Saturday, February 26, 2011

Naming Right

Over the weekend, I spent some time at a really posh resort hotel.  It being a long holiday weekend, there were lots of families.  I was surprised by the ratio of boys to girls…the boys in the 5-9 year old age range far outnumbered the little girls of that same age.  While my husband was working, I was on my own to enjoy the resort.  I explored and observed.  One of the things that caught my attention, as I took a stroll about the grounds or sat in the gardens, was the names of the children, boys in particular.  Hunter, Connor, Taylor, Tanner, Tucker and Max…with a few other exceptions, these were the names of most of the boys running around the hotel in their cargo shorts and Ralph Lauren button down broad cloth shirts.  I heard a few parents call out to the girls…there was a Tiffany, Emma, Audrey and yup, Paris.
The seed of this blog was born last night as Bill was changing channels and surfed over an episode of Super Nanny  or some other such title, and Nanny Jo was there to rescue a family with a “triplet” threat…2 boys and a girl…I heard the names but the name of the youngest triplet, Milo, caught my ear and I thought to myself, “Milo, really?  That poor kid is going to become the wedgie king of his class.”
Names are important.  In many a case, our names create our first impression to the world…as in the case of the boys names above,  to me they sounded of a certain ilk, generation and yes socio-economic class…I think that is why Max’s parents didn’t call him Joe (all due respect to the Joes in the world…but you don’t hear people say, “He’s not your average Max.”, now do you?)
I know about unusual names.  I love my name, Alice Anne.  I was named after my paternal and maternal grandmothers…two common names, Alice and Anne, combined to create an unusual yet as I have been oft told pretty name. I love my name because I love the story of my name, the history of the people for whom I am named and I love that my name is pretty unique.  For this blog, I googled my name “Alice Anne” and 202,000 possible search results popped up.  Then I googled “William”, my husband’s given name…595,000,000 possible search results popped up…
 I have never met another Alice Anne face to face.  The only other Alice Anne I have heard of was back in the ‘80’s when, a newswoman from a major network, Mary Alice Williams gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Alice Anne.  The only other personal encounter with my name as it was not applied to me was when I found a book for my eldest daughter.   She was getting ready to go to kindergarten and lo and behold, I found a book entitled Aliceann Goes to Kindergarten.  I bought the book.  I hope to read it to my future grandkids and grandnieces and nephews when they embark on this adventure!
Alice and Anne….two common names once placed together to create a unique name.   I have been correcting people for as long as I can remember.  First of all, my name is Alice Anne…two words, one name, an “e” on the end of Anne and no hyphen.  Most people mistake Anne as my middle name.  I was not given a middle name, as in the old Catholic tradition, my confirmation name would be used as a middle name.   For some reason, my name is difficult to remember and difficult for children to pronounce!  My earliest recollection of this goes back to my childhood and my Pennsylvania cousins.  Maybe it was just them, but somewhere among my older cousins, someone had a problem with names…was it Anne Marie (aka Ree)?  Perhaps it was Drew…shortened from Andrew.  Joe/Joseph or Patty/Patricia…which one of you nicknamed kids saddled me with the nickname “San”? From the time I was born to this day, my PA cousins call me San. 
I did have occasion to use my nickname with some new friends.   Back in 1982, a Japanese couple came Massachusetts to live and work.  Hideo, worked at the same company as Bill and his wife Mako came to study occupational therapy with assist animals out in Grafton.  They were a young couple like us , so Bill’s boss at the lab asked us to take them under our wings and make them comfortable while they were here.  It was our pleasure.  One little hurdle though…both our names were difficult for Mako and Hideo to pronounce…Bill became Beer…not too bad, but they could not say Alice for the life of them. I suggested they call me San.  “San” in Japanese is added to the ends of names as a sign of affection and respect; Papa-san, Hideo-san…well I became San-San.  I loved it.
Later in life, one of my nephews, Jonathan would struggle with my name…I became his Auntie Zan…after he passed away at far too young an age, I retired that name permanently.
In my life, I have been called Alice, Ann, Mary Alice, Mary Ann, Anne Marie, Mary Jane, Annalise, Alexandra, Alexander, and Alison.   Well this is the top ten list of incorrect names I have been called anyway.
Being called Alice Anne has presented challenges in my life.  Little did my parents know how difficult it would be for me to correct an adult, especially teachers when they called me by the wrong name.  My second grade teacher, Mrs. Jones was forever calling me Alice and I was forever not responding to her when she did…she might as well have called me Max for the response she would get. Alice is not my name…I didn’t hear it as my name, so why would I answer to someone else’s name?   I used to get in such trouble for being insubordinate…have to stay after school and clap erasers because I, one, ignored the teacher when she called on me and two, corrected her as to my name. My mom tried to impress upon Mrs. Jones what my name is/was…but she was a stubborn person.   Eventually she would just stop calling on me.  I think that happened a lot when I was in grade school…my teachers couldn’t remember the unusual name and I would shrink away to the back row or corner so as not to be called upon by name incorrectly and or having to “defend” my name.  I shied away from attention and I became a painfully shy child.  And with a maiden name of Rump…oh well…that is a whole other character building story.
There are only a few people in this world who can get away with calling me something other than Alice Anne.  The first is Bill Stone, a close friend of my parents.  He gave me the nickname A-squared (A2).  It wasn’t because he couldn’t remember my name; obviously he did.  He did it to make me feel special.  And to this day, when I sign off on e-mails, notes and other correspondence to those with whom I am very close, I sign, “A2”.  The other person is Mr. Johnson, a friend of my in-laws.  The dear old man really did have a hard time remembering my name at first…he kept calling me Mary Alice.  As I came to know Mr. J better, he would greet me with a warm “Hello Mary Alice!” and I in turn would give him a “Hello Fred!”…his name is Warren.  And this is how we addressed each other for years;  Fred and Mary Alice. 
Back to this past weekend…I joined my husband on a business trip to this resort, with the plans for making it an extended vacation over the long weekend.  We encountered some of his business colleagues, some old, some new and we chatted about life, especially about our time since Bill and I returned from Paris.  I gave hugs to friends and old acquaintances and shook hands of the new.  On one occasion, Bill and I were returning from a walk about the gardens when we saw Tom, a fellow Bill has been working with for over 25 years.  He approached us, recognizing us and then I saw a look pass across his face…uh, oh…what’s her name!!!  He took my  offered hand, drew me in for a hug and said, “Mary Jane…how are you?”  and almost immediately he said, “Your name is not Mary Jane, is it?”  Bill reminded him and we laughed it off.
The next day, I was invited to join Bill and some of his colleagues for lunch.  I entered the room and with exception of the CEO, I had seen everyone present in the room, earlier in our stay.  I went over and shook the CEO’s hand and we all enjoyed some polite luncheon conversation.  As I stood in the buffet line, Tom and his wife, Cindy entered the room.  They too were going to enjoy Florida for the long weekend.  I had met Cindy at a few company functions; holiday parties, family picnics and the occasional Red Sox game…we shook hands, said hello and then I turned my attention to Tom…a quick look of panic crossed his face.  I took his hand and drew him in for a hug and said, “Fred!! How are you!”  He laughed…everyone else in the room looked at me as though I was a nut.  Bill laughed and without explanation we enjoyed lunch.
Character building…that is what your name does for you.  So, I guess it is important to think about your child’s future character when naming him or her.  I recently heard that someone out there named their child FaceBook.  Milo…meet the person you will give a wedgie!

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