Monday, July 28, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I love asking my mother why she chose my name for me.

The story always starts with a brief recap of my birth - which starred a cone-headed twerp with wide-eyed baby blues, taking in the hospital's bright fluorescent lights. Some newborns cry and beg and plead to go back where they came from after their trip through the birth canal, but not me.

I was ready to take on the world.

My parents say I was checking things out the minute I took my first breath - scoping out the room, the people, the comings and goings - and I guess I've been doing it ever since.

My mom had already committed to Katherine. It's a family name that was passed down through the generations until it landed on my birth certificate. The name has Greek origins from as far back as the 3rd century and stands for purity. Katherine has lots of popular versions and derivatives, including Kate, Katie, Kathy, Kat and my own Katy.

Moments after seeing me in action in the hospital, my mother says she knew I was a Katy with a Y, not Katie with an ie, something about how she thinks the Y imparts more substance and strength, whereas the ie is more cream puff.

I don't know about that.

I started thinking about this name business after watching a program this evening. It was an unnamed reality show involving contestants trying to snag a spot on the latest version of a musical portraying high school life. In the episode, Cincinnati's Favorite Son let these bubbly, Noxzema-fresh contestants know whether they made it to the next stage of the competition after their auditions at sunny Disney World.

These teens claimed today's popular mainstream names including T.J., Britney, Shayna, Ally and the ever popular Madison. There was also an Ether, but I think his parents must have mistook their chemistry book for a baby name book.


There I was, listening to Britney and Madison and Ally, half expecting the likes of Taylor and Jacob and Austin to make their respective debuts, when I started imagining a nursing home, circa 2078.

"Kayla, it's time for your sponge bath. Please give Jayden the remote..."

"Mr. Topher, we're enjoying some music in the common room this evening. Would you like to share your Incubus CDs?"

"Miss Destiny, would you like to join Riley and Zoe for some tea?"

Now, I think many of those names are darn cute.

Little Girl cute.

Cute like tea parties and feather boas and My Little Ponies. Cute like dresses with pinafores and smocking, pigtails and grosgrain ribbon.

Likewise, there are some Little Boy names out there that are Tonka truck, gummy worms and dinosaur cute.

But do they work on a business card? What about a frosted office door at the U.S. Senate? Will a bailiff ever ask a courtroom to rise for the Honorable Britney Lynn Jones?

What if HRC's first name had actually been Cheri or Fannie or Wendy, or another antiquated name popular in the soda shop?

I must confess, I'm not always entirely happy with Katy.

Sometimes I think my name belongs in the Little Girl Cute category, and I suppose that's why I've gravitated towards the more mature Kate on occasion. I arbitrarily dispense the more grown-up version, whereas I typically reserve Katy for friends.

What are the chances these Britneys and Madisons and Taylors will trade in their models for Bertha, Mildred or Thelma?


LMJ said...

You know my Grandma was named Mildred...only to be called Millie all her adult life. That's the thing about names, most have a "short" or "nick-name" version.

So why not name the person the "nick-name" in the first place? This of course coming from someone who has a "non-nick-name" name!

The Notorious N.A.T said...

Katy, Katie, Kate,'s one of my most favorite names ever. I have a cousin named Katie (slang for Kathleen), and I've always been jealous. It's a heck of a name - and you're both hella strong women.

Loree said...

I have similar issues with my name. "Loree" in its various spellings seems to imply a peppiness/perkiness that I just don't have. I hated the weird spelling of it when I was younger, but I've grown to appreciate it more over the years.

Brian Who Cooks said...

My wife and I gave very serious time and thought into the name of our daughters and neither of them have what I would consider "cutesy" names. We were of the same mind, too, that Caitlyn sounds adorable for a curly-haired, fair-cheeked six year-old but it probably won't be as adorable when she's an old lady.
Both my father and father-in-law had diminutive names rather than proper (Billy and Joe, respectively). Whereas my dad was more of a laid back, good ol' boy from Kentucky, Billy fit him to a tee. My father-in-law saw being named Joe rather than Joseph to be a hindrance. Really, I think it's all in how you view it.
In the end, we have no choice in what we're named. We can change it but it doesn't change who you are.