Name Shame

Name Shame

Hate your name?  Feeling less-than-wonderful about your own moniker can inspire a larger love of a different kind of name, says guest blogger Jill Barnett.

I was four years old, and dressed in my best Wonder Woman Underoos, complete with lasso and headband. I had just finished watching my favorite Saturday morning cartoon featuring superheroes known as the Wonder Twins, and I decided to act out their “Wonder Twins, activate! Wonder Twins, deactivate!” super power ritual with my stuffed monkey, Marvin. (Marvin was a passive, but willing, participant.) After a few rounds of this, followed by a first-rate lasso routine, I came to the logical conclusion that I had acquired the ability to fly.

I climbed on top of a tall cabinet, adjusted my cape for optimum glide, waved to Marvin, and launched myself into the air, horizontal to the hardwood flooring below. Suffice it to say, en route to falling victim to gravity, I experienced the first “Holy @#$%&!” moment of my life.

If you could bottle the feeling of sheer panic and doom I experienced as I plummeted to Earth, you’d have a pretty good idea of the terror and dread I feel whenever I’m asked to reveal my full name. Most people love to share their names with others, but the mere thought of discussing my middle moniker reduces me to a trembling, airborne four-year-old.

Granted, Jill, my first name, rhymes with ill, kill, pill, and shrill, and is associated with a little girl who lacks the ability to successfully walk down a hill, but despite these challenges, I actually prefer Jill to my more melodic middle name.

I recall the time in 6th grade when I learned the game in which your middle name followed by your street name becomes your exotic dancer name. (I had quite the well-rounded education.) I knew it wasn’t a good sign when, according to my friends, my middle name alone elevated me to stripper status, and thus began a lifetime of asking my parents what in the world they were thinking when they named me.

Apparently, my mom was watching an amateur roller skater on TV during her pregnancy with me (she’s the Martha Stewart type, so what she was doing watching a roller derby is beyond me), and when she heard the name of the “darling” skater, Kimberly, she knew she had to use it as my middle name. Granted, Kimberly felt like a fresh choice to my parents at the time, but in my humble opinion, it has since purchased a one-way ticket to Hugh Hefner’s Bunny Ranch, thanks to the topless efforts of Kimberly Conrad, one of Hef’s modesty-challenged lady loves during the 80’s. (If not for Ms. Conrad and her, uh, “twins,” chances are that I’d still associate Kimberly with the roller derby girl and the many lovely Kimberlys I’ve been fortunate enough to know.)

In contrast to my middle name’s noble roller skater heritage, my first name was chosen to honor my late grandmother’s first initial (using her actual name, Jeanne, would have been too painful for my still grieving father), but every time I’m reminded that my parents came this close to naming me the lovely Julia instead of Jill, I feel as though I’ve been robbed of a gold medal in the Naming Olympics. Jill instead of Julia? Are you kidding me? That’s like willingly choosing Spam patties over filet mignon!

Perpetually disgruntled by Jill’s processed meat status and Kimberly’s centerfold vibe, I’ve always been attracted to classic, elegant, fairly regal names that age well. Even as a young child, Anne, Genevieve, Eliza, Juliet, Emmeline, Beatrix, Grace, and Louisa were among my favorites, and I named my grateful Cabbage Patch Kids accordingly. My classically-named stuffed animals carried their names with pride (except for Marvin the Monkey, of course, whom I named on a “off” day), and Celia Jane and Cora Josephine, the plastic siblings residing in my Fisher Price dollhouse, never had to worry about their middle names being associated with the Playmate of the Month, or falling victim to “yooneek” spellings. (Yes, Kymberli, Kimberlee, and Kimberleigh: I’m talking to you!)

To this day, I’m repelled by names with even the slightest trendy feel, as well as by names that are too cutesy, like Jill. I still love my favorite childhood names, and can’t wait to name my own children. It means a great deal to me that when my future children think about or are asked to reveal their full names, they feel pride, as opposed to the horrifying sensations associated with nose-diving to the ground in Underoos while a stuffed monkey watches in silence.

How have your feelings, negative or positive, about your own name affected your naming style?Jill Barnett, a lifelong name fan, enjoys working with children, painting, drawing, writing, running, cooking, traveling, and following popular culture and politics. Her posts and advice on the nameberry message boards are so popular she has inspired The Jill Fan Club.  Jill‘s favorite color is yellow, she thinks chocolate is the perfect food, and she wonders why the people living across the street still have their Christmas wreath up in summer.

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.