How important to you is your Name?
I really like the name Michelle. Which is lucky, because that’s my name. But more than that, I feel strongly attached to it. In fact, I feel tied to my whole name: first, middle and last. For me, part of who I am is my name. In this space, I’m skipping stones, and I feel the same about that name as I do about Michelle, right down to the lowercase first letters. Am I just weird?
Maybe it’s simply a matter of branding, and my name is, for me, a representation of my identity.
Because I’m so attached to my name, I was surprised by how many people could really care less what they’re called. It’s pretty interesting.
And what about you? How important to you is your name?
* This one turned out to be conversation-heavy, sorry about that! But it’s fun to see how other people think about their names.
This is what some other people said:
Jessica: It’s not.
—Michelle: So you would change your name?
Jessica: Oh, I would love to. It’s just a plain name.
—Abena: It really is not.
Jessica: How many other people have you known named Jessica?
—Michelle: What would you name yourself different?
Jessica: I don’t know. I never thought of it.
—Michelle: So you don’t associate your identity with your name at all?
Jessica: Okay, well… My mom wanted to name me Eliza Jean. But my dad said no! And I honestly feel if my name was Eliza Jean, I would have red hair and braces. But I feel like my name did make me a, like a different person, because if I was named something else, I might not be the same person I am. I always feel like if that was my name, I would be way different.
—Michelle: Do you have any nicknames or anything?
Jessica: Not that you want on that recorder.
—Michelle: Yeah, I’ve been called that too.
Angel: My nickname or my real name?
—Michelle: Well, that’s the question. So, you’ve got two names, Angel and Angelina…how important is your Angelina name to you?
Angel: Well, it’s the name my mom gave me. It’s pretty important, but I think it’s kind of long.
—Michelle: Well, how important is your name Angel to you?
Angel: Pretty important, it’s what I go by. It’s how I know when someone wants me.
Eileen: Eileen… My name is important to me, because I was named after one of my mom’s best friends, who passed away from…I’m not sure from what…but, because I was named after one of her friends, it’s always been special to me that she thought to name me Eileen.
—Michelle: That was a special person, so does that transfer over in your mind to you? Even though you’re special to your mom anyway…
Eileen: I’m special to my mom, and I guess I’m special to other people because they always like to joke with me and do the, “come on Eileen.” So, yeah, it’s still a special name to me.
Abena: My name is very important to me, because it actually has a meaning where I come from. My first name, Abena, means “a girl born on a Tuesday”. So, in my country, when everyone sees Abena, you know which day you were born on. My middle name, Oye (oh-yay), means “a good person”. So, it means a female born on a Tuesday who is a good person. And so…words to live up to, that expectation that I’m a good person.
—Michelle: But you didn’t take your husband’s name.
Abena: No. I took it socially, but I didn’t take it legally. But mostly it was because of professional reasons. Not really because… Because most of my certificates and stuff are in my maiden name.
Truman: It is important, because I never met anybody with my name before.
—Joe: But you’ve spent all these sixteen years building that rep, with that name, too.
Rebecca: Well…I don’t really care what people call me. I’ve been called a lot of things, haha… Some of them I prefer more than others.
—Michelle: You’ve got a nickname, too, because people mostly call you Becca.
Rebecca: Ummm…really, honestly, that one is hard to answer…because I answer to either one. I introduce myself as Rebecca when I meet new people, but most people usually call me Becca in the end. It really grates me when people who I don’t know, or haven’t established a relationship, when they call me Becca versus Rebecca. Oh, it does.
—Michelle: Even if I said, “hey, this is my sister Becca?”
Rebecca: That’d be okay, and I’d assume that would be a friend of yours, versus just a stranger. Like, if it’s a stranger or somebody I’m doing business with, I much prefer to be called Rebecca.
—Michelle: So would you ever consider changing your name? If I just started calling you Leslie…
Rebecca: I would just answer you, I’m not sure that that would faze me…cause people call me Rachel and stuff like that all the time.
—Angel: Maw Maw calls me April.
Rebecca: Yeah, she does it all the time.
—Angel: She forgets my name, she calls me April.
Rebecca: Does that bother you?
April Angel: No.
Rebecca: See, it doesn’t bother me, people call me stuff all the time.
—Angel: It’s funny.
Michelle: Ask Steve.
—Rebecca: How important is your name?
Steve: It’s not. I’m used to the Marine Corps. I didn’t even have a first name coming up, I was just Page.
—Rebecca: Well so, when somebody calls you Steven, how does that make you feel?
Steve: Uh, like it’s my mother. That means they don’t know me.
—Rebecca: Okay, and you prefer personal relationships, so…the name Steve is important to you because it indicates that you’re a person to them.
Marsha: My name? Like my reputation, as far as my name?
—Michelle: Whatever is the first thing you think of.
Marsha: Marsha Brady. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha…
—Michelle: Do you get sick of it?
Marsha: A little bit. I’ve gotten to where I really don’t care anymore.
—Michelle: What were you going to say in terms of reputation? Because I’ve been expecting somebody to say that, and nobody has yet.
Marsha: Well, you don’t want people to think badly of you, you know. You know what I’m saying? You don’t want your name…you want people to respect you.
Mary: How important is my name to me? Very important. Because my name is everything about me, and nobody can duplicate me.
—Michelle2: How important? Pretty important. I mean, it’s how I’m recognized…it’s how people know who I am.
Lynn: Nada. Don’t care.
—Michelle: So if we just started calling you Tabitha, you’d be okay with that?
Lynn: Yeah. It’s just…whatever. Call me anything you want, just not late for dinner.
—Michelle: You took your husband’s name when you got married…and you didn’t care about your last name, either?
Lynn: Nope. I just never really thought of it.
John: I’m glad my parents named me John, because that’s what everybody calls me.
—Michelle: Your name isn’t that important to you?
John: If you started calling your pickup truck a potato, it doesn’t make it less of a truck. It’s just whatever name that we call it, so… That’s kind of the way I think about it with my name, is that if I’d been named Eddie or Ralph, or whatever, you know, I’d still be who I am.
Michelle: Let me ask you a question, Terri, because you’re married…you changed your last name, I mean, did you give any thought to that, did that bother you at all?
—Terri: No that didn’t bother me. I had already…my family calls me by my first and middle name, and I never wanted to get rid of my middle name and keep my maiden name. My maiden name is one of those names, nobody knows how to spell it…
Michelle: So you didn’t feel any kind of identity attached to your maiden name, that you were reluctant to give up?
—Terri: I’m still a ____, that’s just not my name. And I guess my mom didn’t keep her maiden name…we didn’t have anyone close in our family who kept their maiden name, or made it their middle name.
Michelle: But you said you didn’t want to give up Lynn…
—Terri: My family calls me Terri Lynn.
Michelle: Do you associate Terri Lynn with your identity, then?
—Terri: Yeah, I probably am, when I think about myself, I probably am Terri Lynn in my mind. Cause I’ll find when people…you know how you’re talking to somebody about stuff you will and won’t do, I’ll be like, “Terri Lynn isn’t doin’ that!”
Michelle: Ok, so that leads to another interesting question, because, for me, I have my name and I have nicknames, I have my blog name and the blog name even has nicknames…and I almost feel that there’s a different personality attached to those different names. And part of that is the different people who call me the different names…I have a different relationship with each one of those people…
—Terri: That makes sense. At school, I’m Mrs. Palmer. And Mrs. Palmer is not the same as Terri Lynn, at home. And you do…depends on who’s calling you what. Because I tell my kids at school, when they graduate, they can call me Terri. I don’t think any kids that have graduated call me by my first name.
Michelle: You’re still their teacher.
—Terri: I’m still Mrs. Palmer. Or Palmer – there’s a couple of them, two of the boys that call me Palmer. “Hey, Palmer!”
Michelle: But that has its own signification and charm, you know, because that is a little bit more of an endearment.
Glo: My name? Of course, it’s very important to me. Your name is a reflection of your personality. But I wish I could change my name. When I was in school, all the other kids had new names, like Michelle and Jennifer. I had an old name. In the Philipines, Gloria is an old name. I was named after a neighbor. My mom said, if she had a girl child, she would name it for this neighbor.
—Michelle: What would you want your name to be?
Glo: If I could change my name, I would. I really like Sophia. When you give your child a name, you should consider the generation. All my classmates were Jennifers and Michelles. I asked my mom, “Why’d you have to name me Gloria?”
Aleisha: Well, I think my name’s pretty important to me. For one thing, my name’s Aleisha, and it’s spelled A-l-e-i-s-h-a. So, that already is like… I think it’s special. Because everyone spells it A-l-i-c-i-a, or some other way not how I spell it. So, to me it’s important. It’s very unique. I like the uniqueness of my name.
—Michelle: How much thought did you put into the name you gave your daughter…the importance of the name?
Aleisha: I’m not one to look up the meaning of my name, to see what does “Aleisha” mean, and all that…but…I put lot of thought into what I was going to name her. So… Because she’s going to be called that the rest of her life. Unless she legally changes her name, she’s going to be stuck with it. So, it means a lot to me.
Jon: My name? Um…I don’t know. It’s important I guess.
—Michelle: That’s it? I mean, you’re Jon Acuff.
Jon: I mean, it’s not…it’s pretty common, Jon’s not that unique. I would say my reputation and character, to me, is more important than the letters in my name.
Vicki: My name isn’t…a name is just a name, it doesn’t define you. I wouldn’t want it to be smeared…like if they put my name out and someone smeared it as a character flaw, I wouldn’t appreciate that, because…it goes back to who I am. But a name is just a name.
—Michelle: So, if I just said to you, “Hey, I’m going to start calling you Susan,” that wouldn’t bother you?
—Michelle: Really, Susan?
Vicki: I don’t know if I’d answer you, because I wouldn’t know you were calling me that. But after a while, I’d get used to it, and it wouldn’t matter.
—Michelle: Really? Interesting.
Vicki: But if you started calling me dogface, I would have a problem with that! Because you’re putting more of an adjective…or a…another picture on me.
—Michelle: But if I called you Awesome, that would be okay?
Vicki: That would be fine! That’s a good adjective! The name itself is just letters…but it’s the association you connect with the name. And it could be the fact that I can’t remember names, so if someone comes up to me and calls me Susan, it doesn’t offend me because I figure, they just don’t remember it. And it’s because, if she remembered me, even though she didn’t remember my name, that’s more important than a name.
—Michelle: It is a kind of interesting question.
Vicki: It is! ‘Cause I’m going to have to ponder this a little bit more…
—Michelle: That’s cool, you ponder.
Items of Interest:
On Marriage & Changing My Name: An Unusual Anniversary Post by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
What’s In a Name? by Kimberly Packard