Tuesday, May 23, 2017

All About Your Name

The Women of Letters logo
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Do you still write letters? I mean, letter-letters? It’s difficult for me, because my handwriting is so illegible, I honestly get emails from people saying “Thank you for your thank you note. What did it say?”

But the other day I participated in an astonishing event. Sponsored by Women of Letters, it’s an international program that asks women to write a letter on the topic of WOL’s choice, then read it out loud to an audience. 

I was thrilled to be invited. Until I heard their topic. We had to write “A Letter to My Secret.” My secret? It took a lot of thinking. And at some point, I was dismayed (?) to realize I have no real juicy secrets. I guess that’s a good thing—no, like, criminal record, or almost criminal record, no horrible encounters or crushing humiliating miseries. Any secret I thought of was—embarrassing. Or boring. Or embarrassing AND boring.

And then I got it. I would reveal—that I do not like my name.

Here’s a photo of us all on stage.

My letter began like this:

To: Whom it may concern:

Yes, I understand where you're coming from, completely. Because let me tell you, Whom, I never liked my name either. "Whom it may concern" works really well for you, and I wish I had thought of it. But I have had to make other arrangements

And then it went on:

It was 1963, remember. And it was bad enough being considered a farm girl when I wasn't, but what made it worse that was that my name was Harriet Ann.  Harriet Ann! 

When all the cool girls are Debbie and Linda, and you are nerdy bookie and unpopular, and named Harriet, it does not make for a pleasant junior high experience. In fact, when all I wanted to be was most popular, they voted me most individual. Harriet the individual. And they put my picture in the school paper upside down. They would not have done that to Debbie or Linda.

I could not understand why my obviously sadistic parents named me this. They tried to explain it, that it was a family thing, that my father, my biological father, was the music critic for the Chicago Daily News, and my great uncle Harry, or something like that, had introduced him to the music of Mozart. So they had, in gratitude, named me after him. Uncle Harry, not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Which would have been equally horrible.

I did my best, as geeky little Harriet, to overcome this name thing. Oh, you're saying, how about Harriet the Spy? She was cool. Yes she was, and had Harriet the Spy existed at this time, I would've been fine. And writing you about something else.  But there was no other Harriet except for Ozzie and Harriet. Ricky Nelson's mother? Are you kidding me?

It went on—we each read for about 8 minutes. (And I mentioned Harriet Vane, of course.) But wow, it was a memorable evening. 

I ended by revealing how I kinda like Harriet now.

Here’s another photo—this is me backstage with host Sofija Stephanovic, then Abeer Hoque and Callie Crossley,  then me, then Marianne Leone, Rose Styron and Claire Messud

And if you EVER get a chance to attend a Women of Letters event—we had a packed house at Oberon in Cambridge—please do. 

We’re not allowed to talk about what anyone else told—what happens at WOL stays at WOL. 

But people were laughing, and crying, and it was truly unforgettable. 

So Reds and readers—I won’t ask you to tell your secret. Not today at least. But—do you like your name? Have you always felt that way? What do you wish you were named?


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131 comments:

  1. Do I like my name? Yes, I suppose so, mostly because I grew up being part of a “set” and it goes with my sister’s name. I’ve always been either “Joan” or “one of the twins” . . . although I was often called “Jean” because people couldn’t tell us apart. So I’m pretty much used to being “Joan.”

    On the other hand, I didn’t love it enough to give it to either of the girls . . . they are Lauren Elizabeth and Kristen Emilee . . . .

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    1. Yes, 'Joan is very movie star, isn't it? I always think of Joan Fontaine ..

      And isn't it so funny how name styles of evolve? The girls names are so au courant!

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    2. those are lovely names for your daughters Joan!

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    3. Joan, I keep meaning to tell you this. My mother's name is Joan, and she was also a twin, but her twin's name was John, and since they were so premature (Mother weighed less than three pounds, which makes it remarkable that she survived in 1930), but her brother didn't make it.

      Her family, though, gave her name two syllables. Not the usual, "Jo-Ann'", but Jo'-uhn". I can tell from which era of her life people came by how they pronounce her name. Her work friends called her Joanie.

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    4. Karen, how sad for your mom. And I’ve never heard of “Joan” being pronounced that way. Occasionally, someone will call me “Joanie,” but it’s never happened regularly.

      Lucy, I really wanted the girls to have names that wouldn’t lend themselves to unkind nicknames when they went to school, and that worked out quite well. But while Lauren likes her name, Kristen does not like “Emilee” at all . . . .

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  2. I do like your nickname of Hank. My nickname in junior high was Harry. It was short for Harrington. Our teachers never addressed us by our first names, so there was a tendency to form nicknames with our last names. I kind of liked being called Harrington. Now I have much younger cousins named Harrington.

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    1. Oh, so funny! Yeah, Harrington is cool! I bet that was fun. So Harrington is their first name?

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    2. and is Reine your real first name? because it's a wonderful name!

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    3. Hank, yes. Thank you. Harrington is their first name.

      Thanks, Lucy. Reen is the correct spelling and is shortened from Maureen. My French aunts and great-grandmother liked a French spelling and pronunciation, which sounds like Wren. I have adopted that off and on. My Irish cousins call me Reen, Maureen, or You-Girly when they say things like why didn't you come to Clon with us!

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    4. Hank and Actually, I was born Kathleen, but my mother changed it when the nurse handed me to her the first time with my father saying, "Here is our beautiful Kathleen." My mother said, "Her name is Maureen."

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    5. That's Hank and Lucy that should've read, Too late at night. Oh the date! I'm really late.

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  3. Oh, Hank. Don't you think Edith comes in close, if not worse, to Harriet? I HATED it as a child. I was the only one younger than my great aunt with that name, and it was never available on those little bicycle name-license plates or key chains. Luckily my family was into nicknames, so instead of Barbara, Janet, Edith, and David, we were all called Barbie, Jannie, Edie, and Davey. I insisted on teachers calling me Edie. It was a "cute" name and I was a cute kid - always the shortest and youngest in my class.

    But then...I became an adult and didn't want to be "cute" any more. Just try to get rid of a nickname. One person gloms onto it and it spreads like the measles, wildfire, the plague. When I moved to Boston at age 30, I finally, finally succeeded in being addressed as Edith (except for family and childhood friends in California, but that's fine). In my life I have met exactly three Ediths younger than me, but now I hear it's having a mini baby-name resurgence, at long last. And I think it's a pretty good author name!

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    1. Oh, Edith, one of the attendees at the event came up to me afterwards, all tears in her eyes. I know what you went through! She said. My name is Edith Ann.
      Apparently she entered junior high at exactly the time Lily Tomlin made her iconic character famous.
      Now she loves Edith, too,… But she is never Edith Ann.

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    2. Edith, there is an adorable and brilliant little girl down the road from us who is named Edith. I thought of you of course when I met her. She, at the age of 5? has an organic garden and ca... oh wait. Mm no. Her name is Hazel. Sorry, but she's fantastic and maybe it's old fashioned but she's destined for greatness, and no one will forget her name.

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  4. Kait likes her name, that's why she picked it. Her real name is Kim, and she hates it. Why not Lee, or Susan, or better yet, Linda. The popular names of her time. Sigh. The things our parents do to us...My nick name was Kiki - I did like that :)

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    1. Oh! I had no idea that was not your real name! And Kim is very movie star, too… so funny, that doesn't seem like a hateable name :-)
      Yes, funny how we want to have common names when we are teenagers, but as adults, it's a different deal.

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  5. I was Bobbie growing up, and did the same thing as Edith--when I got to grad school decided I needed to grow up and become Roberta. Now I will always be able to tell when I met someone, depending on whether they call me Bobbie, Roberta, or LUCY! (and that new name I love:)

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    1. I know--I somehow always think of you as Lucy. Which is SO strange! Since of course I met you as Roberta.

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    2. I think of you as Lucy Roberta and love the name. Bobbie never occurred to me.

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    3. My sister is named Barbara, named after our aunt. They are both called Bobbie by the family. And my sister hates it. She goes by Barbara or Barb to those who never knew her as a child.

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    4. I like Lucy Roberta--covers all the bases!

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  6. What a great event, Hank! And your letter is a stitch. Everyone asks me if Hallie is short for anything. It's not. And I didn't much like it growing up either, and like you now it's ok. I like that when you google my name I'm the only person who comes up.

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    1. Hallie, where did the name come from?

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    2. I saw a Hallie in the credits of some Britbox offering only yesterday. It is my new favorite name by the way. Unfortunately it will have to wait for a great granddaughter. Yeah, I'm that old.

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    3. Hank, I have no idea, though the first person who gave my dad a break (his job as asst stage manager on a Broadway play) was Hallie Flanagan. But he said I wasn't named for her.

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    4. Really? NOT named for her? Hmmm...

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    5. In Cleveland there was a major department store chain called Halle's. I think Macy's probably ate it. But, a lot of girls were named Halle and liked it.

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    6. Spot on Hank. There's a back story here.

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  7. Hank, that letter is hilarious.

    I HATED my name as a child. Not because "Mary" is such a terrible name -- but because my mother's name was also Mary. As was my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother...

    You get the point.

    When I reached junior high, my friends would call and ask for "Mary." Sometimes, the phone would just get passed to Mom, or they'd be told "She's not here" if she was at work. Even worse was, "Who do you want mother/daughter, nurse/student big/little..." UGH I swore I would NOT name my daughter Mary, the tradition would die with me.

    Except Mom was dying when The Girl was born. And, well...

    Oddly, she hates her middle name and preferred being called "little Mary" when she was younger. And of course the phone issue is non-existent because she has a cell phone so none of her friends call me.

    And she thinks "Mary the Sixth" sounds very regal.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Mary the Sixth! LOVE that. And so amusing how what we feel is NOT what our kids feel. Give the girl a tiara.

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    2. "Mary" has had the longest run of any (US) girl's name in the top 10 list. For years running it was #1.

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    3. But very uncommon now. The Girl only has one other in her high school class (of 150-ish) and she goes by her middle name. And this is a CATHOLIC school!

      Mary/Liz

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    4. Mary, in Catholic schools in the 50's and 60's, hardly anyone was "just" Mary. Mary Sue, Mary Ann, Mary Elizabeth, and on and on.

      Mary the Sixth! Love this.

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  8. I was fine with my name growing up until it got used with another rhyming word to make it an insult. But as I got older, I stopped giving a crap about what those idiots had to say and thus restored balance to the universe and the love of my relatively simple name.

    Oh and Hank, I don't write letters anymore. But growing up I had a lot of pen pals through the pen pal directory of the heavy metal magazine I read each month.

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    1. Oh, pen pals! Yes--that was so popular. Now we all just facebook and blog, right?

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    2. Hank, pretty much. The one pen pal I kept in touch with all these years is a Facebook friend these days. Just makes no sense to write letters with the immediacy of social media.

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  9. I've never liked my name though I don't know what I would prefer. My parents spelled my name, Dianne, but the few Diannes I have found only have 1 "n" in their name. You never find 2 "n's" when you see personalized pens, stationary or whatever in the store. Always spelled with 1 "n". The popular girls names when I was in school, were Kathy, Linda and Barbara. And it didn't help when I started high school, one senior boy made a point of yelling "Hi Diiiiaaaannne" in this voice filled with ridicule every time he saw me. It probably wasn't until Princess Diana came on the scene that the name "Dianne" became more popular. Even then, I would have liked to have spelled my name "Dyan" which I thought was far cooler than Dianne. But over the years I've come to terms with my name. Better to have an unusual name than to be one of the many Kathys, Lindas, Barbaras etc. And to answer the 2nd question, I still love to write and receive snail mail and have been involved in writing to pen pals for over 40 yrs.

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    1. Yes, Dyan...although I agree, good thing you did not succumb to trendy. And now Dianne and Diana are wonderful names. I even love Dinah, although I can see the downside.

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    2. Our daughter's middle name is Dianne. I've always loved that name, especially with the double N.

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  10. Harriet Ann is a lot better than Millard Harriet, which was my mother's name.

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    1. Millard Harriet? As first and middle names? Yow, you are right--that's a toughie.

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  11. Well, Hank is a cool name, and it fits you, but I sympathize. I was named after my father (Raymond) but my mother wanted to nickname me Rae after the character Rae Smith in the movie Back Street. (Cheesy 60s film starring Susan Hayward and John Gavin having a long term, tear jerky affair.) However, my grandfather protested - maybe he saw the movie - and insisted on calling me Mona, which everyone in my family still calls me, and which I DESPISE. Add to it that my middle name is Lucy (Ramona Lucy, who does that to a child?) and I was...Mona Lu. Even the Beverly Clearly books couldn't help with that.

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    1. Mona Lu! Is it kind of--Hawaiian??? I love it. And such fun to hear about all these family discussions..

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    2. I didn't know your family calls you Mona!

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  12. I was supposed to be a boy. If I had been born James Martin Sherrell, everything would have been fine. But when my parents started coming up with girl names they ran into trouble. They'd already used Mom's name--Janet--as the basis for my older sister's name--Jan. All the other girl names Mom liked turned out to be the names of one of Dad's former girlfriends. So they named me after Dad.

    The problem with that was that his name is a combination of Eugene and a second name his mother had made up in a fit of whimsey. It isn't spelled the way it's pronounced, and is so easily confused with lots of relatively normal names that he hated it, and consigned it to a middle initial when he went into the Navy. But they saddled me with it anyway. And no, I'm not going to tell you what it is. Mom figured she could call her girls Jan and Jean.

    Except nobody ever called me Jean. Almost from the moment I left the hospital, they started calling me by my initials, which evolved into Gigi because the movie came out soon after and Louis Jordan's crooning made it all seem romantic and exotic. I didn't even know what my real name was until I was four and by then, in my own mind, I was nothing but Gigi. As soon as I turned 21 I had it legally changed, and I have never looked back.

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    1. Ok, writer of mystery, you are supposed to give us at least enough information to solve this ourselves. Pftt

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    2. TELL US TELL US TELL US TELL US! Please please please...

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    3. My favorite part of this story is that your dad had so many girlfriends!

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    4. Yup. At least that ruled out names like Josephine and Nadine.

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    5. That's what I thought,too, Karen!

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  13. Hank: Your letter is great and I would love to get a handwritten note from you even if I have to struggle to read what it says!

    I think we talked about this topic about names a while ago.

    So, my mother named me Grace after her favourite actress, Grace Kelly (aka Princess Grace). Same initials, too (GK).

    Did I like my name? Yes and no. I was the only Grace growing up in Toronto all through school. I did not get my name mispronounced like my parents did. But if my mother named me Grace in the hope that I would grow up elegant and feminine like my namesake, then that was a total failure!


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    1. LOVE being named after Grace Kelly. And she had other good qualities which you share--sh was lovely!

      (And aw, thank you.)

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    2. Awww, Hank, that's sweet of you to say, thanks!

      Well, one positive thing about my name is its uniqueness (surname is very rare even in Japan). So I am probably the only "G. Koshida" or "Grace Koshida" in North America with journal articles or technical publications under my name.

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  14. I changed mine! My first name was Danielle and I never went by it. My mother even says she doesn't know why they gave it to me. So when my divorce was final and I went back to my maiden name of Carenen, I also just dropped the Danielle. Easy peasy. Now I love my name. :)

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    1. Rowena! I wanted to be Rowena SO MUCH after Ivanhoe. SO you just picked it? (And your mother doesn't remember where Danielle came from? Interesting!)

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    2. My grandmother's name was Rowena. I liked it.

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  15. Great stories! My name is old fashioned, I hated it growing up, but it's fine now. I can't find another 'Flora' anywhere in the family tree, so I guess you could say I'm one of a kind in t he family, at least. But my aunt's story is funny. I was researching her family tree a couple of years ago. Going through census records, I found her parents' household with a list of their (many) children. Near the tail end was 'Gertrude,', but no 'Marie.' I couldn't find her anywhere, no matter where I looked in the records. In frustration, I called to see if I had her family information correct. It turns out that she was named Gertrude at birth, but no one--including her parents--ever called her that. Her nickname was Marie and Marie she's been ever since, having her legal name changed at the time of her marriage! She's a soft, sweetie, too--I can see why 'Gertrude' didn't fit her!

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    1. Oh, Flora is wonderful. Gertrude...is difficult. :-) Think that name will ever come back? SO many of the other old-fashioned names are returning..

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  16. So many lovely old names here, Grace, Edith, Harriet, Deborah, Lucy Roberta, and how fascinating that many of you don't or didn't like yours. It'a a question I've pondered with friends over the years, finding few who really like the name on the birth certificate. I wonder why this is?

    Me? I love mine, Ann Marie. Easy to spell, easy to remember, and a combination of the two universal middle names, at least for Catholic baby girls. I love being called Annie, but no one calls me that in my current life. Sigh, memories.

    Back in the day I began my nursing life working postpartum at a big county hospital. One of our duties was to fill out the names on the birth certificates and also to keep a perpetual log of those names. Young mothers, many or most in their teens, would come up to the desk to peruse the baby name book, and I did try to counsel them when I could, pointing out that future professionals might not want to be named D-A. Yes, D-A., pronounced Dashay.

    My favorites from that time are Uniroyal Johnson, Jesus (Haysus) Christ Superstar Hernandez, and, best of all, Mason Tiger, a beautiful baby girl, Native American, and named for me!

    Hank, you with the internet for the best nickname!

    Ann Marie in Rochester



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    1. Mason Tiger! Most perfect name ever. Oh, I;d love to see that log--SO interesting and revealing! And you are right--so many people don't like their names. Because when they get old enough to care, the names are out of fashion, maybe?

      And how does that become Dashay? I can see D-dash-ay. What a ..situation.

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    2. Good question Hank. Maybe it was Dedashy? But hey, she's probably pop star by now.

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  17. Well, this really hits me. No, I do not like my name. I've actually blogged about this in the past. I have never known anyone of my generation with my name, not a single one, but I knew a lot of people in my mother's generation with it. That shows how old-fashioned it was even then. I don't think my parents really liked it either, because I have been nicknamed Triss my whole life.So why, you ask, did they give me my real name? Which is Beatrice. I was named for a great-grandfather, Benjamin, who died just before I was born and it was the closest they could get.They said.The joke, of course, is that the name has come back into popularity in the last generation and is no longer unusual. As is Ella, my mother name. And she didn't like hers, either.

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    1. Triss, I have to say… I have always really loved your name. And as for Beatrice, now of course it is coolest of the cool.
      And Ella! Best ever! And one of the most popular right now, too, right?

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    2. Yes, Ella is very popular now. I wish I could share that with my mom.She would be so surprised. But not more surprised than I am about Beatrice.

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    3. Yes, but Beatrice Potter, who wouldn't be honored to be named after her?

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    4. Believe me, when I was a kid, nobody I knew had nay idea who Beatrice Potter was. (and anyway, even more very old fashioned). However, there was a princess named Batrix then, which was somewhat consoling :-)

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    5. Believe me, when I was growing up nobody I knew had any idea of Beatrice Potter. And anyway, that only would have made it even more old fashioned. But there was a real princess named Beatrix! I took some consolation from that. :-)

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  18. Oooooh, Hank. I went through the same thing with MARGARET. The only person I knew who was also named Margaret - we suffered together. Who else but Saint Margaret had that name - and Margaret Hamilton, the wicked witch in Wizard of Oz... hoo boy.

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    1. I go both ways with Margaret :-) the Margaret in my high school where Maggie and Peggy.
      But, poor thing, I see once you start thinking about the wicked witch, you were doomed. Just like Ozzie and Harriet .

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  19. Hank, I love your letter's premise! Isn't it funny how we hate so much to be individuals when we're growing up?

    Well, I sure wasn't one. In my high school class of 440 there were six Karens, and five Kathys. And a handful of Lindas, too. I mostly liked my name, except when it came to having a nickname. Everyone else in my family (except my dad, Ralph) had nicknames, but not me. My aunt called me Carrie Lucy sometimes, but she lived away for the bulk of my growing up years, when it would have stuck.

    Now I'm glad that my name is of a piece, and two of my three daughters have similar non-nickable names: Holly and Robin. Robin was the only person, male or female, student or teacher, with that name at the huge middle/high school she attended for six year. And she named Holly when I was pregnant, and was so insistent for six months (as a toddler) that we just went with it. They both like their names, or at least they say they do. We could have named them after a grandmother or great grandmother and stuck one of them with Edna or Gertrude.

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  20. UGH! No. I have never liked my name. When I was a child people always wanted to pronounce it wrong. My great uncle used to tease me by calling me OHmmie (like almond without the D ... any why do adults especially old adults think it's funny to tease small children?).

    It's always being spelled wrong. I've never felt like an Aimee which seems too fancy. I've never felt like an Amy which seemed too sweet and child-like and delicate. Which I was not as a child. I climbed trees and spent a LOT of time in the ER because I was adventurous and not terrifically coordinated.

    And then Little Women. Oh, how I hated (and still do) the character of Amy - she was a brat and selfish. She was pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside. And I never bought her "redemption."

    I've never found a name that suited me though. I feel I'd do better with a more androgynous name - one that could be a boy's or a girl's.

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    1. On the other hand, I recently gave one of the characters in my new book the last name Hix. Where did that come from, I wondered as I typed it. It seemed so perfect. I only thought of you afterward. I..think.
      ANd oh, I love Aimee! It's so--French. (WOUld I have liked it a a little kid? It wouldn't have been me at all..but I would have wished it were.)

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    2. Hank,
      The Hix name is a funny story. It got changed from Hicks to Hix by the railroad company my husband's ancestor who used to work for them. They already had a Hicks. Long gone are those days - just randomly change a legal surname because it made record-keeping simpler.

      Now I have two easy to spell names not spelled the easy way. It's as if I had a helping I didn't like and went back for more ... at least, the second name came with a delightful husband. :D

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    3. There was already a Hicks! That is so interesting…

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    4. And yes, your Hix came with a big benefit!

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  21. Another dissatisfied customer here. The story is my dad picked out my name, Patricia Ann. He thought it was pretty. So did a zillion other parents at the time. There was always at least 2 other Patricia/Pat/Patty/Patsy's in my class. My mom was the only one who called me Patricia Ann. When I was in trouble. Eventually she settled on Pat, like my school friends. The rest of the family calls me Trish or Trisha. So I can tell by what I'm called if it is family, friend, or friend of family. My poor mother-in-law was named for her grandmothers: Fanny Lee. She hated that name. Her little brother couldn't say it; it came out Seewee. So she was Seewee after that and even legally changed her name. When I traveled with her people did not know what to expect, man or woman, because of that name. My Mom was also named after her grandparents: Alice Anna. She doesn't like her name either.

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    1. SUCH great names. I am writing them all down. And isn't the evolution of nicknames intriguing?
      Fanny. That's a problem, though. Hard to handle Fanny. Oops. See what I mean?

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  22. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the name David (from David in the Bible) and Peter (when I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia), but for the most part I've always liked the name Mark.I don't think I've seriously wanted to change it since I was 10.

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    1. Narnia! There was Nora in one of the kid's books I always read--Edgar Eager, maybe. ANd oh, I loved that name. I was also big on Evangeline. Which no one believed was my name. Since--it wasn't. But of course, it makes sense we want to be just like the heroes in our books!

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  23. No complaints here; I've always loved my name. It fits with my last name and my sisters' names, all of which are Danish in origin. My mom told me once that it was between Ingrid and Annika, and that would have been fine, too. I very rarely meet another Ingrid, and when I do, we have a bonding moment. I will say it's a tough name for little kids, which may explain why I'm "auntie Ing" to my nieces and nephews. The "auntie" is pronounced the New England way, not "Anty" which is the pronunciation I hear in other parts of the country. A month or so ago, I introduced myself to a younger woman and she commented that my name was so old. Not in Scandinavia, it isn't!

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    2. Yes, I love your name, too! And Annika. (There was an Annika in my new book, but I had to change it to Valerie because too many names ended in A.) Did you read Peter Abrahams' Echo Falls series? They star an Ingrid..

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    3. I haven't, but I just read an ARC of Glen Erik Hamilton's upcoming release, EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND, and it features a very dastardly character named Ingrid. He's assured me that she bears no resemblance to me!

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    4. It's so funny to read a book that uses your name, isn't it? Clare booths wonderful the Branson Beauty has a sheriff named hank, and I flinch every time I see it.

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  24. So funny that most of the names that everyone hated as old-fashioned are back in fashion now. I love Harriet and Beatrice and Edith!

    And for all of you who wanted to be Debbies, I HATED it. HATED!!! "Little Debbie." Or worse "Little Debbie Cupcake." Or WORSE "Debbie does Dallas." Can you imagine? I tried going by my middle name, Lynn, but it never stuck. For a while in my very early teens I fantasized that I was called "Denny." No idea why. That didn't work either.

    Fast forward several decades. I sold my first book. I told everyone that I was no longer DEBBIE. They could call me Deborah or Deb. Or Debs, the British version, which I love. It took a while, but now only my family, my in-laws (who've known me since I was a teenager) and friends who go back that far call me Debbie. When strangers presume to call me that, I am quite offended.

    Roberta/Lucy, I would never have thought of you as Bobbie!

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    1. You are not a Debbie. And I can't say Debs no matter how hard I try. However I can write it. No probs, Debs xox

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    2. You can just call me Deb, Ann:-) xx

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    3. You and I are in agreement here! As a child I was Debbie. It was okay then; at that point I preferred it to Deborah. As an adult I prefer Deb or Deborah. At work I'm mostly Deborah. My closer friends, at work and elsewhere, call me Deb. I can tell how long people have known me by which name they call me. For some reason, my youngest sister thought I hated "Debbie" because of "Debbie Does Dallas". No, but not a bad reason to hate it! I just think it sounds too much like everything I am NOT. I was never popular, never cool, never a cheerleader, etc.

      I have cousins named Mary Ann, Mary Beth, Mary Ellen, Anne Marie, and other double names that don't have some variation of Mary are Sheri Lynn, Donna Lee, Carol Ann, and Betty Jane. That last one is my sister and the only one who does not go by her double name. She's been Betsy since before leaving the hospital as a new born! My aunt(the mother of Mary Beth and Anne Marie, who were yet to be born) visited my mom in the hospital and proclaimed that the baby "looks just like a Betsy!" And that's what she's been ever since!

      Deb Romano

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    5. Looks just like a Betsy! How could that be?
      And you are DebRo.

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    6. Debs, I warned people in Key West NOT to call you Debbie!

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    7. Debs, I love that for your nickname but was surprised that it is the British version. Must be where I heard it and feels natural to say.

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  25. I've always loved my name, and the alliteration of my first and last names. One of the reasons I refused to change my name after I got married.

    My parents named me after the place they first met (Manila International Airport), but it was renamed to NAIA after my birth (Ninoy Aquino International Airport). If I ever have a daughter, I've already decided that's her name ^^

    The only time I don't like my name is when someone starts singing Mama Mia. Thanks a lot, ABBA...

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    2. Oh, no, Mia. NOw I am singing.But you can't hear me.

      Would that be nay-a? Or nigh-a? Or Nee-ah?

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    3. You do have a pretty name--and I love Naia too!

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  26. I love my name! My only complaint as a child was that I had no letters that went "below the line" so I could make curly-ques (j or y). I had fun with the F from Franklin, my "maiden name." I have rarely met another Denise, but there is a woman here in New Haven, in her 40s. My mother liked her children's names to be very distinct, and mine was -- my brother, on the other hand, T.Geoffrey, suffered. There was the orphan letter at the front and the unusual spelling of Geoff.

    I think I did a good job with my daughters: Elizabeth Byrne, Meghan Rachel, Amy Rebecca,and Eleanor Casey Sarah!

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    1. Below the line ! I have never thought about that!

      ANd yes, you hit it out of the ballpark with your daughters'names! I'm adding them to my list..

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  27. I hated my name, Theresa, and have always been Terry, which I changed to Teri early in my teens. Now, for business papers I've gone back to Theresa. I never knew anyone else who spelled it with the "h" until Theresa May came along.

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    1. Isn't it interesting that we come around to our parents' way of thinking--later??

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  28. Growing up there were a zillion Cindys whose name was really Cynthia. So thru high school and college I used my real name, Lucinda. Now I'm back to Cindy and surprised that I haven't met any other Cindys in our retirement community. (And if your name is Cindy I can guess how old you are...)
    ps - I have several friends named Judy and my husband can't tell their voices apart on the phone!!

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    1. Oh, I had a best friend in junior high named Lucinda. She used Lucinda. Such a cool name.

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  29. Hank, that sounds like such an interesting and fun event you attended. I do write letters or notes to my seven-year-old granddaughter Isabella. She calls us pen pals, and signs her letters "your pen pal, Isabella." I have hedgehog illustrated notes I use, and I bought her some with cute birds to use. She lets me know if I'm not keeping up as I should. I love it.

    My name. Kathleen Louise Boone Reel, and I go by Kathy. The only person who ever called me Kathleen was the lady who served as my grandmother. I was called Kathy Lou often by my sisters when I was growing up, and I kind of miss that little girl name sometimes. I was named after the song, "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," and my mother's middle name was Louise. When I got older, I really wanted to be a Katherine instead of a Kathleen. I still like Katherine better.

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    1. She will treasure those letters! SO cute. Aw. And I'd love to see her handwriting..

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  30. Celia was a pretty unusual name when I was growing up (when I was born, I had two older sisters, Mary Catherine and Carol), and when I would tell people my name, they would say, Oh, Cecelia -- no, it's just Celia. Most people pronounce it like Seal-ya, but my British friends pronounce it See Lee Ya, which I love, but it is not catching on here. The only thing I really disliked about my name growing up was that I could never get one of those little personalized license plates for my bike :( I share Hanks middle name, Ann, and I have a good friend who calls me Celia Annie which I actually like -- a nickname! Hallie, I love your name, but I share your frustration with people who think it's short for something else ~

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    1. I so wanted to be Celia. SO British. Celia Annie is interesting..kind of a tongue twister!

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  31. I've a friend, Kathy, whose given name is Kathlyn I think. Anyway her father rejected the name Kathleen because it sounded like a petroleum product to him. No lie.

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    1. Bwa ha ha! Sadly, I see what he means....like Valvoline.

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    2. that would never have occurred to me, but now it will be stuck in my head!

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  32. Wow - names are so very personal, aren't they? Unless you're named Jennifer, which I am, then it's like a sisterhood. I'm telling you, we owned the 70's and 80's. That being said, despite the lack of originality, I do
    like my name even though growing up I would have preferred Zoe or Serena or anything else. Seriously.

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    1. A Jennifer complaining??? Now I have heard it all. :-) But yeah, I do understand. Love Story, Friends, and JLo!

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  33. Replies
    1. We do, too! Is that your original name? xoox

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    2. Love you and your name, Dru Ann!

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    3. Hank, yes, that's my original name.
      Reine, thanks

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  34. I do like my name now, but not so much when growing up. Mom named me after a character in Gone With the Wind, for hecks sake! But, could have been much worse--Mom always said that if she could have known I'd have red hair, she would have chosen Scarlet. Eeek! And a fun name story--I worked my way through my undergrad degree as the worst waitress ever (fast and efficient, but with just too many comments that just fell unthinkingly out of my mouth. One of my best examples: a customer complained--in March--that his Spring Vegetable Soup seemed a bit thin and lacking in vegetables. To which I responded "Well, it really isn't Spring yet, is it?" This is in New England. Ooops! But he laughed!) This same restaurant introduced a policy in which we were supposed to great each customer with "Hi, my name is . . . " I thought this was offensive, so made up a new name each day. Regular customers got into the act and began suggesting names for me--Hildegarde, Iphigenia, Faust.

    But anyway, I now mostly like my name--except when it is shortened to Mel by people I really don't know. If I know you well and consider you really a friend, you can use Mel. Otherwise, Melanie, please.

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    1. Melanie (Hildegarde) great story! Love this! My husband Jonathan is always put off when he's introduced and people change his name. He says, I'm Jonathan Shapiro. And they say: Hi, Jon. WHY?

      But I am enchanted with your name a day system. Perfect.

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  35. Eloise, the little girl who lives at the Plaza. If I only did! Family and friends call me El.

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  36. I was named after both grandmothers AND thankfully a little girl who my mother admired. The grandmothers were Ruth and Viola; the little girl was Emily. Thank goodness my parents chose to call me Emily. I absolutely abhorred Viola and was so embarrassed when I had to own up to my full name being Ruth Emily Viola. I only knew one other Emily when I was a child; now there are millions of Emily's out there!

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  37. I've always liked my name, but I didn't know my name was Jane until I started school. I had always been called "Janie". Early in the first grade, our teacher had us practice writing our names. She showed me how to write "Jane". I told her my name was "Janie". She said I was mistaken. I came home steaming mad, and yelling, "Why didn't you tell me my name was JANE ?"

    There are several other people in my family, who have Jane as a middle name, but one mysterious ancestor, Jane Stewart, who, according to legend, was a Cherokee. So my mother named me for her, and for my grandmother,whose 2nd middle name was Jane.

    My middle name is Ellen, which is a combination of my mother's middle name, Ellene, and my paternal grandmother's name, Ella. I also have a cousin named Ella Jane.

    After learning my real name at the age of 6, I ordered my family to use my real name, and not call me "Janie" any more. It only worked if I was within earshot. My parents still called me Janie when talking to other people, and cousins still call me that.

    I got teased a bit, in high school. "Hi Jane, where's Tarzan ?" "Whatever happened to Baby Jane ?" "Plain Jane". "Fun with Dick and Jane". "Jane Doe"

    It didn't matter. I still like my name. I consider it a strong name. I can't imagine being named anything else. My mother once told me that my father suggested naming me "Gretchen". I'm so glad he didn't. I have only met one person by that name, and she was a nasty person.

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  38. Another Jennifer here. The only thing good about it is the big push for the name started after I was born so I can easily lie about my age.
    When I order takeout I tell them my name is Salomé. I don't get other people's lattes that way.

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  39. Writing letters is a wonderful tradition. My college boyfriend used to write letters from his junior year abroad in France, even though people were using emails. That was before the Apple Genius Bar.

    Names are funny. My father was named after his father. That seemed to be a family tradition. He decided that if I was a boy that I would have a different name. Ironically, the name he picked was the name of his 2x great grandfather!

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