weekly writing challenge: the power of names


This challenge is all about the power of names.

I should have been a Christopher I was told. A first born son. Instead a girl, and then another one, a boy and then unexpectedly another girl. The eldest of four. But not the eldest son.

Susan Barbara were the names I was given. Not called after anyone, just names my parents liked, when they realised as I was born that Christopher, the selected name, wasn’t going to work. Thankfully not called after my father’s mother who, given the woman she was, went by the surprising name of Patience. I wonder what age she was when her parents realised the inappropriateness of that name. Many virtues she had – boldness, energy, optimism, generosity, vision, determination but patience was in very short supply. She was in a perpetual hurry to get launched into her next adventure.

Susan Barbara. Nothing much to either like or not like about those names. Deliberately chosen by a mother who had changed her name by deed poll to Lydia when she was legally able to do so. So much did she hate the one she was given. She thought I’d be ok with Susan Barbara. And she was right. No teasing.

So Susan or Sue I was through childhood and adolescence, Susan when either parent was displeased, otherwise mostly Sue. And so it went. All fine. I was a quiet shy girl with a quiet shy name and all was as it should be.

Some years later on my first day at University in student rooms on campus, I came across someone looking as lost as me. I’m Brian, the too keen young man in jeans with ironed creases down the front (unforgivable it seemed to me). I’m Susi I replied. It was all quite unexpected. The confident assertion that I was a Susi. Not Susie, but Susi. A stand perhaps against the perfectly fine but predictable safe Susan and Sue. A new life, a new name, impatiently ready, like my grandmother, for my adventures to start.

21 thoughts on “weekly writing challenge: the power of names”

  1. I am reminded of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, with her firm insistence that her name is Anne-with-an-E :).

  2. Interesting how sometimes facing someone we do give a twist to our names. Like you did, I do it with my first name, first for pronouciation purposes and then for the intriguing aspect. So I am Eve or Eva when I feel like Evelyne is too hard to understand but moreover too banal.

  3. Loved this post. I, too, have thought about names. My first name, Janet, always seemed so mundane to me, not poetic at all. It thumped. I once asked Mom if I could switch names with my younger sister, Barbara, whose name lilted, suggested patent leather shoes and eating bon-bons. Mom didn’t even bother to reply.

  4. Funny how we re-invent ourselves with just a slight twist in the spelling of our names… my birth certificate has my name as Tracey with an ‘e’ but for all of my young childhood my mother thought it suited me better as Tracy without the ‘e’! As I got older I re-introduced the ‘e’ and I have been Tracey with an ‘e’ since my late teens! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Wonderful! I’m Su (with no ‘e’) and have been since I was about 14. It causes me no end of grief (my surname is Leslie and I’m often mistaken for a Chinese man called Leslie Su), but I can’t contemplate changing it. I hated being a Susan as a child – but now realise it’s probably because my family is from Fife in Scotland and the local accent is perhaps the only one in the world that can make such a sibilant word sound harsh. I’m named after a grandmother who was named after a grandmother … back to a Susana in the lat 18th century. If I’d thought of it sooner I’d have been a Susana. I love the way we invent ourselves through our names. Thanks for making me think about this. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m thinking I need to make time to do the challenge post too. Oh well, there goes another couple of hours.

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