Category: changing your name
It seems like a pretty fair bet that I would have a more glamourous life than I do now, one that involved, I don’t know, lots of evenings (Vesper means “evening’!) at nightclubs and zooming around European locales on Vespa motor scooters.
Or is that just an illusion? Would I still be myself, whether my name was the straightforward Pam or the glamourous Vesper, the peppy Pippa or the sophisticated Sophia, would I still be the same person?
Do you think a name can have the power to change your life, and if so, what name do you think could change YOURS? And how and why?
(Sorry, but Vesper is mine.)
A name is not a small thing. I didn’t realize its full weight until I read Helen Keller‘s account of her genesis in the world of language and identity. In Keller‘s blind, deaf, pre-linguistic experience, there was only sensation. Keller tells how she was given a doll, and how her teacher attempted to tell her what doll meant. “I became impatient at her repeated attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon the floor,” says Keller. It was later that same day that Keller discovered language in the experience famously captured in The Miracle Worker.
“Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me,” recounts Keller. “I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.”
It was only once the set of sensations embodied by “doll” had a name that Keller experienced guilt. To dash the doll to pieces wasn’t merely changing the experiences: It was destroying its very doll-ness. To understand that identity could be more than mere sensation was the beginning of an entirely new world for her. “When I learned the meaning of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and found that I was something, I began to think,” said Keller. “Then consciousness first existed for me.” It is this process of naming and defining that creates the world of the conscious mind.
For years I worked to consciously create an identity for myself as Rob D Young. I created heavy self-perceptions, definitions, a brand of self. I established a reputation. I decided who “Rob D Young” is.
Then about six months ago I started seriously considering changing my name to Robert Blair in honor of my grandfather. Two years ago my grandfather started bleeding internally for no reason in particular. Not long thereafter he had what he dubbed “a bit of a problem with gravity.” I don’t know how people handle this process; I don’t know how to wait for the death of someone I love. There are so many ceremonies and processes and support systems for the passing of a loved one, but the gradual waning beforehand aches fiercely and we are given little else besides the ticking clock. We remind ourselves to remain grateful for whatever time he has left, and we try not to feel guilty for wanting him to stay around in a breaking body for even longer.
Hey!, we thought. Here we are, a name site, with lots of regular visitors who are fascinated by names and think and know a lot about the subject, and yet they’re known by names they’ve invented for themselves. So where did those names come from?
Changing your name is many a name nerd’s ultimate fantasy (right up there with naming a dozen children, including two sets of twins.) What name would you choose, if you could choose anything? And why?
I first considered seriously the whole issue of changing your name at a large, riotous dinner with all my college friends, when the first among us announced she was expecting a baby.
We threw out the usual compliment of ridiculous baby names for her consideration, and then started talking about how we felt about our own names.
It’s time, then, to take matters into my own hands and choose a name for myself. I think, if I had to pick this very minute, I’d become Eliza Bridget Redmond. Eliza because it’s been long and is still my favorite name, modern and classic at the same time; Bridget because it was my beloved grandmother’s name, and one she felt she had to hide when she immigrated to the U.S. as it had become an Irish joke; and Redmond, because, as much as I love my husband and even love his name, I wish I’d never given up my original surname!
If you were changing your name today, if you could wave a magic wand and have total control, what would you choose? And why?