Category: Gay Cioffi

My Name is Gay


By Gay Cioffi

As the youngest in my family of five, I am the only one who was not named for a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle. As it happened, I was named for a fondly remembered childhood acquaintance of my mother.

While not only was breaking from that family tradition the cause of a bit of a stir, and it wasn’t a saint’s name to boot (also an expected practice) nothing prepared my parents or me for the fallout to come as I grew up with the name “Gay” in the fifties and sixties.

I remember hearing my mother’s account of the reaction she got from family members regarding her disregard for how children in the family were traditionally named. I also recall that she wavered a bit between the names Gay and Joy, but again the real controversy began in my later teens when the word “gay”, came to represent more than a synonym for happy or carefree.

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By Gay Cioffi

Just as in real estate where the three most important things are:   LOCATION… LOCATION…. LOCATION, when bestowing a name on a baby the three most important things are: PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION.

As a person whose last name is almost never pronounced correctly, Cioffi  (the Ci is like Ch and …oh, if only I had a buck for every time I have had to say that!!), I know that navigating the social territory of “when and how often to correct” those who mispronounce it is tricky, to say the least. I had a third grade teacher who pronounced it KEY-OFF and I cringed every time I was called on for the entire school year.

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By Gay Cioffi

When my son was about to be born, close to thirty years ago, there were very few resources for parents-to-be to turn to for ideas for names.  Nothing as wonderful as Nameberry, for sure!  As a veteran nursery school teacher of ten years, I had the added challenge of having favorite names already taken by my many students.  I loved the name Oliver, but I would forever associate it with one of the adorable boys in my first nursery school class.  And as the youngest in a family of three brothers and a sister, my older siblings had also gotten to favorites of mine, before I was even of childbearing age. I will never forget the phone call from my mother announcing that my sister Ann had just delivered a new baby girl and that she was naming her Jennifer. I went completely silent as I stood in the hallway of my college dorm.  “What’s wrong?” my mother asked. I hesitated, but finally confessed that I was hoping someday to have a daughter named Jennifer.  Of course, when I reached my sister by phone later that day I had only enthusiasm for the news of a new niece and her beautiful name.

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