“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” Thus are the words that Juliet speaks about Romeo in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. This quotation is a profound one that suggests that names themselves do not hold worth nor meaning, and they simply act as labels to distinguish one thing or person from another. Juliet is applying this metaphor of a rose to Romeo: even if he had a different name, he would still be the man she loves.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, as a friend enters her 8th month of pregnancy with a little girl. We have been given a clue only of that the two she has whittled down to include one that starts with the letter “C” and one that starts with the letter “M”. My votes have been cast as Cassandra or Charlotte if she chooses the letter “C” and Meredith, McKenna or Mackenzie if she chooses the letter “M”.
Although I have never had the pleasure of naming a child of my own, a part of me thinks that a parent can’t really know what a child’s name should be without first looking at their baby. I think it’s good to have some preferred choices, but I also think that you will only truly know what your baby’s name should be once you’ve gazed upon his/her face for the first time.
What’s interesting about this topic for me is that I have, as far back as I can remember, never liked my name for two specific reasons. I was born in 1956 and my parent(s) chose to name me Jody Lynn. At that time in our world, “Jody” was predominantly a boy’s name, and when the few people who chose it as a girl’s name, they at least changed the spelling to “Jodi” or “Jodie”. In fact, there was a popular country star of some years ago now whose name was JoDee. But I got stuck with the boy spelling for a predominantly boy’s name and I got my fair share of teasing and bullying from that.
Additionally, in my immediate family, every other person had a ‘nickname’ except me. My dad, Clifton, went by Cliff. My mom, Margaret, was nicknamed Margie Mae (he middle name) by her parents and siblings, though later in life she became known to everyone as Peg. My older brother was named after our biological father, Robert, and so he went by his middle name, Mark. My younger brother was named after our dad, so he went by his abbreviated middle name, Brad. And then there was me. I was always just Jody. Well, not always – when my mom was furious with me about something I was Jody Lynn. But for all purposes, I was the only one without a nickname of any kind, and that didn’t seem fair.
I’ve gone through periods in my life where I’ve thought about what I would have chosen for me if I’d have chosen my own name. For a while, way back when, it was “Gwendolyn” primarily because I liked the nickname of Gwen. After a while, however, I realized I didn’t want to carry such a long proper moniker, so I dropped that idea.
I’ve had a few nicknames bestowed upon me that, unfortunately, never stuck eternally. I had a group of friends I hung out with a lot who were all a minimum of 10 years old than me, and they’d tell stories about which I’d have to ask questions over things I didn’t know or understand, and it got to be a joke when the answer became, “Oh, that was Before Jody”. However, the initials to that phrase weren’t ones I wanted to have (although I knew a Barbara Jean who went as BJ but that was 40 years ago!). A boyfriend at one time nicknamed me Jellybean, which I liked and kind of still do. And I do have a nickname now that is between my bestie and me. She calls me Dweeb at my suggestion because I’m known to occasionally do some really dweeb-like things. But those are all nicknames that really don’t have anything to do with my given name.
Eventually, I’ve gravitated towards Sarah. I know – no nickname for it – but I feel like it’s a definitely feminine name while not being at all frilly. I don’t feel like that name conjures up any sort of preconceived notion of who I am or who I should be according to the name, it simply assures that it is a feminine name. A few years after my mother passed away, I mentioned to my dad (who had nothing to do with naming me at birth) that I was considering changing my legal name and wondered how he felt about it. His response was that I could do anything about my name I wanted to, followed by the assurance that any birthday or Christmas gifts (always in the form of a check) would be made out to ‘Jody’ and if there was a problem cashing it, that was MY problem!
I’m curious to know who else has never really cared for the moniker that was given to them, and what they would change it to – and why – if they could change it. A part of me still thinks about changing my name from time to time, but the work it would involve to change it on every document (social security, driver’s license, car registration, all financial matters, things like car, home and life insurance, etc., etc., etc.) just doesn’t seem as worth the effort at this ‘older’ age of my life. Every person in my life has always known me as Jody and would probably use it because it’s natural and a habit.
I’m also curious to know how parents out there chose the name(s) for children. Do you 4-legged children lovers have an equally tough task when naming an pet who hasn’t already been pre-named?