Dose of vastness
Houndstooth 1

What's in a name


Does the Blue Print Co. still make blueprints, I wonder? / Savannah, GA / Aug. 2006

The topic of nicknames came up. It seems they are less common for children today. In the past they were a necessity when children were named after their parents and grandparents and it made no sense to have everyone answer to the same name. I recall teachers who insisted that I would have to use my “real” name rather than my nickname when I was older. Of course I never believed them — nobody was going to tell me what name I could use. Many people don't seem to understand nicknames and how they are often shortened or personalized or ethnic versions of another name. An airline “official” insisted that 'Jack' was a nickname for 'John' but 'Lisa' could not be a nickname for 'Elizabeth'. Her ignorance cost me $50 as I had to have my ticket re-issued in my “real” name.

I have a name for any occasion. The name I use most commonly is a nickname for my second given name (also known as a “middle” name — though I always tried to attach it to my first name since I felt alienated from that name). The bank knows me as first initial, second name. The state knows me as first name, first four letters of second name (old computer programs only allowed a limited number of characters and it's never been fixed). Another government entity knows me as firstnamesecondname all-run-together (I went through a phase where I insisted on always attaching the second name to the first name). A credit card company knows me as first initial, second initial. Let them all call me what they will. I have secrets that they'll never know.

“Does anyone call Titi Merin Esmeralda?”
“Oh sure. People who don't know her well — the government, her boss. We all have our official names, and then our nicknames, which are like secrets that only the people who love us use.”

~ Esmeralda Santiago writing about finding out as a child that: 1. Her "real" name was Esmeralda and the name she was called was her nickname.  2. That she called her aunt by her nickname, "Merin".  3. That she was named after her aunt — they shared the name Esmeralda.


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