Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Game of the Name

I never liked my name when I was growing up. “Patricia” seemed too old and stuffy. I liked my nickname even less. Patty. When I started school, and rude boys decided it rhymed with fatty, I positively hated it. Some people tried to call me Pat but I put a stop to that right away. Pat was what you did to a dog. Not until high school, when my boyfriend nicknamed me “Tricia”, did I actually start liking my name. But then he went kinda psycho. He’d “pass out”, continuing to talk to “Tricia”, and then tell me not to tell “Patty”. It was a confusing time. I eventually resolved this problem by losing him but keeping the new nickname. My mother was offended. She gave a loud snort and said, “I won’t call you Tricia. It doesn’t even start with the same letter!”

Then there was the problem of my middle name—Merle. It was my mom’s name and, at the time, having anything the same as my mom was simply annoying. As a kid I remember complaining that “Patricia Merle” just sounded ugly. That’s when my mom amazed me by doing something brilliantly nice. She told me that my name actually meant “Beautiful Blackbird”. Now that got my attention. She said “Patricia” meant “beautiful” and “Merle” was French for “blackbird”. I felt I’d been given wings. I suddenly had a secret name that sounded like an Indian princess. How magical was that? Years later I unfortunately looked up the meaning of the names in some baby naming book. True enough, Merle means blackbird. But I could never find where Patricia meant beautiful. The best I got was “of noble birth”. Oh well. Chalk one up for Mom, though. I don’t know where she came up with “beautiful” but by then it didn’t matter. I would forever more be Beautiful Blackbird.

Many years later, when I was expecting my first child, I found myself heavy into negotiations over her name. I wanted her to be called Brianna. It was Celtic and meant “woman of strength”. My husband offered up a whole list of names which I rejected out of hand since they were all names of his old girlfriends. To be fair to him, I must admit you’d have to search a long time to find a name for someone he hadn’t dated. But he hadn’t dated a Brianna. He hadn’t even heard of one, which was why he didn’t like it. “It’s too unusual,” he argued. He was holding firm on the name, “Jennifer”. When I met him he had a cat named Jennifer. While it was a nice enough name I was damned if I was going to name my daughter after his dead cat. In the end, when our baby arrived, we called her Brianna Elizabeth—Elizabeth, a concession to him, was his mother’s middle name. Neither of us liked her first name—Dorothy. The name Brianna must have been floating heavy in the ethers during that time because once she entered school our daughter always had about three Briannas in every class. So much for being too unusual.

Our second daughter was to be Lorelei until right up to the time she was born. I had pushed for “Zoë”, which means “To Life!” but my husband didn’t like the look or sound of the name. At the last moment we panicked and decided Lorelei was too flowery. I still didn’t want “Jennifer” so we decided on “Kristina Merle”. Many years later, out of the blue, my daughter told me she didn’t like her name. She wanted to be called “Zoë”.


  1. My dog was named Zoe. I love that name. I was supposed to be a boy and popped out a girl. My parents didn't give me a name for something like 2 weeks after I came home. I think back then you didn't have to complete the birth certificate while in the hospital. They wanted to name me Cara but my aunt told my mom she'd make fun of me if she named me that because of the brand Cara Artichoke hearts or something like that. So they Named me Lisa, my middle name is Anne. I think my name is alright. I think if I was named Cara I though I would have been a completly different person.

    My son hates his name, Gage. I picked a name that I thought was strogn and that wasn't to weird but different. a name you couldnt cut up so that name calling would be at a minimum. Some people love his name, others are like it's different. He hates it because he thinks it sounds to close to Gay and since our neighbors son has a small speech delay it sounds like he's calling him Gay. I've explained to my 9 yr old a 100 times that there nothing wrong with Gay. But he's 9 and kids don't understand. I've also told him to think of a name you can't make fun of and every name he threw out at me I was able to make fun of some how.

    So basically no matter what your name is, someone some where will make fun of it.

  2. Happy sits day,

    Aww, i love Z names. My daughter is named Zara. If i Have another girl I may name her Zoe. Thats cute how your daughter ended up picking the name you almost picked.

  3. I like your girls' names. We have a Zoe at school and she's just adorable though :) Stopping by from SITS :)

  4. Well, I WAS named after an old girlfriend of my fathers, he just liked the name, dontcha know. *cough cough* Then there were the people who tried to call me Betty which made my Mom crazy and made me hate being called that too. At work I have people call me BJ because too many people will just shorten it if I don't. My friends at work call me Beej. Some of my daughter's friends call me MommyJo. It's always something, isn't it?

  5. Tricia, I think every girl from our generation must have wanted a name change. I was a hippy in the 70's and wanted to have my name be Clover, my mom went balistic and on and on about how much thought she had put into my name etc. Now I really love my name. See you soon. xxoo Mona


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