Saturday, January 26, 2013

A rose by any other name...

Shakespeare (via Juliet) asked, "what's in a name?"

Well, Willy, quite a lot I think. I have to side with Anne Shirley on this one.  The year I was born, more little girls in the US were named Jennifer, than any other name. These are the girls who spent their elementary being Jennifer A. and Jennifer L., or getting numbered.  Some of them probably switched to Jen, or Jenni to avoid the last initial.

That same year, the 500th most popular name was Tiffanie, yes with an i, and the 1000th most popular name was Rhenita.  More girls were named Thelma, Tabitha, and even Cristen, than Rhenita.

Rhenita and Jennifer had different experiences, I think. For instance, no one called Rhenita Rhen, just to tell her apart. She had no question of her uniqueness, which in middle school was a curse, but before and after was a gift. She probably got teased some in elementary, and then in college the boys told her how beautiful her name was when they wanted to hit on her.

Jen/Jenni/Jennifer didn't get teased. If anyone took on a Jennifer, they could all form a pack and take out the offender. She whipped around a half dozen times an hour when someone called her name, and it wasn't actually her they were talking to. That was never a big deal unless it was that one cute guy that she always wished would speak her name and actually want her attention.  No matter what permutation of her name she chose, everyone felt they had the right to change it and call her whatever they liked best, so she ended up loving and using the weird nickname that ended the confusion. J-Dog, or JJ or her last name if it was a good one.

Kimberly falls somewhere in the middle. 14th to be exact. Despite the high ranking, I didn't run into many others growing up. I think it was much more popular in the South than the North. It didn't rank so high that I was a number, nor so low that people felt it was sacred, but in that middle place where you're name is open for tampering. Growing up I was Kim. I think I was a tween before I realized I really like those last two syllables, and started officially going by Kimberly. It took the family a while to adjust. Some of them still are. But for the most part, aside from the occasional weird nickname, I've managed to go by Kimberly.

Until recently. At work a few people started calling me Kim. I don't want to be one of those people who gets crazy eyes over a mispronounced name, so I let it go. I mean, I introduce myself as Kimberly, I sign all my emails with my full name (sometimes twice if replying to a Kim email), and I answer the phone with the whole enchilada.

And yet, those certain few continue to lop off over half the letters and call me Kim.  Some day I'll find a  diplomatic way to address it. Or I'll get crazy eyes, I'm not sure. But in the meantime, I'm grateful for my name. I'm glad I'm not a Jennifer, or Tiffanie, or even Rhenita though I'm sure they're all great people. But it's just not me. I'm glad I'm not Kim despite what some colleagues think. I'm Kimberly.

So, here's to names both popular and not so much. What's in a name? Quite a lot.


  1. That is so funny. I have always called you Kimberly, but I heard a few people at ACFW refer to you as Kim and thought I had it wrong, but I just couldn't stop calling you Kimberly, because I was so used to it. Glad to know I got it right. LOL

  2. That's so crazy, when I heard people call you Jo, I thought the same thing. Just kidding! Jodie is lovely, but to me you're the Jodester, unless I'm talking about My Friend The Author. Then you get a first and last name.

  3. I can relate. Nichole is common enough and most people spell mine wrong as it has an 'h' in it. I can overlook that but when they try to shorten my name or worse, CHANGE it, that's when I go beserk! Nicky, Nikki, or Nickie is a completely different name and as soon as someone calls me that I won't hesistate to correct them :)