Friday, March 28, 2014

What Is In A Name?

I have been mulling this question over for the last few days. On Wednesday, I had to call technical support for my computer because it was remotely hacked and things were not working right the last couple weeks. It finally got to the point where I had to do something.

I called tech support and got some place in India with a man named Jeff Wilson. That was obviously the American name the company had given him because he told me people did not understand his real name. He handed me off to his supervisor whose name was John Wilson. Where did the company that sent those American jobs overseas come up with those two names?

The interesting thing about the encounter that took several hours was the whole time as both the Wilson boys were operating my computer remotely I had a difficult time understanding their East Indian accents. I had to ask them to repeat themselves several times because I could not understand them.

It got me to thinking about names. I have always been fascinated by names and wonder why parents name their children the names they give them. You have to admit there are some very creative names out there!

Since my name is really two first names, Michael Patrick, people often have a difficult time wondering if my name is Michael Patrick or Patrick Michael. That is why I go by Mike. It makes it much easier to distinguish my name as Mike Patrick because Mike is not a common surname. I have never felt like a Michael. I have always been Mike. That is not to mention some of the nicknames I have been called. People often call me Pat as well.

I have collected a large number of people with two first names ranging from James James to Ahmed Ahmed. Yes, some parents decided to give their baby boys the same first name as their surname. When I knew James in college he referred to himself as Jimmy James.

I have pages and pages of people with two first names and several friends who have two first names. You know who you are. My collection contains names like Newton Arnold, Dylan Avery, Leslie Hope, Janet Lucy, Allen Luke, Yannick Noah, Jordan Paula, Colleen Raye, Brooks Robinson, Angela Rosa, Iris Rose, Blackwell Stephanie, Doris Victoria to William Zane. I think you get the picture.

When someone names their son Robert, does he go through his childhood as Rob, Robby, Bob, Robert or something else? Does he change his name, as he grows older from Rob to Robert?

One night at a Gopher basketball game, I asked one of the broadcasters what years he played for Ohio State? His name in college was Jimmy Jackson. Now he goes by Jim Jackson. I asked him point-blank, “Jim, I remember you as Jimmy Jackson in college, when did it become Jim Jackson?”

Jim said, “When I turned 40, it became Jim Jackson.”

I asked him, “What happens when you turn 50?”

He replied, “Then it will be James.” He cracked a little smile after that comment. 

I also think it is interesting how names become cyclical. Many baby names today are the same names their grandparents and even great-grandparents were given. It is interesting to think the most popular male baby name in America today which is Jacob was not popular thirty to fifty years ago when Michael was the most popular. Jacob is an old name that is making the rounds again.

I also find it fascinating when the same name can be used for either gender. Nonspecific gender names like Shirley, Sam, Alex, Casey, Brett, Bailey, Cody and Casey, to name just a few are fairly common.
A quick Google search lists Mohammed as the most popular male given name in the world today. It also lists Sophia as the most popular female given name worldwide.

I guess the reason I posted this was I find it fascinating what parents will name their children and why? When my parents named me Michael Arlin, my paternal grandmother had a fit! She said, “You can’t call him Mike because we used to have an old draft horse named Mike, and I don’t want my grandson to be named Mike.” That was my grandma!

She also had a thing about our initials. She believed one’s initials should spell a word, like my initials spell the word MAP. My father’s initials spelled ALP. Dad’s given name was Arlin Lloyd Patrick. My mom wanted to name me after her younger brother, Robert Michael Smith, and so that is where I got my name.

I know many names have meaning in certain native languages. I believe that is cool when a baby boy or girl is given a name that means something special in the parents’ native language.

One thing I do not understand is where some names come from today! We can all think of that certain name or names we have never heard before and wonder where or why the parent or parents gave him that name! I also find it interesting how some people will go by their middle name. Another thing people do is put their first name as an initial and then add their middle name and go by that. I have never understood that phenomena. Why not just drop the initial at the beginning?
Then there is always the spelling of a name. I have seen Michael spelled Mikael, Mychal, Mychel, Mical, Mikkel and Mikel, among others. 

Have you ever thought about where your parent(s) got your name? If you have, I would like to know about it. If you have not, maybe now you will? This is simply food for thought. Take my rambling for what it is.

I look forward to your comments.




Jody Adler said...

I was named after a dog! My mother told me she had a very favorite, well loved Wire-haired Terrier as a child named Jody she used to show in the ring. This did not set well with me as a child to be told I was named after a dog! Different story now--I see it as quite an honor! And, yes, I love dogs!

Douglas said...

I have a nephew who was called Robby as a child. When he became a young adult he preferred Rob. Now that he is married and he and his wife have a child named Robert who they call Rob, my nephew became Robert to distinguish between the two of them. That just makes perfect sense, very logical to me.

Catherine Judge said...

Oh the name game! I was named Catherine with a "C" since I was born on my mom's birthday and her name was Katherine. However, the names I have been called by others throughout my life include, Cathy, Cath, CJ, Cat, Catrina. In my family of 8 kids, we all had nicknames. They called me Brat! I was certainly that!

Colleen said...

My mother had a favorite nurse in the hospital where I was born and since my father approved of the all inclusive "Colleen"as decribing Irish lasses, he approved the name. My middle name was the same as my mothers her mothers and her mother and before that I do not know.

Jeanne said...

Another great blog, Mike! I find it interesting that we, as parents, put so much thought into a name, and then after the baby is born a nickname appears and "presto" that becomes the name! Then again many times the nicknames get established when the kids are in school. Go figure!

Victoria said...

An interesting musing, Mike. I fall into growing into my grown-up name. You and all my childhood friends know me as "Vikki" but when I was 29, I transferred to the New York base and decided to start to go by Victoria, as no one knew me there. I have now gone by Victoria for 30 years! I can always tell how long I have known someone by what name they call me.

Have really enjoyed getting your blog.

Fondly, Victoria aka Vikki

Diane said...

My husband's grandfather's name was John and he was called Max all his life. His dad's name was John also but was called Jack. My husband's name is John Mark and he is called Mark. We named our first born John Matthew and we call him John. Only took 4 generations to get it right!��