Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's in a Name?

When I was growing up I had a good friend of mine named Jon. We were mostly school friends, only hanging out before, during and just after school so I had never been to his house or met his parents. For some reason, I don't recall anymore, I had to call his house one night. His mother, an older English woman, answered the phone and I asked to speak with Jon. She informed me that no one by that name resided there and promptly hung up. I assumed I must have had the wrong number and, as an awkward teenager, gave up my attempt. The following day I confirmed with Jon that I had the correct number and I explained what had happened. Turns out his mother hated when people called him Jon and not Jonathon, thus the response I got. I thought, at the time, that was really ridiculous and that she was a little off for feeling this way. Flash forward some 15 years and I am now in the same boat as Jonathon's mother. I have developed quite the pet peeve over the shortening of my girls names. Mostly it's when people refer to Genevieve as Gen (Jen). It drives me batty, like nails on a chalkboard. Here we picked out what we think is a beautiful and unique name and people reduce it to something so common that in most classrooms there are so many of them they have to use the last name or initial to keep them straight. We intentionally wanted to avoid the possibility of the girls having more than one Genevieve or Arianna in their class with them - that was kind of a goal. Gina and I never had this problem, I was always Kyle and she was always Gina - never Kyle K. or Gina B. Meanwhile I have so many friends named Chris that we don't even use the name anymore. They've all gone by their last names since we were in grade school - Crumby, Santore, Fort, DeMaci, Carmen, ect. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with a common name, in fact there must be something right if so many people use them, it's just that we took such great strides to avoid this outcome and when someone makes the decision on their own to undo that it negates the whole intent that we set out with. Now there are plenty of names that get shortened all the time - Jeffery to Jeff, Christopher to Chris, Jennifer to Jen, but to turn Genevieve to Jen is to turn it into a different name. Christopher to Chris is still the same name, both equally common and both having the same meaning. Genevieve to Jen is to take unique, 1 in a 1,000 and turn it into 1 in 10. ... it's a huge change! And it's not like it's some great effort to say the name. We're talking three syllables here. That's about 1/3 of a second. I will even argue that I'm not as crazy as Jonathon's mother because Jonathon to Jon is just like Christopher to Chris. It means the same thing still, it's just a less formal version of the same name. Now if Genevieve decides that at some point that she wants to go by Jen, or Arianna by Aria or Anna, that's fine. It's their name to do with what they want, but for the time being we'd like to enjoy the names that we chose while we still can. We should have that right, and no one should argue with us about it. Some people think we are being silly, that we are over reacting. Of course, when I turn it on its head and shorten their name to something other than what they go by they act like it's blasphemy. Suddenly it's much easier to see my point. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but I doubt Mr. Shakespeare let people refer to him as Shay, despite how many letters and syllables it might save.


  1. I would feel the same way. You are totally entitled.

    Reasons why you aren't the same as this friend's mother:

    1. She's absolutely ridiculous.
    2. I'm just guessing here, but I bet this friend liked when you called him Jon. Wild guess. The difference is that if genevieve wanted to be called Jen, you would respect that. Her name, her choice. Jon's mom didn't even stop to think what he wanted, it was only what she wanted. (Another wild guess: I bet that attitude bled into other aspects of life, as well)
    3. Jonathan is not a unique name, genevieve, as you said, is.

    You have every right to be annoyed. When she comes home one day and says she prefers Jen, however, you gotta give it up.

    (btw I apologize for the lack of caps, ad this is being typed on a very small keyboard while on a bus)

  2. Here, Here! I hope the guilt reads this and makes changes!!!!!