Call Me Laila…No, Ruth…No, Linda— The Story of How I Got Hooked on Names

Before I was born, my mother had  two names picked out for me–I was going to be either Lydia or Laurel.  She liked them because they were slightly unusual and, being an artist herself, saw them as having a creative feel–plus  she was also following the Jewish tradition of using the first initial of a deceased relative.  In this case, it was my father’s mother, Rose, who had recently died, and whose first and middle initials were R and L.

But once I actually made my appearance, Lydia and Laurel were never heard of again.  (Might I have become bolder as a Lydia?  Quieter as a Laurel?)  In any case, whatever transpired that day in the hospital I’ll never know–probably something to do with pressure from my Dad’s two sisters for names closer to their mother’s–but in any case, I arrived home a couple of days later with a birth certificate reading Ruth Leila.  To confuse matters further, I was never ever called Ruth.  Instead I was known to one and all by my Jewish name, Laila.

So little Laila became who I was– until the fateful day when I started kindergarten and my teacher, looking at my records, naturally called me RuthRuth?  What? Who is this Ruth?  In one fell swoop, my identity was shattered.  (Obviously, I’m not the ideal person to come to for advice on changing a child’s name post-toddlerhood.)

I returned home from school that day completely confused and distraught, no longer sure quite who I was.  Sympathetic mommy came up with a solution:  ‘OK, dear, if it would make you feel any better, how about starting from scratch and picking a totally new name for yourself?’  Not having a name book handy, she proceeded to make lists of names starting with those two letters (again Lydia and Laurel went missing)–Leah, Leslie, Louise, Rachel, Roxanne, etc.  I picked Linda, which at the time sounded appealingly bright and shinier than the other options to me.  But choosing a new name at the age of five doesn’t mean you necessarily instantly internalize it and make your own–which is something I never really did.

But I have no doubt that what the experience did do, though, was trigger my lifelong fascination with names and set me on the path that eventually would lead to Beyond Jennifer & Jason and Nameberry –as well as to my becoming a compulsive, lifelong list-maker.

Through the years I’ve accumulated a number of nicknames–perhaps because my friends also sensed that I wasn’t quite a Linda.  My family often shortened it to Lin, while others came up with Linnie, Lindy, Linneth, Linden, Linsy, and even–in the internet era–my own self-created email tag of Lindro.  Lately, though, with the growing popularity of so many pretty double-L names, like Lola and Lila and Lilo and Lily and Leyla, I’ve started to really miss Laila.  As a matter of fact, one new acquaintance, upon hearing my name saga, has started to call me that.

Not that I think I could ever commit to it wholeheartedly, but I have to admit that in a certain way, it does feel like the more authentic me.

Does anyone else have a story about a name change that didn’t take, or of  not  feeling comfortable with your own name for some other reason?

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44 Responses to “Call Me Laila…No, Ruth…No, Linda— The Story of How I Got Hooked on Names”

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Kelley Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 2:14 am

My mother went through a similar experience. Went through her life believing her name to be Mary-Beth, then when she turned 16 and went to get her license, my grandmother told her “By the way, when you sign your name, it’s actually Mary Elizabeth”

Turns out my Grandfather had wanted Mary Elizabeth, two names, but my Grandmother wanted the one name Mary-Beth, and while she was passed out/recuperating after giving birth, he put Mary Elizabeth on the birth certificate. She’s gone by Mary ever since, but old friends and family still call her Mary-Beth

Annelise Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 3:15 am

My story is kind of similar to your saga… my parents just gave me a first and middle name with way too many nicknames (Annelise Margaret). When I was a kid, Annelise seemed way too long and hopelessly uncool, so I went by Anna. When I hit my teens, I decided that Anna was too old-fashioned, so I had everyone call me Lise. In college, I went by Daisy for a while. Now that I’ve finally decided I love my full name, everyone is already used to calling me something else!

LyndsayJenness Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 4:29 am

wow, so many names for one person! Laila is totally the best, you should start going by it!
i don’t have a story nearly as interesting as yours, i’ve just never felt like my name fit me at all. i remember looking at my mom’s list of what she almost named me with such longing, almost everything else was so much better. Rita, Grace, Elizabeth, Cecilia, Lulette, and more i can’t remember right now… how she possibly settled on Lyndsay is completely beyond me. She always wanted to call me Lou, but never did (still thinks it in her head though), not my number one choice but far better than Lyndsay.

memomo Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 10:21 am

Annelise! That’s my name too! (When I saw your post, I thought maybe I had already posted on this thread, but then I couldn’t remember having done so) o_O I’ve gone by my full name my whole life, except for one daycare where I was called Anna. So I don’t know how I became interested in names. Interesting stories from you all, though.

susan Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

When I was born, my father wanted to name me Phyllis (shudder), but my mom said, “Oh, why don’t we name her Debbie Sue? So I was Deborah Sue. My father and sister hated my name and they always sounded like they hated it when they rarely said it. They called me all kinds of nicknames including Molei, Chunky Nut, etc. Then my sister started calling me Chuka, aversion of Chunky Nut. Chuka (Choo-kuh) really stuck. It ended up being the name I was called by most of my family and then by my friends starting in 9th grade. By 10th grade I even asked my teachers to call me Chuka. In 11th grade I was really bored at school, so I asked my art teacher to call me Evelyn for a joke. The whole art class thought my name was Evelyn! As a senior I pretended I was a junior one day and had my picture taken for that class. I ended up in the yearbook as a senior named Chuka and as a junior named Frances Winthrop. Even back then I loved vintage names! By the time I was thirty, I despised the name Chuka even though in my mid-twenties I had legally changed my name to Chuka Susan instead of Deborah Sue. My parents signed their names as witnesses. I was ready to kick the next person who called me Chuka. I wanted my name to be Susan. I was so sick of people asking me what Chuka means and how I got that name and mispronouncing it. I told my husband how I felt and he was really sad. He said, but we are Kent and Chuka, not Kent and Susan. But then he said he could learn to like it. Since my early twenties, my husband (then my boyfriend) always called me Sukie which is a nickname for Susan. I loved Sukie. My sister called me nicknames when I was young and then added Susie for a middle name, and I liked Susie. So I told everyone to call me Susan and I’ve been happy with it ever since. It really feels like my name, but it did take a few months to get used to it. When I first changed my name to Susan, people would call me Susan and I wouldn’t respond. My legal name is still Chuka Susan and that feels good. I have it on all my checks and important papers. I never want to change my name again and I have had the name Susan for nineteen years.

linda Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Susan–I think your name odyssey beats mine!

susan Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I was so happy to hear your story, Linda. I could relate!

Tikicatt Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 1:20 pm

True story. My BIL was born in rural Mexico. His father was absent when he was born having run out for a time on his young wife. The grandfather was rather mad about the whole situation and he was the one who went into town a few weeks later to register the birth. The baby was to be named Servando, Jr. after his father, but the grandfather in anger thought I will be raising the child so he put down Salvador, Jr. on the birth certificate. The grandfather’s name and his last name in place of the father’s.

The baby was called Servando, Jr. always and the young parents were reunited and had more children. Around age 17 when army service was looming, Servando goes to get his birth certificate and finds out his name is Salvador not Servando and last name is Fernandez y Fernandez not Garza y Fernandez like his sibs.

So then and there the family started calling him Salvador Fernandez – after checking with grandpa to find out what had happened. I have always asked, just like that they all started calling you Salvador at 17 – not Servando any more? And nope, he was changed into Salvador and has stayed that way for the last 52 years. He has 8 younger brothers and sisters and he is Fernandez in the US (when he immigrated) and they are Garza.

Now there is an entry idea. Named vs. actual vs. identity. This is not the only story like this I have heard. It is amazing how far in life you can get without knowing your name. Even military service in the US has not caught some of the WWII vets I have heard stories about.

linda Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Thanks–and thanks for sharing yours. btw–I love the nickname Sukie.

realpraise Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 3:34 pm

I got hooked on names one day at the library as a teenager. I picked up a few books on names because my friend Melissa had always wondered what hers meant. One was Beyond Jennifer & Jason, and from then on I was hooked. I have followed Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran’s books (and website, now) ever since (even though BJ&J didn’t have name meanings, I loved the lists, etc.). And my third child is named because of Nameberry!

linda Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 4:48 pm

That is so gratifying! Dying to know the Nameberry name of your baby.

rachelmarie Says:

December 17th, 2008 at 8:18 pm

I’m Jewish as well, and was given two Jewish names: Rachel Marie. Marie was after my mom’s grandmother who passed away before I was born.

But, I was almost name Michaela, but couldn’t be named that because my dad didn’t like it.
So, it came down to Rachel and Alexandra. But, my uncle decided he wanted to name his son (born exactly 2 months after me) Alexander, and we couldn’t have two Alex’s in our family.
So, I became Rachel. But, I’ve never really felt like a Rachel, when people call me that, it doesn’t feel like me. I almost wanted to change my name, but decided against it.

As to how I got first hooked on names, it was over the past summer. I’ve always been interested, but not hooked. I started writing a book, and used the names Selena and Thomas, looked up the meanings of those names, then my names, my friend’s and family’s names, and that’s how it started.

LyndsayJenness Says:

December 18th, 2008 at 1:01 am

I totally forgot to mention this in my last comment… my grandma doesn’t even know what her real name is. She goes by Ann, no middle name. As a kid everyone always called her May Ann. Then, sometime within the last 5 or 10 years she saw her birth certificate (don’t ask me how she never saw this before, i have no idea) and it had a completely different name on it… but, get this, she doesn’t remember what it is! and she has absolutely zero interest in finding out. i’m dying to know, but i have no way of finding out.

cypressalm Says:

December 18th, 2008 at 11:17 am

A similar thing happened to my grandmother. All her life, she thought her name was Ethel Helen. A few years ago, though, my mom sent away for my grandmother’s birth certificate and it turns out her first name has always been Helen. Where her family got Ethel from is anyone’s guess. She’s almost 90 years old and just learned her real first name!

linda Says:

December 18th, 2008 at 1:43 pm

It’s strange how many of these stories there are from that generation.

Jennnifer Says:

December 19th, 2008 at 10:09 am

I have always been interested in names because, as you can see, I received a very boring one. My mother told me she planned on naming me Lyric, but, like you Nameberry, something happened in the hospital and it got changed. I always wanted to have people call me something else (my middle name of Ann was equally a dud), but I was never bold enough so I just went with Jen.

When I went to have a child, the only rule I set was it couldn’t start with a “J” sound because my husband’s name also has a “J” sound (and there are a lot of J names), but I couldn’t bring myself to pick some out there name, so I went with the somewhat traditional, “Samuel.” But just like his mother, it’s already been pared down to its first three letters, and he’s only 2!

Lija Says:

December 20th, 2008 at 12:44 am

The story goes… my grandmother was born prematurely, the last of 12 kids to survive, in 190? She was so small and so many babies had died early in the lives before her that the story is that she never was named but was just called Minnie. She renamed herself the much more glamorous “Mynette” when she became a teenager, and as any good Jew, decided to celebrate her birthday on 12/25 since no one bothered to jot down the actual day she was born and everyone else was celebrating on that day anyway. I wonder how much these early experiences made her who she was?

I LOVE having a unique name that has never had any nicknames – I feel this has made me part of who I am…

Jen Says:

December 25th, 2008 at 2:12 am

My parents named me after a girl on my father’s school bus run… well, they just liked the name really. And my second name is my grandmother’s first name, Catherine. In full, I am Jennifer Catherine. When I was like five or six, I did not like Jennifer, and wanted all of my friends to call me Catherine… that went for a bit… until I just accepted the fact that my name was Jennifer, and it wasn’t going to be changed. I often use my middle names in stories that I write to honour my now late-grandmother. Plus, I kind of like the fact that I was (partially) named after someone of importance and someone I loved dearly.

Also, my grandmother’s full name was: Catherine Estella. But since her mother was also Catherine, she went by Estella, and eventually just Stella. And I’ve loved the name Estella ever since.

noa Says:

December 25th, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I was named after Saskia van Uylenburgh, the wife of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn.
During my mother’s pregancy my father’s been watching a movie about Rembrandt and as he was impressed by his deep affection for his wife my father wanted my name to be Saskia.
My name is well-known, but not too common. when I was younger I wanted to have name that’s more common. But in aftermath I am very happy with my name as I have always been the only one in class and not Saskia I, II or III.
I reckon the story behind my name and the fact that my name is a little bit unusual is a reason for my addiction to names. I actually can’t remember a time in which I haven’t been interested in names….
And there’s still the baby name dictionary my parents used when they were expecting myself and my brothers standing in my bookshelf.

Linda Rosenkrantz Says:

December 26th, 2008 at 1:14 am

I’ve never known anyone named Saskia, but I’ve loved it ever since I heard it as the name of Rembrandt’s wife.

Shay Says:

January 1st, 2009 at 3:34 am

I was born a Shannon, and was called “Shan” up until about 7th grade, when I decided that I wanted to be called something else. I didn’t, and still don’t feel like a Shannon. My best friend and I came up with a list of nicknames that could be in any way related to Shannon, and I chose Shay…which was actually off of a girl named Shaylah’s name in a school I had left, but I never admit it. So my friend introduced me to her group of friends as Shay, and it eventually spread without me even trying to do anything beyond that first decision. Shows what happens when a name makes sense with a person! There were times when I couldn’t even tell how it had spread from one group of friends to another…After about a year, all of my friends called me that, until eventually, I introduced myself to new people as Shay, got a job as Shay, and eventually got married as Shay! So, now, if someone ever calls me Shannon, I know that they must be a relative (and even they’re starting to call me Shay.) or someone I knew a very long time ago.

Though it weirds me out to hear my parents call me anything but Shannon. For some reason, out of their mouth it sounds right, but anybody else…no way.

My 5 mo old daughter’s name is Helena, and I love it but wonder if it will fit her. I was looking at your list of Helen’s around the world and and LOVE the Irish version Ena as well!! I’ll have to try it out on her.

Abby Says:

January 1st, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I love these stories and wanted to add mine! And Linda, I’ve often wondered if you liked having such a popular name, so it is really interesting to hear your tale.

My mother has an unusual, ethnic name and vowed to give her children simple, common ones – especially after she married a man with an unusual, ethnic surname.

When I was born in 1973, she settled on Amy. So did 26,960 other mothers, making Amy second only to Jennifer. I hated being one in the crowd – Amy N. I read baby name books obsessively, wondering why she’d discarded this idea or that idea. Her answer was always the same: “Amy is a nice name! You only *think* you want to be Hepzibah or Laurencia.”

She also thought it was a phase.

I considered using my middle name, but it was rather plain – Beth. I attempted to go by Amy Beth, but that didn’t stick. Then there were the re-spellings Amee and Amme, experiments that fell flat.

By college, I’d started signing just my initials – A.B. – and came to really like the combination. A.B. became Abby, and after a few years of living with my detested legal name and my “real” name, I legally changed the whole thing to Amy Abigail – A. Abigail. It fits in a way that Amy never did.

I settled on Abby in the mid-90s. As anyone visiting this site probably knows, Abigail was racing up the charts at the time. So once again, I have a Top Ten name. But it’s not Top Ten from my generation, and that’s a vast improvement. (Even today, I have two 30-something neighbors called Amy.)

To my mother’s credit, she’s adjusted to the new name with good grace. It’s jarring to change your own name, and I imagine it’s even stranger when your child comes home and announces that from here forward she’ll be known as Moonbeam. Or, you know, Abigail.

linda Says:

January 2nd, 2009 at 4:11 am

Abby–so glad to get the full story behind your appellation.

christopher Says:

January 4th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

This all sounds so familiar to me. My mother has a very common name for her era (Jennifer) and she wanted something different but not earth shattering. She had decided on either Joey Nicole or Samantha when she was pregnant with me. After I was born, she says she took one look at me and decided neither would do. I ended up with the unusual pairing of Christopher Lee (unusual for a girl born in the 80’s). From the time I was little, I swore I would change my name on my 18th birthday. I had a parade of nicknames throughout school… Tuffers, Christa, Zoe, etc. Anything my friends or I thought up. Long story short by high school I gave in and used my regular name again, much to my mom’s relief. Now being called Christopher doesn’t bother me and whenever someone even attempts to shorten it I get snarly. So for once I will admit my mother must have been right.

As for name fixation, I think because I spent so many years looking for the perfect replacement (even though I ended up not needing it) that I developed this habit of pairing up assorted names and seeing how they would fit together. Which is hopefully not going to be a problem when I have kids of my own, because I frequently change my likes and dislikes.

Jiinxsay Says:

January 14th, 2009 at 12:15 am

wow Christopher!! your story on how you became fixated on names reminds me of how i got into the “name game”!

also, many of the other women here, i felt such a kin-ship with, in regards to disliking/hating your given name.

i was born Laura Elizabeth Mahoney. i was adopted at 9 months & named Alice Elizabeth Sanders, interesting how Elizabeth was my mn both times :-O

in my teens my friends called me “Al”. in jr. high i tried a dif spelling, Alyse, as i despised my name.

at 20 a sweet friend called me “Ali” one day & it stuck… for a while. people later pronounced it like Muhammed, ah-lee.
so a few yrs ago i changed it to Aly. still didn’t work.

my online name has become my true identity. i am working on changing it legally, finding out the law in Mass etc. i also wanted to “divorce” myself from my last name Sanders. my father’s been gone 10 yrs, rest his soul. i don’t get along with my mother, too many issues etc, OR my sister. the name means nothing anymore. so i’ve chosen ‘Lee’ as a last name. my dilemma now is, trying to fit in Beloved family members for my middle nameS, yes, there’s more than 1!
i sooo wanted to include my special dad, his name was;
Prof. J. Lyell Sanders (google him if you’re bored! shows his obit in the Harvard Gazette as well as a new “memorial”! :-), so i chose L’isle as one mn. i also chose Graice, as dad’s mom’s name was Grayce.
my birthmom’s name was Joan-Marie Elizabeth Mahoney Davis, so i’ve chosen Marie for her. Marie is also my birthsis’s mn. i have to call my birth-sis Beth in Cal + ask her what our mom’s mom’s name was. i think it was Ann/Anne. as well as her maiden name.

to honor my adoptive mother, who i have such a hard time NOT despising 🙁 i have chosen; Jo, for her deceased brother Joe, who i heard was my favie uncle when i was 2. so JO, is the 1st 2 letters in the names; John, Joan & Joe. John was my adoptive dad’s 1st name, that he NEVER used. i feel that is a nice way of honoring all 3.
Elizabeth seems to be rampant. my mn both times, my birthmom’s mn, my birth-sis’s 1st name, my adoptive mother’s aunt’s name (&matriarch of her fam).

so there are many & i fear the judge may throw me in the loony bin & throw away the key when i walk in there & ask for Jiinxsay Lee, with approx. 4-8 middle names :-O
any ideas? maybe i could shorten some of them, or hypen some of them.
as of this morning, it was; Jiinxsay Lauran Graice Elizabeth Marie Simone L’isle Jo Lee :-O
my Beloved cat lasted over 20 yrs, her name; Simona.
not sure if i need to add that into the mix. Simone sounds more mature.
the Jo Lee also plays into my love for the name Jolie 🙂
& Laura is my birthname….it’s getting crazy&out of hand!

so please lovelys, ANY advice is welcome & needed!!

thank you so much for listening to my story/novel!

<3 jiinxsay

Ursula Ayelet Lauzon Says:

January 25th, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I was supposed to be a boy, and my name was supposed to be Scott David Lintz. On the 1% chance that I turned out to be a girl, I would be named after my grandmothers, Anastasia Helen. When I was born a girl and looking nothing like an Anastasia Helen, my mom had to start a new list. My grandmothers, having found out that I was going to be named after them, insisted my mom not use their names, as they hated them and went by Ana and Lennie. My mom is catholic but my father is jewish so I got a jewish name for sure, Ayelet. My mom chose Daria, for her mothers russian heritage, and Vivienne for my paternal grandmothers french heritage. So I was named Daria Vivienne Ayelet Lintz. From then on everybody called me Vivienne, resulting in the nickname Viv. I started school and didn’t know who on earth Daria was. I was in tears and my mom told the teachers to call me Vivienne. They did. I started high school and there was a Vivienne there already, the teen queen of our school, so I finally went to Daria, but switchet that to the nickname my russian grandmother always called me, Dasha. Then I got a confirmation name, Ursula, so everybody at church called me Ursie. In college I went by Ayelet and when I met my husband I was known yet again as Viv. We married and I legally changed my name to Vivienne Dasha Ursula Ayelet Lintz Jones. I have been pouring over names books since I was 8. My son is named Avidan Scott Jones and my daughter is Bridget Ayelet Jones. They will each get confirmation names eventually but they will never have the name problems I did. Thanks, Viv

Shoshana Says:

March 1st, 2009 at 1:39 am

Wow! I just discovered this blog and the fact that other people have name stories too!

The name on my birth certificate was Susan Sojourner N______- G________, after Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, and with a hyphenated last name because I have both my mom’s and my dad’s names.
As a young kid, I went by Susan, with only brief dabblings into naming myself (Babus and Doke-Doke, most notably).
The trouble started in second grade, when my TEACHER was also named Susan, unsurprisingly, as the name was much more popular in her decade (the 50’s) than mine (the late 80’s).
The next year, I started Hebrew school and discovered my Hebrew name, Shoshana. I love it, and decided that from that point on I would go by Shoshana. My parents were quite supportive, they thought I could call myself whatever I wanted, but didn’t want me rushing into things and hating my name later. Thus, my parents and I reached a compromise where I would have to use ‘Shoshana’ informally for 5 years before they’d take me to get it legally changed. Four years later, my mom took me to the courthouse and I officially changed my name to Shoshana. I kept Sojourner as a middle name, as I like it’s meaning (traveler), and kept both my parents’ last names because I couldn’t imagine abandoning one.
So now I’m Shoshana Sojourner N-G, and I love my unwieldy 31 letter name. I get a ton of nicknames, but I love them. With close friends I’m Shosh mostly though.
So that is undoubtedly where I got my interest in names.

Saul Says:

October 3rd, 2010 at 12:26 am

I am also Jewish….I was born in 1951… parents agreed that if I was a boy I would be named Saul after my dad’s father who died in 1947. If I was a girl I would be named Gail after my mother’s mother named Gertrude who died in 1950. As I am a 60 year old man…you guessed it Saul. My mother’s friends and primarily her sister-in -law Ruth said how can you give a little baby such an “albatross” of a name. In fact I wanted to change it as a kid and my parents said I could change it at age 18. I was called salt and pepper as a little kid and back in the 50’sand 60’s most kids did not have a unique name. As time went on it didn’t bother me as people knew who I was immediately because of the unique name. It could be worse;I could have been called Donald if my parents’ last name was Duck !!!!

leonielee Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 12:40 am

I’ve thought of changing my name for awhile now. My name is Casey Jo- very unisex. The name has never really felt like me. My family mostly calls me Joey, which also doesn’t really feel like me. I’m worried about offending my parents, though. (Even though my sister has legally changed her name.)

Happy 3rd Birthday to Nameberry! – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 8:27 am

[…] Our favorite blogs: Probably the two most personal ones, in which we each explain the origins of our name obsessions: Confessions of a Secret Name Nerd and  Call me Laila…no, Ruth…no Linda: The story of how I got hooked on names. […]

RitaPumpkinina Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 9:39 am

My dad’s called Ferdinand but his birth certificate says Ferinard (spelling error!) and his middle name I suppose was meant to be Andre but it’s spelt Undre which has stuck.

As for me, my fn mn and ln are alliterative, initials SSS, and when I get married I’m gona take his last name which would leave SSJ – it just looks so strange after years of alliteration! So I think I’ll legally add the middle name Rita to break it up as it’s a nickname my mum calls me. I’ve always felt really odd about doing that but reading all these stories makes me feel better about it and now I’m set on doing it 🙂

Where did my obsession with names come from? That’s aaanyone’s guess.

Nyx Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

My fascination with names started (I think) with my Cabbage Patch and My Child dolls. My Cabbage Patch dolls came with the lovely names of Faith (girl) and Sidney (boy)… which I HATED at the time! I had a problem with pronouncing Faith, and it sounded more like “Fake” (which greatly amused my mom as a name for a doll!); and Sidney was just so dang unpopular/trendy for my 6 year-old self.

When I got my My Child, I wanted to come up with the perfect name. The gimmick with the My Child was that each doll was so unique that each child could find a doll that looked just like them. So, having a little miniature-me, and having 2 Cabbage Patch dolls with names I didn’t love, I set out to find the perfect name for my My Child that would also link her to me. I ended up settling on Tiffany, my middle name (which, strangely enough, I would grow to loath a few years later), and also a name that was reaching peak-popularity at the time.

Flash forward to my middle school years. Heathers, Stephanies, Amandas, Lisas and Tammys abound, and I’ve grown to hate my name… or more accurately, my nickname. Suzy was just so… not popular and very frumpy sounding… and it made me feel frumpy. I secretly started wishing that my mother had named me Lily instead, as I knew that’s what my name meant. Lily had a wonderful sound… so sweet and delicate and beautiful. I finally brought my dilemma to my mom, but not my secret desire to use the name Lily. She understood how I felt… and suggested that maybe if I spelled my name (nickname) differently that I would feel differently about it. Thus I went from Suzy to Suzee (wow, not pleasant to look back on… but hey, I was only 13 at the time). That lasted for less then 2 years before I just went back to Suzy. I tried to write it fancier… but it still felt flat and bland. It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I realized that the name I should be using was Suzanna (my first name), and started to go by it. I now LOVE my name. However, while I introduce myself as Suzanna whenever I am somewhere new, I think that must look/feel like a Suzy to others. Most people end up calling me Suzy regardless of how I introduce myself. It doesn’t bother me now though. I know that I’m Suzanna, with a nickname of Suzy… not a Suzy with a full name of Suzanna. I guess it was all just a matter of perception for me.

While going through this name-quandary, I found out a few things. First was that my father wanted to name me Eric Andrew if I was a boy, and second that my mom had wanted to name me Tiffany Suzanna instead of Suzanna Tiffany. I felt an instant loathing to Eric, Andrew and Tiffany (remember 7 years earlier when I LOVED Tiffany?). I think that the reaction was simply that they just didn’t feel like “me”. After I figured out my naming issues, I also found that I didn’t actually hate the names anymore. While none of them are exactly thrilling favorites of mine, I can’t say that they are on my list of names that I would rather not see anybody use (aka, the names I HATE).


Another story about names that I always found interesting is about how my grandmother got her name. My grandmother was named Rosie, and she hated her name. She always said that it was a cow’s name (yep, she grew up on a farm) and she resented that it was her name. I think that she might have preferred to be Rose with a nickname of Rosie, but I never got a chance to ask her. However, I did find out that Rosie was the preferred name to what her father wanted to name her (her mother chose the name Rosie). He wanted to name her Fanchon Samantha and call her “Fancy Sam” (until I found this site, I thought that Fanchon was a made-up name!). With older siblings named Edna, Mae, and Edgar aka “Buster”, I wonder where Fanchon came from…

CharacterNamer Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I REALLY dislike my name, Cameron, as it does’t sound all that feminine to me, there are an equal number of boy and girl Camerons at my school, 3 boys and 3 girls, and it is among the most popular names at my school. However, I can’t imagine myself with another name, and I really think it suits me. So, I think up names I like more than my own for my characters 🙂

Titus245Mama Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 10:03 pm

My grandma just passed away at the age of 87. She was born Genevieve, but had been Judy as long as I had known her. When I finally asked her why as an adult, she told me that she hated her name. When she was in Kindergarten, her teacher made her write out that horribly long name all the time, and she couldn’t stand it. But, why Judy? She never told me that part. At her funeral, her sister told me that her brothers and sisters always called her Gen when they were growing up. As it turns out, it was my grandpa who had given her the pet name Judy, and it stuck. My younger sister has had “dibs” on the name Genevieve for her firstborn daughter since we were teenagers. She plans to use the more 21st century nickname Vivi.

Regan Says:

November 6th, 2011 at 3:55 am

Seeing my name above, you can imagine I’ve had some experiences as well… Though not nearly as complicated as a lot of your stories. It was mostly when I was about 8 or 9 that I started wondering why the heck my parents decided to call me Regan, of all things. (They were originally considering Madison or Madeline, this one was a compromise) It hardly sounded elegant and I couldn’t imagine myself all grown up and pretty, introducing myself to a handsome prince as “Regan.” Not to mention the explanation of the pronunciation I always go through and the discovery that it was the name of a villain in Shakespeare’s King Lear. (Ouch) I considered going by Bree, short for Brianne, my middle name, for a long time until I found out the meaning of my name. Honestly, what’s more princess-like than the meaning “Princess?” Through the years, I haven’t met another female Regan with my spelling and saw this as an opportunity. I got to define my own identity. My parents had blessed me with a sufficiently unique and beautiful-sounding name that had no premade perceptions attached. Unlike the other names I liked, such as Jessie or Ashley or Jennifer. I only hope I can give our baby a name with a similar opportunity. It is then I feel like I can send a proper thank-you to my own parents.

chapitaism Says:

November 21st, 2011 at 3:37 pm

To Cypressalm
My grandfather also had a similar story. He has a born certificate with name “Filiberto”, and also when he was a child, some people started calling him “Gilberto”. We don’t know how they came with a different name for him, two totally different well-known names. He got so used to it, that everybody (included him) forgot his real name. Then it comes the day when he got married, and he used name Gilberto instead, not remembering about Filiberto at all. Many years later, when he died, their children where asked for his birth registration and his real name was found. He died believing he was a Gilberto. I not only was sad for my grandpa’s died when I was seven years old, I also had to listen to my father telling this story to my mother and recall my father saying “This means that Filiberto never got married, never got kids, never got grandchildren!! We will get to prove we are his children, and that his name got mistakenly changed for another since marriage certificate times.” Since then, his children always call him “My-father-Gilberto-that-was-born-as-Filiberto-but-somehow-everyone-changed-his-name”. If you ask me, I think he is totally a Filiberto, but his children might think different since they always called him Gilberto. This left some mark in my mind, since I always try to look to names more carefully.

emilymaryjane Says:

December 20th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

My mums name is Catherine Rebecca but has always been known as Beccy. When I asked mum why she said she did not want the be Catherine B (Her maiden name is Brown). She also had many nicknames Cate, Catie, Cathy, Kitty and Cath at first she was going to use Erin but that was just as common as Catherine in her town and then decided to look at her middle name. Mum did not know any Rebecca’s. It was perfect. When she started high school she got her mum to enrol her as Rebecca Catherine Brown. Although she was called many nicknames Reba, Beccy, Becca, Bec, Rebbie and Bexy she eventually decided on Beccy which she is known as by everyone. It suits her more then Catherine.

emilymaryjane Says:

January 5th, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Another name story from my friend Madison about her great aunt Annie-Bea Flinders. Marie was born Anne Beatrice but she did not know that when she started school when she heard Anne Flinders she did not know who they were talking about. Annie-Bea went to her mum and asked her whose Anne Flinders her mum replied you. Annie-Bea asked but why am I called Annie-Bea. It turns out her mum wanted Annie-Bea to be her full name but her dad thought it was better as Anne Beatrice. She now goes by Annie-Bea as a first name but goes professionally by Anne.

EbonyEden Says:

March 16th, 2012 at 8:51 pm

My maternal grandmother was always Wendy Ann Wright. Or so she thought, it wasn’t until she was marrying my grandfather that she found out she was Wendy Ann Clewer. She started to think that there may be a mistake on the birth certificate has it showed that Norman Clewer was her father but she always thought he was Norman Wright. It turns out Norman Clewer was her birth father who left when she was two. Then my great-grandmother had three more children with Norman Wright who adopted my nan.

I on the other hand was born Ebony Eden E____, which I’ve always hated and Ebony has never sat right with me. I’ve been looking for the right name for a while now, but have never found it. When I do find it I think I will change my name to Ebony ?????? Eden E____ but go by what will legally be my second midddle. As I feel rather guilty changing my name. :/

I’ve loved names for as long as I can remember. I always named all of my dolls, and trust me, there was a lot. And I’ve always made lists of names and kept a favourites list since I was 7.

AlfishKK Says:

April 5th, 2012 at 5:54 pm

My name is Michelle, and, being born in 1986, I always had to deal with other Michelles, from kindergarten on through college and work… Over time, I’ve really gotten quite sick of it.

I never quite felt like my name fit me–I’ve seen it on so many other people that it just seems like a generic sound rather than something that belongs to me. And it isn’t even that popular! I can’t imagine how the Jennifers of the world feel.

That’s what spurred my interest in names–my utter lack of enthusiasm about my own and the subsequent daydreams about what could have been…

Eleonora Says:

April 22nd, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Wow- I am amazed that there are people out there who think about their names like I do.

Living in Germany, I don’t have the possibility to change my name, not even create a middle name. It is only possible if you have serious psychological problems with your name. Therefore I always tried to make people call me a different name than my own, but most of them wouldn’t do it.

My real name is “Diana” (pronounced Dee-uh-nuh), and I never.never.never liked it. I wanted to be Anna, or Elisabeth (my grandmother) or Johanna, or Vivianne or Maria or…..or…..or…..but never Diana. The worst thing is that there is no proper nickname for Diana in German. In England/US I believe they are mostly called Di, but here it comes down to Diddy. No! Absolutely no! As a teenager I started to go by Dana, but I don’t like that very much either- it is just better than Diana, because people get it right ( in German there is the word “die” (dee), meaning a female person. So girls called Jana introduce herself “I am ” die Jana”, which is pronounced like Diana”)So folks think I am Jana. Or Bianca. Or Daniela.

Still searching for a proper name.

nicoleb519 Says:

August 16th, 2012 at 4:39 pm

It’s so interesting to read everyone’s stories. 🙂

My mom got my name from a soap opera. And she believes that Nicole is “the most beautiful name in the world.” haha I love my first name. I’m totally a Nicole and have no problem that it was popular for a time.

My issue is with my middle name. Arlyn (prn Arlene). Sigh. It’s my mom’s first name, so there’s a bit of tradition there. But as I’ve recently found out, using my mom’s name as my middle name was my dad’s only stipulation on naming me. He actually, “whether that was a good idea or not,” like who cares if it sounds good. Oy! That caused my initials to be N.A.D., which you may know of as a slang term for male parts.

When I was around 18, I added my mom’s maiden name Cedeno (Should have a tilde over the N, but Idk how to make that.) as a 2nd middle name, as a way to carry on her family’s name and to break up my initials.

Now however, I am married. My legal initials are N.A.C.B. I want to change my name again because it is too long, and I don’t use Cedeno on anything except my SS card & driver’s license. I would most likely drop Arlyn & Cedeno. I’ve thought about using my mom’s middle name as my middle name. Nicole Elena would be good enough, nice even. haha

How My Catholic Girlhood Made Me A Name Nerd – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

August 24th, 2012 at 6:30 am

[…] the roots of Linda‘s name nerdism are different from mine — you can read her story here– and I’m sure you all have your own stories to tell, which we’d love to hear! […]

TheFutureMrsB Says:

November 20th, 2012 at 8:59 am

I don’t hate my first name but I do have a dislike of my middle name, Elizabeth, for no other reason than the fact that in a class of 13 girls 6 of us have the middle name Elizabeth and the rest Nicole. I did however consider going by Liz for a bit before I got to high school because people had started confusing my name, Erin, for Aaron which frustrated me to no end. But I’m Erin, no way around it. Unless you’re my dad who calls me Izz/Izzie.

My friend T’Chanie has her own boat of issues. Her name is pronounced Tuh-SHAWN-ee. Nobody ever spells it right or says it right. She likes it but hates the issues that come with it so she’s tried going by T, Shawn, and tried her middle name, Nicole, for about an hour before deciding that she hates it. She’s seriously considering changing her name to Felix for her 18th birthday, not caring that Felix is a boy’s name.

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