By Any Other Name

NOTE: This post has been languishing in my Drafts for a good, long time. However, Google+ informed me today that my account there will be cancelled on Friday because my user name does not conform to their new requirements. I am not pleased.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.          —Wm. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet



I introduce myself as Wink.
You, assuming you misheard me, ask me to repeat my name.
I repeat it, and spell it out for clarification.
You (rudely, I might add) insist upon my telling you my “real” name.
Inwardly, I sigh.

I explain that Wink is my surname, really, truly. It’s been a nickname since I was a kid in part because, while it sometimes invokes this hassle of a conversation, it is still less arduous to deal with than my given name, which an alarming number of people cannot grasp. You then insist (again, here you are with the rudeness) that I tell YOU my given name, because you seem to want to prove that you are “better” than the majority of people who screw it up. At this point it’s not a fair fight, because this whole lead-in has warmed up your synapses so that you concentrate on it. I will tell you this: The most common annoyances include people mispronouncing it (sometimes over and over and over, requiring me to correct him/her Every. Single. Time.), or insisting that I’m mispronouncing it (!!!), or misspelling it, or flat-out not comprehending it, or making up their own cutesy nicknames for it in spite of my protests, or people asking if it’s my real name. Seriously, were you raised by gorillas?

Most co-workers use my given name, and a few friends-who-used-to-be-coworkers-and-so-met-me-that-way. A couple of friends who met me THROUGH co-workers. People who met me in high school, which was the window of time between being called Little Wink and, once I grew taller than my sister and we moved away from each other thus avoiding confusion, Wink. My surname-sharing family members typically call me by my first initial.

This particular habit of not going by my legally-given name turns out to be a family tradition. Both of my grandfathers went by Bill, were legally William, but one was given the name Wolf at birth. My grandma Jo is legally Josie, but she feels it sounds too much like a nickname so she uses Josephine on things like her bank account. I’m told that my grandma Belle, whom everyone called Sisse, didn’t find out until she was 40 that the name on her birth certificate was actually Beulah. My mother has never liked her given name and was known as Cookie throughout her childhood, while I remember her being called Tige (a diminutive of her last name) when I was a kid.

Listen. It’s my name. Mine. Has been my whole life. Trust me when I tell you that it’s been a nuisance that I have dealt with for decades. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely name. I wished it were different when I was a child, but I grew into it, as it were. Regardless, you insisting that it’s no big deal only adds to my hassle. So shut the hell up. Stop being rude. If I tell you my name is Petula Rufflebottompanties, please just say, “It’s nice to meet you.” Once you confirm the correct spelling.


This post is dedicated to all of my family members, both maternal and paternal, who bear unusual surnames; to my bestest cousin, who also has a lovely-but-pain-in-the-ass given name; as well as to my growing “collection” of friends with unusual given names who are SO OVER being mispronounced, misspelled, and misunderstood.



Filed under family, for doing the right thing., friends, pet peeves

4 responses to “By Any Other Name

  1. Kelley

    Oh, I love the family history here! And I *love* your name. If only G+ wasn’t so stupid.

    In any case, I have to ask… how the heck can people mispronounce Wink?! I seriously can’t even think of various pronunciations for it. All I keep coming up with is… Wink. (Unless, horrifyingly, my pronunciation is incorrect TOO!)

  2. Poppy Fields

    The effity-eff????? At least the other-other place is happy just to let us packrat it away on the cloud by whatever name we choose. Can’t help wondering when my nasty C&D from G+ is coming…

  3. I think it’s a crock. There are plenty of reasons to want to keep a little anonymity online, and for heaven’s sake, it’s not because we want to be trolls and get away with it. I am well aware of the danger you can open yourself up to both professionally and personally when just anyone can google your name and find where you work, who you associate with, where you live, where you frequent. There is a small bit of safety when you keep your name obscured.

    Although I use ‘Hula’ more frequently at ‘Tiki’ events than in my everyday interactions, I am steadfast in using it with strangers at these gatherings. Most of the time people take it in stride and go along with it. If I’m comfortable enough with them I’ll say ‘Hi my name is Adri, but everyone calls me Hula’. Those that know me well enough to know my real name can use it, but they typically don’t… I’m much more apt to answer to Hula than my name anyways!

    I met a guy at the last Tiki Oasis that wasn’t from the crowd, I could tell that because he was shocked when I introduced myself. He then insisted on knowing my real name… it was a no-go from the start. I told him if he didn’t like it then he’d better find someone else to bother!

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