#71 - What's In A Name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

My confession today is that I've been thinking for a while now about changing the name I go by.

When I was a kid, my parents called me "Jenny." As I got older, I thought that was too baby-ish, so I asked to be called by "Jennifer" from then on. (My parents still call me "Jenny," by the way. :) But I wouldn't have it any other way. It just feels right coming from them.) So, most of the world called me "Jennifer" after that. Except for those people who naturally like to shorten names, who called me "Jen."

I went through a phase in High School where I wanted to be called "Jenny" again. I knew this really sweet girl who went by "Jenny" and I wanted to be that person. Plus, there were about 2.2 million people at my High School named "Jennifer." There were even 2 other girls in the school with my same first AND last name, since I have a very common maiden name. But my "Jenny" phase was short-lived and it never really stuck. And some of my close friends called me "Jen" anyway. :)

When I met my husband, he always called me "Jennifer." He even commented at one point when we were first dating that he preferred that I go by "Jennifer" just because it was a more beautiful and sophisticated name. So, forever afterward, I referred to myself as "Jennifer." (Although my friends and those people who naturally like to shorten names continued to call me "Jen.") LOL.

Then, you have the nicknames that have been imposed upon me over the years. My brothers called me "Knifer." That name actually stuck for most of my growing-up years. My husband (yes, the same one who wanted me to have a sophisticated name) decided to give me a nickname for the first half of my name instead of the last half. So when he's in a teasing mood, he calls me "Jennif."

So, what's the point of all this blab about my name? Well, I have a friend who decided she wanted to be called Cyndi instead of Cindy. It makes more sense with the spelling of her full name, anyway. I realized as I thought about it that the person I picture when I think of "Cindy" is different than the person I picture when I think of "Cyndi." I can't explain why, but it just is. Maybe some of you know what I'm talking about.

After that, I got to thinking about what name I wanted to be called by. I have a picture in my head of what kind of person each name represented. It's interesting how my image of myself changes as I think of just changing to a different version of my name. I can't imagine myself with a different name altogether. I know a couple people who go by "Jenn" and there's something about the image I have of that name that I like.

The fact that a lot of people call me "Jen" influenced my decision as well. :D For those of you who know me in real life, though, I'd like to ask a question. Could you think of me as a "Jenn?" It's crazy, I know, but I have doubts about whether I can pull "Jenn" off. I almost feel like I'm not cool enough to be a Jenn. Like I said, it's crazy. :D Am I the only one who feels so strongly about the image they have of themselves that's connected to their name? Or do you all get what I'm talking about here?

As my friend Ali pointed out, we sometimes have a hard time naming our characters because we want to find just the right name that fits them. And, of course, everyone has trouble choosing the names they will give their children. There's just an image that goes along with each name. And maybe everyone has a different association with each name, depending on the people they've known with that name.

Anyway, I'd love to hear all of your opinions on this subject. Do names evoke a strong sense of what a person is like? And, how do you feel about your own name, nickname, etc.? Do you feel like it fits you? Or would you change it if you could?


  1. I think names evoke a strong sense of what a person is like only after you have known someone with that name.

    I think most cases where you stop and think, "Hmm, she doesn't seem like a Jenn to me," you are probably remembering someone with that name that left a strong impression on you, and the new person just happens to be nothing like the old one.

    It's like when you are trying to name your child--"We can't name him THAT! My neighbor who used to pick on me was named that!"

    My parents hate it when people call me Kim, and I usually refer to myself as Kimberly, just because that is what I grew up with. However, most people I know call me Kim, and I'm fine with that.
    Anyway, you could totally be a Jenn. :)

  2. Most people call me Jules. I can go by anything. Nicknames don't bug me. I like to think they mean people connect with me. Jenn is a good nickname. That extra n seems fun to me.

  3. Well, my given name is Sandra. All my brothers and sisters call me Sandi, though when I was little they all called me George. My mom called me Sunny. My husband calls me Sunny.

    When I was eighteen and getting ready to graduate from high school, I decided I was NOT in fact, a Sandra/Sandi, but Alexandra.

    Alexandra is the family name that my father thought I was too tiny to bear when I was born. So they shortened Alexandra to Sandra. Bleh.

    So when I started university, I began going by Alexandra or Alex.

    I was Alex until friends started to shorten it to Al and then Ali. Ali stuck the most.

    When I sang in operas, I went by Alexandra. When I worked in business, I went by Alex. Now, in my regular just-a-mom life, I go by Ali.

    I think a name, OUR OWN name, is tantamount and I think it's important for us to find who we are, the label that fits, the one that's ours alone.

    All Hail JENN!!

  4. For some reason, I always wanted to call you Jenn - you actually reminded me of someone who went by that. So, I say go with it. I've never really had to think about that - I've been called Heath (pronounced as if you just leave off the -er, not like the name Heather) and my roommates in college called me Heater (they thought it was hilarious that you could break up my name to 'heat her' - yeah, really funny. ha ha.) - I hated it!

    Also, you mentioned in a comment on my blog a little while ago about a writing conference - can you send me more info in an email? I think I might want to go...

  5. I meant, 'not like the name Heath' - whoops, I'm just so used to typing the whole thing. Had to clarify that - I'm kinda OCD when it comes to typos.

  6. Kim(berly?), I always knew you by Kimberly growing up. I can't recall ever thinking of your name as Kim in connection with your maiden name. But for some reason, I now know you as Kim. Probably because that's what everyone else calls you and I'm just following the crowd? If so, I hate that. I don't want to just be a crowd-follower. In any case, I would be happy to start calling you Kimberly if you prefer it, even if you are "okay" with us all calling you Kim. :)

    Julie, I think you're right about nicknames coming about because of our connections with people. Sometimes, in the case of brothers and roommates, it isn't always fun, but it always comes from the heart. :)

    Ali, I think I heard a shortened version of your name story way back when I first met you, but I was going to ask you about it again because I couldn't remember it anymore. It's certainly a long and windy one. (I just realized that sounds like I'm saying it's long-winded. LOL. But, no, I was going for something more like a winding country road.) I like Ali, though. You're right - I can't see you as a Sandra.

    Heather - So it's not like a Heath bar, then? :) I'll send that info. over to you. I'd love it if you came!

    Thanks for all your responses. It's funny, but even though I've started referring to myself as Jenn and asking people to call me Jenn, every time someone does call me Jenn, it's a little startling. Like, I have to remind myself that that's me. I hope that doesn't mean I made the wrong choice because I just set up a whole new email account. LOL!

  7. Good for you! To me, you have always been Jen (or Jenn...sounds the same). It was always weird to hear people call you Jennifer. Jennifer just seemed so....formal or stiff...or something. I don't think you need a formal sounding name, I think you need a fun, more free sounding name. Jenn it is!

  8. I like nicknames because they invoke a sense of intimacy, or connection, as Julie said. So if I naturally call you Jenn when I've only heard of you being called Jennifer, it's because I feel close to you somehow. That can only be a good thing, in my book. So, ultimately, it's up to you. What do you want to be called? Anne of Green Gables wanted Marilla to call her Cordelia. She refused. But if she'd agreed and had called her Cordelia, would Anne then still seem as "sweet?" I think so. Her character is who we love. Not her name.

  9. Like Jennifer my name Michelle is so common if someone said my name in HS 20 Michelles would turn around. I really hate my name because it is so common. My first name is Christy and equally disliked thanks to the movie "Secret of my Sucess".

    I don't think I would change it because it is my given name. But that doesnt mean as a writer I havn't thought about at least writing under a pen name.

    My husband and my BFF both call me a nickname I love (Chelle) and that name is what I refer to when I think of myself. So it stays. Even my Kyo Sa Nim (Karate instructor) calls me Chelle.

    But I still dream of someday changing it.


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