The coincidence was just too great.
In the same week that I was engaged in a conversation in which the phrase “they used to call him Bubba, but now we just call him Jim” was uttered, I ran across a news article about how your name might impact your entire life.
To be honest, I didn’t really read the article, and my immediate reaction to the whole Bubba and Jim conversation was that those words would make great lyrics for a country song.
But the two incidents must have stuck in my head because I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. And I haven’t given so much thought to names since I gave birth to my daughter nine years ago.
Like most expectant parents, my husband and I spent a great deal of time agonizing over baby names. I say most parents, because I’m always amazed at those who obviously didn’t put a lot of thought into possible disasters when it comes to initials, potentially embarrassing nicknames and disastrous first and last name combinations. My husband and I took all of those into account.
Not that we were prepared to let anyone else in on our personal deliberations before either of our children actually arrived. Before our son was born and people were asking what his name would be, our response was that we hadn’t quite yet decided between Fyvush Finkel and Deuteronomy. We did clarify that if we selected Deuteronomy, we’d call him Dute due to our tendencies to call everyone Dude anyway.
I’m not sure if anyone actually believed us, but a few still scratched their heads when we named him Shepherd. We even had one woman who insisted that we were mistaken and his name was actually Gabriel Shepherd – not Shepherd Gabriel. I have no clue why she thought we didn’t know our own child’s name, but I had long since figured out that people just live within their own paradigms with no hope of escape.
I’ll never forget having just filled out a form at a doctor’s office when I got called back up to the front desk. The woman motioned for me to lean in so I could hear her whisper, “Honey, spouse means your husband. You shouldn’t have put your daddy’s name on that line.”
It took me a minute before I could even find the words to tell her that I had put my husband’s name on that line, we just had different last names. Based on the look she gave me, she obviously thought I was simply covering up. The look I gave her wasn’t nearly as sympathetic.
I had, after all, been dealing with such chronically confused people for years.
When I was getting married, I worked with woman who simply could not understand why I was not taking my husband’s last name. One day, she walked into my office with a big smile on her face. “I figured it out,” she exclaimed.
“Figured what out?” I asked.
“Why you aren’t changing your name,” she said, as if I should know that was the biggest mystery to ever hit our office.
“Or really,” I asked. “Why’s that?”
“Because your last name begins with a B and his last name starts with an S,” she said. “This way, you can stay at the top of the alphabet.”
I couldn’t think of a response. I guess I could have told her that my identify was tied more to my name than to my future husband, but I knew that concept was well beyond her.
But my belief that our identity is tied up with our names has continued. How could I think anything else with a mom named Evadna and a husband named Giles? That’s why, with a last name of Snyder, I wanted make sure my kids didn’t have the same name that hundreds of others did.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, my dog didn’t fare as well. While our entire family fell in love with him the first time we met him, we didn’t all agree on his name. His foster family had temporarily named him Rodney after the animal control officer that picked him up. I just didn’t think the name fit a German Shepherd.
My kids, on the other hand, had other ideas. “How would you like it if someone kept changing your name?” they asked.
O.K., they had a point. And Rodney kept his name.
I admit, I do think it’s better than Bubba or Jim. And “A Dog Named Rodney” might also be great title for a country song.