Monday, May 17, 2010

What's In A Name?

Laura Knoblock was my locker partner for all four years of High School.  We agreed to this freshman year and never changed the arrangement.  It was a good pairing:  we were both tall...we were both pretty laid back...we had mutual friends, but didn't really hang out together all that much so there was never any teenaged angsty conflict between us. 

But, I think the real reason we chose each other, though, is that we both had the same first name.

Laura isn't a terribly unique name, but there were a few of us in the school...and the fact that there were two of us in the same homeroom was noteworthy enough.  One of the "Lauras" had actually shed the name.  I happened to be sitting nearby the day that Paige railed about how she couldn't imagine going by Laura, even though that was her first name, because it was so horri....oh (she blushed and apologized before quickly changing the subject). 

I wasn't terribly offended...I actually like my name.

I remember that Laura Knoblock (who will forever be "LauraKnoblock" -- it's a single entity in my mind to distinguish her from me) was particular about how her name was pronounced.  She preferred /Lahh-ruh/ instead of /Loh-ruh/.  Me?  I never really cared if people were lazy with the vowel sound in the first syllable, as long as they spelled it correctly and didn't tack an "-ie" on at the end (I've found that old men, in particular, are fond of calling me Laurie...which is cute, but it's just not my name.  I had a friend in school named Laurie.  That's her name.).

The point is that we all had a preference.  Laura  We all knew what we did and did not want to be called as we walked through this life.  We had an identity associated with our name and we all held fast to it:  Paige is Paige...not Laura.  Laura Knoblock is Lahh-ruh...not Loh-ruh.  I am Laura...not Laurie.

Twice in the last few weeks I've encountered people who cannot (or will not) state a preference for their name.  I find it terribly frustrating...particularly because they have names that could go in any number of directions (like Robert can be Rob, Bob, Robbie, Bobby...).  I understand being relaxed and accommodating about it if someone slips up and calls you the wrong thing.  I almost never correct people who call me Laurie by mistake.  But if you are point-blank asked which name you prefer, I generally believe you should have an answer!  That just doesn't seem hard to me...

Shakespeare minimized the convention of names in Romeo and Juliet for the sake of the plot:  "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet."  And while I get that, I'm pretty sure that if the Bard couldn't tell me whether or not I should call him Will, William, Bill or Billy, I'd be sorely tempted to pick up that sweet-smelling flower (whatever it's called) and poke him with a thorn.  Hard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My daughter's 8th grade class had eight students. Three of the four girls were named Rachelle, Rachael and Rachel but all pronounced Rachel. Two of the three had last names that began with T. The teacher tried to use the middle names but they stuck to their first. They had a lot of fun with the confusion all year!