Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hi, My Name Is...

My name has always been special to me.  My parents named me after my great-grandmother, which is special in itself.  On top of that, it's a beautiful name that sounds nice and looks pretty.  And, it describes me well, or at least it did when I was little.  And most of all, I've always loved it because it was mine and only mine.  (Unlike the 80 Matts and several dozen Katies and Jennifers.)  But lately, I've realized my name's become more than special to me, it's become almost (I said almost) sacred.

My name is used so infrequently that when it is used, it has a very powerful feeling.  Not powerful in the "I'm so strong and mighty" sense, but powerful in the "there's a lot of emotion and energy in that one word" sense.  That creates a sort of circular effect, the less people that use it, the less people I want to use it, because I'm only comfortable with a few people directing that much force at me.

My family, a handful of close friends, that's about all who use it.  I'd like to keep it that way.  When a company calls me and asks for me by my first name instead of my last, I cringe.  When someone I don't know well addresses me by first name, especially in the law school, I feel unsettled.  Nurses, receptionists, etc., I don't like it.  (Especially since they usually butcher it.)  And I HATE having to introduce myself.  Partly because I don't really want people to know my name, and partly because I know I'm going to have to repeat it several times.  I don't like having to sign it, or even print it on paper or type it.  It feels like I'm giving up a part of me.  (Hence my signing all my emails "me.")

But when Mommy or Daddy or Mr. Trizzle or one of my aunts and uncles uses it, it sounds nice and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  (Alfred and Munchkinhead usually call me by special names only they use for me.  Munchkinhead has difficulty saying the only consonants in my name.  Alfred uses what she called me when she was very little and cute instead of beautiful.)

It's sort of interesting, the way things circle back.  There was a point, not that long ago, when a person only addressed another by the first name if they were very well aquatinted and in private.  I feel as though I'm heading back there.   People don't greet each other by name, they either avoid the address with just a "how are you," or they simplify it to a nameless greeting, "hey,"  "hello,"  "what up."  And in the law school, where most of our professors address as as Ms. or Mr. Last Name, it's common for us to address each other that way, too.  I.e. Mzzzzz Jones.

I think my name slowly moved into that extra-special realm.  Reinforced a bit by law school, but well established before then.  Whatever effect the constant use of nicknames in HS and college had, the result was cemented in Zambia where everyone just gave up on my real name.  (Like Munchkinhead, Tonga doesn't have the consonant sounds in my name.)  I became Nchimunya, to everyone.  Even to many of the other volunteers.  I liked that name a lot (though not as much as my pretty real name).

With the general lack of greeting people by name in society today, the proliferance of online identities and such, and the high use of nicknames, I wonder if anyone else feels this way about their given name.


Wendy said...

I'll try to remember to ask Hobbes. At the grown-up church a few weeks back, one of the older ladies asked him if that was his real name and he told her yes. Although I think in his case he uses his nickname because he likes it better than his actual name, it's more unique.

Jeannie said...

@wi.I'm on the other side of the coin on this one. I like my name and like it when people use it - of course I mean the name I legally changed it to - not the original name on my birth certificate. I don't like being called makes me feel old and too formal. Guess I'm just an informal sort of person - although I do like being called 'mommy' or 'mom' ;) (and, no, GR, that IS NOT my name!)

Nathy-Boo said...

I tend not to care about what people call me (hence my willingness to use the name above). I dislike it when people butcher my last name in formal settings (like my research advisor introducing me to people) but it happens so often I've gotten used to it (in fact it was even a nickname for me in HS).