I'm a bimbo, so what?)

The reason for this began initially when the British (there's a detail I don't remember; was it the French? he spoke French) were essentially "drafting" the "elite" young men to come and study, and live in their country.

It seems it was something they were forced to do. Naming everyone by the day they were born, then, served to make the "promising" a bit more difficult to discern. Kind of like the star-belly sneetch story, isn't it?


Yao went on to tell me his "real" name. His "Chief" name. It was about 22 names long, and in Ivory Coast speak, revealed to the world who he really was. I remember only that part of the name translated into something like "warrior that eats raw meat."

"My name," he told me, "is a labyrinth of the history of my family, for hundreds of years." He proceeded to write out and unfold the labyrinth, while I sat dumbstruck, for several minutes.

When he was done, I told him, "My name is Lori because my Grandmother hated that name, and my father wanted to annoy her."

We sat in silence, then, while I waited out HIS dumb stare.

Finally, he said, "You ahd not seedy-ous."

Yes, I am serious, jack. In FACT, my Grandmother wanted me to be named "Starla Kay," and when I was 8 years old and found that out, I was all kinds of furious with my parents. STARla! Imagine it, what a GREAT name! Oh, GOD, I wanted to be named Starla, instead of Lori. I was all for doing whatever it took to change my name. STunning STarla STewart!

In retrospect, I'm pretty happy that my parents didn't give in to my footstomping. Starla. Starla Stewart. Stupid Starla Stewart.

Tell me about your name.

How did you come about it? Were you named after someone? Would you choose another name?

I'll sign off, then, with the alternate name I would have chosen for myself.
Love, Jerry


  1. Sad but true, I am pretty sure my Ma got my name off of a via duct. Graffiti. Who knew.

    Anyway, she changed how it was spelled and I ended up me. I love it. I have never wanted to change it. Or maybe I am repressing and I really did.....

  2. You were my daughter too, and I never knew that? I'm thinking we need to get a graffiti graphic for your blog header....

  3. My middle name is my father's mother's middle name.

    My first name came from my mother's father--my Grandpa Ralph. I have two older female cousins with "R" names (not to mention cousin Raphael). But Grandpa Ralph's first name was David, so my mom and dad went with a "D" name for me. And Diana was the only female "D" name my dad didn't hate--well, I think he would have been ok with "Demeter," but I don't think Mom would have been.

    It didn't hurt that, at the time, they were watching a lot of The Avengers. You know, starring Diana Rigg.

    My older sister is named for our mother's father's mother and our father's mother's mother. So they just went to the next generation for me.

  4. stfarmer1:10 AM

    Well, duh! StFarmer - because I work for uncle State Farm. ;-{)

  5. mwoodywiz1:25 AM

    My name is Michael Gordon,I don't know where Michael came from, I just know my father didn't want a jr. I thanked him years later for that being Rodney Lewis. but my middle name she got from Flash Gordon. cool song though. even though it was long before Queen.

  6. My Aunt named me because my mother didn't speak English yet. My Aunt had three favorite actresses:

    Gloria Swanson
    Linda Darnell
    Dolores del Rio

    Soooo, I have a cousin Gloria and my sister and I have the other two names. Thank goodness she didn't like Ida Luino, Hedy Lamarr, and Myrna Loy!

  7. My mother wanted to name me Miriam after her favorite aunt. (She'd have called me Mimi.) Miriam died giving birth to her second child, my cousin Cindy.

    My great-grandmother, from the old country, was mortified. It's a bad omen, she said, to name for someone who died so young and tragically.

    So she named me for a storybook character. Blah!

  8. Man, now I'm going to have Flash Gordon theme n my head all day.

    My parents gave me a first name that is the most popular name of my birth year and for 15 years around that year. Luckily they gave me a made-up middle name, Rayne. In high school and college I had 3 roommates with my same first name, so I switched to my middle name freshman year. So now almost everyone calls me Rayne, but my family still calls me Jenny or Henny Penny.

  9. Well, at first it was thought I would have been twins so Mom was keen on Melody and Harmony.

    When it was discovered she only had one, I am truly thankful that I am Melody and not Harmony. That just seems a bit too stripperish for me.

    However, the day she signed the birth certificate a friend came to visit and asked what she named the baby. When she heard Melody Kay, she voiced disapproval and suggested a cutesy little rhyme to match my older sister, Brenda Lee.

    It would have been Sandra Dee.

    Thank God the form had been completed. Because when my brother was born - he was doomed to be Sandra Dee if his nads hadn't shown up.

    The Kay? Have no clue. My sister's middle name was named after my mother and my brother's my father. The Melody actually came from the daughter of the minister who married my parents (and my step-parents for that matter).

  10. I'm just glad I wasn't named Jennifer, which was the most popular name the year I was born and I know a ton of Jennifers my age. Not that there's anything wrong with Jennifer... I mainly love all the Jens I know. As far as I know, I wasn't named after the Sunnybrook Farm Rebecca, but rather the Daphne DuMaurier one. Lynne? No clue where that came from.

    Screen name: Remember Guy Smiley, the game show host on Sesame Street? I always loved his exuberance, but I'm not really like that. I'm sort of shy when it comes to sharing with people, but blogging is all about sharing and connecting, and I'd like to do it, but I'm a bit reluctant, hence shy_smiley.

    (frugalmom should be glad her mom didn't see my favorite viaduct graffiti of all time: Pink Flody)

    Fun post. You always make me laugh!

  11. ha! My name was supposed to be Cherenid (blame it on the pot in the 70's) but my dad hated it, because he thought everyone would call me "Cherry", so my mom dropped the Cherry and left it at Enid, but when I was taken to get registered in New Jersey, they made a typo and wrote "Enix". My parents didn't notice until they got home and since none of them spoke English very well,they decided to leave it at that.

    When I was younger I went to my mom wanting to know the wonderful story behind my unique name...her answer was not quite what I had imagined "Oh dear, that was a typo, sorry".

    To further the humiliation she added on a second name: Yadari
    Enix Yadari
    But no one calls me that...everyone just calls me "Yari".
    What a name put to waste...

  12. My mother heard my name in a John Wayne movie, The Searchers.

  13. My name was supposed to be Danielle LeAnn. But at the last minute my dad Vetoed it. He wanted something similar to his name, Mickey. So, I got Mindy Danielle instead. I like it. I only disliked it when kids would ask me, "hey Mindy where's Mork" I really hated that.

  14. This was fun, you all have fascinating stories!

  15. my parents were going to name me jean and i thank them every day for choosing kristin, instead.

    when i was in middle school, i wanted my name to be kristin leigh because i didn't have a middle name and a really cool girl at school was named kristen lee matthews.


  16. My mother named me after her mother who ironically disliked (and shortened) her own name. She frenchified the spelling though, so I could be more fabulous. My dad (who still can't spell my name) always said he wanted to name me Hildegard and call me "Hildy", so you could say I got off light!

  17. Well the story goes-my name is Joanne and from I can remember I was named after my father's brother (Joe) and my parents being of the Catholic faith the Anne came from a Sister Anne who was a good friend. Nothing to great hated my name for along time but came to love it.

  18. Anonymous8:08 PM

    Lacking imagination I was named after both my Grandfathers, the paternal side winning first name honors. As a child I grumbled about the choice but now being much,much older I enjoy the connection to my past...nostalgia and all that. A young lady not lacking in the imagination department tagged me with Ev....

    oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  19. marinemom8:10 PM

    I am Christine Nicole because I was supposed to be Christopher Nicholas but guess what? I was a girl! I think my dad was disappointed but he got over it. I'm one of three girls:) I've always loved the name. It's so girlie.

  20. I was the last chance for a son for my dad (Joe). Oops! I believe it was from the boy in the tv show Family Affair.

  21. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Hey Jodie! I think the same thing happened to me.
    I am the third of four girls. My older sister was named after a woman that my father admired. The second girl was named after the grandparents (Julia and Julius) And then the closest thing to a son came along... me.
    I have the traditional boy spelling--JODY. I hated it for a long time because in third grade we read a story about a boy named Jody and they kids teased me.
    Now I'm usually mistakenly called Judy. My maiden name is german and hard to pronounce. My married name is short and is usually butchered. Oh well, what IS in a name?

  22. I was supposed to be a boy. Everyone KNEW I was a boy. So, they picked out my name: Benjamin Myers, after my grandfathers. Only...I'm not a boy. When the nurse asked what this little girl's name was, my father said the first girl's name that came into his head ~ as a question to my mother, not a statement of fact. HOWEVER the nurse thought he was answering her and wrote it down on the birth certificate. It took a LONG time for me not to wish they had gone ahead with Benjamin Myers. I think I would have made a great Benji. :)

  23. Miz Liz8:19 AM

    My parents wanted to take the "E" from my maternal grandmother's name. But were definitely in disagreement how to use it. My dad wanted to name me Ellen. My mother insisted on Elizabeth, after her favorite queen, Elizabeth the First. I, on the otherhand, wanted to be named anything so in elementary school, I changed my name on my papers just about every week - it used to drive my teachers batty!

  24. I blogged about this recently too. Spooky! My name is pretty dull and was a compromise by my parents between Carl (my Dad's choice) and Zachary (my mum's). No one uses it now - once you get friends you get a million other names and now everyone calls me Sven. When I hear my real name I know I'm in trouble.

  25. When I was just a very wee one, I was adopted by my fantastic folks who raised me. However, prior to my adoption when I was in "the system", they called me Baby Sara (maybe with an h on the end, I'm not sure). I still think back at how weird it is that I actually had a different name at one point. In high school I demanded people call me Andrea for a period of time, my mother's name (I have no idea why). In my old age, I've grown to like my name a lot (which, by the way, is NOT short for Margaret or Magellean or Madelaine or anything else).

  26. Anonymous12:18 AM

    just fyi, Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire) was a former French colony. Bu that is about all I know...

  27. Lol!! What a fun post! That made a great read!

  28. I'm a bad blogger buddy. Been out of town and out of touch. Miss you!

    My given name was Edward but I changed it at 10 years old. There were 5 other Edwards in my immediate family and I hated that like crazy.

    When I found out the original plan was to name me Lindsey Andrew I thought Lindsey was beneath contempt but Andrew seemed like a great name.

    It was kind of a tough transition at school (what with me not answering anymore to the name everyone knew) but I sincerely believe it was one of the best things I ever did. Man, I hated that fuckin name. Not because of the name but because of how many people in my family had it.

    So there you have the other side of the street, Starla. I still think Starla is a great name. Maybe you can get Brian to name his daughter that!

  29. Happy Birthday!!!! Sorry about your eyes. :-)

  30. Happy Birthday!!

    Very cool post Jerry ;)

    My mom named me after a brand of tiny baby blankets (she still has that blanket): Melissa. My aunts wanted to jazz it up a bit and add Lee as my middle name but my dad vetoed that idea. Never really liked the name because SA Indian people always butcher it or I usually end up being called Mel...which lead to many Spice Girl references...and we have Spice.

  31. My mom's name is Lori. I like it :) I'm trying to work it into my future currently non-existent daughter's name lol

    When my mom was pregnant she decided she wanted to name me Aurora. It was the brand name of her waterbed mattress...
    In the hospital my dad decided my name would be Nicole lol. My middle names are Leslie after my grandfather and Marie after my grandmother.

    There are plenty of James' in our family but I chose that as my son's name because I've always loved it and his middle name is Leslie too, after his great grandpa (who has all female grandchildren with the exception of one) so I thought it would be nice.

  32. Anonymous4:41 PM

    HEY!!!!! My name was Starla Stewart!! I'm married now and my Married name is Rodenbeck. I found this looking up my maiden name! LOL I don't think it's a stupid name! LOL I'm 47 by the way.


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