Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a Name?

Sharing more Filoli pics, but I also want to talk about a subject I've thought about for a long time:  Names.


When I was pregnant with my son, I went into a kind of naming paralysis, because it felt as if naming someone was a huge responsibility with potentially huge consequences.  We've all heard that a girl named "Bunny" will never become CEO of a large corporation; I've always liked the name George, but could somehow in my mind hear a shrewish wife going "Geoooorrrge . . . " and that made me shudder.

  [Linkup to Mellow Yellow Monday]

I also have a deeply personal reason for anguishing over names:  I have always hated my name, because it was the cause of a great deal of misery in my childhood.  No one in Minnesota in the 1950's had ever heard of the name "Elise" -- my parents had actually never heard of it either.  But my mother saw an advertisement in a magazine that included a beautiful red-haired woman named Elise Gammon, so . . . I was named after Miss Rheingold Beer of 1949.


I dreaded the first day of school, which always followed a particular progression:  1)  Teacher butchers my name; 2)  the kids laugh at her/me; 3)  the kids have great fodder for teasing me the rest of the school year.  Over time, I was called Ellis, Eloise, Elaine, Elyes (don't even know how to spell that one -- Like "Eli" with an s), on and on.  But the most hated one of all, the one that was the most likely and the one the kids just ate up:  Elsie.  Now, those of you who are still young will likely think, well, that's just one of those antique names like Sophie that reminds you of your great aunt . . . but those of us who were sentient beings in the mid-20th century will know that "Elsie" refers to only one thing:


Borden milk's "Elsie the Cow."  And since from about 5th grade on I was, well, a little cow-like myself, the nickname was so apt that kids just had to use it.  Add to that the fact that I'd been smart enough to skip a grade and that teachers were likely to say things like "Let's ask Elise -- she always knows the right answer," you can imagine what kind of a field day kids had.

At this point, the name is more common, so that some people get it right, but a fair number of people don't, and I am still called "Elsie" on a regular basis.  I try to keep the frostiness out of my tone when I reply, "It's Elise," but the apologies I get after correcting the person suggest I'm not doing as well as I'd like on that one.


So when it came to naming my son, I agonized.  Yes, I wanted to choose a name that was not ordinary -- no Davids or Michaels for me -- but one that was dead easy to pronounce, and that couldn't be made into fodder for teasing.  We ultimately agreed on "Devin," a Gaelic name that means "he who can put his highest thoughts into words," which is not a bad wish for an English teacher's kid.  And he has never been teased about his name -- once in a while he was called Kevin, nothing too funny about that, and I heard that once in a while kids would call him "Devine," but again, not a lot of potential there.  Oh, he was teased, about plenty of other things, but it made me happy it wasn't about his name.  And by the time he had a brown belt in karate, kids had seen him win enough fights that they pretty much left him alone.

How do you feel about your name?  Are you happy with it?  At some point it becomes so much a part of you that you can't imagine yourself without it.  And did you agonize over naming a child, if you have one?

18 comments:

julochka said...

no agony for me. she was born 10 weeks early and had to be named something strong and meaningful. so she was given my paternal grandmother's maiden name -sabin. grandma Kate had 10 children, raised them in the 30s in a house down on the "crick" - all of them went to college as had she. she lives to be 96 and was a strong woman. our daughter needed all of that strength at her tiny beginning.

she also gets a lot of mispronunciations, but seems to love and suit her name. we gave her Amalie as a middle name, just in case...

Nancy said...

Now, I never would have thought that a beautiful name like Elise would spawn so much teasing. I guess kids will work with whatever they've got.

Anything that rhymed with Nancy got stuck on the back end of my name -- fancy, prancy, antsy... no big deal. I wouldn't have chosen the name I have for me, but nobody asked me, did they? :)

My sons are Christopher and Jesse. They never got teased about their names that I know of.

texwisgirl said...

I like my name "Theresa". altho it is spelled exactly like "there's a" but most folks skip the h. my sister called me "The". :)

Elise Ann Wormuth said...

I think "Theresa" is an older spelling -- seems like nowadays they leave the "h" out. I had a good friend named Nancy in elementary school, so I feel your pain -- she was "Nancy Fancy Pants" most often. Julochka, I love the name Sabine, it sounds perfect for her. And I thought it was pretty common in places around France?

lisa said...

First of all, I love the name Elise! It is simply a very pretty name.

I did not like my name when I was very young either, and truthfully, I don't know why. Maybe it was because at the time, it was not a common name, and I guess I wanted to be "like" everyone else. Now? It's me, and I like it!! :-)

Thank you so much for sharing this at The Creative Exchange.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

lisa.

Clavel said...

Happy MYM! sorry for the late visit. mine is here sis! : http://clavsupclose.blogspot.com/2011/05/blue-monday.html
clavs

Simone said...

I much prefer uncommon names. It's funny how over time more people are selecting different names.I gave each of my children a slightly unusual name, as a teacher I always seemed to be able to link a name to a difficult child. Much better to have no prior associations! Elise is perfect!

jo©o said...

I've already told you that I think 'Elise' is a grand name. Thought your mum was a Beethoven fan :-)

We chose the name Edwin, for our son, as it is Early Middle English for 'rich in goodness and friends'.
Thought we couldn't give him a better send-off into life. Better than a silver spoon :-)

Linda Makiej said...

Very beautiful work!!

bailey-road.com said...

Thought-provoking post! I like my name now, but would have been happy with a lovely name like Elise.

loisreynoldsmead said...

and then there was Lois...confused with Louis on the first day of school, "hey, Lois, where is Superman?" all the time and nooobody else had a name like that, except the great-aunt I was named after. Much preferred my middle name Joanne, so when my beautiful adopted daughter arrived I named her Joanna. I can count on one hand the number of others I have ever met with the same name.

Nicolasa said...

Beautiful photo go with that wonderful quote! Thanks so much for linking up!

- Jessi - said...

Beautiful color on the flower! Wow!

La Principessa Errante said...

Love you photos, especially the first one. Love your name too.

urban muser said...

an interesting post. for what it's worth, i love the name elise.

Anna said...

I find Elise a beautiful name. I have always enjoyed my name, as I rarely run into another Anna ( Anne is common, though). I was named after my great grandmother. Your B&W is lovely!

kaye said...

perfect quote and image combination. I love it Kaye—the road goes ever ever on

Elise Ann Wormuth said...

Thanks so much, everyone --