The Upside of Having an Unusual Name
by Addie Kugler-Lunt
The story of my name began as unconventionally as my birth. My mom was so convinced that she was going to have a boy, that she wove blue ribbons into the lace on the night gown she sewed for my birth. Since my parents were planning a home birth, they were more occupied with reading about Ina May Gaskin’s revolutionary approach and attending Bradley Method birthing classes, than they were looking for names. So, there were no girl’s names picked out before I arrived.
Samuel and Tobias were their top choices if I had been a boy. As a young girl, I remember thinking, “I’m glad I wasn’t a boy.” Now I smile at my younger self, and easily appreciate those timeless names. But in my childhood imaginings, Samuel felt too traditional and Tobias seemed too “hippy-dippy.”
In contrast, my unusual name was a door into my future life that was wide open. As I learned about the story behind my name, I saw that this feeling of endless potential was not an accident — but a purposeful choice. My name has a story that transcends both tradition and my family heritage.
My mom says she first came across my name, Addie, in a Ms. magazine shortly after I was born. Really? In a magazine? Not after a great-grandmother born in the 1800’s? No. In fact, no one on my family tree (that we know of) has worn the name. It sounded fresh and different in the mid-1970’s, a decade when the top five girls names — Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, and Kimberly — appeared in my elementary school class often twice, sometimes three times.
What was the appeal of this nearly unique, creative name? Let me go back a generation: My mom had a popular baby-boomer name, after a family member who had died in childhood. She was always called by shortened versions of her name. Only after leaving home for college could my mom re-claim her full name. My dad’s name is French, but to his immigrant parents, it sounded both American and similar to a traditional Jewish name. He too was always referred to by a nickname at home.
Addie is a short form of the French name Adele, meaning “noble” (A nice meaning for any child to grow up with.); Thus, no shortening or changing of it is possible, by family, friends or anyone else. My name IS my name. Nowadays, nicknames as full names are have caught on in a big way: Liam, Sadie, Ella, Leo are all in the top 100 in the United States. But when I was growing up, short form names were commonly assumed to be used only because of a family member or ancestor with the same name. My husband is a perfect example. He grew up as Jamie because previous generations had already taken James, Jim, and Jimmy.
As part of the generation that came of age in the 1960’s, my parents deeply felt the separation, in views and values, from their parents and ancestors. My paternal grandparents were born in the “old country.” They emigrated to the United States as young children. Their families did not talk about what they had left behind but looked ahead to the opportunities newly available to them. In the United States, they embarked on lives and careers that would have been unimaginable to their grandparents.
We carry our family ancestry through our surname. But by choosing first names that speak to who we are now, rather than feeling bound to the traditional names of yesteryear, we put our focus forward.
We do not need pass down names to teach our children about the people who lived before us: The hours I spent in the kitchen with my mom, learning how to prepare Nanny’s perfect pie crust, is a piece of our family tradition that I hope to repeat with my own children; Just as the time spent sorting through shoe boxes of old photos, and arranging them into albums with my dad, helps me remember those histories.
I can attest to the benefits of living with a name wholly unconnected to family. With Addie as my name, my paintbrush does not have to paint a family portrait, unless I want it to.
Addie Kugler-Lunt, known as peach on nameberry forums, is a lifelong name aficionado and renaissance soul. Her varied interests are reflected in her degree in Business & Humanities, and in her service as a Peace Corps volunteer, in English Education, in Ukraine. She currently lives in New England with her husband, a cartoonist, and their rescue Basset Hound, Beau Brown. You can follow Addie’s creative visions on her blog: http://www.lotuspeach.wordpress.com and Instagram @lotuspeachblog.