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By Catherine Ens
As the old saying goes, “I remember faces, not names.” The opposite has always been true for me. By the age of about seven, I could confidently recite my class list and give the names of almost all the students in my school. As I grew up, there seemed to be only one profession that would allow me to ponder over names to the same extent that I did as a child, and so I grew up to become a teacher. And it gets better than that; I moved from my native Britain to become a teacher in the United States, where I had a whole new world of names to explore, and where I discovered that people often play the naming game in surprisingly different ways.

I love my job. Each September, I joyfully copy my second graders’ appellations onto name tags and into grade books – and then stand back to admire them. As I do so, I am often struck by the differences between parents’ choices here and in my own country. For their first homework assignment, I always ask my students to find out more about why their parents chose their name, and then to share this information with the class. As a name fanatic, I can’t help but devour these “name stories” and amaze at the naming differences on this side of the pond.

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